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The Sayings of Layman P’ang

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

Because my curiosity was aroused when I found some of Layman P’ang’s poetry, I decided to look up the book of his recorded sayings. This is a text that was compiled during Layman P’ang’s life between 740 and 808 AD, but it has recently been translated afresh from an edition dating back to 1637.

The book contains a series of anecdotes about the meetings between the Layman and a range of Zen masters that he encountered at that time. I will give an example, this is No. 11, That which is not spoken:

On another day, the Layman asked, “Will you not tell me something about what is clear and present?”
Ch’i-feng said, “I will, as soon as that old codger Mr. P’ang gets here.”
The Layman said, “Aren’t you up to it today?”
Ch’i-feng said, “That’s a good question, but why are you asking me?”
The Layman said, “Well done! Well done!”

Like many of the other anecdotes, it seems to be about them testing each other’s Zen by posing little riddles in each phrase, referring to an understanding of Buddhist lore. It’s vaguely amusing to puzzle out the references, but i wonder why they thought it was necessary to obscure their knowledge in this way.


  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited April 2021

    There is the world where ones mentality rules upon its throne and is represented by the human condition
    there is the world where all the senses in free concert with ones mentality, undo what has leashed them to that human condition.

    What appears as an obscuring from one perspective is really only a freedom shared by the other. Which group one belongs to determines the perspective.

  • Do you have a link or reference to the book @Kerome? Would like to take a look.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited April 2021

    You can find it here...'ang.pdf

    Layman P’ang was a key figure in his time in Ancient China, because he was respected as a Zen master who refused to take the vows to become a monk, and lived with his wife and children. He was an exemplar for advanced lay practice.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I will post up a few selections from the book, just to give a little taste...

    One day Tan-hsia asked the Layman, “How is today like yesterday when we met each other?”
    The Layman said, “Yesterday we had to quibble about the dharma in order to open the eye of our heritage.”
    Tan-hsia said, “How would Mr. P’ang know when the eye of our heritage has opened?”
    The Layman said, “I see from inside your eye.”
    Tan-hsia said, “But my eye is so narrow. How can you sequester yourself in there?”
    The Layman said, “How can you say that your eye is narrow, or that I can’t sequester myself in there?”
    Tan-hsia hesitated, so the Layman said, “Can you not say a word that would complete our conversation?”
    Tan-hsia again did not reply, and the Layman said, “No one can say it all in a word.”

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Another one...

    One day Pai-ling was doing meditation in his room when the Layman came into the temple.
    As the Layman passed by his room, Pai-ling suddenly grabbed him and said, “People of the present day talk about it, and people of former times talked about it.What does the Layman have to say about it?”
    The Layman slapped him.
    Pai-ling said, “At least, you did say something!’
    The Layman said, “Where is the transgression in what I said?”
    Pai-ling said, “Its in your hand, of course.”
    The Layman drew closer to him and said, “Take a close look at my hand.”
    Pai-ling bowed.

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