The Gateless Checkpoint of the Zen Lineage

Chan Zong Wumen Guan (J. Mumonkan)


By Wumen Huikai (1183-1260, J. Mumon Ekai)


Translated by Gregory Wonderwheel © 2007




13.  Deshan Holds Up His Bowl


Deshan one day held up his bowl in his palm* at the lower hall.  Xuefeng saw him and asked, "Old fellow, the bell has not sang; the drum has not sounded; where are you going holding your bowl in your palm?”

Shan then returned to the Abbot’s room.

Feng brought it up to show to Yantou.

Tou  said, "Spacious Deshan has not met the last phrase."

Shan heard of the decree and had his attendant summon Yantou to come, then asked, "In that case do you not agree with the old monk?"

Yantou secretly explained his meaning, and Shan consequently stopped speaking.

The next day Shan ascended the seat, and thereupon the fruit that he imparted was not the same as usual.

Yantou went to the front of the monks’ hall, clapped his palms with a big laugh, and said, "Now we are able to be happy, the old fellow has met the last phrase!  The next people in the days to come after will not be able to do anything with him."


Wumen says: In the case of this last phrase, both Yantou and Deshan have not seen it in their dreams.  When this is examined in the future, it will seem like they are puppets in a booth.


The Ode says:

When able to know the first phrase,

Then one meets the last phrase;

Last and first,

Are not that one phrase.


[*The two characters for "held up his bowl in his palm" are familiar to many Zen students as takuhatsu in Japanese.]




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This page last edited September 08, 2007.