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




28.  A Long Time Led to Longtan


Longtan (Dragon-Lake): Because Deshan asked more and more and night arrived, Tan said, "The night is deep.  Sir, why don’t you go to lie down?"

Shan thereupon gathered his precious baggage, hoisted the [door] blind, and then exited.  He saw the outside was pitch dark, withdrew, turned around, and said, “Outside is pitch dark.”

            Tan then lit a paper measuring-candle and gave it to him.

Shan, intended to accept it, but Tan then blew it out.  At this, Shan suddenly just like that had comprehension, then he made proprieties.

            Tan said, “Sir, what particular principle of the Way do you see?”

Shan said, “This one, beginning from today, is going to not doubt the tongue(s) of the Old Venerable(s) under heaven!”

When the next day arrived, Longtan ascended the hall and said, “Okay, among you is present a single fellow whose teeth are equal to a sword tree and whose mouth is like a bowl of blood.  Hit him with a stick and he will not turn around his head. At another time, a different day, he will ascend to a solitary summit and establish the noble Way.”

Shan then took his notes out to the front of the Dharma Hall.  He prepared a torch with fire and carried it in hand, lifting it, he said, “Tracing all obscure discriminations to the very source is like one fine hair sent out into greatest emptiness, exhausting the function of the hub of the world is like one drop thrown [MM40] into a huge valley.”

He readied his notes then burned them.  At that he did proprieties and departed.


            Wumen says: When Deshan had not yet gone through the opportunity of a checkpoint, he was resentful and indignant in his heart-mind, and bitter in his mouth.   He felt the need to go to the southern region to demand that the teaching outside [the sutras] be extinguished and driven away. His purpose was that it didn't propagate.  When he reached Lizhou road he went up to ask a Madam Old Woman to buy a "mind refreshment" snack.

The Old Woman said, "Sir of the Great Virtuous Vehicle, what written words are within?”

      Shan said, “Notes on the Diamond Sutra.”

The Old woman said, "Just listening to the Sutra it says, ‘The past mind can’t be obtained; the present mind can’t be obtained; the future mind can’t be obtained.’  Great virtuous one, for which particular mind do you desire refreshment?”

By this one question Deshan directly got a mouth that seemed like his mouth was full to the brim.  However, even though he was thus, he was not yet ready to face Madam Old Woman’s sentence and he avoided falling dead. Consequently he asked Madam Old Woman, “Is there a lineage teacher present someplace very near?”

The Old Woman said, " Venerable Longtan is present five li* further out."

On reaching Longtan, he received utmost defeat and deficiency. It can be said his prior words did not agree with [MM41] his later language.  The great Longtan seemed to pity his son and not feel shame.  Seeing the other had a small quantity of kindling, the master hurriedly prepared bad water and suddenly killed him with one dousing on the head.  Coming to observe the situation coolly, the whole operatic act was a good laugh.


The Ode says:

Hearing the name is not as good as seeing the face;

Seeing the face is not as good as hearing the name;

Even though he was able to save his nostrils,

Struggling, how could he help to avoid blinding his eyes on a sunny day?


[*  Five li is about one and two-thirds miles.]

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This page last edited February 24, 2008