Translated, edited, and with an introduction by Urs App.
Kodansha International: New York, Tokyo, London, 1994.
272 pp., $25.00 (cloth), $12.00 (paper).


You must neither fall for the tricks of others nor simply accept their directives. The instant you see an old monk open his mouth, you tend to stuff those big rocks right into yours, and when you cluster in little groups to discuss [his words], you’re exactly like those green flies on shit that struggle back to back to gobble it up! What a shame!

Ch’an master Yunmen (864-949) issued few directives. He was suspicious of traditional practices and what he considered to be overreliance on meditation; he dismissed the significance of honors, whether they came from the emperor or from fellow monks; he challenged the teaching of the patriarchs and other figures of authority; and in general, he stripped away all the usual devices, from the physical to the philosophical, of Ch’an teaching. And yet the Record ofYunmen is one of the primary sources for kung-an (Japanese koan) study in Ch’an and Zen. He was among the first to make use of the conversations of preceding masters as a formal system for training monks:

“Someone asked Master Yunmen, ‘What is most urgent for me?’

“The master said, ‘The very you who is afraid that he doesn’t know!'”

Taking his name from Mount Gate-of-the-Clouds, where, at age sixty-four, he saw completion of his “Ch ‘an monastery of Enlightened Peace,” he spent the last two decades of his life (923-942 C.E.) teaching monks and dedicated lay disciples far from the constant swarm of visitors that beleaguered him during his tenure at Lingshu monastery in Shaoguan.

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