large number of Koans, many of which are still meditated on and taught with to this day. Here are my three favorite koans by Master Un Mon(Yun Men).
A monk asked Ummon, "What is Buddha?"
Ummon said, "A dry shit-stick![Kanshiketsu!]"
A monk asked Ummon, "What will happen when the leaves fall and the trees become bare?"
Ummon said, "Golden Wind!"
A monk asked Ummon, "What is the kind of talk that transcends Buddhas and Patriarchs?"But why so blunt, so direct in these koans? Master Un Mon was very much a master at writing koans; and in his extremely direct expression of Zen practice embodied within the koans he wrote, he pointed to a bare, raw and basic interpretation, setting aside over intellectual ideals in favor of a minimalist approach to teaching. Indeed, much Zen Poetry, exemplified by the haiku, was born out of this spirit of minimal intention, and flowed very much like many of these koans. In China, and later Korea and Japan, this style of minimalist, direct poetry flourished well into the 20th century, and can still be seen and experienced in today’s modern writers and teachers. Here are a few of my favorite ones.
Ummon replied, "Rice cake!"
The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me.
The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered.
No spring breeze even at this late date,
Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.
Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.
all that remains of great soldiers’
Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die
When all thoughts
I slip into the woods
A pile of shepherd’s purse.
Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.
The wind has settled, the blossoms have fallen;
Birds sing, the mountains grow dark --
This is the wondrous power of Buddhism.