Gateless Gate 27

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #27
What the Holy Ones Have Not Preached

Nanquan (748 - 835, 9th generation, Hongzhou) was a disciple of Mazu.

A monk asked Nanquan in all earnestness, “Is there any Dharma that has not been preached to the people?”
Nanquan said, “There is.”
The monk said, “What is the Dharma which has never been preached to the people?”
Nanquan said, “It is not mind; it is not Buddha; it is not beings."

Wumen's Comment
At the question, Nanquan used up all his personal treasure immediately and became quite debilitated.

Wumen's Verse
Speaking too much degrades virtue,
No-words is truly effective;
Even though the great ocean should change,
It can never be communicated to you.

Aitken's Comment
Mind, Buddha, and beings have been linked in Buddhist thought since early times. The Zen proverb, "Mind, Buddha,and beings -- these three are not different" comes from the Avatamsaka (Huayen) Sutra. But, Nanquan says, that's not it! Tell me, what is the antecedent of it? "Well," you might respond, "it is the teaching that has never been expounded." Not incorrect, but that doesn't advance world understanding at all. The question is not about one truth among many which has or has not been expounded for people. It is about the fundamental matter itself.

Cleary's Comment
Absolute reality in itself transcends any conception we may form of it. There is no way to actually describe the direct experience of reality as such. Ultimate reality can only be witnessed and cannot be spoken. "It is not mind" refers to the stage of detachment from thoughts. "It is not Buddha" refers to the stage of detachment from clear consciousness. "It is not a thing" refers to the stage of detachment from immediate perception. What lies beyond this procedure is the experience that cannot be spoken.

Low's Comment
Negation has been a way by which mystics have attempted to express transcendental unity. Absolute transcendental unity is affirmed, but as unknowable. Truth is, but is inexpressible because unknowable. However, it is just this fundamental error that the koan is tackling.

Sekida's Comment
Shakyamuni Buddha delivered about three hundred sermons during his lifetime, but when he was dying he said, "During the forty-nine years of my teaching I did not preach even one word." Nanquan denies the mind, Buddha, and all things. In your samadhi, you are directly exercising that which is not mind, not Buddha, not things. Only then can you say that you exercise your mind, your Buddha, and your things.

Senzaki's Comment
All masters describe or explain Truth, but none of them can make you realize it. You must open your own inner gate by yourself. When Zen is answered by words it is no longer Zen. I would like to grab hold of the monk's chest and say, "Speak! Speak!" If you add a word to Nanquan's answer, you spoil his Zen. If you take a word from the answer, you break the completeness of his Zen.

Shibayama's Comment
The Dharma that has not been taught is the Dharma that cannot be taught. A true Zennist always maintains the standpoint that transcends talking and not-talking, teaching and not-teaching, and lives the Truth, which is in fact the Dharma that has not been taught. How do you actually live the essence of Zen, which upholds the Dharma that has not been taught to the people? Your answer has to be an experiential fact. Master Hakuin said, commenting on this koan, "If I were asked, I would answer, 'Avatamsaka, Agam, Vaipulya, Prajna, Saddharmapundarika, and Nirvana!" He deliberately mentioned the names of the sutras Sakyamuni taught the people during his lifetime. Here again, you must not be deluded by Master Hakuin's terminology. For one who has his Zen eye clearly opened, whatever he sees, whatever he hears, is all the Dharma that has not been taught to the people.

Yamada's Comment
If you think you understand what Nanquan meant when he said, "The exceptionally secret Dharma is not mind, not Buddha, not a thing," then you are not only totally mistaken but you have not even found the point of the koan. I will give you a hint. Put the emphasis on "This!" THIS is not mind; THIS is not Buddha; THIS is not a thing! THIS is all! Nothing remains apart from it. You must realize THIS directly at this very moment! WHACK! THIS!

Hotetsu's Verse
Preaching comes down the chimney with presents wrapped in quote marks.
For you, "mind," "Buddha," and "beings." How to unwrap them?
Explanations cover the package with more shiny paper and sticky tape.
Wanting to live disquotationally puts your life into a gift-wrapped "disquotationally" box.
Merry Christmas.
Illustration by Mark Morse, http://www.thegatelessgate.com/

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