Zen proverbs

story, dialogue, question, or statement used in Zen practice

This page is for Zen proverbs and Kōans.

Quotes edit

  • No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.
    • Quoted as a Zen proverb in Julia Shpak, "Power of Plentiful Wisdom" (2010), p. 43.
  • When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing.
    • Quoted as a Zen koan in Kevin Grange, "Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World" (2011), p. 284.
  • You know the sound of two hands clapping; tell me, what is the sound of one hand?
    • Hakuin Ekaku Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin trans. Norman Waddell (2010) p. 179
  • Coming empty-handed, going empty-handed, that is human.
    When you are born, where do you come from?
    When you die, where do you go?
    Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
    Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
    The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
    Life and death, coming and going, are also like that.
    But there is one thing which always remains clear.
    It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
    Then what is the one pure and clear thing?
    • "The Human Route", in The Whole World is a Single Flower (1992) by Seung Sahn, p. 33

The Gateless Gate (c. 1228) edit

Compiled by Wumen Huikai (Mumon Ekai )
  • Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.
    • Kōan 29 : Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Zen stories edit

The following Zen stories, and many others, can be found in the collection Zen Flesh, Zen Bones compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, Tuttle Publishing: ISBN 0804831866, 9780804831864

The Gates of Paradise edit

  • A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"
    "Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.
    "I am a samurai," the warrior replied.
    "You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar."
    Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."
    As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"
    At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
    "Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.

A Drop of Water edit

  • A Zen master named Gisan asked a young student to bring him a pail of water to cool his bath.
    The student brought the water and, after cooling the bath, threw on to the ground the little that was left over.
    "You dunce!" the master scolded him. "Why didn't you give the rest of the water to the plants? What right have you to waste even a drop of water in this temple?
    The young student attained Zen in that instant. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means a drop of water.

Layman Pang edit

  • The Layman was sitting in his thatched cottage one day studying the sūtras. "Difficult, difficult," he said; "like trying to scatter ten measures of sesame seed all over a tree." "Easy, easy," Mrs. Pang said; "like touching your feet to the ground when you get out of bed." "Neither difficult nor easy," Ling Zhao said; "on the hundred grass tips, the great Masters' meaning."
    • The recorded sayings of Layman P'ang: a ninth-century Zen classic (1971), p. 74

Quotes about Zen edit

  • The Buddha is said to have given a "silent sermon" once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it. After a while, one of those present, a monk called Mahakasyapa, began to smile. He is said to have been the only one who had understood the sermon. According to legend, that smile (that is to say, realization) was handed down by twentyeight successive masters and much later became the origin of Zen.

See also edit

External links edit

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