Entangling Vines - Selections

A Classic Collection of Zen Koans

“A masterpiece. It will be our inspiration for 10,000 years.”—Robert Aitken, author of Taking the Path of Zen



352 pages, 6 x 9 inches


ISBN 9781614290773

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Case 1: 二祖安心 Pacifying the Mind of the Second Patriarch

二祖慧可、問達磨大師云、某心未安、乞師安心。師云、將心來與汝 安。祖云、覓心不可得。師云、與汝安心竟。

Huike, the Second Patriarch, said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is not yet at rest. Master, I implore you, set my mind to rest.”
     The master replied, “Bring your mind here and I’ll set it to rest for you.”
     Huike said, “I’ve searched for my mind, but am unable to find it.”
     “There,” said the master, “I’ve set your mind to rest.”

Case 2:  六祖衣鉢The Sixth Patriarch’s Robe and Bowl

六祖因明上座趁至大庾嶺。祖見明至、即擲衣鉢於石上云、此衣表 信、可力爭耶、任君將去。明遂擧之、如山不動。踟蹰悚慄。明云、 我來求法、非爲衣也。願行者開示。祖云、不思善不思惡、正與麼 時、那箇是明上座父母未生已前本來面目。明當下大悟、遍體汗流。 泣涙作禮問云、上來密語密意外、還更有意旨否。祖曰、我今爲汝說 者、即非密也。汝若返照自己面目、密却在汝邊。明云、某甲雖在黄 梅隨衆、實未省自己面目。今蒙指授入處、如人飮水冷暖自知。今行 者即是某甲師也。祖云、汝若如是、則吾與汝同師黄梅、善自護持。

The senior monk Huiming pursued Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, to Dayu Peak. Huineng, seeing him come, put the robe and bowl on a rock and said, “This robe represents faith. How can it be taken by force? You may have it.”
     Huiming tried to pick it up, but, like a mountain, it couldn’t be moved. Shaken and frightened, Huiming said, “I came in search of the Dharma, not for the sake of the robe. Lay brother, please instruct me.”
     Huineng said, “Think not of good, think not of evil. At this very moment, what is your original face before your father and mother were born?”
     At that moment Huiming was deeply enlightened, and his entire body flowed with sweat. With tears in his eyes, he bowed and asked, “Is there any meaning still more profound than the hidden meaning and words you have just imparted to me?”
     “There’s nothing hidden about what I have revealed,” replied Huineng. “If you turn your own light inward and illuminate your original face, what is hidden is within yourself.”
     Huiming said, “Although I practiced with the assembly under Hongren, I had yet to realize my original face. Now that you have shown the way in, I’m like one who has tasted water and knows for himself whether it’s cold or warm. You, lay brother, are now my teacher.”
     Huineng replied, “If that’s how it is with you, then you and I are equally the disciples of Hongren. Take good care of yourself!”

Case 3: 五祖他奴 Wuzu’s “Someone’s Servants”


Wuzu Fayan of Mount Dong said to the assembly, “Even Śākyamuni and Maitreya are merely someone’s servants. Tell me, who is it?”

Case 4: 雲門須彌 Yunmen’s “Mount Sumeru”


A monk asked Yunmen Wenyan, “Is anything amiss when not a single thought arises?”
     Yunmen replied, “Mount Sumeru!”

Case 5: 馬祖即心 Mazu’s “This Very Mind”

明州大梅山法常禪師、問馬祖云、如何是佛。祖云、即心即佛。後有 僧又問、如何是佛。祖云、非心非佛。

Damei Fachang of Ming Province asked Mazu Daoyi, “What is buddha?” Mazu answered, “This very mind is buddha.”
     Later another monk asked Mazu, “What is buddha?” The master replied, “Not mind, not buddha.”

Case 6: 趙州放下 Zhaozhou’s “Drop It!”

嚴陽尊者問趙州、一物不將來時如何。州云、放下著。者云、已是一 物不將來、放下這什麼。州云、恁麼則擔取去。者於言下大悟。

Yanyang Shanxin asked Zhaozhou Congshen, “If I come with nothing, what then?”
     “Drop it!” replied Zhaozhou.
     “But I’ve come with nothing,” answered Yanyang. “How can I drop it?”
     “Then go on carrying it!” said Zhaozhou. At this Yanyang was deeply enlightened.

Case 7: 兜率三關 Doushuai’s Three Barriers

兜率悦和尚、設三關問學者、撥草參玄、只圖見性、即今上人性在甚 處。識得自性、方脱生死。眼光落地時、作麼生脱。脱得生死、便知 去處、四大分離、向甚麼處去。

Doushuai Congyue devised three barriers to test his students:
     Pulling weeds and exploring the mystery are solely for the purpose of seeing your true nature. So, right now, where is your true nature?
     If you realize your true nature, you escape birth-and-death. So as the light in your eyes dims, how do you escape?
     When you escape birth-and-death, you know where you go. So as your four elements separate, where do you go?

Case 8: 靈雲見桃 Lingyun Sees Peach Blossoms

福州靈雲志勤禪師、因見桃花悟道。有頌云、三十年來尋劍客、幾囘 葉落又抽枝。自從一見桃花後、直至如今更不疑。後擧似潙山。山 曰、從縁入者、永不退失。汝善護持。玄沙聞云、諦當甚諦當、敢保 老兄猶未徹在。雲門云、說甚徹不徹、更參三十年。後來、大川濟和 尚上堂、僧出擧前頌問、大川答云、作賊人心虛。

Lingyun Zhiqin of Fuzhou was enlightened upon seeing the blossoms of a peach tree. In a verse he said:
     For thirty years I sought a sword-master.
     How many times have leaves fallen and new buds appeared?
     But ever since seeing the peach blossoms,
     From then till now I have never doubted again!
     Later he related this verse to his master, Guishan Lingyou. Guishan said, “Those who enlighten through circumstances never regress. Take good care of yourself!”
     When Xuansha Shibei heard about this, he said, “Lingyun may well have been right, but I’ll guarantee that his understanding was incomplete.”
     Wuzu Fayan said, “You talk of complete and incomplete? Thirty more years of training!”
     Later, during a lecture, a monk asked Dachuan Puji about the verse. Dachuan said, “A thief has no peace of mind.”

Case 9            趙州柏樹 Zhaozhou’s “Juniper Tree”

趙州因僧問、如何是祖師西來意。州云、庭前柏樹子。僧云、和尚莫 將境示人。州云、我不將境示人。僧云、如何是祖師西來意。州云、 庭前柏樹子。後來法眼問覺鐵觜云、承聞、趙州有柏樹子話是否。觜 云、先師無此話、莫謗先師。眼云、眞獅子兒能獅子吼。

A monk once asked Zhaozhou Congshen, “What is the meaning of Bodhi- dharma’s coming from the West?”
     Zhaozhou answered, “The juniper tree in front of the garden.” The monk replied, “Master, don’t teach me using external objects.” Zhaozhou said, “I’m not teaching you using external objects.”
     The monk asked, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?”
     Zhaozhou answered, “The juniper tree in front of the garden.”
     Afterward Fayan Wenyi asked Jue Tiezui, “I heard that your teacher, Zhaozhou, spoke of a juniper tree. Is this true?”
     Jue Tiezui replied, “My late teacher never said such a thing—don’t slander him!”
     Fayan commented, “A true lion’s cub gives a good lion’s roar!”

Case 10黄龍三關 Huanglong’s Three Barriers

黄龍禪師、問隆慶閑禪師云、人人有箇生縁處、如何是汝生縁處。對 曰、早晨喫白粥、至今又覺飢。又問、我手何似佛手。對曰、月下弄 琵琶。又問、我脚何似驢脚。對云、鷺鶿立雪非同色。師毎以此三語 問學者、莫能契其旨。天下叢林、目爲三關。纔有酬者、師無可否、 斂目危坐。人莫涯其意。延之又問其故。師云、已過關者、掉臂徑 去。安知有關吏。從吏問可否、此未透關者也。

Huanglong Huinan asked Longqing Qingxian, “Everyone has their own native place. What is your native place?”
     Longqing answered, “Early this morning I had some rice gruel, and now I feel hungry again.”
     “How does my hand resemble a buddha’s hand?” Huanglong asked. “Playing a lute in the moonlight,” Longqing answered.
     “How does my leg resemble a donkey’s leg?” he asked.
     Longqing answered, “A snowy egret stands in the snow, but their colors are not the same.”
     Huanglong always presented students with these three statements, but no one could come up with a satisfactory response. Monks everywhere called them the Three Barriers of Huanglong. Even with the few who gave answers, the master would neither agree nor disagree but only sit there in formal posture with eyes closed. No one could fathom his intent. When the layman Fan Yanzhi asked the reason for this, Huanglong replied, “Those who have passed through the gate shake their sleeves and go straight on their way. What do they care if there’s a gatekeeper? Those who seek the gatekeeper’s permission have yet to pass through.”


How to cite this document:
© Thomas Yūhō Kirchner, Entangling Vines (Wisdom Publications, 2013)

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