Zen Master Yunmen is a masterwork for anyone interested in the history and nature of a tradition that defies both.

 

By Ty Phillips

How does one accurately describe the nature of Zen?

We can, of course, delve into its origination in China as the great Chan tradition, the influential patriarchs, its migration into Korea, Vietnam and Japan and the traditions that blossomed there. But that’s little more than a history lesson. History is valuable, but it does nothing to describe the true nature of a thing.

Urs App offers us both history and insight into the Chan tradition by being both a biographer and interpreter of the great Chan Master Yunmen. His covering of the life and teachings offers us just as much of a look into the life of the master as it does into the nature and meaning of his teachings and the nature of Chan as a whole.

Zen Master Yunmen: His Life and Essential Sayings is a readable scholastic work of breathtaking simplicity. Urs gives us a lesson in insight just as much as he does on the tradition itself.

Zen Master Yunmen is a masterwork for anyone interested in the history and nature of a tradition that defies both. Like all great teachers, Urs takes us on a journey that makes the mundane gripping—a feat hard to do in a tradition that thrives on removing all and yet offering all.

One of the most striking sections of the book was the offering on the use of koans. A koan is a nonsensical riddle that forces the observer to be aware of the nature of self in order to take the meaning and offer it back to the master. Over the generations, many students have struggled with the koans given by their teachers, and many authors have struggled to put into writing what they hold; like a master of both words and wisdom, Urs delivers.

I was refreshed and enlightened by his book. It will be a tool I’ll often use as I try to wrestle with my own insights on the nature of self and awareness. In my own statement, I recall a section from Yunmen:

“Someone asked Yunmen, ‘Though this is constantly my most pressing concern, I cannot find any way in. Please, Master, show me a way in!’

The Master said, ‘Just in your present concern, there is a way.'”

 


Photo: (source)

Editor: John Lee Pendall

 

Were you inspired by this post? You might also like:

 

So Much More Than What You See. {Poetry}

  By Alise Versella    I have always been so much more than what you see T.S Eliot wrote the most fertile words out of a wasteland-he was a bank teller I am so much more than my day job I have a fear of public speaking Thanks to the cool kids at the front of the class...

A Buddhist Grief Observed. {Book Review}

  By Ty H. Phillips   In one week, I had received three phone calls, each one notifying me that someone else had passed away. I didn’t know the first two people very well, but the impact on my family was very real. The third phone call was like a blow to the...

The Longing Look. {Short Story}

  By Andrew Peers   Matt rinsed his mouth out and looked in the mirror. His eyes, still narrowed by sleep, made his bald head seem oriental. He leaned forward and slightly to the right to see his reflection. The rural long house was decorated in a ‘simple chic’ style,...

Poetry as a Spiritual Practice: Illuminating the Awakened Woman. {Book Review}

By Gerry Ellen   This is the third collection of poems in a trilogy of Catherine Ghosh’s poetry novels, and hands down my favorite and most cherished one. Maybe it’s my love of the waning and waxing moon cycles, maybe it’s the genuine vulnerabilities of each woman in...

Comments

comments

Ty Phillips

Co-Founder & Columnist at The Tattooed Buddha
Ty Phillips is the co-founder and director of The Tattooed Buddha. He is a father, writer, photographer and nature-lover. A lineage in the Celtic Buddhism tradition, he makes attempts to unite Anglican and Buddhist teachings in a way unique and useful to those around him. Ty has contributed to The Good Men Project, Rebelle, BeliefNet, Patheos and The Petoskey News. He is a long term Buddhist and a father to three amazing girls and a tiny dog named Fuzz. You can see his writing at The Good Men Project, BeliefNet, Rebelle Society.
(Visited 61 times, 1 visits today)