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:

 

Colors of Life. {Poetry}

By Jennifer Hillman Before my eyes lay the ways of the infinite wisdom… Of love and the glories that live, Hidden in the heart, mind, and soul as they dance across the universe opening each door to me. I have the choice to open and walk through Or turn humbly or...

Kindfulness by Ajahn Brahm. {Book Review}

  By Ty H. Phillips   Ajahn Brahm does it again. Returning with this small tome of wisdom aptly titled Kindfulness, students and readers of Brahm will once again be settling into his warmth and trademark humor, as they find themselves learning not just about...

The Record of Empty Hall: One Hundred Classic Koans {Book Review}

  By Daniel Scharpenburg   “Yesterday was unsettled. Today is settled. We’re all going, kicking and screaming or not. Might as well care for each thing as we go.” -Dosho Port I was excited to review this book---The Record of Empty Hall: One Hundred Classic...

Cold Water Clarity from a Wise Warm Well: “Awaken Every Day” by Thubten Chodron {Review}

  By Kellie Schorr Everyone needs that person in their life. The person who speaks with such authority and common sense they can cut through all the static and give you a blast of pure clarity. Talking to that person is like jumping into...

Comments

comments