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I ve studied this book for years now, and my appreciation of it has changed quite a bit over the years Koan study can be a notoriously error prone path It s so easy to get caught up in thoughts which seem right, but are only distractions This book contains 100 classical koans with extensive commentary, but it is not a good book to begin with Instead, I d highly recommend Thomas Cleary s translation of another koan collection that was written about 100 years later No Barrier Unlocking the Zen Koan. Quite a compendium of zen koans Not recommended for zen beginners Despite cleary s clear writing, it is not an easy read as in any koan. I know almost nothing about zen buddhism but I found the koans to be 1 great slapstick, 2 incomprehensible, 3 philosophically challenging I think each of these responses was intended There were a few koans which made the philosophical intentions clear e.g 2 I took a slap to be a pretty good indication of chastisement but even this sign is inconsistent.A few of the themes I gleamed Each of the following leads to an inauthentic relationship to phenomena and the world trying to seize and organize things with concepts language seeking out the hidden meaning behind actions as if every action symbolized something else trying to find the essence or essential property of a thing e.g buddha nature fixation on causation or dichotomies but if I merely understand in terms of effable theses rather than intuition, I miss the point I can see why some people claim to see Zen ideas in the early work of Heidegger. This is The Book The one you show people who think they ve seen everything under the sun The one you take with you when you know you have a tendency to get smug.The one you hit someone over the head with, accidentally, even when the book is in a different room.This is the book you find yourself crying over This is where you find words you can t unread, can t move past, and can t let go of, even though it s all a crock of worn out shit.Sometimes there s a breakthrough, but you re right back where you started and there was no breakthrough.You could kill a man with this book, if you just got him hooked enough to claim it as his own. This is one of those books that are extremely difficult for me to rate In such cases, I go back to the exact meaning of rating stars, which is a measure of how I experienced the book I didn t like it, which is why I give it one star But allow me to elaborate.I have to review the book on several different levels of analysis.At the level of koans cases themselves, I can say that I read them all I found most if it extremely esoteric and unnecessarily obscure, especially when compared with later scripture, for example 101 Zen Stories Ones that annoyed me the most were koans of the following type A monk asked Tung Shan, What is Buddha Tung Shan said, Three pounds of hemp Whenever anything was asked, Master Chu Ti would just raise one finger Elder Ting asked Lin Chi, What is the boundary when one goes beyond Lin Chi said, Raindrops falling in a jade palace A monk asked Yun Men, How is it when the tree withers and the leaves fall Yun Men said, Body exposed in the golden wind I made one of those up, by the way, guess which See my point Some cases simply seem like mental masturbation and snobbery to me, I m not sure how I should penetrate them.At the level of commentary, I absolutely hated the book Yuan Wu s pointers and commentary seemed to me like a total waste of time In addition to that, I couldn t escape the feeling of contradiction because these guys always talk how one shouldn t try to analyze the stories and how explanations don t mean anything, but then they go on and try to explain analyze, often contributing absolutely nothing I guess I should be able to pierce through to get the meaning directly Well, then I wouldn t need the explanation anyway After two thirds of the book, I started simply skimming through Yuan Wu s text, since I couldn t extract anything useful from it.Hsueh Tou s comments and verses were so incredibly annoying that I had to stop reading them alltogether halfway through the book His comments feel so patronizing and snobbish and again, I couldn t extract anything useful from them.To be fair, this book is extremely far from where I am, both in time and space, so I suspect that the lack of my understanding is at least partly related to that Also, I will allow the possibility of me being simply too stupid to understand this stuff Maybe I will understand this deeply at some other time In any case, someone needs thirty blows to the head and I hope it s not me. You ll need familiarity with Chan Buddhism This is a treasure of the Chan Buddhist Tradition, which can serve as a introduction to the history of this tradition for the serious individual It s a history, but told in colloquial language and with wit and humor Legendary encounters, quick witted responses and devastatingly profound insights abound You will meet Bodhidharma Chan founder in China, Master Ma and Chao Chou Huang Po is in there and Yunmen Yunmen s the most quoted of all the Masters in such collections Unfortunately, you ll need background to follow.Here s an example Vimalakirti s Gate of NondualityPOINTERThough you say It is, there is nothing which is can affirm.Though you say It is not, there is nothing that is not cannegate When is and is not are left behind, and gain andloss are forgotten, then you are clean and naked, free and atease.But tell me, what is in front of you and in back of you Ifthere is a patchrobed monk who comes forward and says, Infront is the Buddha shrine and the main gate, behind is theabbot s sleeping room and private quarters, tell me, does thisman have eyes or not If you can judge this man, I ll allow thatyou have personally seen the Ancients Vimalakirti asked Manjusri, This fellow is making quite a fuss He should shut his mouth What is a bodhisattva s entryinto the Dharma gate of nonduality He knows, yet he deliberately transgresses Manjusri said, According to what I think, What will he say It simply can t be explained He s wearing stocks, carrying evidence of his crime, hauling himself into themagistrate s office in all things, What is he calling all things nowords, no speech, What is he saying , no demonstration and no recognition, He can fool others to leave behind all questions and answers What is he saying this is entering theDharma gate of nonduality What s the use of entering What s the use of so many complications Then Manjusri asked Vimalakirti, We have each alreadyspoken Now you should tell us, good man, what is abodhisattva s entry into the Dharma gate of nonduality Not even the Buddhas of the past, present, and future, let alone the Golden Grain Tathagata Vimalakirti , can open their mouthsabout this one support Manjusri has turned the spear around andstabbed one man to death The arrow hits Vimalakirti just as hewas shooting at the others Hsueh Tou said, What did Vimalakirti say Bah Hsueh Tou gathers ten thousand arrows to his breast and speaks the truth in Vimalakirti s place He also said, Completely exposed Not only that time, but now too, it is so Hsueh Tou is drawinghis bow after the thief has gone Although he uses all his strengthto help the congregation, what can he do calamity comes forthfrom his own door But tell me, can Hsueh Tou see where thiscomes down Since he hasn t seen it even in a dream, how can hesay completely exposed Danger Even the golden haired lion isunable to search it out That should tell you if you would like this title. This is one of the essential texts on Zen Buddhism, straight from the source The Blue Cliff Record is ancient The original 100 Koans or cases were compiled almost a thousand years ago Koans are to be taken alongside meditation practice and instruction, and can on occasion offer direct insight To me, this was the clearest text on Koans I ve read at times it seems to be spelling everything out explicitly Most of the meaning is on the surface if you start digging deeper, trying to tie things together in a way that makes sense then you lose the point completely These koans try to get at something that can t be expressed in words and which cannot, strictly speaking, be thought The words are like a finger pointing to the moon.There is also a body of commonly used metaphors and phrases that the commentary employs Things like patchrobed monk or threescore blows, etc, which are mostly referring to states of mind attainment There are also allusions and references which probably would have made immediate sense to a monk in the thirteenth century, but now are culturally inacessible to a westerner I had an introduction to these ideas from other volumes on Koans This is something of a barrier to translation, but can be understood with time The end result is that this volume probably appears meaningless or deliberately obscure There is a lot to be found here, but it takes some effort The Koan demands immediate engagement, and requires corresponding practice. This is one of my go to paper based books But it s huge and awkward to carry But I think a kindle edition would detract from the spirit of the thing too much.That s really beside the point It is not a book so much as it is a lesson plan Good luck.My advice give it a quick first read don t try to get anything from it just let it wash into you Then read it again and again, and again and again I ve read it cover to cover three times.Nothing will stick It isn t that your mind is a sieve it won t pour through you it will just splash against you or go around And it will mock you while it does it, too.I expect to read this over and over again for the rest of my life Yes, yes I could just choose to understand it and be done with it Would rather the abuse, apparently. This is the classic compendium of Zen koans, with commentary appended, along with poetic commentary on the commentary It is for the most part brain shattering, and it s appeal is broad, as it bridges the sudden and gradual paths.It is a supreme melding of radical metaphysics and radical language A perfect union of pure spirituality and pure poetry I do not know how the Clearys managed to translate this One of the great feats of that art.Too often Zen is thought of as a kind of peaceful mindless blankness that serves as a universal approach to activities ranging from archery to shitting, but this collection lays bare its intense intellectual vibrancy Which isn t to say it s academic and egg heady, rather it lays bare the mental activity required when thoughts are used to free one from ego centric thought prisons The practice of Zen, and the reading of this book, is an extremely calisthenic activity that strikes repeatedly at the root of consciousness as it repeatedly, and thoughtlessly, strives to shrink itself into an identity with the tiny thought enclosed ego self. ^Download Kindle ⇧ 碧巖錄 [Bìyán Lù] ☉ The Blue Cliff Recordis A Translation Of The Pi Yen Lu , A Collection Of One Hundred Famous Zen Koans Accompanied By Commentaries And Verses From The Teachings Of Chinese Zen Masters Compiled In The Twelfth Century, It Is Considered One Of The Great Treasures Of Zen Literature And An Essential Study Manual For Students Of Zen