Flat Mountain Dispatches


19. SAY

Ummon said, “The entire universe, the Cosmos and the Great Earth, and I, this old monk in this world! With my staff I give it one blow, and say, 'It is smashed to smithereens!”

Comment: whichever way you break it something is tearing up and down bad luck for this old monk in this world with the entire universe on his back and ummon just behind about to strike worse luck for ummon what will he have left when it's all smashed to pieces

which was really broken ummon cosmos or universe


Been a long time coming. Finally started typesetting this for print..

I think I've settled on Riso printing with metallic gold. I'm planning to do two slim volumes containing 24 cases each, possibly including some cut-up fragments and accompanying images/designs. Haven't decided on how many copies yet.



A monk asked Ummon, “How about a man whose parents won't let him be a priest?” “Shallow!” said Ummon. “I am not uneducated, but I don't understand”, responded the monk. “Deep!” said Ummon.

Comment: shallowed

shall i allow depth owed shallows



Ummon asked a monk, “Where have you come from?” “From Nangaku,” he replied. “Usually,” said Ummon, “I don't entangle people with words, and bamboozle them with phrases; come a little closer!” The monk went nearer, and Ummon shouted, “Be off with you!”

Comment: closer or nearer if you refuse to answer the question it's a shame and everyone will sympathise after all it was already too late to come closer under such rudeness

night woods in winter barest branches growing on the moon what entangles what



Ummon asked a monk, “Are you the gardener?” “Yes” replied the monk. “Why have turnips no roots?” Ummon asked the monk, who could not reply. “Because,” said Ummon “rainwater is plentiful.”

Comment: why are turnips plentiful because rainwater has no roots but then why are roots plentiful

this line is too long too short too short to be longer

Note: This may well answer everything and nothing. But why do turnips require explanation at all?

“Rice is in the bowl, water is in the tub, [turnips have no roots,] all’s right with the world.”

Addendum | Blue Cliff Record: “Chen Chou produces big turnips — Everyone knows. Just avoid saying so. Each time it's brought up it's brand new.”



Ummon asked the head monk, “What sutra are you lecturing on?” “The Nirvana Sutra,” replied the monk. “The Nirvana Sutra contains the Four Nirvana Virtues, doesn't it?” “It does.” Picking up a cup, Ummon then asked, “How many virtues does this contain?” “None at all,” said the monk. “So why did the ancients speak as they did?” “What do you think of what they said?” asked Ummon, Ummon struck the cup and continued, “You understand?” “No,” said the monk. “Then,” said Ummon, “You'd better go on with your lectures on the sutra”

Comment: a cup is a bell by virtue of the water that trickles through your fingers when you drink those ancient virtues were always empty any- way but i want to ask which is the vessel

water sweet water is sweet and is water

Note: The Nirvana Sutra is highly praised but will reciting its virtues make you a Buddha?. Ummon puts his belief in the single virtue of existence. “The value of each thing is infinite, and therefore equal to that of every other thing.” Thus the cup contains the same four virtues as the Nirvana Sutra, as neither the cup nor the Nirvana Sutra can be separated from their essential existence.

Instead of reaching Nirvana the monk is destined to lecture on Nirvana — caught in his own intellectual pursuit. Ummon challenges this with his striking of the cup. The cup here may represent a common, ordinary virtue, accessible beyond intellectual understanding. Similarly, “The entire Buddhist canon is right on the tip of this staff.”

Addendum: “Once, when the master had finished drinking tea, he held up the cup and said: All the Buddhas of the three periods have finished listening to the teaching; they have completely pierced the bottom of this cup and are going away. Do you see?”



A monk said to Ummon, “What is it, that Buddha's teaching periods in his life-time?” Ummon replied, “Against, one, explanation.”


for many enlightenments

Addendum | Blue Cliff Record: “A monk asked [Ummon], 'What are the teachings of a whole lifetime?' [Ummon] said, “An appropriate statement.”



A monk asked, “What is this sword that cuts a hair that falls on it?” Ummon replied, “A patriarch.”

Comment: o sharper than a toothless child it is to have a thankless snake o sharper than a childless snake it is to have a toothless thank

spring its forging summer its blade edge autumnal bloody-red freezing edge bites deep



A monk asked Ummon, “What are the activities of a Sramana?” Ummon answered, “I have not the slightest idea.” The monk then said, “Why haven't you any idea?” Ummon replied, “I just want to keep my no-idea.”

Comment: the monk has no-question the sramana no-activity and ummon no-idea what a trio   what are the activities of a waterfall



Ummon said to his monks, “I don't ask you about anything up to the fifteenth of the month, but say something for after the fifteenth.” Because no monk could reply, he answered himself, “Every day is a good day.”

Comment: is the next day the sixteenth? absolute rubbish the whole thing is itself
it's impossible to say anything for after the fifteenth so what does he know what do you know about every day?   four then seven eight thirty blows!

Note | Blue Cliff Record: “[Ummon] set down a question to instruct his community, 'I don't ask you about before the fifteenth day; try to say some­thing about after the fifteenth day.' He cuts off the thousand distinctions, and doesn't let either ordinary or holy pass. He himself answered for everyone, 'Every day is a good day.' The words 'before the fifteenth day' already cut off the thousand distinctions; the words 'after the fifteenth day' also cut off the thousand distinctions.”