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Chapter 2: Tearing Down, Breaking Up

A monk once asked Ummon, “When not a thought arises, can there be anything wrong?”
Ummon replied, “Mount Sumeru!”

Another monk asked Ummon, “When all mental activity is at an end, how is it?”
Ummon said, “Bring the Buddha Hall here, and we’ll weigh it together!”
The monk said, “Aren’t you getting away from the point?”
Ummon exclaimed, “Kwatz!” and then said, “You plunderer of vacuity!”

On another occasion, Ummon was asked, “How about when the word is uttered that expresses all things?”
Ummon said, “Tearing down, breaking up.”

Maneesha, you have heard a tremendously meaningful statement:

Tearing down, breaking up.

I will go through your whole anecdote but I’m bringing the conclusion first, because it is the very essence of Zen. It tears down everything that you think you are. It breaks up everything that you think you are. It shatters everything that you have ever thought to be identified with and then what is left - just a pure silence, a nobody.

To find this nobodiness is the ultimate peak of experience, of existence.

A monk once asked Ummon.

Ummon being one of the great masters

“When not a thought arises, can there be anything wrong?”

The question is absolutely absurd, because if no thought arises how can there be anything right or wrong? They are both thoughts.

When no thought arises you simply are.

The sky is without any clouds.

But just like all intellectuals of the world, the questioner is asking without understanding, without experiencing. The question is coming out of intellect, not out of inner experience. Out of inner experience such a question cannot arise.

When there is no thought, nothing arises - neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. One simply rejoices in oneself. But because he has asked,

Ummon replied, “Mount Sumeru!”

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