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Chapter 2: Tearing Down, Breaking Up

Ummon said, “Bring the Buddha Hall here, and we’ll weigh it together!”

The Buddha Hall is where the monks gather to hear the master in every Zen monastery. Ummon must be sitting in the garden under some tree, by the side of some lake. He said, “Before I can answer, it is better to bring the Buddha Hall here, so that the whole assembly of the Buddha Hall together can weigh what remains when mind ceases.”

The monk said, “Aren’t you getting away from the point?”

“‘Bringing the Buddha Hall’ - you are asking something impossible! And I have asked a simple question. What is the need of the whole assembly? Between two of us, we can weigh what remains after there is no mental activity.”

Ummon exclaimed, “Kwatz!”

“Kwatz!” is a Zen stick. When the master does not have the stick with him, this is a substitute for it. He shouts, “Kwatz!” With that shout he is hitting you to understand a simple thing:

No question, no answer. Just be.

But the poor monk seems not to have understood. The masters have been shouting from mountaintops and the questioners - curious, still deep down in the dark valleys - almost deaf and blind, can neither see nor hear. Ummon 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.”

“Kwatz!” It is a sound, found by Zen, that shatters your mind. At least for the moment you simply remain silent, amazed - because it is not language, you have not expected it. But it shatters you and that is the whole purpose of a master: to destroy the disciple, so that the disciple himself can rise as a master of himself. Only pseudo masters go on forcing disciplehood on people. The authentic ones initiate you just in order to destroy you, because unless you are destroyed you will never be your real self. You will always remain a persona, a personality.

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