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Chapter 7: Fences, Walls and Broken Tiles

Nanyo was asked by a monk, “What is the mind of the ancient buddhas?”
Nanyo replied, “It is fences, walls and broken tiles.”
The monk asked, “Fences, walls and broken tiles are insentient, are they not?”
“That is so,” replied Nanyo.
“Do they expound Buddhism?” asked the monk.
“Always, and busily,” replied Nanyo.
The monk said, “Why didn’t I hear it, then?”
Nanyo answered, “You don’t hear it, but you shouldn’t prevent others from doing so.”
“Who hears it?” asked the monk.
“All the saints,” answered Nanyo.
“Does your grace hear it?” asked the monk.
“Not I!” replied Nanyo.
“If you don’t hear it, how can you explain the teaching of the law by inanimate creatures?” asked the monk.
Nanyo answered, “It is my good luck that I do not hear it. If I did, I would be the same as all the saints, and then you wouldn’t have the chance to hear my teaching.”
The monk said, “If that is so, people would have no part in it.”
Nanyo said, “I myself expound it for the sake of people, not for the sake of the saints.”
The monk asked, “After the people hear it, what then?”
Nanyo replied, “Then they are not just people anymore.”

One day while Gensha was thinking, he heard the voice of a swallow and said, “How well it has explained the Buddhist truth, speaking profoundly of the real nature of things!”
And he came down from his seat.
Later, a monk, wanting to get some profit from Gensha’s words, said to Gensha, “I didn’t understand what you meant.”
Gensha retorted, “Be off with you! How can anyone trust you!”

At another time, Ummon asked a monk, “Did you hear the long-beaked birds preaching Zen in Kozei?”
“No, I didn’t,” replied the monk.
Ummon then raised his staff and said, “Zen!”

These are not, Maneesha, ordinary dialogues; these are dialogues between the valleys and the peaks, between those who are in dark and those who have themselves become light. It is a difficult situation: communication between darkness and light, or death and life, is bound to be difficult; their spheres are so diametrically opposite. But Zen, and Zen alone, has at least made an effort. You will see, in this dialogue.

Nanyo,

a master,

was asked by.

a seeker,

.a monk, “What is the mind of the ancient buddhas?”

The answer has tremendous value:

Nanyo replied, “It is fences, walls and broken tiles.”
The monk asked, “Fences, walls and broken tiles are insentient, are they not?”
“That is so,” replied Nanyo.
“Do they expound Buddhism?” asked the monk.
“Always, and busily,” replied Nanyo.
The monk said, “Why didn’t I hear it, then?”

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