The Sayings of Layman P'ang: A Zen Classic of China

The Sayings of Layman P'ang: A Zen Classic of China

by James Green
     
 

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These wise and funny stories have been an inspiration to spiritual practice for more than twelve centuries, particularly for all those who follow the Buddhist path as laypeople. Layman P’ang (740–808) was a merchant and family man who one day put all his money and possessions in a boat and sunk it in a river, so that he could devote his life to the

Overview


These wise and funny stories have been an inspiration to spiritual practice for more than twelve centuries, particularly for all those who follow the Buddhist path as laypeople. Layman P’ang (740–808) was a merchant and family man who one day put all his money and possessions in a boat and sunk it in a river, so that he could devote his life to the study of the dharma. His wife, son, and daughter joined him enthusiastically on his new path, taking up a joyfully itinerant life together as they traveled from temple to monastery across southern China. This collection of anecdotes and verses about the enlightened layman and his family has become an enduring Zen classic.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“P’ang the Layman is terrific at pulling the rug out from underneath you just at the right time. He is one of the great, wild, exhilarating Zen figures, a pioneer in the adventure of understanding the mind. James Green is one of the very best translators we have, and this book is a classic.”—John Tarrant, Roshi, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780834822894
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
08/22/2011
Series:
Shambhala Publications
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
772 KB

Read an Excerpt



From The Layman’s Death(1)

55. The Layman’s Death
When the Layman was in his final days, he called Ling-chao to him and said, “As the day turns from morning to night, can it be said when it has reached halfway [when it is noon]?”

Ling-chao went into the garden and said, “It is midday, yet there is some obscurity.”

When he went outside, the Layman saw Ling-chao sitting in meditation on his meditation bench, but she had died. The Layman laughed and said, “My girl has fitted the arrowhead to the shaft.”

After a week had gone by, Governor Yu came to inquire about the Layman’s illness, and the Layman recited a verse:

Our hollow desires
Comprise what is something [form].
The awareness that has no substance
Comprises what is nothing [emptiness].
A good day in the world
Is but a side effect.

After reciting the verse, the Layman laid his head in the governor’s lap and passed away. Later, according to the Layman’s wishes, his body was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the river.

Monks and laypeople alike mourned the Layman’s passing, and he was posthumously given the sangha name Wei-ma (Yuima).(2) The Layman’s legacy included over three hundred poems that are in circulation in the world.(3)

1. Compare this account of the Layman’s death with that presented in the Prologue. In addition, as Professor Iriya points out, there are widely varying versions of the Layman’s and Ling-chao’s deaths given in other old Zen texts. However, inasmuch as Governor Yu is considered to have compiled the original edition of the text, the account given here—which does not include the segment about his wife and son—should be given more weight than that of the Prologue.
2. Wei-ma is the Chinese version of the Sanskrit Vimalakirti. Vimalakirti is the prototypical “enlightened layman” of Buddhism, and the Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra is one of the earliest writings considered to be part of the Buddhist canon.
3. See the Introduction for a discussion about the “missing” poems of the Layman.

Meet the Author

James Green is a longtime Zen student and former monk who is a disciple of the renowned Japanese Zen master and artist Keido Fukushima Roshi. He is
also the translator of The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu. He lives in Vietnam.

James Green is a longtime Zen student and former monk who is a disciple of the renowned Japanese Zen master and artist Keido Fukushima Roshi. He is
also the translator of The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu. He lives in Vietnam.

Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi is the founder of Kanzeon Sangha and is the abbot of Kanzeon Zen Center in Utah. He has been teaching Zen since 1978 and received Dharma transmission from Taizan Maezumi Roshi in 1980. Genpo Roshi now holds the position of president of the White Plum Lineage, the lineage of Maezumi Roshi. His books include Beyond Sanity and Madness, The Eye Never Sleeps, and 24/7 Dharma.

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