A verse in praise says:
Having just barged in on Master Muzhou,
He suddenly got his foot smashed.
He sent a message from the mountaintop
That shook the elephants’ very bones.
As was the teacher, so was the disciple:
Like worms invading wood.
Under the sky at the gate to the clouds (Yunmen),
A banner was hoisted on high.
Having just barged in on Master Muzhou, / He suddenly got his foot smashed. Right after he arrived at Master Muzhou’s, his foot was smashed. You see how those of old forgot themselves for the sake of the Dharma? The Second Patriarch in China cut off his arm for the sake of the Dharma. Master Wen Yan got his foot smashed while seeking the Dharma.
He sent a message from the mountaintop / That shook the elephants’ very bones. The message Master Yan sent was for the left-home people. At that time, the dragons and elephants (the outstanding individuals) within the Buddhism were all trembling.
As was the teacher, so was the disciple: / Like worms invading wood. This means that the Way of the teacher and the disciple tallied. Master Yan went to pay respects to Master Muzhou, and later Master Muzhou told him to go visit Master Xuefeng.
Under the sky at the gate to the clouds (Yunmen), / A banner was hoisted on high. At Yunmen, he set up a huge black Dharma flag.
Another verse says:
Patriarch Yan of Yunmen gave away sweet dew.
His Dharma circulated throughout the world, rescuing the confused multitudes.
With wisdom, eloquence, courage, and talent he sought to resolve his own affairs.
With kindness, compassion, joy and giving he responded to beings’ potentials.
The door slammed shut; his foot was smashed, and instantly he was enlightened!
Hearing the words, he bowed his head-fathoming the magnificent meaning.
His virtuous teaching will benefit endless generations.
Such a good and wise advisor as he is rarely found in the past or now!
Master Yan of Yunmen gave away sweet dew. Dhyana Master Wenyan of Yunmen magnanimously bestowed a Dharma rain of sweet dew.
His Dharma circulated throughout the world, rescuing the confused multitudes. The Dharma of the Yunmen School has spread throughout the world and saves people who are confused.
With wisdom, eloquence, courage, and talent he sought to resolve his own affairs. Dhyana Master Wenyan was extremely wise. He was exceptionally talented and had tremendous determination. But he did not seek fame and benefit. He sought to resolve his own matter—the great matter of birth and death. He knew that impermanence arrives quickly and felt that all mundane things and events were superficial. The only thing worth doing was to work to clearly understand the problem of birth and death. He sought to complete his own affair and did not pay attention to trivial matters or get involved in other people’s business. Most of us, however, always worry about trivial matters and notice other people’s good points and shortcomings, looking into their rights and wrongs. That is to apply effort on external things instead of working on one’s own internal skill. Dhyana Master Wenyan knew that seeking outside is renouncing the root and grasping at the branches. He beseeched Master Muzhou to help him solve his own problem. Master Muzhou just kept opening the door, looking at him, and then closing the door again. He did that several times. After that he grabbed him and shouted, “Speak up, you! You! Speak!” What did he expect him to say, anyway?
Master Yan started thinking about what he should say. When he started thinking, he fell into second and third thoughts. If Master Yan had spoken as soon as he was caught and told to speak, he would have been correct. But as soon as he started thinking, he was calculating. He was wondering, “What do you want me to say?” And that would never do. He hesitated. Had he spoken immediately, without any reflection whatsoever, that would have been his first thought, and then Master Muzhou could have known whether he understood or not. But he didn’t understand, and so he couldn’t say anything. As soon as Master Yan hesitated, Master Zhou shoved him out the door. Although Master Zhou kept slamming the door on him, Master Yan kept coming back. Take a look at how the cultivators of old sought the Dharma. They would come back again and again, and be willing to completely lose face and sacrifice their sense of self.
They were not like people of today who say, “Oh? If you won’t teach me, I’ll just leave! I don’t have to subject myself to this! It’s extremely embarrassing! The way you act toward me doesn’t leave me any face at all!”
The cultivators of old didn’t have any of those pretensions. They were without a mark of self. They just kept right on seeking the Dharma.
With kindness, compassion, joy and giving he responded to beings’ potentials. / The door slammed shut; his foot was smashed, and instantly he was enlightened! For Dhyana Master Wenyan, seeking for the Dharma had been bitter business. He lost the use of one foot in the process, and for the rest of his life he was a cripple. He limped. He had forgotten himself for the sake of the Dharma, but since he himself had undergone so much difficulty, he was more expedient when he taught other people. He gave them some leeway. He used the four immeasurable qualities of mind—kindness, compassion, joy, and giving—in teaching and transforming beings.
When Master Muzhou shut the door, he slammed it on Master Yan’s foot and smashed it. Instantly the Master woke up. Probably the pain was so extreme that his whole body broke out in a profuse sweat, and he saw through everything: “Oh! Originally that’s how it is! Everything is empty and false!” He experienced sudden enlightenment.
Hearing the words, he bowed his head—in that moment fathoming the magnificent meaning. Then he went to visit Master Xuefeng, who exclaimed, “What in the world happened to you?” Master Yan lowered his head and meshed with Master Xue’s mind seal. He tallied with the magnificent meaning. He tallied with the Patriarchs’ and Buddhas’ merging of minds with minds so that they are all the same. He joined in that subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable event.
His virtuous teaching will benefit endless generations. / Such a good and wise advisor as he is rarely found in the past or now! Then, at Yunmen, he taught and transformed living beings. At that time, there would be more than twenty people a day who got enlightened at Yunmen! The Dharma there was that supreme! During that period in the Tang Dynasty, those who got enlightened under the teaching of Dhyana Master Wenyan were many indeed! That’s how he was able to firmly establish the Yunmen School. To this very day, we still learn from Master Yan’s spirit of forgetting himself to toil for the sake of the Dharma.
I am not a patriarch, and yet I wish to learn from the patriarchs and Bodhisattvas. That’s why I am not afraid of toil, traveling among the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Canada. Anyone who is not afraid of toil, just follow me; anyone who is afraid, just quit. You and I now obtain nourishment from the Dharma milk of Dhyana Master Wenyan. From the past to the present there has rarely been anyone so sincere and so unafraid of losing face. As for those of us today, if we are scolded a little, or if things don’t go just the way we want them to, we think, “How can he treat me that way!” and we can’t take it. If you can’t take it, how can you get enlightened?