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The Blue Cliff Record Paperback – April 12, 2005

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The Blue Cliff Record + The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans + The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-Men Kuan (Mumonkan)
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Editorial Reviews


"The cases comprising [this volume] are meticulously yet gracefully rendered, and should make this classic welcome to both scholars and Zen students, and even casual readers. A nice addition is the inclusion of biographical information about the Chinese masters."—Library Journal

"The Blue Cliff Record reveals to us what enlightenment is, what the enlightened life is, how the patriarchs and masters of old struggled with it, attained it, actualized it, and accomplished it. . . . I firmly believe this translation is a milestone and will immensely benefit those who are sincerely engaged in the practice and the enlightenment of the Buddha-way."—from the foreword by Taizan Maezumi Roshi

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159030232X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590302323
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Hakuyu on June 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Cleary's version of the Blue Cliff Record (Chin. Pi Yen Lu. J. Hekiganroku)is the only translation giving the whole text, so it was surprising to find no review for it in the files. But then, the Blue Cliff Record' - undoubtedly the most sophisticated collection of Zen 'koan' (chin. kung-an) material, could hardly be reviewed in the linear sense at all, as one might approach ordinary literature. Those for whom such texts matter most in the West - viz. Buddhists using such material as part of their training, would hasten to add that minus Zen practice, the Blue Cliff Record is as good as a 'closed book.' Casual readers may find a certain itchy fascination in these pithy Zen sayings, but a true appreciation of them presupposes something akin to Zen practice. At any rate, to discover anything of value in this book, depends on what you bring to it. To take that position is not necessarily Zen 'snobbery.' That was how the authors of the Blue Cliff Record intended it to be 'savoured' - whether by monks or lay-Buddhists.

To peruse the contents of this text is more like picking at an onion, than surveying a flat surface, exploring several layers of meaning. Hence, it is at once simple - and complex, insofar as each of its individual cases (100 in all), with verses, commentaries etc., and meta-commentaries - are convoluted and inter-linked. What eventually became the 'Blue Cliff Record' had began life as Master Hsueh-t'ou's verses and comments. Yuan-wu, an eminent Sung master, eventually added introductory comments, verses and verse comments of his own. It is probably true to say that there is nothing else quite like it - in the rest of the world's literature.

Suzuki presented individual cases as a kind of 'taster.
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157 of 171 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The Blue Cliff Record
tr. Thomas and J.C. Cleary
Shambala, Boston and London 1992

I first encountered the classic of Ch'an literature known as The Blue Cliff Record nearly 20 years ago, in a review by my teacher Sangharakshita. He described it as 'a world in which Buddhism matters, is the only thing that matters, and in which people are prepared to go to any lengths in order to attain - and transmit - "the profound anti mysterious principle of Enlightenment".' I suggested, with naive enthusiasm, that he lead a seminar on The Blue Cliff Record. His response was a mischievous smile: `You would have to be ready for anything!'

The book looks harmless enough. In its English translation it has a nice, shiny. deep blue dust jacket with a bit of calligraphy - a classical design, nothing flashy. But if you begin to read it seriously and consistently, in the right kind of conditions, it shakes you to the very core. It looms up out of the mist like a mile-high cliff face. There are no handholds. It is cold, silent, and steep. Very steep.

It consists of 100 kung-an (koan) or 'public cases', originally compiled by a master named Hsueh Tou Ch'ung Hsien (980-1052), who wrote a verse on each case - a cryptic verse pointing the way for his disciples to contemplate. About 60 years after Hsueh Tou's death, another master, Yuan Wu, gave a series of talks elucidating each case and Hsueh Tou's verses. The cases, the verses, and the elucidations together comprise The Blue Cliff Record. so called after the Blue Cliff monastery on Mt. Chia in Hunan where Yuan Wu delivered his talks.

That sounds tidy - a book in which we can read stories about Enlightened masters and then read edifying poems and talks by other masters explaining them.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By The Masked Reviewer on February 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've dicovered that a LOT of people get downright angry when you start to elucidate Zen to be anything beyond "do-your-own-thing". I hope you're not going to be one of those people...

I've owned this book for something like 10 years now and it is still enigmatic and at times unfriendly to me, but that is the nature of kung-an practice. There is a stubbornness to the Ancient kung-an that does not change readily, but does yield with time, though I think there is no real way to "rush" their clarification, and it is probably unwise to try to.

The gong-an themselves are ample proof that intellect alone falls short when confronted with the patriarchs of the Ch'an path. Chinese Ch'an Master Sheng Yen says that to have good practice, realization and heart must go hand-in-hand. Having just the realization-hold-the-compassion won't produce the highest realization. If you think Zen is atheistic intellectualism, you're dead wrong. You're supposed to feel your heart when you have a Zen realization.

"A monk asked Yun Men, "What is every atom samadhi?" Men said, "Food in the bowl, water in the bucket."

Poetry succeeds where explanation fails. This is an appeal to the physical poetry of the immediate, while intimating that there is way more to the everyday immediate than was previously assumed in what Heidegger calls the "Average Everydayness" or mind-numbed, over-conditioned state of how we ordinarily tend to relate to the world. This is the key--the 20-ton key--to Ch'an that the intellect alone is too weak to wield.

"Yun Men showed his staff to the assembly and said, "The staff has changed into a dragon and swallowed the universe. Mountains, rivers, the great earth--where are they to be found?
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