With John Tarrant and Friends.

Grand Master Yunmen (“Cloud Gate”) was a poet and koan teacher. The first great koan collection, The Blue Cliff Record, was based on his work. He engaged you straight away, he taught by holding out his arms, by yelling, by laughing, by chasing people with a stick, he said his staff had turned into a dragon and eaten the universe, he asked a student to say something backwards. He didn’t like you to write down his words since he wanted you to listen and be saturated. But one of his students wore a paper coat to the talks and secretly recorded his sayings and that’s how we have them.

R.H. Blyth said that Yunmen was equivalent in Chinese culture to Goethe or Shakespeare.

Yunmen asked: What about after the full moon?
He replied: Every day is a good day

This is his koan too:

Someone asked: When the tree withers and the leaves fall, what’s happening?
Yunmen said: The body is revealed in the golden wind!

Piles of leaves, drifts of leaves, yellow and russet and rust, rustling on the pavement, crunching under my feet, turning black and wet and silent. Who am I? When leaves fall, do they fall through me, do I see the sky, the stars and moon now? The blue sky, the moon, the approaching time?

Fall is a time for ancestors to help us. This Fall we celebrate the teachings of Yunmen, Cloud Gate, who founded one of the 5 main schools of Chan. He was known for his eloquence and clarity.

At his final talk to his students he said it this way:

Coming and going is continuous. I must be on my way!


Pacific Zen Institute long retreats include sitting and walking meditation, daily talks and teachings in the morning and evening, and an opportunity to meet, usually daily, with a teacher to talk about your practice. There is ample time to rest and take walk in the hills. No particular experience of meditation or koans is necessary. Beginners and people from other traditions are welcome. Good food, quiet, and excellent company are likely.

Join Us



  • Dates: September 19–24, 2017.
  • Times: Tuesday evening to Sunday noon.
  • Location: Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael, CA.
  • Pricing: See registration page.
  • Registrar & Scholarships: For questions about the event, please contact the registar, Jan Black, at janfblack@gmail.com.
    For questions about scholarships, please contact us at scholarships@pacificzen.org.
  • Transport: We recommend the San Francisco airport for this retreat as the shuttle (www.marinairporter.com) runs every 30 minutes to San Rafael from there. You can also fly into Oakland but the shuttle (airportexpressinc.com) only leaves every two hours from there. Once you arrive in San Rafael we will be organizing transport from the shuttle drop-off to Santa Sabina.
Courtyard at Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael

Learn more about our long retreats here.
By registering for this event you agree to our Cancellation Policy.

Art Credit: Berndnaut Smilde, “Nimbus Roebourne”, 2017.

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