Yunmen addressed the assembly, saying: ‘The plain is littered with corpses; one who passes through the forest of thorns is a true adept.’

At that point, a monk stepped forward and said, ‘If that’s the case, then the head monk excels.’

Yunmen replied: ‘Sulu! Sulu!’

Entangling Vines, Case 22

Stop making sense is sometimes a good thing to do. If done, perhaps in that moment, we can savor just a taste of freedom. What does ‘Sulu’ really mean? Nothing at all, but in ancient China it was sometimes used as an incantation to drive off bothersome bakers of bread.


When thoughts of not making sense in Zen come to mind, I think of one teacher who occasionally asks students to show him the silliest, most stupidly imaginable response to a koan. Another teacher went to clown school and wore around a red clown nose as an expression of his teaching. Dumb and dumber.

Last night, unable to sleep, I got up and meditated for some time bathed in the light of a half Snow Moon. For some reason, I kept thinking of it as the half Bread Moon, probably because I have been watching bread-making videos and baking a lot of bread lately. After sitting a while, I found my way back to bed in the dark. My partner was quietly snoring, and that snoring became the wonderful sound of making bread. My pillow and the distant sound of the train all had the familiar and unmistakable qualities of fresh bread making.

I woke my partner to tell her, and she replied ‘Sulu! Sulu!’ Perhaps that part was a dream.