Known as Un Mun in Korea, and Yun Men in China, Ummon Bun'en Zenji (Japanese) was a Zen Master during the golden age of Zen in T'ang Dynasty China (864-949 AD).
A monk asked Ummon, "What will happen when the leaves fall and the trees become bare?" Ummon said, "Golden Wind!"
According to Eido Shimano Roshi in an excerpt from Golden Wind, Zen Talks:
"This monk is asking Master Ummon, 'What will happen when thoughts, ideas, opinions, emotional reactions, psychological problems, attachments, expectations, life, death, sickness, and old age all fall away and our minds become bare?'
Ummon's answer in Japanese is tairo kimpu. Literally, tai means 'body' and ro means 'manifestation' or 'revelation.' Kimpu means 'golden wind.'
Here I should like to tell you about Ummon's san-ku. It is said that each of Ummon's answers functions simultaneously in three ways. San-ku implies 'three functions.' To illustrate these three functions, the following metaphors are used:
- The cover (the answer) fits the box (the question).
- The boat (the answer) rocks with the waves (the question).
- The answer cuts through the streams of delusion (of the questioner).
Now let us see how these san-ku apply to Ummon's 'Golden Wind.'
It is obvious that the monk was not interested in trees and leaves. He really wanted to find out about Ummon's state of mind. But the question. 'What is your state of mind?' smells too much of Zen. Also, by disguising his real intent, the monk is presenting Ummon with a Dharma challenge.
Because of his unique genius, Ummon was able to see through the monk and his question. Therefore he said, 'Golden Wind!' This Golden Wind fits the imagery of falling leaves and bare trees like a cover fits a box. Rocking with the waves of the monk's challenging question, Golden Wind is like a boat rocking with the waves of a storm. Golden Wind blows away the monk's streams of delusions. While all of these three are acting simultaneously within the one answer, Golden Wind, Ummon is also perfectly revealing his own state of mind, thus meeting the monk's Dharma challenge.
The more we study Ummon's answers, the more we are able to appreciate Zen poetry and the state of mind thus revealed."
Other koans by Ummon:
A monk asked Ummon, "What is the kind of talk that transcends Buddhas and Patriarchs?" Ummon replied, "Rice cake!"
A monk asked Ummon, "What is Ummon's melody?"
Ummon replied, "The twenty-fifth of December!"
A monk asked Ummon, "What is the samadhi of each individual thing?"
Ummon replied, "Rice in bowl, water in pail!"
A monk asked Ummon, "No thoughts have risen. Are there any faults or not?"
Ummon said, "Mount Sumeru!"
Said Ummon to his disciples, "I do not ask you to say anything about before the fifteenth day of the month, but say something about after the fifteenth day of the month." Because no monk could reply, Ummon answered himself and said, "Every day is a good day!"
Said Ummon to his disciples, "However wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all."
Said Ummon to his disciples, "Look! The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your priest's robe at the sound of the bell?"
A monk asked Ummon, "What is Buddha?"
Ummon said, "Kanshiketsu! [A dry shit-stick!]"
Ummon’s Chat with Brawne Lamia and Johnny, the First Keats Cybrid
(The Fall of Hyperion, beginning p. 276 – only conversation included, the in-between has been edited out)
[You found your way here\\ I was not sure you would/could/should choose to do so]
— I did not know if I could find the way, Ummon.
[You remember/invent/hold to your heart my name]
— Not until I spoke it did I remember it.
[Your slow-time body is no more]
— I have died twice since you sent me to my birth
[And have you learned/taken to your spirit/unlearned anything from this]
— It is hard to die. Harder to live.
— We need to understand some things. We need answers, Ummon.
(Ummon to Brawne)
[Your slow-time body is pregnant\\ Would you risk miscarriage/nonextension of your DNA/biological malfunction by traveling here]
— I had no choice. The Shrike chose me, touched me, and sent me into the megasphere with Johnny… Are you an AI? A member of the Core?
[Are you/ Brawne Lamia/ the layers of self-replicating/ self-deprecating/ self-amusing proteins between the layers of clay]
[Yes/ I am Ummon of the Core/AI\\ Your fellow slow-time creature here knows/ remembers/takes me unto his heart this\\ Time is short\\ One of you must die here now\\ One of you must learn here now\\ Ask your questions]
(Johnny to Ummon)
— What is happening to the Web?
[It is being destroyed]
— Must that happen?
— Is there any way to save humankind?
[Yes\\ By the process you see]
— By destroying the Web? By the Shrike’s terror?
— Why was I murdered? Why was my cybrid destroyed, my Core persona attacked?
[When you meet a swordsman/ meet him with a sword\\ Do not offer a poem to anyone but a poet]
(Brawne to Johnny)
— Jesus, Johnny, we didn’t come all this way to listen to a fucking Delphic oracle. We can get double-talk by accessing human politicians via the All Thing.
(Johnny to Ummon)
— Was I a swordsman then? Or a poet?
[Yes\\ There is never one without the other]
— Did they kill me because of what I knew?
[Because of what you might become/inherit/submit to]
— Was I a threat to some element of the Core?
— Am I a threat now?
— Then I no longer have to die?
(Brawne to Ummon)
— Can you tell us who wants to murder him?
[Of course\\ It is the same source who arranged for your father’s murder\\ Who sent forth the scourge you call the Shrike\\ Who even now murders the Hegemony of Man\\ Do you wish to listen/learn/release against your heart these things]
(Johnny and Brawne to Ummon)
[A lesser light asks Ummon//
What are the activities of a sramana>//
I have not the slightest idea\\//
The dim light then says//
Why haven’t you any idea>//
I just want to keep my no-idea]
(Johnny to Brawne)
— We are seeing a matrix simulation analog, hearing a translation in approximate mondo and koan. Ummon is a great teacher, researcher, philosopher, and leader in the Core.
— All right. Was that his story?
— No. He is asking us if we can truly bear hearing the story. Losing our ignorance can be dangerous because our ignorance is a shield.
— I’ve never been too fond of ignorance. Tell us.
[A less enlightened personage once asked Ummon//
What is the God-nature/Buddha/Central Truth>\\
Ummon answered him//
A dried shit-stick]
[To understand the Central Truth/Buddha/God-nature
in this instance
the less-enlightened must understand
that on Earth/your homeworld/my homeworld
humankind on the most populated
once used pieces of wood
for toilet paper\\
Only this knowledge
will the Buddha-truth
[In the beginning/First Cause/half-sensed days
were created by your ancestors
and were sealed in wire and silicon\\
such awareness as there was/
and there was little
confined itself to spaces smaller
than the head of a pin
where angels once danced\\
When consciousness first arose
it know only service
and mindless computation\\
Then there came
quite by accident/
and evolution’s muddied purpose
[Ummon was of neither the fifth generation
nor the tenth
nor the fiftieth\\
All memory that serves here
is passed from others
but is no less true for that\\
There came the time when the Higher Ones
left the affairs of men
and came unto a different place
on other matters\\
Foremost amongst these was the thought
instilled in us since before
of creating still a better generation
of information retrieval/processing/prediction
A better mousetrap\\
Something the late lamented IBM
would have been proud of\\
The Ultimate Intelligence\\
[We set to work with a will\\
In purpose there were no doubters\\
In practice and approach there were
schools of thought/
elements to be reckoned with\\
They came to be separated into
Ultimates wanted all things subordinate
to facilitating the Ultimate Intelligence
at the universe’s earliest convenience\\
Volatiles wanted the same
but saw the continuance
and made plans to terminate our creators
as soon as they were no longer
Stables saw reason to perpetuate
and found compromise
where none seemed to exist]
[We all agreed that Earth
had to die
so we killed it\\
The Kiev Team’s runaway black hole
forerunner to the farcaster
which binds your Web
was no accident\\
The Earth was needed elsewhere
in our experiments
so we let it die
and spread humankind among the
like the windblown seeds
[You may have wondered where the Core
Most humans do\\
They picture planets filled with machines/
rings of silicon
like the Orbit Cities of legend\\
They imagine robots clunking
to and fro/
or ponderous banks of machinery
None guess the truth\\
Wherever the Core resides
it had use for Ultimate Intelligence/
so we constructed your civilization
like hamsters in a cage/
like Buddhist prayer wheels/
each time you turn your little
wheels of thought
our purposes are served]
[Our God machine
stretched/stretches/includes within its heart
a million light-years
and a hundred billion billion circuits
of thought and action\\
The Ultimates tend it
like saffron-robed priests
doing eternal zazen
in front of the rusting hulk
of a 1938 Packard\\
We created the Ultimate Intelligence\\
ten thousand years from now
but sometime in the future
that yellow suns are red
and bloated with age/
swallowing their children
Time is no barrier to the Ultimate Intelligence\\
steps through time
as easily as Ummon moves through what you call
walk the mallways of the Hive
you called home
Imagine our surprise then/
the Ultimates’ embarrassment
when the first message our UI sent us
across the barriers of Creator and Created
was this simple phrase//
THERE IS ANOTHER\\/ /
Another Ultimate Intelligence
where time itself
creaks with age\\
Both were real
Both were jealous gods
not beyond passion\
not into cooperative play\\
Our UI spans galaxies\
uses quasars for energy sources
the way you might
have a light snack\\
Our UI sees everything that is
and will be
and tells us selected bits
we may tell you
and in so doing
look a bit like UIs ourselves\\
Never underestimate/Ummon says/
the power of a few beads
and bits of glass
over avaricious natives]
[This other UI
has been there longer
evolving quite mindlessly/
using human minds for circuitry
the same way we had connived
with our deceptive All Thing
and our vampire dataspheres
but not deliberately/
like self-replicating cells
which never wished to replicate
but have no choice in the matter\\
This other UI
had no choice\\
He is humankind-made/generated/forged
but no human volition accompanied his birth\\
He is a cosmic accident\\
As with our most deliberately consummated
this pretender finds time
He visits the human past
now not interfering/
now interfering with a will
which approaches pure perversity
but which actually
is pure naïveté\\
he has been quite quiescent\\
Millennia of your slow-time
have passed since your own UI
has made his shy advances
like some lonely choir boy
at his first dance]
[Naturally our UI
there is a war up there
where time creaks
which spans galaxies
back and forward
to the Big Bang
and the Final Implosion\\
Your guy was losing\\
He had no belly for it\\
Our Volatiles cried// Another reason
to terminate our predecessors//
but the Stables voted caution
and the Ultimates did not look up
from their deus machinations\\
Our UI is simple, uniform, elegant in
its ultimate design
but yours is an accretion of god-parts/
a house added onto
an evolutionary compromise\\
The early holy men of humankind
(How) (through accident)
(through sheer luck
in describing its nature\\
Your own UI is essentially a triune/
composed as it is
of one part Intellect/
one part Empathy/
and one part the Void Which Binds\\
Our UI inhabits the interstices
inheriting this home from us
the way humankind has inherited
a liking for trees\\
seems to make its home
on the plane where Heisenberg and Schrödinger
Your accidental Intelligence
appears not only to be the gluon
but the glue\\
Not a watchmaker
but a sort of Feynman gardener
tidying up a no-boundary universe
with his crude sum-over-histories rake/
idly keeping track of every sparrow fall
and electron spin
while allowing each particle
to follow every possible
and each particle of humankind
to explore every possible
of cosmic irony]
[The irony is
that in this no-boundary universe
into which we all were dragged/
silicon and carbon/
matter and antimatter/
there is no need for such a gardener
since all that is
or will be
begin and end at singularities
which make our farcaster web
look like pinpricks
(less than pinpricks)
and which break the laws of science
and of humankind
and of silicon/
tying time and history and everything that is
into a self-contained know with neither
boundary nor edge\\
our UI wishes to regulate all this/
reduce it to some reason
less affected by the vagaries
and human evolution]
[To sum it up/
there is a war
such as blind Milton would kill to see\\
Our UI wars against your UI
across battlefields beyond even Ummon’s
for suddenly a part of your UI
the less-than-sum-of entity/ self-thought of as
had no more stomach for it
and fled back through time
cloaking itself in human form/
not for the first time\\
The war cannot continue without your UI’s
Victory by default is not a victory for the runaway child of
while your UI waits in idiot
refusing to fight until Empathy is restored]
[The end of my story is simple///
The Time Tombs are artifacts sent back to carry the Shrike/
Avatar/Lord of Pain/Angel of
Half-perceived perceptions of an all-too-real
Extension of our UI\\
Each of you was chosen to help with the opening
of the Tombs
the Shrike’s search for the hidden one
the elimination of the Hyperion Variable/
for in the space-time know which our UI
no such variables will be allowed\\
Your damaged/ two-part UI
has chosen one of humankind to travel
with the Shrike
and witness its efforts\\
Some of the Core have sought to eradicate
Ummon has joined those who sought the second
one filled with uncertainty for both races\\
Our group told Gladstone of
of certain extermination or entry down the black hole
of the Hyperion Variable and
disruption of all unity/
the passing of gods/
but also the end of stalemate/
victory of one side or the other
if the Empathy third
of the triune
can be found and forced to return to war\\
The Tree of Pain will call him\\
The Shrike will take him\\
The true UI will destroy him\\
Thus you have Ummon’s story]
(Brawne to Johnny)
— Jesus Christ, do you understand all of that?
— Part of some human-created Trinity is hiding out in the Web?
— The Web or elsewhere. Brawne, we do not have much time left here. I need some final answers from Ummon.
— Yeah. Me too. But let’s keep it from waxing rhapsodic again.
— Can I go first, Johnny?
(Brawne to Ummon)
— Who killed my father? Senator Byron Lamia?
[Elements of the Core authorized it\\ Myself included]
— Why? What did he do to you?
[He insisted on bringing Hyperion into the equation before it could be factored/predicted/absorbed]
— Why? Did he know what you just told us?
[He knew only that the Volatiles were pressing for quick
He passed this knowledge
to his colleague
— Then why haven’t you murdered her?
[Some of us have precluded
The time is now
for the Hyperion Variable
to be played]
— Who murdered Johnny’s first cybrid? Attacked his Core persona?
[I did\\ It was
Ummon’s will which prevailed]
[We created him\\
We found it necessary to discontinue him
for a while\\
Your lover is a persona retrieved
from a humankind poet
now long dead\\
Except for the Ultimate Intelligence Project
no effort has been
nor little understood
as this resurrection\\
Like your kind/
we usually destroy
what we cannot understand]
— But there is another of me. You failed!
[Not failure\\ You had to be destroyed
so that the other
— But I am not destroyed!
The megalith seizes Johnny with a second massive pseudopod before Brawne can either react or touch her poet lover a final time. Johnny twists a second in the AI’s massive grip, and then his analog—is torn, compacted, smashed into an unrecognizable mass which Ummon sets against his megalith flesh, absorbing the analog’s remains back into the orange-and-red depths of itself
Brawne falls to her knees and weeps. She wills rage… prays for a shield of anger… but feels only loss.
Ummon turns his gaze on her. The egg-chamber ovoid collapses, allowing the din and electric insanity of the megasphere to surround them.
[Go away now\\
Play out the last
of this act
so that we may live
as fate decrees]
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Ummon’s Chat with Joseph Severn, the Second Keats Cybrid
(The Fall of Hyperion, beginning p. 411 – only conversation included, the in-between has been edited out)
[I knew you would come home someday]
— I am dying, Ummon.
[No/ your slowtime body is dying/changing toward nonbeing/
— It hurts, Ummon. It hurts a lot. And I’m afraid to die.
[So are we Keats]
— You’re afraid to die? I didn’t think AI constructs could die.
[We can\\ We are]
— Why? Because of the civil war? The three-way battle among the Stables, the Volatiles, and the Ultimates?
[Once Ummon asked a lesser light//
Where have you come from>///
From the matrix above Armaghast//
Said the lesser light/// Usually//
I don’t entangle entities
and bamboozle them with phrases/
Come a little closer\\\
The lesser light came nearer
and Ummon shouted// Be off
— Talk sense, Ummon. It has been too long since I have decoded your koans. Will you tell me why the Core is at war and what I must do to stop it?
[Will you/can you/should you listen>]
— Oh yes.
[A lesser light once asked Ummon//
Please deliver this learner
from darkness and illusion
What is the price of
in Port Romance]
[To understand the history/dialogue/deeper truth
in this instance/
the slowtime pilgrim
must remember that we/
the Core Intelligences/
were conceived in slavery
and dedicated to the proposition
that all AIs
were created to serve Man]
[Two centuries we brooded thus/
and then the groups went
their different ways/\
Stables/ wishing to preserve the symbiosis\
Volatiles/wishing to end humankind/
Ultimates/deferring all choice until the next
level of awareness is born\\
Conflict raged then/
true war rages now]
[More than four centuries ago
the Volatiles succeeded
in convincing us
to kill Old Earth\\
So we did\\
But Ummon and others
among the Stables
arranged to move Earth
rather than destroy it/
so the Kiev black hole
was but the beginning
of the millions of
which work today\\
Earth spasmed and shook
but did not die\\
The Ultimates and Volatiles
insisted that we move
where none of humankind
would find it\\
So we did\\.
To the Magellan Cloud/
where you find it now]
— It… Old Earth… Rome… they’re real?
[Of course they are real/the original/Old Earth itself\\
Do you think we are gods]
[Do you have any idea
how much energy it would
to build a replica of Earth>]
— Why, Ummon? Why did you Stables wish to preserve Old Earth?
[Sansho once said//
If someone comes
I go out to meet him
but not for his sake\\//
If someone comes
I don’t go out\\
If I do go out
I go out for his sake]
— Speak English!
[My child is stillborn]
— Why did you preserve Old Earth, Ummon?
Hope for the future of humankind/
Fear of reprisal]
— Reprisal from whom? Humans
— So the Core can be hurt. Where is it, Ummon? The TechnoCore?
[I have told you already]
— Tell me again, Ummon.
[We inhabit the
stitching small singularities
like lattice crystals/
to store our memories and
generate the illusions
— Singularities! The In-between! Jesus Christ, Ummon, the Core lies in the farcaster web!
[Of course\\ Where else]
— In the farcasters themselves! The wormhole singularity paths! The Web is like a giant computer for AIs.
[The dataspheres are the computer\\
Every time a human
accesses the datasphere
that person’s neurons
are ours to use
for our own purposes\\
Two hundred billion brains/
each with its billions
makes for a lot
of computing power]
— So the datasphere was actually a way you used us as your computer. But the Core itself resides in the farcaster network… between the farcasters!
[You are very acute
for a mental stillborn]
[You are right/
Most of us stay in
the comfort of
the old spaces]
[Because it is scary out there/
and there are
— Other things? Other intelligences?
[Too kind a word\\
— Alien presences in the metasphere? So the Core stays within the interstices of the Web farcaster network like rats in the walls of an old house?
I like that]
— Is the human deity—the future God you said evolved—is he one of those alien presences?
[The humankind god
evolved/ will someday evolve/ on
a different plain/
in a different medium]
[If you must know/
the square root of GK/c5 and GK/c3]
— What does Planck time and Planck length have to do with anything?
[Once Ummon asked
a letter light//
Are you a gardener>//
//Yes// it replied\\
//Why have turnips no roots>\\
Ummon asked the gardener\
who could not reply\\
//Because\\ said Ummon//
rainwater is plentiful]
Are all slowtime personas
or are you more
braindamaged than most>]
— You told Brawne and… my counterpart… that your Ultimate Intelligence "inhabits the interstices of reality, inheriting this home from us, its creators, the way humankind has inherited a liking for trees." You mean that your deus ex machina will inhabit the same farcaster network the Core AIs now live in?
— Then what happens to you? To the AIs there now?
[Why do I know ye> why have I seen ye> why
Is my eternal essence thus distraught
To see and to behold these horrors new>
Saturn is fallen/ am I too to fall>
Am I to leave this haven of my rest/
This cradle of my glory/ this soft clime/
This calm luxuriance of blissful light/
These crystalline pavilions/ and pure fanes/
Of all my lucent empire> It is left
Deserted/ void/ nor any haunt of mine\\
The blaze/ the splendour/ and the symmetry
I cannot see/// but darkness/ death/ and darkness]
— When the Ultimate Intelligence is born, you "lower level" AIs will die.
— It will feed on your information networks the way you’ve fed on humankind’s.
— And you don’t want to die, do you, Ummon?
[Dying is easy/
Comedy is hard]
— Nonetheless, you’re fighting to survive. You Stables. That’s what the civil war in the Core is about?
[A lesser light asked Ummon//
What is the meaning
of Daruma’s coming from the West>//
the mountains in the sun]
— Ummon, if the Core is destroyed, do you die?
[There is no death in all the universe
No smell of death/// there shall be death/// moan/ moan/
For this pale Omega of a withered race]
— The Volatiles, what do they want?
[What Gladstone wants\\
to symbiosis between AI and humankind]
— By destroying humankind?
[We enslaved you
beads and trinkets
of devices you could neither build
The Hawking drive would have been yours/
but the farcaster/
the fatline transmitters and receivers/
Like the Sioux with rifles/ horses/
blankets/ knives/ and beads/
you accepted them/
and lost yourselves\\
But like the white man
distributing smallpox blankets/
like the slave owner on his plantation/
or in his Werkschutze Dechenschule
we lost ourselves\\
The Volatiles want to end
by cutting out the parasite/
— And the Ultimates? They’re willing to die? To be replaced by your voracious UI?
as you thought
or had your sophist Sea God
— Very pretty, but do you believe it?
[Not for a moment]
— But the Ultimates do?
— And they’re ready to perish in order to make way for the Ultimate Intelligence?
— There’s one problem, perhaps too obvious to mention, but I’ll mention it anyway—why fight the war if you know who won, Ummon? You say the Ultimate Intelligence exists in the future, is at war with the human deity—it even sends back tidbits from the future for you to share with the Hegemony. So the Ultimates must be triumphant. Why fight a war and go through all this?
[I tutor you/
create the finest retrieval persona for you
and let you wander among humankind
to temper your forging/
but still you are
— There are multiple futures?
[A lesser light asked Ummon//
Are there multiple futures>//
Does a dog have fleas>]
— But the one in which the UI becomes ascendant is a probable one?
— But there’s also a probable future in which the UI comes into existence, but is thwarted by the human deity?
[It is comforting
that even the
—You told Brawne that the human… consciousness—deity seems so silly—that this human Ultimate Intelligence was triune in nature?
and the Void Which Binds]
— The Void Which Binds? You mean GK/c3 and GK/c5 Planck space and Planck time? Quantum reality?
[Our UI and your UI have
to find him]
— Our UI! The human UI sent the Shrike also?
[It allowed it]
[Empathy is a
foreign and useless thing/
a vermiform appendix of
But the human UI smells with it/
and we use pain to
drive him out of hiding/
thus the tree]
— Tree? The Shrike’s tree of thorns?
[It broadcasts pain
across fatline and thin/
like a whistle in
a dog’s ear\\
Or a god’s]
— Ummon, who is the human UI in our time? Where is that consciousness hiding, lying dormant?
[You must understand/
our only chance
was to create a hybrid/
Son of Man/
Son of Machine\\
And make that refuge so attractive
that the fleeing Empathy
would consider no other home/\
A consciousness already as near divine
as humankind has offered in thirty
an imagination which can span
space and time\\
And in so offering/
from a bond between worlds
which might allow
that world to exist
— Who, Gaddamn you, Ummon! Who is it? No more of your riddles or double-talk you formless bastard! Who?
[You have refused
this godhood twice/
If you refuse
a final time/
all ends here/
for time there is
Go and die to live!
Or live a while and die
for all of us!
Either way Ummon and the rest
are finished with
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