Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans


In The Gateless Gate, one of modern Zen Buddhism's uniquely influential masters offers classic commentaries on the Mumonkan, one of Zen's greatest collections of teaching stories. This translation was compiled with the Western reader in mind, and includes Koan Yamada's clear and penetrating comments on each case. Yamada played a seminal role in bringing Zen Buddhism to the West from Japan, going on to be the head of the Sanbo Kyodan Zen Community.

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The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans

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In The Gateless Gate, one of modern Zen Buddhism's uniquely influential masters offers classic commentaries on the Mumonkan, one of Zen's greatest collections of teaching stories. This translation was compiled with the Western reader in mind, and includes Koan Yamada's clear and penetrating comments on each case. Yamada played a seminal role in bringing Zen Buddhism to the West from Japan, going on to be the head of the Sanbo Kyodan Zen Community.

The Gateless Gate would be invaluable if only for the translation and commentary alone, yet it's loaded with extra material and is a fantastic resource to keep close by:

  • An in-depth Introduction to the History of Zen Practice
  • Lineage charts
  • Japanese-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Japanese conversion charts for personal names, place names, and names of writings
  • Plus front- and back-matter from ancient and modern figures: Mumon, Shuan, Kubota Ji'un, Taizan Maezumi, Hugo Enomiya-Lasalle, and Yamada Roshi's son, Masamichi Yamada.

A wonderful inspiration for the koan practitioner, and for those with a general interest in Zen Buddhism.
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Editorial Reviews

Roko Sherry Chayat
"Koun Yamada's superb translation of The Gateless Gate has accompanied me throughout my practice and my teaching ever since the first edition appeared over two decades ago. His teisho on the Cases are alive and pithy, directly conveying Master Mumon's vivid Zen and the life-transforming words of our ancestral teachers. How fortunate we are to have this new edition, with a Foreword by the esteemed Ruben Habito."
Robert Aitken
"Yamada Roshi's straightforward commentary on the Wu-men kuan (Mumonkan) is again available in this new edition, and I'm delighted. As his Dharma heir, his teachings are my own, as they are for his many other successors in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Now our students and a new generation of Zen students everywhere can benefit directly from his guidance. I'm very grateful."
Norman Fischer
"Yamada Koun was of that fine old breed of Japanese Zen Masters- piercing, disciplined, and always on point. 'The Gateless Gate' distills his teaching and spirit marvelously. It is an essential text for anyone interested in the Zen koan, and in the process of Zen awakening. "
David Loy
"This is an essential reference book for everyone working on koans, and an inspiring window on Zen practice for those who are not."
Gerry Shishin Wick Roshi
"Koun Yamada Roshi played a seminal role in spreading Zen Buddhism from Japan to the West. His insightful and profound commentaries on the Gateless Gate arise from his deep understanding of the Buddha-Dharma. They will help Zen students of all abilities to appreciate the significance of koans, not as paradoxical riddles, but as touchstones of reality."
Kyogen Carlson
"Koans are the intimate family history of Zen. The awakened mind of the Zen ancestors is conveyed, but also their effort, sweat, pain, and joy. Koun Yamada's excellent translation and commentary helped opened the door to this world for many of us, and this new edition is sure to do so for many more.."
Eido Shimano Roshi
"The penetrating voice of a unique lay Zen master! The depth of Yamada Koun Roshi's insight doesn't allow him to keep any religious, cultural or racial border in his heart. Consequently many westerners as well as catholic fathers and sisters joined his sangha. Reading his words, we realize that the Dharma has nothing to do with east or west, Buddhism or Christiany. Buddha nature is universal."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780861713820
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications MA
  • Publication date: 7/10/2005
  • Edition number: 288
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 488,801
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.95 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Koun Yamada became a dharma successor to the renowned Zen master Haku'un Yasutani while maintaining a prominent career in business and public health. He guided the Zen practice of many students including a large number of Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns.

A former Jesuit priest, Ruben L.F. Habito is professor of world religions and spirituality at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and resident teacher at Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, Texas. A dharma heir of Yamada Koun, he is also the author of Healing Breath and other works in Japanese and English.

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the Wisdom Edition xi
Preface to the Wisdom Edition xv
Preface to the Wisdom Edition xvi
Author's Preface to the First Edition xvii
Note on Chinese and Japanese Terms xxi
Shuan's Preface 1
Dedication to the Throne 5
Mumon's Preface 7
Case 1 Joshu's Dog 11
Case 2 Hyakujo and the Fox 17
Case 3 Gutei's One Finger 23
Case 4 The Barbarian Has No Beard 27
Case 5 Kyogen's Man Up a Tree 31
Case 6 Buddha Holds Up a Flower 35
Case 7 Joshu's "Wash Your Bowls" 40
Case 8 Keichu Makes Carts 44
Case 9 Daitsu Chisho 49
Case 10 Seizei the Poor 53
Case 11 Joshu Examines the Hermits 58
Case 12 Zuigan Calls Himself "Master" 62
Case 13 Tokusan Carries His Bowls 66
Case 14 Nansen Kills the Cat 70
Case 15 Tozan's Sixty Blows 74
Case 16 The Sound of the Bell and the Seven-Panel Robe 79
Case 17 The National Teacher's Three Calls 84
Case 18 Tozan's Masagin 89
Case 19 Ordinary Mind Is the Way 93
Case 20 A Man of Great Strength 98
Case 21 Unmon's Kanshiketsu 102
Case 22 Kashyapa's Flagpole 106
Case 23 Think Neither Good Nor Evil 111
Case 24 Leaving Speech and Silence Behind 118
Case 25 The Sermon of the Third Seat 123
Case 26 Two Monks Roll Up the Blinds 129
Case 27 Not Mind, Not Buddha 134
Case 28 Ryutan's Name Echoed Long 137
Case 29 Not the Wind, Not the Flag 143
Case 30 Mind Is Buddha 148
Case 31 Joshu Sees Through an Old Woman 153
Case 32 A Non-Buddhist Questions Buddha 157
Case 33 No Mind, No Buddha 161
Case 34 Knowing Is Not the Way 165
Case 35 Seijo's Soul Is Separated 169
Case 36 Meeting a Man Who Has Accomplished the Way 174
Case 37 The Oak Tree in the Garden 177
Case 38 A Cow Passes Through a Window 181
Case 39 Unmon and a Mistake in Speech 185
Case 40 Kicking Over the Water Jug 189
Case 41 Bodhidharma Puts the Mind to Rest 194
Case 42 A Woman Comes Out of Samadhi 199
Case 43 Shuzan's Shippei 204
Case 44 Basho's Shujo 208
Case 45 Who Is That One? 212
Case 46 Stepping Forward From the Top of a Pole 216
Case 47 Tosotsu's Three Barriers 220
Case 48 Kempo's One Way 225
Mumon's Postscript 231
Mumon's Zen Warnings 233
Oryu's Three Barriers 235
Muryo Soju's Verses on Oryu's Three Barriers 237
Mokyo's Epilogue 243
Amban's Forty-ninth Case 245
Appendix 1 Introduction to the History of Zen Practice 247
Appendix 2 Writings and Zen Records Mentioned in the Introduction to the History of Zen Practice 265
Appendix 3 Personal Names, Place Names, and Writings (Japanese-Chinese) 269
Appendix 4 Personal Names, Place Names, and Writings (Chinese-Japanese) 275
Appendix 5 Lineage Charts 281
Appendix 6 Foreword to the Previous Edition 293
Appendix 7 Preface to the Previous Edition 299
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