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The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  695 ratings  ·  53 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 15th 2004 by Wisdom Publications (first published 1228)
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Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you noticed that nowadays people are afraid to think INTUITIVELY? They shouldn't be! Spinoza said many, many years ago that it's the only way to truly UNDERSTAND.

‘Our brains aren’t hats to pull rabbits from, endlessly trying to be clever,’ says the ancient philosopher Mumon (or would say, if he saw the world now) - no, the only way to see ourselves is to look inward intuitively, and see ourselves as a child.

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose -

But once we’ve forever scrambled our thoughts into comp
B. P. Rinehart
"The worst enemy of Zen experience, at least in the beginning, is the intellect, which consists in discriminating subject from object. The discriminating intellect, therefore, must be cut short if Zen consciousness is to unfold itself, and the koan is constructed to serve this end." -- D.T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. T. Suzuki

I read this book after a series of discussions I had with a friend on the basic ideas of Zen Buddhism. I'm not a Buddhist myself, but I find the idea
Maurice Halton
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One can never finish reading The Gateless Gate.
Jul 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophicc, meh
I am not sure if I should be rating the book itself or its contents. I feel quite ambivalent towards both.

On one hand, the koans themselves are interesting pieces—I do not dare classify them as stories or identify them with anything close to a genre. They are short texts, intellectually preposterous; yet as the title of the anthology suggests, there is only a gate if the reader is obstructed by this logical enigma, for if they are not, there is no gate, and one can interpret them instantly. Eve
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it

Only a man with little secrets
Fears being seen.
A man with many secrets can be seen all around
They will never find him

You must be like the frog that has swallowed the Great Mystery

By throwing the past,
To the ruffled pigeons
He removes statistics like a robe

His belly is infinite in heaven and earth.
He will be greater than seven Trump Towers


A monk once came to a master and asked: “How can I find the self?”

The master replied: “Two mirrors make a tunnel which you can crawl to many places. When you
Capó-Hernandez Family
A Real Mind-Blower

Even with the annotations, there is much to learn from the Koans and the answers to them. A lot of it cannot be understood until you let go of the traditional ways one would answer them. It is important to incorporate the things you have come to know about the Tao, about Non-Dualism, and especially the fact that giving form to something removes the reality from it. Becoming a form that one must grasp to understand.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
This is a book that I plan to return to in the future.....koans obviously take lots of time to sink in.

My rating is not based so much on the koans as the design and layout of this book. I would have preferred a smaller book that could be carried in a pocket. I found many of the commentaries repetitive. The layout is also somewhat obscure....preface upon preface. Some pictures and a dictionary/list of terms would be quite helpful too.

Florent Diverchy
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent first introduction to koans. Requires a slow reading.
My recommendation: One koan per week.
Day 1: read the koan & reflect on it.
Day 3: read the commentary & continue reflecting on it with this extra information.
Day 5: Search the internet about the koan & continue reflecting on it with this extra information.
This will set the base for an enlightening year!
Leo Kuznetsov
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-stpean, nook
There is not enough stars in observable Universe and beyond to rate this book. This is not actually a book. This is probably the only title that holds to be the "Revelation". Not for everyone. You gotta be ready for it. ...more
Mert Topcu
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not that I read a lot of books about Zen however this is one of the best I've read. Before reading this books I've tried a couple different books about koan. They were pretty mainstream ones that did not really go deeper into the meanings and the roles of the koans. Whereas in this book, Mumon does an amazing job to explain the historical and conceptual contexts around the 40+ koans.
I really enjoyed reading them.
Joe Santoli
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Its a non-fiction book about Buddhism and chan enlightenment. A Koan is a "public case" meant to be paradoxical for the reader, and to bring about new thought for the reader. Not exactly a fiction, but worth the list because I really enjoyed reading it and thinking about enlightenment. ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dropped, poetry, buddhism
I’m starting to see that Zen is no exception; Yet another sugary, hollow, dishonest, willfully confused ideology of escape and abuse created by the priestly. It seems our kind of people can hardly survive without a large dose of deepities, for to see onobfuscated is to see the banal and the grey.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
should have read this years ago. My edition is actually Koun Yamada Roshi's translation, published by Center Publications, 1979 with a foreward by Taizan Maezumi Roshi. ...more
I will probably come back to this book every 7 years and increase the rating by a 1/2 star every time. Until then, the inner journey of the spirit continues.
Arnel Šarić
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Either zen masters were godlike humans or the biggest trolls in the known and unknown universes. Still not sure.
Tiffany Rosenqueen
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
wash your bowl
Teo 2050


Ekai (1228) Gateless Gate, The

01. Joshu's Dog
02. Hyakujo's Fox
03. Gutei's Finger
04. A Beardless Foreigner
05. Kyogen Mounts the Tree
06. Buddha Twirls a Flower
07. Joshu Washes the Bowl
08. Keichu's Wheel
09. A Buddha Before History
10. Seizei Alone and Poor
11. Joshu Examines a Monk in Meditation
12. Zuigan Calls His Own Master
13. Tokusan Holds His Bowl
14. Nansen Cuts the Cat in Two
15. Tozan's Three Bowls
16. Bells and Robes
17. Three Calls of the Emperor's Teacher
18. Tozan's
Jan 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: buddhism
The Gateless Gate is a classic book of zen koans. In this version, Yamada adds his own explication of each case, which helps a lot in understanding some of the basic ideas. As a Westerner and someone who is not steeped in Buddhist history, I often felt like I was facing a steep series of translations- from Chinese to Japanese, from Japanese to English, from Eastern ideas and idioms to Western ones. For that reason I read the book slowly- at most one case each night. Some of them, like the classi ...more
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Disclaimer: I know little to nothing about Zen Buddhism.)

Though Nietzsche has instilled in me an aversion to the idolization of nothingness or silence (be noisy and passionate while you can) characteristic of some eastern philosophies, I found the koans both profound and wonderfully silly. They question; call on one to justify, our preference for the determinate (e.g the thesis that all propositions are true or false), absolutes, dichotomies (good and evil).

They also provoke reflection on commu
Jim Parker
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This certainly isn't a book to read all at once.

The way I am handling the book is to read one koan at a time. I don't even necessarily manage to read one everyday but I'm trying to get in the habit of doing it that way. Sometimes I think about the koan and sometimes the koans are incomprehensible to me and I just sort put that one aside.

I have finally finished going through all the koans for the first time. In no way do I consider this book finished but at least I have begun the study. (3-31-201
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Surprised at how few reads this book has gotten on this site. I guess I figured something like the Tao Te Ching would be more popular, but not 3 orders of magnitude more popular. This book is a great introduction to Zen for the casually curious. The koans are very funny at times, and Yamada's commentary is painstaking and clear, sometimes overly so, but between the koan, Mumon's commentary and Yamada's, you get three different layers and styles of understanding and it all works quite well as a w ...more
Jan van Leent
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
Excellent translation of this classic collection of Zen Koans.

The teishos and commentaries are very helpful.

Recommended for study of Zen koans.

Also recommended as five star rating:

- Zenkei Shibayama, The Gateless Barrier - Zen comments on the Mumonkan, Boston: Shambhala, 1974

- Robert Aitken, The Gateless Barrier - The Wu-men Kuan (Mumonkan), New York: North Point Press, 1991
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed my life. Will it change yours? All I know is that if anyone asks you whether or not the cat is yours, you put your shoes on your head, and the cat down your pants. In this way you will save two lives.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
See combined review attached to Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. ...more
exploring the Zen world in 48 -relatively- short commandments.

Jure Godler
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Good book. Yea. I love this one. Read it.
Rosie Dempsey
Jun 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Not enough can be said regarding the craziness of zen koans. I don't understand most of them, but then again, I'm not enlightened. ...more
Travis Hosgood
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are hungry, eat. If you are thirsty, drink.
This book will take some mental chewing.
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Wumen Huikai (simplified Chinese: 无门慧开; traditional Chinese: 無門慧開; pinyin: Wúmén Huìkāi; Wade-Giles: Wu-men Hui-k'ai; Japanese: Mumon Ekai) (1183–1260) is a Song period Chán (Japanese: Zen) master most famous as the compiler of and commentator on the 48-koan collection The Gateless Gate (Japanese: Mumonkan). Wumen was at that time the head monk of Longxiang (Wade-Giles: Lung-hsiang; Japanese: Ryus ...more

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