The Gateless Barrier

The Gateless Barrier (Mandarin: 無門關 Wúménguān; Japanese: 無門関 Mumonkan), sometimes translated as The Gateless Gate, is a collection of 48 Chan (Zen) koans compiled in the early 13th century by the Chinese Zen master Wumen Huikai (無門慧開; Japanese: Mumon Ekai; 1183–1260). The title has a double meaning and can also be understood as Wumen's Barrier; the compiler's name, which literally means "No Gate", is the same as the title's first two characters. Wumen's preface indicates that the volume was published in 1228. Each koan is accompanied by a commentary and verse by Wumen. A classic edition includes a 49th case composed by Anwan (pen name for Cheng Ch'ing-Chih) in 1246. Wu-liang Tsung-shou also supplemented the volume with a verse of four stanzas composed in 1230 about the three checkpoints of Zen master Huanglong. These three checkpoints of Huanglong should not be confused with Doushuai's Three Checkpoints found in Case 47.

Along with the Blue Cliff Record and the oral tradition of Hakuin Ekaku, The Gateless Gate is a central work much used in Rinzai School practice. Five of the koans in the work concern the sayings and doings of Zhaozhou; four concern Ummon.

The common theme of the koans of the Wumen Guan and of Wumen's comments is the inquiry and introspection of dualistic conceptualization. Each koan epitomizes one or more of the polarities of consciousness that act like an obstacle or wall to the insight. The student is challenged to transcend the polarity that the koan represents and demonstrate or show that transcendence to the Zen teacher.

The text was originally prepared by Wumen as a record of his teaching during a monastic training period held at Longxiang (Soaring Dragon) monastery in the summer of 1228. Wumen selected the 48 koans and commented on and added a verse for each koan. His teachings were transcribed and after the training period were compiled into the collection called the Wumen Guan.

As was customary in China at the time, an edition might have additions of text inserted by a subsequent owner or publisher. The most well known version of the text is from the Japanese wood block edition made from the 1246 manuscript edition that contains the following sections.

The Wumen Guan has an appendix titled "Zen Caveats" (禪箴) with one-line aphorisms dealing with Zen practice The word zhēn (箴) means "caveat", "warning", or "admonition", but it also has the meaning of "needle" or "probe" (as in acupuncture needles) and is sometimes translated as "Zen Needles". As with the main koans, each caveat challenges the Zen student's attachment to dualistic concepts, here those especially related to Zen practice.

Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope.
Moving freely vertically and horizontally without obstruction is the way of outsiders and the nightmare army.
To preserve the heart mind and to purify it by letting impurities settle to the bottom in quiescence is the perverted Zen of silent illumination.
Neglecting the written records with unrestrained ideas is falling into a deep pit.
A view of Buddha and a view of Dharma are the two enclosing mountains of iron.
A person who perceives thoughts as they immediately arise is fiddling with spectral consciousness.
However, being on a high plateau practicing samadhi is the stratagem of living in the house of ghosts.
To advance results in ignoring truth; to retreat results in contradicting the lineage.
You must work hard to live in the present and, to finish, all the more. I do not advise the unfortunate excess of continual suffering.