Mumon Ekai was a 13th century Zen master renowned for his compilation and elucidation of 48 koans into a volume entitled The Gateless Gate.
A koan is a thought-provoking parable or question used to challenge one’s understanding of reality in an attempt to expand awareness. Koans often take years to solve, if not lifetimes. And Mumon’s collection are among some of the most influential ever posed.
In his introduction to the anthology lies this captivating stanza:
The great Way has no gate; There are a thousand different roads. If you pass through this barrier once, you will walk independently in the universe.
What he’s helping us understand is the path to awakening passes through a gateless gate. A barrier that exists only in our mind with its steadfast belief in duality.
We cannot cross this obstacle until we first recognize its presence. Even though it does not exist.
This is what makes considering koans, and practicing any non-dualistic thought system, so exceptionally challenging. It seems nonsensical; all avenues of thought end in apparent paradox.
Yet that’s because we’re endeavoring to understand from within the realm of dualistic reason. Much like striving to solve a problem in a dream without realizing you’re dreaming. We need to step out of our reverie to gain perspective.
Deeply contemplating koans helps one become a lucid dreamer. Simultaneously serving as the dream’s protagonist whilst aware that one is dreaming.
Another extraordinary volume of non-dualistic thought, A Course in Miracles, likewise posits the “thousand different roads” passing through this gateless barrier. The journey matters little; stepping through the gate, eternal bliss.
How light and easy is the step across the narrow boundary of the world! Within your hand is everything you need to walk with perfect confidence away from fear forever, and to go straight on, and quickly reach the gate of Heaven itself. (T-30.V.8)
Learning to recognize this gateless gate is the greatest obstacle we face. It’s the locus of all practice across all paths. For once we see beyond sight and perceive beyond perception, then are we ready to cross this gapless gap into infinite oneness.
Join me in Thursday’s class where we’ll explore principles leading to this sightless vision illuminating the threshold of perfect peace. I look forward to seeing you then.