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The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism, by Mumonkan

The Gateless Gate

 

The Gateless Gate or The Gateless Barrier (Chin. Wu-wen kuan; Jap. Mumonkan)

The author is Chinese Ch'an master Wu-men Hui-hai (無門慧開 Mumon Ekai, 1183-1260).

 

English Translation

By late Zen master Katsuki Sekida (Two Zen Classics 26-137)

 

The Chinese and Japanese texts in this web site are taken from the book titled Mumonkan, published in Japan by Iwanami Bunkõ.

 

Chinese Characters

Unfortunately a few Chinese characters were not given in this site. Luckily these characters are less than 1% of the text. Where there was a definition about these ideograms, they are entered them using Chinese system (Big 5). There are also ideograms that appear as mere black boxes, without any explanations. These are replaced with dummy characters (empty square boxes).

 

 

The Gateless Gate 無門關

Wu-wen kuan (Mumonkan)

 

 

Mumon's Preface

 

佛語心爲宗、無門爲法門。

Buddhism makes mind its foundation and no-gate its gate.

既是無門、且作麼生透。

Now, how do you pass through this no-gate?

豈不見道、從門入者不是家珍、從縁得者始終成壞。

It is said that things coming in through the gate can never be your own treasures. What is gained from external circumstances will perish in the end.

恁麼説話、大似無風起浪好肉抉瘡。

However, such a saying is already raising waves when there is no wind. It is cutting unblemished skin.

何況滯言句覓解會。 掉棒打月、隔靴爬痒、有甚交渉。

As for those who try to understand through other people's words, they are striking at the moon with a stick; scratching a shoe, whereas it is the foot that itches. What concern have they with the truth?

 

慧開、紹定戊子夏、首衆于東嘉龍翔。因納子請益、遂將古人公案作敲門瓦子、隨機引導學者。

In the summer of the first year of Jõtei, Ekai was in Ryûshõ Temple and as head monk worked with the monks, using the cases of the ancient masters as brickbats to batter the gate and lead them on according to their respective capacities.

竟爾抄録、不覺成集。初不以前後敍列、共成四十八則。

The text was written down not according to any scheme, but just to make a collection of forty-eight cases.

通曰無門關。

It is called Mumonkan, "The Gateless Gate."

 

若是箇漢、不顧危亡單刀直入。

A man of determination will unflinchingly push his way straight forward, regardless of all dangers.

八臂那咤、擱他不在。

Then even the eight-armed Nata cannot hinder him.

縦使西天四七、東土二三、只得望風乞命。

Even the four sevens of the West and the two threes of the East would beg for their lives.

設或躊躇、也似隔窓看馬騎、貶得眼來、早已蹉過。

If one has no determination, then it will be like catching a glimpse of a horse galloping past the window: in the twinkling of an eye it will be gone.

 

Verse 頌曰

大道無門      The Great Way is gateless,

千差有路      Approached in a thousand ways.

透得此關      Once past this checkpoint

乾坤獨歩      You stride through the universe.

 

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism Case 1 Jõshû's "Mu"                        一 趙州狗子

 

趙州和尚、因僧問、狗子還有佛性也無。州云、無。

A monk asked Jõshû, "Has a dog the Buddha Nature?" Jõshû answered, "Mu."

 

Mumon's Comment

無門曰、參禪須透祖師關、妙悟要窮心路絶。

In order to master Zen, you must pass the barrier of the patriarchs. To attain this subtle realization, you must completely cut off the way of thinking.

祖關不透心路不絶、盡是依草附木精靈。

If you do not pass the barrier, and do not cut off the way of thinking, then you will be like a ghost clinging to the bushes and weeds.

且道、如何是祖師關。

Now, I want to ask you, what is the barrier of the patriarchs?

只者一箇無字、乃宗門一關也。

Why, it is this single word "Mu." That is the front gate to Zen.

遂目之曰禪宗無門關。

Therefore it is called the "Mumonkan of Zen."

透得過者、非但親見趙州、便可與歴代祖師把手共行、眉毛厮結同一眼見、同一耳聞。

If you pass through it, you will not only see Jõshû face to face, but you will also go hand in hand with the successive patriarchs, entangling your eyebrows with theirs, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears.

豈不慶快。

Isn't that a delightful prospect?

莫有要透關底麼。

Wouldn't you like to pass this barrier?

 

將三百六十骨節、八萬四千毫竅、通身起箇疑團參箇無字。

Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin; summon up a spirit of great doubt and concentrate on this word "Mu."

晝夜提撕、莫作虚無會、莫作有無會。

Carry it continuously day and night. Do not form a nihilistic conception of vacancy, or a relative conception of "has" or "has not."

如呑了箇熱鐵丸相似、吐又吐不出。

It will be just as if you swallow a red-hot iron ball, which you cannot spit out even if you try.

蕩盡從 前惡知惡覚、久久純熟自然内外打成—片、如唖子得夢、只許自知。

All the illusory ideas and delusive thoughts accumulated up to the present will be exterminated, and when the time comes, internal and external will be spontaneously united. You will know this, but for yourself only, like a dumb man who has had a dream.

驀然打發、驚天 動地。

Then all of a sudden an explosive conversion will occur, and you will astonish the heavens and shake the earth.

 

如奪得關將軍大刀入手、逢佛殺佛、逢祖殺祖、於生死岸頭得大自在、向六道四生中遊戲三昧。

It will be as if you snatch away the great sword of the valiant general Kan'u and hold it in your hand. When you meet the Buddha, you kill him; when you meet the patriarchs, you kill them. On the brink of life and death, you command perfect freedom; among the sixfold worlds and four modes of existence, you enjoy a merry and playful samadhi.

 

且作麼生提撕。

Now, I want to ask you again, "How will you carry it out?"

盡平生氣力擧箇無字。

Employ every ounce of your energy to work on this "Mu."

若不間斷、好似法燭一點便著。

If you hold on without interruption, behold: a single spark, and the holy candle is lit!

 

Mumon's Verse 頌曰

狗子佛性      The dog, the Buddha Nature,

全提正令      The pronouncement, perfect and final.

纔渉有無      Before you say it has or has not,

喪身失命      You are a dead man on the spot.

 

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism Case 2 Hyakujõ's Fox                     二 百丈野狐

 

百丈和尚、凡參次、有一老人常隨衆聽法。

When Hyakujõ Oshõ delivered a certain series of sermons, an old man always followed the monks to the main hall and listened to him.

衆人退、老人亦退。

When the monks left the hall, the old man would also leave.

忽一日不退。師遂問、面前立者復是何人。

One day, however, he remained behind, and Hyakujõ asked him, "Who are you, standing here before me?"

老人云、諾。

The old man replied.

某甲非人也。

"I am not a human being.

於過去迦葉佛時曾住此山。

In the old days of Kashyapa Buddha, I was a head monk, living here on this mountain.

因學人問、大修行底人還落因果也無。

One day a student asked me, 'Does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?'

某甲對云、不落因果。

I answered, 'No, he does not.'

五百生墮野狐身。

Since then I have been doomed to undergo five hundred rebirths as a fox.

今請、和尚代一轉語貴脱野狐。

I beg you now to give the turning word to release me from my life as a fox.

遂問、大修行底人、還落因果也無。

Tell me, does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?"

師云、不昧因果。

Hyakujõ answered, "He does not ignore causation."

老人於言下大悟。

No sooner had the old man heard these words than he was enlightened.

作禮云、某甲、已脱野狐身住在山後。

Making his bows, he said, "I am emancipated from my life as a fox. I shall remain on this mountain.

敢告和尚。 乞、依亡僧事例。

I have a favor to ask of you: would you please bury my body as that of a dead monk."

 

師、令維那白槌告衆、食後送亡僧。

Hyakujõ had the director of the monks strike with the gavel and inform everyone that after the midday meal there would be a funeral service for a dead monk.

大衆言議、一衆皆安、涅槃堂又無人病。何故如是。

The monks wondered at this, saying, "Everyone is in good health; nobody is in the sick ward. What does this mean?"

食後只見師領衆至山後嵒下、以杖挑出一死野狐、乃依火葬。

After the meal Hyakujõ led the monks to the foot of a rock on the far side of the mountain and with his staff poked out the dead body of a fox and performed the ceremony of cremation.

師、至晩上堂、擧前因縁。

That evening he ascended the rostrum and told the monks the whole story.

黄蘗便問、古人錯祗對一轉語、墮五百生野狐身、轉轉不錯合作箇甚麼。

Õbaku thereupon asked him, "The old man gave the wrong answer and was doomed to be a fox for five hundred rebirths. Now, suppose he had given the right answer, what would have happened then?"

師云、近前來與伊道。

Hyakujõ said, "You come here to me, and I will tell you."

黄蘗遂近前、與師一掌。

Õbaku went up to Hyakujõ and boxed his ears.

師拍手笑云、將謂、胡鬚赤。 更有赤鬚胡。

Hyakujõ clapped his hands with a laugh and exclaimed, "I was thinking that the barbarian had a red beard, but now I see before me the red-bearded barbarian himself."

 

Mumon's Comment

無門曰、不落因果、爲甚墮野狐。

Not falling under causation: how could this make the monk a fox?

不昧因果、爲甚脱野狐。

Not ignoring causation: how could this make the old man emancipated?

若向者裏著得一隻眼、便知得前百丈贏得風流五百生。

If you come to understand this, you will realize how old Hyakujõ would have enjoyed five hundred rebirths as a fox.

 

Mumon's Verse 頌曰

不落不昧      Not falling, not ignoring:

兩采一賽      Two faces of one die.

不昧不落      Not ignoring, not falling:

千錯萬錯      A thousand errors, a million mistakes.

 

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism Case 3 Gutei Raises a Finger                    三 倶胝堅指

 

倶胝和尚、凡有詰問、唯擧一指。

Whenever Gutei Oshõ was asked about Zen, he simply raised his finger.

後有童子。因外人問、和尚説何法要。

Once a visitor asked Gutei's boy attendant, "What does your master teach?"

童子亦堅指頭。

The boy too raised his finger.

胝聞遂以刃斷其指。

Hearing of this, Gutei cut off the boy's finger with a knife.

童子、負痛號哭而去。

The boy, screaming with pain, began to run away.

胝復召之。 童子廻首。 胝却 堅起指。

Gutei called to him, and when he turned around, Gutei raised his finger.

童子忽然領悟。

The boy suddenly became enlightened.

 

胝將順世、謂衆曰、吾得天龍一指頭禪、一生受用不盡。

When Gutei was about to pass away, he said to his assembled monks, "I obtained one-finger Zen from Tenryû and used it all my life but still did not exhaust it."

言訖示滅。

When he had finished saying this, he entered into eternal Nirvana.

 

Mumon's Comment

無門曰、倶胝並童子悟處、不在指頭上。

The enlightenment of Gutei and of the boy does not depend on the finger.

若向者裏見得、天龍同倶胝並童子興自己一串穿却。 

If you understand this, Tenryû, Gutei, the boy, and you yourself are all run through with one skewer.

 

Mumon's Verse 頌曰

倶胝鈍置老天龍    Gutei made a fool of old Tenryû,

利刃單提勘小童    Emancipating the boy with a single slice,

巨靈擡手無多子    Just as Kyorei cleaved Mount Kasan

分破華山千万重    To let the Yellow River run through.

 

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism

The Gateless Gate of Zen Buddhism Case 4 The Western Barbarian with No Beard                          四 胡子無髭

 

或庵曰、西天胡子、因甚無髭。

Wakuan said, "Why has the Western Barbarian no beard?"

 

Mumon's Comment

無門曰、參須實參、悟須實悟。

Study should be real study, enlightenment should be real enlightenment.

者箇胡子、直須親見一回始得。

You should once meet this barbarian directly to be really intimate with him.

説親見、早成兩箇。

But saying you are really intimate with him already divides you into two.

 

Mumon's Verse 頌曰

癡人面前      Don't discuss your dream

不可説夢      Before a fool.

胡子髭無      Barbarian with no beard

惺惺添      Obscures the clarity.

 

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