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Manjusri, Buddhist God of Wisdom [Public Domain Image]
Manjusri, Buddhist God of Wisdom [Public Domain Image]

The Gateless Gate

by Ekai, called Mu-mon, tr. by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps

[1934, no renewal]

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This classic Zen Buddhist collection of 49 koans with commentary by Mumon was originally published in 1934, and later included in Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki's popular anthology Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Due to non-renewal it is currently in the public domain in the US (although other parts of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones are not).

Koans are a Zen Buddhist spiritual technique which use word-play to achieve enlightenment. They frequently involve absurd or contradictory statements, which are intended to create extreme cognitive dissonance in the mind of the pupil. As such, their actual content or structure is not as important as the mental state which they induce. This collection includes some of the most famous koans, such as Tozan's "three pounds of flax":

What is the Buddha? -- This flax weighs three pounds.

and Baso's conundrum:

What is Buddha? -- This mind is not Buddha.

as well as some involving bizarre behavior, such as Nansen Cuts the Cat in Two and Blow out the Candle.

While short and succinct, this book has enormous depth, and offers new rewards on repeated readings.

Title Page
1. Joshu's Dog
2. Hyakujo's Fox
3. Gutei's Finger
4. A Beardless Foreigner
5. Kyogen Mounts the Tree
6. Buddha Twirls a Flower
7. Joshu Washes the Bowl
8. Keichu's Wheel
9. 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 Blows
16. Bells and Robes
17. The Three Calls of the Emperor's Teacher
18. Tozan's Three Pounds
19. Everyday Life Is the Path
20. The Enlightened Man
21. Dried Dung
22. Kashapa's Preaching Sign
23. Do Not Think Good, Do Not Think Not-Good
24. Without Words, Without Silence
25. Preaching from the Third Seat
26. Two Monks Roll Up the Screen
27. It Is Not Mind, It Is Not Buddha, It Is Not Things
28. Blow Out the Candle
29. Not the Wind, Not the Flag
30. This Mind Is Buddha
31. Joshu Investigates
32. A Philosopher Asks Buddha
33. This Mind Is Not Buddha
34. Learning Is Not the Path
35. Two Souls
36. Meeting a Zen Master on the Road
37. A Buffalo Passes Through the Enclosure
38. An Oak Tree in the Garden
39. Ummon's Sidetrack
40. Tipping Over a Water Vase
41. Bodhidharma Pacifies the Mind
42. The Girl Comes Out from Meditation
43. Shuzan's Short Staff
44. Basho's Staff
45. Who Is He?
46. Proceed from the Top of the Pole
47. Three Gates of Tosotsu
48. One Road of Kembo
49. Amban's Addition