The Gateless Gate

The Gateless Gate is a 13th century book compiling 48 koans (paradoxical anecdotes or riddles used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment). 

The title, The Gateless Gate, is itself a koan, a paradox; how can a gate be gateless?

As the aim of The Gateless Gate is to guide our way to enlightenment, the gate is what separates us from enlightenment. As gates are manmade, it is our self that artificially separates us from enlightenment. That is, there is no barrier or obstacle to transcend, no separation between the seeker and the sought. Access to enlightenment is gateless as enlightenment is right here right now; though we fail to realize this simple truth as we perceive a gate (duality) between who we are and are not and seek a conceptual understanding of enlightenment which is the antithesis of enlightenment; as enlightenment is beyond the limitations of language, concepts and logical reasoning.

The title of the book is explained: “The Great Way has no gate. A thousand roads enter it. When one passes through this gateless gate, he freely walks between heaven and earth.”

“The Great Way” is the way to liberation (awakening and ultimately enlightenment) from the prison of the self or mind which is the foundation of the self. The mind creates descriptions, generalizations and stories that frame our experiences in the now, precluding us from experiencing the now as it is. This frame is the gate. Liberation dispenses with the gate as we realize the gate is an illusion created by mind. The illusion is the duality of the mundane (earth)  and the divine (heaven). Enlightenment is the realization that the mundane is the manifestation of the divine. Heaven is where everything is one and before time begins. Earth is where every-thing is what it is whatever it is and ever-changing. The Great Way dispels us of this duality; hence, it “has no gate.”

“A thousand roads enter it” indicates that there are numerous approaches or paths that can potentially lead to enlightenment; that different individuals have unique dispositions and may resonate with different teachings or practices.

“When one passes through this gateless gate, he freely walks between heaven and earth” means that upon liberation one gains the ability to move freely between dualistic concepts such as heaven and earth, self and other, subject and object. This implies a direct experience of interconnectedness and non-duality, where all distinctions dissolve.

The Great Way leads us to enlightenment, the realization that we are one with everything. It is characterized by wisdom and compassion. As one with everything, we can view the universe from infinite perspectives which is the essence of wisdom. Moreover, we treat everything as we wish to be treated (compassion) as everything is us.