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Gateless Gate


Dharma Talks : The Kwan Um School of Zen and Providence Zen Center

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Inka Speech  

(raises stick and hits table)

The Human Gate has no body.

(raises stick and hits table)

The Great Gate has no way.

(raises stick and hits table)

One body appears, six gates appear.

One body disappears, six gates disappear.

(raises stick and hits table)

When appearing and disappearing, disappear, What then becomes clear?


One sangha, many faces!

Last winter in Korea, during the third month of Kyol Che, my back went into multiple spasms. The only way I could move my legs was to lift them with my hands. Standing and walking weren't possible. For the past twenty years since my back surgery, I have relied on acupuncture to get me on my feet again. Filled with fear, confusion and doubt, I went to the local acupuncturist in Kongju. Not only was there back pain, but also the pain of leaving the retreat. Many questions appeared: "Would I be able to finish this retreat?" " Would I need surgery?" " Could I continue to sit retreats and do formal Zen practice?" It was Saturday and the acupuncturist's waiting room was crowded. Thumbing through all the periodicals that were on the table, I was relieved to find distraction in the only story written in English in a Korean Buddhist magazine.

The story was about two monks who were the best of friends. They lived and practiced in a temple in Korea. One day they went to their teacher and asked him how they could intensify their practice. The Zen Master instructed them to go deep into the mountains, build separate hermitages, and practice hard for three years. He assigned the mantra, "Namu Amitabul," to one of the monks, while the other monk was to repeat the mantra, "Manjushri." The two monks set off with tools and supplies to begin building their cabins.

Six months into their retreat, one of the monks heard knocking at his door. He opened the door and was surprised to see an extraordinarily beautiful woman standing before him. He was filled with desire. She asked him if she could spend the night. In his confusion, he said, "NO!" slamming the door in her face. Next she appeared at the other monk's hermitage and when he answered his door, this unusual looking woman asked him if she could spend the night. She also told him that she would help him get enlightenment. The monk, not knowing what to say, found himself inviting her in.

After fixing her a place to sleep, the monk sat up all night facing the wall doing his practice. In the morning, the woman asked him to make her a bath. He did what she requested. She then asked him to take off all of his clothes. When he had taken off the last article of clothing, she knelt down and touched the bath water with her hand. The water turned a golden color. Then, she instructed him to get into the bath. At the moment the monk's toes touched the golden colored water, he had an opening. Everything disappeared, including his guest. All that was left was the feeling of warm water on his skin.

Soon the other monk appeared and seeing his friend sitting in a bath of golden colored water, asked him what had happened. His friend recalled the story and then told the monk to take off his clothes and get in the bath. The monk hesitated, looking at the water, and asked if there was enough for him, His friend responded that the supply was unlimited. As the monk's toes touched the water, he too had an awakening.

Sometimes we step into an acupuncturist's office. Sometimes we step into golden colored bath water and sometimes we step into a formal dharma speech!

In our school, we have many practice gates,

(raises stick and hits table)


(raises stick and hits table)


(raises stick and hits table)


Which is best?


Thank you for coming through the dharma room door this morning.

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