The Barrier That Has No Gate

The Barrier That Has No Gate June 3, 2020

“The Great Way is gateless,

Approached in a thousand ways.

Once past this checkpoint

You stride through the universe.”

The Wúménguān is the most popular collections of koans in the zen tradition. Many of the central stories of the old masters are included in the collection. The 48 cases were compiled by master Wumen (1183 – 1260) for teaching at a retreat. He claimed that the text, including the title, were thrown together without much thought and the koans are in no particular order. I’m not sure if he can be believed. Like a zen madman, Wumen was said to have grown his hair and beard long and to have wandered around saying things people thought were crazy. Wumen’s name means “no door” or “no entryway” and it’s the first part of the title of the text. The second part guan means “barrier” or “boundary”.

The Great Way is the path we’re on. The path inspired by the Buddha, the cultivating of awareness and compassion. Find your true nature and help others, that sums up the path.

Wumen said that the “doorless wall” is the door into the Buddha’s teaching. How do you pass through a doorless wall?

I’m going to spend some time writing about this koan collection. Each of the koans is supposed to be an entryway, an opportunity to see how our minds work and to make things a little more clear. I’m also doing a study group with some friends.

The message is that we’re already there. Awakening is our nature, not something far away. These koans will give us insights into our own lives. They will open us up to wisdom. We are using words and concepts to see beyond words and concepts. Sometimes they’re like traps, forcing us to stop using our thinking minds and use our intuition instead.

Delusion, vexation, and suffering get in the way of seeing our true nature. We’re trying to turn our minds so we don’t have shit in the way anymore.




About Daniel Scharpenburg
Daniel is a Dharma Teacher, writer, and podcaster. In his day job he’s a labor activist and government worker. Daniel has been practicing Buddhism and meditating for over twenty years and has practiced with many different teachers. Daniel trained and ordained as a Chan Dharma Teacher in the Dharma Winds tradition. You can read more about the author here.

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