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The Gateless Barrier: Koans of the Mumonkan, a dharma seminar

  • Mountain Rain Zendo 2016 Wall Street Vancouver, BC, V5L 1J5 Canada (map)

Does a dog have Buddha nature? Mu! (No)

What is Buddha? This very mind is Buddha.

What is the Way? Ordinary mind is the Way.

These koans (Zen dialogues and teaching stories) from the thirteenth century Chinese collection, The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan), are some of the best-known in Zen literature. These and other koans can be touchstones in a lifetime of Zen practice.  

Often the difference between between the Rinzai and Soto Zen schools is stereotyped as: Rinzai Zen emphasizes meditation on koans; Soto Zen emphasizes "just sitting" (shikantaza). However, Dogen Zenji's writings are full of references to and commentaries on the koans of the great Chinese collections. To our twenty-first century rational materialist sensibilities koans can seem frustratingly nonsensical and obscure. But with help from ancient and contemporary commentaries we can take them in and let them jostle us loose from our conventional dualistic habit-patterns. 

During this year’s practice period we will explore how we can bring the Mumonkan koans alive in our practice and everyday lives. Wednesday evening seminars will be led by Myoshin Kate McCandless and Shinmon Michael Newton, and Sunday morning seminars will be led by shuso Jakushin Todd Slobogean. 

No advance reading is required but if you would like a recommended reading list is available here: Reading list PDF

Each session will include two zazen periods, a talk by one of the teachers, and time for small and large group discussion. We may use writing exercises so please bring a notebook. Informal snacks and tea served after the seminar. 

Please note: During practice period the Sunday practice schedule will be 9:30-12:00 rather than 10:00-12:00.

9:00 zazen  9:30 kinhin  9:40 zazen  10:10 kinhin   10:20 service  10:40 dharma seminar

Schedule  (Subject to change, like all phenomena) Numbers refer to the order in the Mumonkan, which is the same in all translations. 

Sept. 23   #1 Chao-chou’s Dog   Michael(weekend retreat)

Sept. 24   #2 Pai-chang’s Fox   Kate   (weekend retreat)

Sept. 27   #46 Shih-shuang: Step from the Top of the Pole

Oct. 1       #6 The World-Honored One Twirls a FlowerTodd 

Oct. 4       #16 Yun-men: Sound of the Bell Kate

Oct. 8      #37 Chao-chou: The Oak Tree in the Courtyard   Todd

Oct. 11    #12 Rui-yen Calls Master Michael

Oct. 15   #19 Nan-Ch’uan: Ordinary Mind is the Way Todd

Oct. 18   #40 Kuei-shan Kicks Over the Water Bottle Kate

Oct. 22   #14  Nan-Ch’uan Kills the Cat    Todd

Oct. 25 #41 Bodhidharma Pacifies the Mind Michael

Oct. 29 #5 Hsiang-yen: Up a Tree   Todd

Nov. 1  #35 Wu-tsu: Which one is the True Ch'ien?   Kate

Nov. 5   #38 Wu-tsu’s Buffalo Passes through the Window    Todd

Nov. 8 #42 Manjusri and the Young Woman in Samadhi Michael




Earlier Event: September 22
Practice Period Opening Weekend Retreat
Later Event: October 1
An evening with Reigetsu Susan Moon