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Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan Paperback – December 5, 2000

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born in 1894 and ordained a Zen monk in 1908, Zenkei Shibayama was Zen Master of the important Nanzenji Zen Monastery in Kyoto for twenty-five years. He was a professor at Hanazono and Otani universities, the author of a number of works in Japanese, and the chief abbot of the Nanzenji Organization of some five hundred Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. Shibayama Roshi died in 1974.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; First Printing edition (December 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570627266
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570627262
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
No, please don't burn this book after reading it (as proposed in review #1, above) that would show a great misunderstanding of Zen and a total lack of respect for this book -- a splendidly helpful manifestation (form) of the unmanifest(formless). Zen is seeing, knowing and living Reality in all everyday dealings -- including growing intellectually and spiritually from the reading and intensive study of a superb book like this one.
A practical suggestion: read this book slowly and truly spend time on each "case" presented. As you find the sentences and paragraphs which truly lift the veil and shine truth directly into your eyes -- use a red pen to mark off the individual servings of this brilliantly prepared spiritual dinner. Only this way will you be able to return again and again and easily enjoy the entire feast.
For those who will never have the opportunity to work personally with a Zen master, this is a very satisfying alternative.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great book and I love it, but I might have to burn it out of respect for the Ancestral Patriachs!
Zen master Zenkei Shibayana has done a great job in guiding the reader through what has been, for more than 7th century, one of the most rigorous training exercise in Zen: the koans in the "Gateless Barrier" or "Mumonkan," without the reader's having to become a training Zen monk. He did this out of his "elder's mind" (in Japanese: roshin) and out of his "grandmotherly heart" (robashin in J), for the tradition has always been to keep koan exercises strictly between the teacher and the student. (There are no correct answers, per se, to these koans and the exercise is only complete under the supervison of a teacher). And for the real purists like Shuan who wrote the preface to "Momonkan", they would urge us to "throw it away without waiting for me to do so. Let no drop of it fall into the world." In this regard, Shuan paled when compared to Ta-hui (Chinese spelling) who took the decisive step of burning every copy of the so-called frist book of Zen, Hegiganroku (Blue Cliff Record in Chinese), which had been written by a member of his teacher's school, he could find. They both would have made Bodhidharma, the first Chinese Chan Patriach, proud - if that's possible, who wrote the famous gatha (a Buddhist poem): Transmission outside doctrine, No dependencies on words, Pointing directly at the mind, Thus seeing oneself truly, Attaining Buddhahood (Trans by Lucien Stryk & Takashi Ikemoto, in the Penguin Book of Zen Poetry).
So, perhaps this reviewer has relied too much on words already.
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1 Comment 14 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on November 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book surely refined my understanding of Zen, and it is doing so every time I read it. As a Zen Monk of the Rizai Zen Sect in Austria, I got one of the koans of this sacred old book from my Roshi to meditate with it and become enlightened one day.
Zenkei Shibayama Roshi is acknowledged as an excellent interpreter of this wonderful koan collection from the 13th century, and to comment this book was his life's work. He passed away soon after finishing his work at the age of 74.
In our Zen Monastery, we deeply appreciate this outstanding master's work.
If this book has nothing to teach you anymore, you maybe grew out of books at all.
Gassho,
Soshin Wolfgang Drechsler
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is simply the best commentary I have read on the Mumonkan. I first read it several years ago, and recently adopted it as the text for a zen reading group I run. We spent 13 weeks reading and discussing the book every week, and it was universally acclaimed by the group. It is a must for anyone interested in the subject.
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