Ten Gates: The Kong-an Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn
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Zen is famous for koans (called kong-ans in Korean, and in this book), those bizarre and seemingly unanswerable questions Zen masters pose to their students to check their realization (such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”). Fear of koans keeps some people from ever giving Zen practice a try. But here, through the experience of seeing a modern Zen master work with his students, you can see what koan training is really like: It’s a skillful, lively practice for attaining wisdom.
This book presents the system of ten koans that Zen Master Seung Sahn came to call the “Ten Gates.” These koans represent the basic types one will encounter in any course of study. Each of the ten gates, or koans, is illuminated by actual interchanges between Zen Master Seung Sahn and his students that show what the practice is all about: it is above all a process of coming to trust one’s own wisdom, and of manifesting that wisdom in every koan-like situation life presents us with.
For more information on the author, Zen Master Seung Sahn, visit his website at www.kwanumzen.com.
night, and I love you. Marge Dear Marge, Thank you for your letter. How are you lately? You say, “I cannot answer the kong-an because there is no man dropping ashes on the Buddha.” I say, if somebody comes to the Zen Center, smokes a cigarette, and blows smoke and drops ashes on the Buddha, what can you do? So if, OK? If you understand, OK; if you don’t understand, only go straight, don’t know. Don’t check your mind, don’t check your feelings, don’t check anything. Only go straight. I ask
rain—then what? 2. Also one more step because you are only writing “step, step, step.” 3. Wonderful! 100 percent. I hope you only go straight, don’t know; which is clear like space, become a number-one Dharma teacher; soon get great love, great compassion, and the great bodhisattva way; and save all people from suffering. Yours in the Dharma, S.S. Dear Soen Sa Nim, How are you? I hope you are very well and send you my very best wishes. I have been looking at Ko Bong’s “Three Gates”
time is growing short now until you arrive, and we look forward to it very much. If you have time to reply to this letter before you go, I would be delighted and very pleased, but if you do not have time, it does not matter a scrap. Yours in the Dharma, Anne P.S. As I had specifically asked you for a kong-an, I sound more than ungrateful in this letter for not paying it very much attention. Please overlook this rudeness, which is tantamount to dropping the bowls with a clatter, and please
net? How do you take away Man Gong’s idea? Man Gong’s idea made the net, so you must hit that. Kong-an practice is very important—it means put it all down. In Zen we say, if Buddha appears, kill the Buddha; if an eminent teacher appears, kill the teacher; if demons appear, kill them. Kill everything that appears in front of you. That means don’t make anything. If you make something, then you have a hindrance. If you can completely put it all down, then you have no hindrance and your direction
understandable and relevant in terms of everyday life. Because he was never attached to tradition, he gave Westerners the gift of relevant teaching and forms. He spent the last thirty-two years of his life teaching and establishing over a hundred Zen centers around the world. Zen Master Seung Sahn is the author of seven books in English: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha, Only Don’t Know, Ten Gates, Bone of Space, The Whole World Is a Single Flower: 365 Kong-ans for Everyday Life, The Compass of Zen,