A series of talks based on stories and anecdotes from the rich history of the Zen Canon. Such stories may be encounters with Zen masters or folk tales used to show some aspect of teaching and practice. Each talk adds a commentary to show how the story may be interpreted to help with our own practice often reflecting the everyday problems that we experience.
SHISHI AND THE KNIFE
In an exchange between a young novice Shishi and Shitou when a knife is not a knife and a branch of a tree becomes the obstacle to clear seeing Shishi is awakened.
QUESTIONS TO SHOZAN SHONEN PT. 3
In this podcast we feature, Karma, Self-reliance and the importance of the lineage for the cultivation of faith and motivation.
QUESTIONS TO SHUZAN SHONEN PT. 2
Our commentary expands on the direct answers given by Shozan Shonen to his monks. These answers are placed in the context of the Buddha's teachings and the profound understanding of the Mahayana.
QUESTIONS TO SHUZAN SHONEN PT. 1
How does Zen balance tradition with personal realisation? How do we differentiate what is genuine teachings from what is one person’s interpretation of it?
MASTER SIMING'S THREE 'WRONGS'
The question of the opposites in Mahayana Buddhism is fundamental to understanding the Buddha's teaching of The Middle Way. How does this work when it comes to questions of 'good and evil'?
QUESTIONS TO MASTER BAJIAO
The comment on the exchange focusses on the deeper meaning of the teaching of The Middle Way and brings in the Sixth’s Patriarch, Huineng’s advice to his senior monks on teaching and answering questions.
QUESTIONS FROM MASTER KYOGEN
This commentary examines the importance of the dilemma, the ordeal that smashes the students dual seeing and allows her to attain to the Single Dharma Eye
THE STORY OF MASTER KYOGEN
Master Kyogen’s awakening by hearing a pebble click against a bamboo trunk is one of the most famous cases of someone awakening to the truth of the Dharma.
BAI JIYU & JINGZHAO DISCUSS TAO AND THE ILLUSORY NATURE OF WORDS
In this podcast we look at how the Chan/Zen school arose in response to the complicated philosophy that had developed around Mahayana Buddhism that threatened to draw people away from the experience of ones own insight.
NANQUAN & SHIZAN DISCUSS THE BUDDHA WOMB
This podcast discusses the teaching of the inherent Buddha nature in all beings, the wish-fulfilling gem and the path to Buddhahood.
CHAN MASTER SHENZAN
In this commentary on a section from Records of the Transmission we hear about Master Shenzan. He attained Enlightenment from the Great Baizhang and then returned to his Temple Father from whom he first received the precepts and ordained.
QUESTIONS TO FUZHOU DA'AN 
Why do we consider ‘man-made’ apart from Nature or what is natural? Here we see our conception of ourselves as being apart from and ‘lords of… ‘ Nature rather than part of it.
QUESTIONS TO MASTER FUZHOU DA'AN 
In this podcast we discuss the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Skandas and is there anything beyond the world of appearences?
MASTER FUZHOU DA'AN RIDES THE BUFFALO
In this podcast, a commentary on an extract from the Records of the Transmission of the Lamp Vol. 2, we discuss the Buddha Nature, the restless heart, the interviews between Masters Obaku & Rinzai.
OBAKU ADMONISHES HIS MONKS
It is a common feature for the old masters to admonish their monks to re-double their efforts to see into what is called the ‘Great Matter of Life & Death
OBAKU & THE TIGER
In this talk, we hear about two encounters with Baizhang, one for transmission and the second showing the full liveliness of the Buddhanature. Obaku was master to Rinzai and formed his own school, here we see the handing on of the transmission to him.
OBAKU AND THE RIVER CROSSING
The talk covers the meaning of bodily signs, the Single Dharma Eye, magic spells and much more!
When Mazu regarded his handsome countenance and robust form, his voice as sonorous as a bell, he said, ‘What a lofty Buddha-hall, but no Buddha in it.’
MASTER BASO'S 'HEART IS BUDDHA' - A COMMENTARY
The Master's phrase 'Heart is Buddha' was used to bring many of his own students to Enlightenment. But what is this 'Heart'? This talk looks at the nature of consciousness and its role in fulfilling the Buddha's mission to provide a way to end suffering.
UPAGUPTA & THE CONVERSION OF MARA
In this episode Mara, a trickster figure who is god of Samsara, seeks to tempt Upagupta with a precious jade necklace. In return Upagupta plays along with the trick eventually bringing about the conversion of Mara to Buddhism.
ZAZEN: RITUAL & PRACTICE
In this talk, as well as covering the basic step-by-step method of how to sit zazen, we place this practice as a central ritual of the Zen school, a symbolic enactment of the Buddha’s own awakening under the Bodhi Tree.
TWO MONKS AND THE MOVING FLAG
In a famous incident from the life of the Sixth Patriarch, Eno (Hui Neng), concerns two monks arguing about a flapping flag and how Master Eno responded to this.
We hear a brief autobiography of Master Eno, including the famous koan associated with him known as the ‘Sixth Patriarch’s True Face’; before moving onto the subject of this particular incident.
The talk covers difficulties with meditation, whole-heartedness & sincerity, the relationship between the gradual and sudden paths to Enlightenment, how the heart gets stuck in taking sides, the restless heart, the three fires of the emotional household, the creative power of the blind passions.
IKKYU AND THE LIGHTENING
This story concerns the great and much loved Master Ikkyu who in his old age oversaw the rebuilding of the Great Daitokuji Temple complex in Kyoto.
As he sat drinking green tea lightening struck the table in front of him and quick as a flash he slammed the tea cup down over it trapping it inside.
The talk discusses the elemental nature of the emotional household and its importance in spiritual transformation.
THE MOUNTAIN IS THE MOUNTAIN...
In this talk we hear about: the Samurai code of war and honour; Zen monastic training; how Zen training was used by a Samurai to cultivate ‘fearlessness of death’ as well as cultivating in himself knowledge and appreciation for the arts and culture.
NOTHING FURTHER TO SEEK
Master Rinzai said: "If you know fundamentally that there is nothing to seek you have settled your affairs. But because you have little faith you run about agitatedly seeking your head which you think you have lost. You cannot stop yourself".
THE GREAT ROHATSU SESSHIN
The Buddha's Enlightenment is commemorated from 1st - 8th December by the Rohatsu sesshin which is sat in Zen monasteries and temples. It is an intense time. But why do we have these periods of intense training? What are they for?
THE SHINTO SHRINE
Master Sesso comments upon what happens at the Shinto Shrine when the devotee bows before the Kami or divinity.
In the Zen Gateway commentary, we look at the importance of ritual for changing consciousness and perception and how it forms part of a Buddhist Practice.
MASTER YOKA CAUTIONS...
Master Yoka cautions: Getting rid of things and clinging to emptiness are the same illness; it is like throwing oneself into fire to avoid being drowned.
WHO PUTS YOU UNDER RESTRAINT?
n this story Master Sosan is asked for liberation by a monk. But the master asks him to name the one who restrains him?
This story mirrors the exchange between Bodhidharma and Hui’ke (jp. Eka), Sosan is also asking us to look for that one who compels and keeps us in thrall.
THE MYOSHIN-JI DRAGON
Master Gudo commissioned the great painter Kano Tanyu to decorate the ceiling of the Myoshin-ji temple. But the painter was at a loss when asked if he could paint it from life!
THE UNRUFFLED MONK
A classic story of a seasoned monk whom the younger monks find unsettling because of his composure; so they decide to test him to see just how collected he can be when they try to give him a good scare!
MASTER HYAKUJO & THE FOX
An old man asks Master Hyakujo if an enlightened one is free from cause and effect?
THE BULL AND HIS HERDSMAN The 10 Bull Herding pictures - A video commentary produced by The Zen Gateway
1. SEARCHING FOR THE BULL
The search for what? The bull has never been missing. But without knowing it the herdsman estranged himself from himself and so the bull became lost in the dust. The home mountains recede ever further, and suddenly the herdsman finds himself on entangeld path. Lust for gain and fear of loss flare up like a conflagration, and views of right and wrong oppose each other like spears on a battlefield.
2. FINDING THE TRACES
Reading the Sutras and listening to the teachings, the herdsman had an inkling of their message and meaning. He has discovered the traces. Now he knows that however varied and manifold, yet all things are of the one gold, and that his own nature does not differ from any other. But he cannot yet distinguish between what is genuine and what fake, still less between the true and the false. He can thus not enter the gate, and only provisionally can it be said that he has found the traces.
3. FINDING THE BULL
The herdsman recoils startled at hearing the voice and that instant sees into the origin. The six senses are quieted in peaceful harmony with the origin. Revealed, the bull in his entirety now pervades all activities of the herdsman, present as inseparably as is salt in seawater, or glue in paint. When the herdsman opens his eyes wide and looks, he sees nothing but himself.
4. CATCHING THE BULL
For the first time today he encountered the bull that for so long had been hiding in the wilderness. But his pleasantly familiar wilderness still attracts the bull strongly. He yearns for the sweet-smelling grass and is difficult to hold. Stubborn self-will rages in him and wild animal-nature rules him. If the herdsman wants to make the bull really gentle, he must discipline him with the whip.
5.GENTLING THE BULL
If but one thought arises, then another and another follows in an endless round. Through awakening, everything becomes truth; through delusion, it becomes error. Things do not come into being depending on circumstances but arise from the herdsman's own heart. Hold the rein tight and do not allow any wavering.
6. RETURNING HOME ON THE BACK OF THE BULL
Now the struggle is over! Gain and loss, too, have fallen away. The herdsman sings an old folk song or plays a nursery tune on his flute. Looking up into the blue sky, he rides along on the back of the bull. If someone calls after him, he does not look back; nor will he stop if tugged on the sleeve.
7. BULL FORGOTTEN, MAN REMAINS
There are not two Dharmas. Provisionally only has the bull been set up, somewhat in the nature of a sign-post. He might also be likened to a snare for catching rabbits, or to a fishing net. Now the herdsman feels as when the shining gold has been separated out from the ore, or as when the moon appears from behind a cloud bank. The one cool light has been shining brilliantly since the time before the beginning.
8. BOTH BULL & MAN FORGOTTEN
When all worldly wanting dropped away, holiness, too, lost its meaning. Do not stay at a place where Buddha is, and pass quickly by where he is not. If one remains unattached to either, not even a thousand eyes can spy him out. Holiness to which birds consecrate flowers is shameful.
9. RETURN TO THE ORIGIN, BACK TO THE SOURCE
In the origin all is pure and there is no dust. Collected in the peace of non-volitional doing (Wu-Wei) he beholds the coming and going of all things. No longer deluded by shifting phantom pictures, he has nothing further to learn. Blue runs the river, green range the mountains; he sits by himself and beholds the change of all things.
10 ENTERING THE MARKET-PLACE WITH BLISS-BESTOWING HANDS
The brush-wood gate is firmly shut and neither sage nor Buddha can see him. He has deeply buried his light and permits himself to differ from the well-established ways of the old masters. Carrying a gourd, he enters the market; twirling his staff, he returns home. He frequents wine-shops and fish stalls to make the drunkards open their eyes and awaken to themselves.
INTRODUCTION TO ZEN PRACTICE pt. 1
Welcome to this introduction to Zen Practice also known as 'daily life practice', so called because it is a practice to be cultivated in our ordinary lives on a day-to-day basis.
Having familiarised ourselves with some of the basic Buddhist teachings (the Zen school being a school of Buddhism), we now set out to put into practice what the Buddha taught.
The central practice is simply put - to give myself whole-heartedly into what at this moment is being done anyway.
INTRODUCTION TO ZEN PRACTICE pt. 2
In this second of two talks on starting out in the Zen training, the importance on form is discussed and suggestions as to how to introduce it into daily life practice are given.