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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
least seventeen years. He complied, supporting himself with whatever work he could find while struggling to learn English during the few hours he wasn’t working. Then after seventeen years, he began to present lectures on Buddhism whenever he could save enough money to rent a hall. Certain themes recur throughout Nyogen Senzaki’s koan commentaries, talks, essays, poems, and letters: “Block the road of your thinking,” he tells us again and again. “Give the uppercut to your own dualistic ideas.” The simpler the better, he emphasizes; no word is best of all. We must con- tinually strive to actualize the truth of Zen for ourselves, since realization “will not come to us by luck, as in a lottery” (Case Twenty-two of The Gateless Gate). If we are filled with “emotional pining” for something outside, for someone else’s understanding, we are cut off from our own inner wisdom. He notes that real Zen teachers never give anything; rather, they take away whatever their students are attached to. Nyogen Senzaki died in 1958 at the age of 81. He left his manuscripts to his friend Soen Nakagawa Roshi, and he in turn passed them to his dharma successor, Eido Roshi. Selections of these writings and teachings were published in Namu Dai Bosa (1976) and Like a Dream, Like a Fantasy (1978 and 2005). Now a third volume of Nyogen Senzaki’s teachings and writings has been published by Wisdom Publications to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Eloquent Silence offers previously unpublished talks, commentaries, and letters, including Nyogen Senzaki’s commentary on The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan in Japanese), based on talks given to his American students from 1937 to 1939. Here we offer this important Zen master’s commentary on the introduction and first four koans of The Gateless Gate, which are among the most famous in all of Zen. The Gateless Gate was recorded by the Chinese Zen master Mumon Ekai (1183–1260), more commonly known as Mumon. Zen Has No Gates Nyogen Senzaki, one of the great Zen masters of the twentieth century, quietly dedicated his life to bringing the authentic practice of Zen to America. Now, on the 50th anniversary of his death, a new collection of his teachings, Eloquent Silence, presents his commentary on the classic koan collection, The Gateless Gate. LIkE THE GREAT ZEN ANCESToRS Bodhidharma and Huineng, Nyogen Senzaki has, in the fifty years since his death, become something of a Zen legend—despite the fact that he lived in obscurity and spoke of himself as “a mush- room, without a very deep root, no branches, no flowers, and probably no seeds,” and as “a lone cloud floating freely in the blue sky.” 1 These five decades since Nyogen Senzaki’s pass- ing have seen the emergence of Zen in the West not merely as an intellectual pursuit, but as a rigorous and life-changing daily practice. This emergence is in no small way Nyogen Senzaki’s legacy. As Eido Shimano Roshi notes, while D. T. Suzuki brought the philosophy and culture of Zen Buddhism to America, it was Nyogen Senzaki who taught Zen as a steady, disciplined, unromantic yet transformative path of everyday life. Nyogen Senzaki came to America, in part, because he had become disenchanted with modern Buddhism in Japan. As Eido Roshi explains, “He wanted to revive it in fresh soil.” Soon after he arrived in America in 1905, his teacher, Soyen Shaku, told him to remain anonymous and not to teach for at ChikuseiColleCtioN (opposite) Mumonkan (1917) Toju Zenchu (Nantenbo) 1 From The Iron Flute, by Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth McCandless. iNtroductioN by roko Sherry chayat buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly wiNter 2 0 08 28