Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan and Hekiganroku

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A. V. Grimstone, Kazuki Sekida
Weatherhill, 1977 - Religion - 413 pages
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The strange verbal paradoxes called koans have been used in Zen training to help students attain a direct realization of truths inexpressible in words. The two works translated in this book, Mumonkan ( Gateless Gate ) and Hekiganroku ( Blue Cliff Record), both compiled during the Song dynasty in China, are the best known and most frequently studied koan collections, and are classics of Zen literature. In a completely new translation, together with original commentaries, Katsuki Sekida brings to these works the same fresh and pragmatic approach that made his Zen Training so successful. The insights of a lifetime of Zen practice and his familiarity with Western as well as Eastern ways of thinking make him an ideal interpreter of these texts.

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Sekida's ppithy comments on the koans are very well taken and will aid students in their own koan inquiry. However, the translation falls on the side of ease of reading rather than textual fidelity and thereby fails to present the cases accurately. For example, there is a fundamental disconnect for any translation of the Wumenguan (J. Mumonkan) that translates the title as "the Gateless Gate," since any average reader can figure out that for the title to be "the Gateless Gate" it would have to be the "Wumen Men" (J. Mumonmon), which of course it isn't. The Chjnese word for gate is "men" and the Chinese word "guan" (J. kan) means "a frontier checkpoint." Calling the text the Gateless Gate rather than the Gateless Checkpoint demonstrates Sekida's preference for translation that makes the English simplistic and easily digestable rather than accuratly conveying the complexity of the Chinese originals. 


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About the author (1977)

Katsuki Sekida (1893-1987) was by profession a high school teacher of English until his retirement in 1945. Zen, nevertheless, was his lifelong preoccupation. He began his Zen practice in 1915 and trained at Empuku-ji in Kyoto and Ryutaki-ji in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture. He taught at the Honolulu Zendo and Maui Zendo from 1963 to 1970 and at the London Zen Society from 1970 to 1972.

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