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The Gateless Barrier   By: (1852-1931)

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The Gateless Barrier



Copyright, 1900 , by DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY



"What is the book?"

"According to the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters of the title, we call it Mu Mon Kwan , which means 'The Gateless Barrier.' It is one of the books especially studied by the Zen sect, or the sect of Dhyâna. A peculiarity of some of the Dhyâna texts this (story) being a good example is that they are not explanatory. They only suggest. Questions are put, but the student must think out the answers for himself. He must think them out but not write them. You know that Dhyâna represents human effort to reach, through meditation, zones of thought beyond the range of verbal expression; and any thought narrowed into utterance loses all Dhyâna quality.... Well, this story is supposed to be true; but it is used only for a Dhyâna question...."


" Exotics and Retrospectives," pages 83, 84.

The Gateless Barrier


Laurence leaned his arms upon the broad wooden hand rail of the bulwarks. The water hissed away from the side. Immediately below it was laced by shifting patterns of white foam, and stained pale green, violet, and amber, by the light shining out through the rounds of the port poles. Further away it showed blue black, but for a glistening on the hither side of the vast ridge and furrow. The smoke from the funnels streamed afar, and was upturned by a following wind. The great ship swung in the trough, and then lifted as a horse lifts at a fence while the seas slid away from under her keel. As she lifted, her masts raked the blue black night sky, and the stars danced in the rigging.

This was the first time since his marriage, nearly two years before, that Laurence found himself alone and altogether his own master. His marriage was a notable success every one said so, and he himself had never doubted the fact so far. Yet this solitary voyage, this temporary return to bachelorhood, possessed compensations. He reproached himself, as in duty bound, for being sensible of those compensations. He excused himself to himself. He gave reasons. Doubtless his present sense of freedom and content took its rise not in his enforced absence from Virginia, from her bright continuous talk, her innumerable and perfectly constructed dresses, her perpetual and skilful activities; but in his escape from the highly artificial and materialised society in which she lived and moved and had her being. Laurence had certainly no ostensible cause of complaint against that society. Its members had recited his verses, given a charming performance of his little comedy in the interests of a deserving charity quoted his opinions on literature and politics, and waxed enthusiastic over his strokes at golf and his style at rackets and polo. He had, in fact, been the spoilt child of two New York winters and two Newport summers. No Englishman, he was repeatedly assured, had ever been so popular among the "smart set" of the great republic. It had petted and fêted him, and finally given him one of its fairest daughters to wife. And for all this Laurence Rivers was sincerely grateful. His vanity was most agreeably flattered. His natural love both of pleasing and of pleasure was well satisfied. Yet such is the perversity of human nature the very completeness of his success tended to lessen the worth of it. He even questioned, at moments, whether that success did not offer the measure of surrounding immaturity of taste and judgment, rather than of the greatness of his personal talent and merit. He was haunted by the conviction that he had never yet given his best, the highest and strongest of his nature, either in thought, or art, or adventure, or even perhaps he feared it in love. The demand had been for a thoroughly presentable and immediately marketable article; and the Best is usually far from marketable, often but doubtfully presentable either... Continue reading book >>

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