The Eight Gates of Zen

The Four Noble Truths, the Buddha’s original teachings on how we can put an end to suffering, culminate with the Eightfold Path. This path emphasizes that in order for our spiritual practice to be genuinely transformative, it must be engaged wholeheartedly, encompassing every aspect of our daily lives. Developed within the Mountains and Rivers Order by John Daido Loori, Roshi, The Eight Gates of Zen are a modern expression of the Eightfold Path. They are a way of engaging the Dharma and of returning to intimate contact with our inherent stillness and clarity. At the Monastery, students, residents and all retreat participants train within The Eight Gates.

John Daido Loori, Roshi

John Daido Loori, Roshi

Daido, gassho: with the inevitable cigarette.

Daido, gassho: with the inevitable cigarette. (Photo 1996, Nancy L. Hoffmann)

The Eight Gates of Zen are:

Zazen. This formal practice of seated meditation is the cornerstone of Zen training. A profound entry into our study of the self, zazen is boundless in its scope and ability to reveal the true basis of reality. Each day at the Monastery begins and ends with two periods of zazen.

Zen Study. Zen is an ancestral lineage, and personal study with an authentic teacher is critical in traditional training. Although fundamentally teachers have nothing to give, they are indispensable in helping us navigate the difficulties along the way, directly pointing to our inherent perfection.

Liturgy. In Zen liturgy we manifest in a tangible form what we know intuitively. Liturgy brings into awareness the shared experience of the community and is an expression of the underlying religious truths of our lives. Each day involves the practice of formal services, including bowing and chanting.

Art Practice. Our creativity and spirituality share a common source. From its inception, the Monastery has employed traditional Zen arts as well  as contemporary artistic forms to offer art practice as a dynamic way of studying the self and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Body Practice. This area of training explores our physical body as a vehicle for self-realization, an experience that includes our whole being. Body practice helps us unify body, breath and mind through activities ranging from refined practices like Tai Chi to mundane activities like washing our face or eating breakfast.

Buddhist Studies. Many Buddhist practitioners in the West are not familiar with the historical, philosophical and psychological underpinnings of the tradition. Academic study of Buddhist texts and commentaries is an essential part of establishing a sound religious practice.

Work Practice. This helps us to transform our way of seeing our daily work into a dynamic opportunity for self-stud and selfless giving. During caretaking periods on the monastic schedule, our daily tasks become fruitful opportunities to broaden our spiritual practice, as well as to explore work that does no harm and nourishes ourselves and others.

Right Action. This is the study and practice of the Buddhist Precepts, the moral and ethical teachings of the Buddha. Engaging the precepts teaches us to embody compassion as the selfless activity of the awakened mind.

(This text is courtesy of Zen Mountain Monastery)

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