Wild Fox Koan (podcast)

Daniel and Alicia talk about Baizhang and the Wild Fox.  I invited my soon-to-be wife Alicia Marley onto the podcast again to talk about the second koan from the Gateless Barrier Collection. This is an odd koan with some magical things going on and the lesson might be a little hard to find.  Our conversation ended up taking us pretty far afield from talking about the koan and we ended up asking questions like “is chanting important?” and “Can meditation make you a better criminal?”

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Koans! The Dog Koan(podcast)

Daniel and Alicia talk about Zhaozhou’s Dog.

I invited my soon-to-be wife Alicia Marley onto the podcast to talk about the first koan from The Gateless Barrier collection. She has no knowledge of zen koans, so I was wondering if her beginners perspective would help make things clear.

In this episode we talk about the title “The Gateless Barrier” (sometimes called The Gateless Gate, sometimes called The Barrier That Has No Gate) And we talk about the Koan that is called “Zhaozhou’s Dog”

 Download here:





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I wanted to recommend someone else’s podcast too. If you’re interested in podcasts about koans, go listen to Knot Zen:


The Great Way

“The Great Way is Gateless,

Approached in a thousand ways.

Once past this checkpoint

You stride through the universe.”


This is the opening of the famous Zen text “The Gateless Gate”.

It sounds like weird hippie nonsense. A lot of old Zen sayings like this are a little hard to unpack because sometimes they seem so weird.

I think it’s worth a second look.

The Great Way is the path we’re on. The path inspired by the Buddha, the cultivating of awareness and compassion. Find your true nature and help others, that sums up the path.

When we say it’s gateless, we’re saying there’s nothing stopping you. It’s right there, like an open door. Your true nature is always with you. It’s never not present. The door is open. Spiritual teachers can point you to the door, but they don’t open it for you. It’s already open. The gate is gateless. We could say teachers are just selling water by the river.

“If you can’t find enlightenment here and now, where else do you expect to find it?” -Dogen

Your true nature is free and awake, you just have to notice that the gate is open.

It’s approached in a thousand ways because we all come to the path bringing different things with us. My difficulty on the path might be giving into temptation all the time or making excuses to not meditate. Yours might be a tendency to give into anger, or to compare yourself to others too much. We’re all a little different and we come to the path for different reasons, so it’s approached in a thousand ways.

But we’re all on the same path.

And once we enter the gate, freedom is on the other side. The freedom to put down our emotional baggage and our insecurities and our fixations. When we can put those down and truly see ourselves as we are, we can stride through the universe.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” -Rumi

What do we need to do? We need to set our intention. We need to decide we want to go through the gateless gate. That’s the beginning.

Striding Through the Universe



大道無門   The Great Way is gateless,

千差有路   Approached in a thousand ways.

透得此關   Once past this checkpoint

乾坤獨歩   You stride through the universe. [1]


This is a quote from the introduction to The Gateless Gate.

The Gateless Gate was written (or put together) in China in the 13th century by a monk named Mumon Ekai. The stories in the Gateless Gate are often a central teaching in Zen training even today. It’s a collection of 48 koans with commentaries.

When I first read this quote, I liked it. I had no idea what it meant, but I liked it. It sounds poetic as hell, doesn’t it? The whole text, The Gateless Gate is poetic and profound like this.

So, for years I didn’t really think much about what this text meant. I just thought it was a really cool quote to think about—but I’m going to analyze it for you, now. Keep in mind this has been analyzed by countless people, many of them much more knowledgeable than me. Here we go.

The Great Way Is Gateless

There is nothing stopping you. Enlightenment is right here. We think there are barriers to our practice or that we have something to gain, but the truth is that the door to Enlightenment is already open. The gate is gateless. The only thing preventing us from attaining Enlightenment here and now is our own delusion.

Approached In A Thousand Ways

There are many different ways of engaging the mystic’s journey. That is neither good nor bad. Regardless of how you come upon it, the gateless gate is there for anyone to pass through.

Once Past This Checkpoint

There are several ways this can be taken. I think the checkpoint is when you’ve made a decision to take refuge and become a Buddhist. Some have argued that the checkpoint is when you pick up The Gateless Gate for the first time. Others have argued that the checkpoint is when you have your first Kensho, or Enlightenment experience. These interpretations are as good as mine.

You Stride Through The Universe

We have the power to dwell in Enlightenment, now. Striding through the universe is living as the mystics—engaging life while trying to overcome our delusions. Striding through the universe is living in the world as it really is, putting down our preconceived notions and  just living in reality.



  1. Katsuki, Sekida (translator). Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and the Blue Cliff Records. (Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 2005).