A Translation by Katsuki Sekida
Zen Buddhism is a particular format of Buddhism that was arrived at by the Chinese and Indian exchange during the centuries prior to the Mongol invasion. Practiced around the world and becoming much more familiar to western civilization through a variety of media formats. For many hundreds of years, scholars, monks, merchants, and ambassadors traveled between the countries expanding learning, providing spiritual insight, increasing trade and entertaining cordial dialogues as well as peaceful relations. In this time period the two texts found in Two Zen Classics were composed. The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records were translated and annotated by teacher Katsuki Sekida.
These classics use a series of koans or "cases" presenting issues to students in a variety of different formats. Poetry, short anecdotes, narratives, dialogues--all form a part of the distinct and unique literature of Zen. These koans illustrate messages, lessons, and ideas that are arrived at by the student themselves. The inherent message is not explicitly stated, but the mental images, tools, situations and dialogues provide the basis for arriving at the message. Mr. Sekida provides an excellent introduction that makes many of the difficulties of understanding and exploring Zen, easier to overcome.
The commentary and notes Mr. Sekida wrote are poignant and clear. The text unfolds through his careful introduction of philosophical concepts, everyday activities and the overall presentation of the cultural ideas native to Zen. The poetry included with many of the koans is effortless and minimal, providing a seamless series of images and ideas in order to arrive at the awareness and presence of mind in Zen. The overall impression of the book is that it provides valuable material for personal growth as well as a unique view of Chinese civilization and culture within its statements and practices.