Chan and Modern Life

Chan: The Gateless Gate

From the book: In the Spirit of Chan

Chan is often referred to as the gateless gate. The "gate" is both a method of practice and a path to liberation; this gate is "gateless," however, in that Chan does not rely on any specific method to help a practitioner achieve liberation. The methodless method is the highest method. So long as the practitioner can drop the self-centered mind, the gateway into Chan will open naturally.
The primary obstacle to attaining wisdom is attachment to the self. When you face people, things, and situations, the notion of "I" arises immediately. When you attach to this "I", you categorize and judge everything else accordingly: "This is mine; that is not. This is good for me; that is not. I like this; I hate that." Attachment to the idea of self makes true clarity impossible.
But how might we define non-attachment? According to Chan, non-attachment means that when you face circumstances and deal with other people, there is no "I" in relation to whatever may appear in front of you. Things are as they are, vivid and clear. You can respond appropriately and give whatever is needed. Clear awareness of things as they are, in this state of selflessness, is what Chan calls wisdom. Giving whatever others may need with no thought of the self is what Chan calls compassion. Wisdom and compassion describe the awareness and function of the enlightened mind. In Chan, these two cannot be separated, and both depend on putting down the attachment to self.