365 Tao, 108 Gates

Two of the things I resolved to do this year are to read a chapter each morning from Deng Ming-Dao’s 365 Tao and to accept the 108 Gates Challenge.

Each chapter of 365 Tao contains a brief poem on a single-word subject, followed by a meditation on the subject. Reading it is nothing new for me; I did the daily readings in 2009 and enjoyed them immensely.

The 108 Gates Challenge is a way to deepen one’s Zen practice by committing to one hour of practice every day for 108 consecutive days. It can be any combination of zazen or chanting.

I’d been aware of the challenge for awhile, and was encouraged by my teacher to take it on. But I always had some reason why I could not (would not) find the time.

Starting January 1, I made the time. And on the fourth day, I got this bit of synchronistic encouragement from the book:


Moon above water
Sit in solitude

If waters are placid, the moon will be mirrored perfectly. If we still ourselves, we can mirror the divine perfectly. But if we engage solely in the frenetic activities of our daily involvements, if we seek to impose our own schemes on the natural order, and if we allow ourselves to become absorbed in self-centered views, the surface of our waters become turbulent. Then we cannot be receptive to Tao.

There is no effort we can make to still ourselves. True stillness comes naturally from moments of solitude where we allow our minds to settle. Just as water seeks its own level, the mind will gravitate toward the holy. Muddy water will become clear if allowed to stand undisturbed, and so too will the mind become clear if it is allowed to be still.

Neither the water nor the moon make any effort to achieve a reflection. In the same way, meditation will be natural and immediate.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Chappell.

9 thoughts on “365 Tao, 108 Gates

  1. such a great book.
    been reading it few times.
    you inspired me to take one page for each day as a meditation for the whole. something to process for the entire day.

    1. Oren,

      Yes, it really is a great way to start the day. I find lining up the readings with the days as outlined in the back of the book is the best way to approach it.


  2. “Just as water seeks its own level, the mind will gravitate toward the holy.” This is beautiful; thank you for sharing.

    I’d love to hear updates every now and again as to how the 108-days practice is progressing for you. I mediate daily, but for 20 min at a time. Does the hour of sitting in the 108 days need to be all at once? (I assume so…)


    1. Stef,

      You’re welcome. I really enjoy the book (which is why I’m re-reading it this year).

      As to the sitting, no, it doesn’t need to be a solid hour. I’m doing three 20-minute sittings a day. My wife thinks I should just do two half hours, but 20 minutes works really well right now. I’ll remember to post on my progress!


      1. Ah – three 20-minute sites (or even two 30-minute sits) seems more manageable to me than one 60-minute sit… Hmm… you may have planted a seed. 🙂

        Does the text give any reason as to why 60 minutes is the goal? (Versus 45, or 30, etc…)

      2. There’s nothing in the book about the 108 Gates — I just put the book and the challenge together as a kind of Zen jumpstart for the new year.

        I haven’t found anything that explains why 60 minutes is the target. I think the zendo(s) where the challenge originated set it as a goal for their members to increase their practice from what I imagine is an average of 20-30 minutes a day (for those who manage to sit every day).

        And calling it “108 Gates” seems to reference the “One Hundred and Eight Gates of Dharma-Illumination” by Master Dogen, but nowhere do I see anything about actually reading it as part of the challenge. But I might do that anyway. 🙂

  3. I have 365 Tao at my desk at work, and every day while my computer boots up, I read the day’s meditation. My copy of the book is from the late 90’s – I’ve read it no less than 14 times through, year after year. It is a daily ritual.

    1. What a great way to start the day. I had a couple of false starts when I first got the book, but finally stayed with it a couple of years ago. I love how I’m discovering new things in it this year. Do you find yourself still finding something new when you read it?

      1. I find something new, something applicable, all the time. I find an appropriate passage pops up at the most inexplicable times. I’m puzzling something or really searching for some meaning…and the day’s passage seems to point the way. It happens a lot. It is a remarkable book.

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