What is a Gate, Anyway?

The word “gate” derives from old Norse “gata”, meaning road or path, and originally referred to the gap in the wall or fence, rather than a barrier which which closed it. Other terms for gate includes yett, and port, from which we get “portal,” and through which we pass when a gate includes an archway or similar overhead accessorization.

Gates occur in many situations, some not even connected to houses, or property, or fences at all, such as logic gates, a term that refers to transistors, among other components, and serve to control the flow of logical operations in computers. Then there are the gates of awareness, of consciousness, as exemplified in the Sanskrit “Heart Sutra”, whose central mantra is “

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhi svaha

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhi svaha

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhisvaha.

Bodhi Svaha “

which in English reads:

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Oh what an Awakening

Note that one goes beyond the gate, is gone, and hence has left from the mundane plane of existence and engaged in the great journey of Awakening. Buddah, in this and many other senses, is thus a gate through which one finds Awakening, or enlightenment.


There is an ancient Sufi practice, called the Four Gates of Speech, that asks the speaker to consider the following four questions before speaking:

Are these words true?
Are they necessary?
Are they beneficial?
Are they kind?

If the answer is no, then the speaker is cautioned to reconsider what they are about to say.

Gates, it seems, are much more than physical means of entry or exit from a space enclosed by fences or walls. They are also portals philosophical, metaphoric, spiritual, poetic. Where physical gates are locked with physical locks or latches, these other forms of gates are locked with both ignorance and wisdom – one keeps these gates closed, and the other is the key to entry.

Rumi began to whirl due to his sorrow at losing Shams-al-Din, but continued to turn as a means to open himself to The Guest.

There are also the Gates to the Underworld, AKA Hades, guarded according to Greek mythology by Cerberus, the three-headed hound. This gate only permitted entry – Cerberus made certain no one ever left. There are also many traditions that refer to women as the gate to Life.

Well, obviously.

The Gate is Open

This project depends on you - and your photos of gates. Great gates, different gates, unusual gates, non-obvious gates. Be sure to include your contact information, permission to use your photo, and a name for proper credit where credit is due! Be a part of the Gate Project.