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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Chan Buddhism in Ritual Context by Bernard Faure (Routledge) The essays in this volume attempt to place the Chan and Zen traditions in their ritual and cultural contexts, looking at various aspects heretofore largely and unduly) ignored. In particular, they show the extent to which these traditions, despite their claim to uniqueness, were indebted to larger trends in East Asian Buddhism, such as the cults of icons, relics and the monastic robe.
The book emphasises the importance of ritual for a proper understanding of this allegedly anti-ritualistic form of Buddhism. In doing so, it deconstructs the Chan/Zen 'rhetoric of immediacy' and its ideological underpinnings.

Bernard Faure is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University and Co-Director of the Stanford Center for Buddhist Studies. His publications include The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (1991), Chan Insights and Oversights: A Phenomenological Critique of the Chan/Zen Tradition (1993), Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (1996) and The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism (1997).

The present volume is an attempt to reexamine Chan and Zen in light of some of the agendas defined above. It is always somewhat artificial to attempt to find a common theme to essays which were written independently. However, it is no exaggeration to say that the essays collected here resonate with each other. They all contribute to questioning the traditional understanding of 'pure' Zen. Even the most textually oriented, Bielefeldt's essay, deconstructs Zen lineage and spiritual claims, and constitutes an ideological critique. Several of them emphasize the material culture of Chan and Zen (portraits, kasaya, but also medicine). They also reflect the impact of ritual and popular beliefs on a school which has ritually been represented as elitist and antiritualistic.

Contributors to the present volume have focused on the ways in which Chan/Zen's iconoclastic and radical teachings are intertwined with a panoply of votive, apotropaic and propitiatory forms of practice. Thus, Bernard Faure and James Robson elucidate the role of mummies of Chan masters in the development of Chan sectarianism, Griffith Foulk and Robert Sharf examine the uses of Chan master portraits in the Song dynasty, William Bodiford writes on 'the enlightenment of kamis and ghosts', and Duncan Williams discusses medicine and the biographies of Dogen.

Wendi Adamek has examined the role played by the portrait of Wuzhu (714-774), the founder of the Bao Tang school in Sichuan. Adamek's analysis and translation of the Lidai fabao ji portrait-eulogy illustrates topics that are examined from a number of different perspectives in this volume. For example, key themes include the recasting of indigenous/local concepts and practices in Chan/Zen modes, and Chan uses of the notion of representation.

According to his followers, some time soon after his death a portrait was painted of the Chan Master Wuzhu. A description of the portrait appears in the portrait-eulogy (zhenzan) included at the end of the Lidai fabao ji. The Lidai fabao ji is preserved in a total of twelve manuscripts and fragments from the Dunhuang cache of materials and one fragment from Turfan, but the fate of the portrait is unknown. Adamek introduces the Lidai fabao ji and discusses the background of eighth century memorials and eulogies written for Chan masters, and then reviews the different types of images of Buddhist masters and the development of the portrait-eulogy genre in the Chan context. Finally, she examines the conflicting soteriological paradigms invested in the portrait, through an analysis of the assertions made in the eulogy.

This study is part of Adamek's research on the relationships between the ideological representations of the 'Southern School' Chan orthodoxy, particularly as regards the 'formless' teaching, and the forms of literary, artistic and devotional practice that were developed to express this formlessness. Thus, it draws on a growing body of scholarship, well-represented in the present volume, that questions sectarian constructions of Chan history. The orthodox Chan/Zen account of opposing 'Northern' and 'Southern' Chan schools in the eighth century has been effectively challenged, and most scholars now recognize that discussion of 'sudden awakening' (dunwu) and related concepts in Chinese Buddhist texts predates the appropriation of this soteriology as the hallmark 'Southern School' doctrine.

The icon of Wuzhu's master, the Korean priest Wuxiang (684-762), is also one of the cases of Chan/Zen portraiture (chinzo) studied by Sharf and Foulk. Examining the religious function of these portraits, the authors call into question the notion that chinzo served to authentify the transmission from master to disciple. They also question the narrowly normative study of such portraits from the standpoint of Art History, and raise a number of theoretical and methodological questions which should have an impact on the history of Asian art. (On this point, see also Faure 1998a). After studying the semantic field of related terms such as xiang (image), then (portrait, truth [in painting], and dingxiang (Jpn. chinzo), they examine the institutional, ritual and literary meaning of Buddhist portraits in China. They show in particular that references to portraits of eminent monks, prior to the Song, occur in the context of the cult of a Buddhist saint or of the funerals of a master. After the Tang, with the technique of dry lacquer, the distinction between relic and effigy disappears, and the saint's corpse become a true 'flesh icon'.

The best known case is of course that of the sixth Chan patriarch Huineng (d. 713), but another interesting case has resurfaced lately, that of Shitou Xiqian, studied in this volume by Robson. Foulk and Sharf also analyse the `portrait halls' (yingtang) and their role in the constitution of a Chan lineage (zong), in particular in the so-called Northern school. A case in point is the 'Hall of the Seven Patriarchs' (qizu tang), mentioned in a chronicle of that school, the Chuan fabao ji. Here, the portraits clearly serve not only to prove sectarian affiliation, but to assert the religious orthodoxy of specific groups.

The proscription of Buddhism in 845 was to have important repercussions on the production and distribution of Buddhist portraits during the Song and the Yuan. As Chan developed along less sectarian lines, it also became the authorized representative of Chinese Buddhism and official monasteries were increasingly redefined imperially as 'Chan monasteries'. These monasteries usually possessed a Hall of the Patriarchs, in which the portraits of abbots gradually superseded those of the patriarchs. Thus, the portraits came to represent, not the lineage of a master, but that of the monastery itself. The plea by Baiyun Shouduan (1025-1072) in favour of the portraits of the two patriarchs Bodhidharma and Baizhang must be placed in this context, as an attempt to restore partially the status of those patriarchs. The same disposition is found in Japanese monasteries, where the portraits of the patriarchs are disposed next to those of the abbots. But another important phenomenon is the apparition of portraits of live masters, called `images of long life' (shouxiang).

After examining the way in which the disposition of the portraits in the patriarchal halls served to legitimize certain lineages, Foulk and Sharf examine the ritual, and more precisely funerary, function of these portraits. In conformity with Chinese funerary rituals, the portrait of the deceased was perceived as the seat of his spirit, and played the same role as his funerary tablet. The Chan patriarchs and abbots were therefore worshipped as ancestors. However, eminent monks also came to be considered as living buddhas, and a new category appeared, that of the worthies (zunzu) whose words were recorded for posterity. This status finds its most achieved expression in the shangtang (`Ascending the Hall') ritual during which an abbot identifies ritually with the Buddha. As 'images' of buddhahood, the icon of the Buddha, the person of the abbot, and his portrait, are virtually interchangeable.

Apart from their funerary function, the portraits of abbots were also disseminated among disciples and followers. In the ritual and institutional context of Chan monachism, these portraits played the same role as icons of the Buddha, and, like the latter, they were `animated' through the presence of relics. On the other hand, they do not seem to have played a role in Dharma transmission, as is generally assumed.

Foulk and Sharf also point out that this cultic role of the worship was criticized within Chan, inasmuch as the 'truth' (zhen) of the master cannot be expressed in a portrait (also zhen). They conclude by questioning a number of theories usually accepted by art historians. Thus, the term chinzo cannot be limited to portraits of Chan and Zen masters. Likewise, the distinction between portraits of patriarchs and of abbots (the latter only receiving the name chinzo) does not seem justified from the standpoint of their grouping in patriarchal halls. Finally, the claim that portraits served as 'proofs of Dharma transmission' does not seem substantiated. As Faure suggested, their diffusion allowed a kind of 'transmission of charisma' of the same kind as that achieved through relics, based on their initial function as funerary objects. However, Foulk and Sharf do not think that the formal Dharma transmission is only one extreme case of transmission of charisma otherwise achieved through dissemination of relics and of portraits. Contrary to Faure, they see there a difference of nature, not only of degree. As religious icon, the portrait was functionally equivalent to the relics, the mummies, or the stupas: it meant the presence of the Buddha in his very absence. Such is the context in which the alleged 'realism' or 'naturalism' of Chan portraiture must be studied.

The ultimate chinzo is, paradoxically, the mummy of the Chan master. The importance of mummies in Chan has already been pointed out by Faure and Sharf. Taking his cues from their work, and in particular from Faure's earlier discussion of Shitou's mummy (Faure 1991a), James Robson tracks down the origins of this mummy and comes up with some surprising conclusions. Robson's essay has all the ingredients of a modern detective story, describing how the body of a man who died centuries ago can still be an object of desire, smuggled through international borders and leading to a confusion of names, places, people, confessional rivalry and nationalistic claims, worship and profanation. The `metaphysics of presence' which was at the origin of the cult has given way to rather sordid manipulations. It shows also the fine line between traditional Chan hagiography and the revival of a popular cult — almost a 'new religion' — in post-revolutionary China. It is also a study in cultural memory, showing how such memories are as much created as remembered, and manipulated by local and provincial authorities through the use of the media. It raises the question of the extent to which the revival of the cult, and the local memories that go with it, have been provoked by the investigators. It also raises the role of the Western scholars who have attracted attention to this mummy by writing about it and photographing it. It shows that Chan and Zen cannot be studied as mere objects or as a set of ideas, but that their very study is a kind of performative scholarship that transform its object, animates it in a way reminiscent of the way in which East Asian Buddhists animated the icons and portraits of their masters.

The importance of sectarian consciousness, obvious in the Sichuan school studied by Adamek, is also emphasized in Carl Bielfeldt's essay, which shows the background of such sectarian developments in the Japanese context. In the traditional account, the 'official' introduction of Zen in Japan, during the Kamakura period, with the two Rinzai and Soto schools, is described as a passage from 'joint practice' to 'pure' Zen. However, our understanding of Zen depends on the meaning given to the term shu, usually translated as 'school', and sometimes as 'sect'. It is all too easy to project anachronistic models like that of 'sect' onto a medieval phenomenon. The notion of shu was at the centre of debates that agitated Kamakura Buddhism. For instance, the petition of the priest Jokei (1155-1213) to proscribe the Pure Land teaching of Honen was based, among other things, on Honen's attempt to establish a 'new school'.

Bielefeldt examines a text attributed to the founder of Tofukuji, Enni Ben'en, the Jisshu yodo ki, which classifies the ten schools of Japanese Buddhism and attempts to gives the highest rank to Zen as the 'school of the mind'. He places this work in the context of similar works, which already had a long tradition in the Tendai and Shingon schools, or in the Kegon school, with the famous Hasshu kayo; as well as in Zen itself, with Eisai's Kozen gokokuron and Dogen's Bendowa. Enni's well-tempered sectarianism provides a picture of 'syncretistic' Zen that differs radically from the traditional conception of Zen.

The 'syncretistic' approach, which formed the basis of the kenmitsu (`exoteric-esoteric') Buddhism described by the Japanese historian Kuroda Toshio, is well illustrated in the Shaseki shu (Collection of Sand and Pebbles) by Enni's disciple Muju Ichien (1226-1312). Significantly, Muju's work opens on a discussion of Ise Shrine in terms of Ryobu Shinto, and criticizes in particular the Pure Land school for having disparaged the local gods or kami. The importance of the kami in Japanese Zen, and particularly in the Soto tradition (which in theory adhered to Dogen's pure Zen) is emphasized by William Bodiford's essay.

Bodiford focuses on a very important, although largely ignored, aspect of the Soto Zen tradition: legends regarding local gods. Like Chinese Chan, the Soto school of Japanese Zen established itself in the provinces, far from the aristocratic circles of the capital. However, Soto monks, in their proselytism, seem to have pushed further than their Chinese predecessors the adaptation of their doctrine to local customs. Ordination, in particular, soon perceived like a ritual repetition of the awakening of the Buddha, eventually turned into a quasi-magical affiliation to the lineage of the Buddha, symbolized by a 'lineage chart' (kechimyaku, lit. 'blood line') whose possessor, whether a cleric or layperson, was considered a legitimate heir to the Buddha. In this way, Soto monks disposed of an efficacious means for conversions, and they also became mediators between various social and political actors.

On the spiritual plane, the Zen teaching was confronted with local beliefs and practices, and traces of that confrontation have been preserved in hagiographical records. Here, folkloric motifs are reinterpreted according to Zen symbolism. To give an example, the exorcism performed by Genno Shinsho against the 'killing stone' (sessho seki), a nefarious stone widely represented in legends and literature, is here presented as a typically Zen initiation, during which Genno converts through the use of a koan the evil fox spirit dwelling in the stone. Koans are an essential element in such encounters, in which a Zen master converts a supernatural being. Bodiford's discussion of the ritualistic use of the koan provides a much-needed antidote against the hermeneutical interpretation that has dominated the field since the pious verbiage of D. T. Suzuki (see also some of the essays in Heine and Wright 2000).

A case frequently encountered in these legends is the conversion of a kami or a local spirit through the transmission of the Buddhist precepts. Such ordinations allowed local population to convert to Zen without abandoning their traditional beliefs. These encounters between a monk and a local deity often led to the discovery of a spring, a vital element for any temple foundation. Bodiford examines the social background of such legends through which a local Zen temple received the blessings of local deities, guardians of the springs, and at the same time assured the prosperity of the community. Incidentally, like their Chinese predecessors studies by Michel Soymié, Soto monks were often renowned as water diviners (Soymié 1961).

Another characteristic of such stories is the power of Zen masters — and their monastic precepts — to deliver, and therefore placate, vengeful ghosts. This power led to the association of Zen precepts and funerals, since these ghosts are often the result of an untimely death. Many stories describe how a ghost is saved through the ordination performed by a Zen master.

Similar ordinations were available for people. These collective and quasi-magical ordinations, which were received in the hope of obtaining worldly benefits, constitute another radical departure from the demythologized and ethical interpretation found in most studies on Vinaya.

These legends of supernatural encounters, which associate the monks' charisma with the power of Buddhist precepts, reflect the popularization of Soto ordination rituals. This popularization occurred between the foundation of local temples and the beginning of the Edo period, during which most of these stories were written down. During this process of acculturation of Zen, the magic power of ordinations relegated spiritual practice to the second position, and allowed old cults to survive under the aegis of Zen.

Another essay that reflects the intense symbolic reinterpretation that went on in Soto (and to a lesser extent in other schools of Japanese Zen) is Faure's study of the symbolism of the monastic robe (Sanskrit. kasaya; Jpn. kesa). The transmission of the robe in Chinese Chan was studied years ago by the late Anna Seidel, in a seminal essay unfortunately yet unpublished, and more recently by Wendi Adamek. Faure pursues this question in the case of medieval Japan, but follows another line of inquiry — namely: Why did the monastic robe become the symbol par excellence of the Dharma, superseding other symbols and relics to occupy a preeminent place in Buddhist imagination? The chapter relies on Dogen's Shobogenzo, as well as on later texts, in particular initiatic documents known as kirigami, strongly influenced by esoteric Buddhism. Dogen was influenced, not only by the Chan tradition regarding the patriarchal robe, but also, in reactive fashion, by Vinaya conceptions stemming from Daoxuan (596-667) and Yijing (635-713). He was also well aware of the established tradition that assimilated monastic ordination and royal enthronement ritual (sokui kanjo).

Dogen not only inherits the symbolic meaning of the robe, he turns the latter into an absolute symbol, completely detached from material realities. All the robes become quasi-magical, and able to bring about salvation. This is true not only of Buddha's robe, as in early Chan, but of any kasaya as well. The robe has become a kind of monastic regalia. In later texts of the Soto tradition, all the physical characteristics of the robe (size, etc.) receive additional symbolic value. To give just one example, the patches of the robe are given cosmological significance, and the robe thus becomes a textile mandala. The robe is described as functionally similar to a stupa, a Buddha-relic, or even the Buddha himself. The kesa is also assimilated to the placenta (ordination being a rebirth, the newly ordained monk is a newborn baby). Yet this extreme symbolization of the robe, which was allowed by a shift in material from discarded cloth and linen to silk, met some resistance, in particular on the part of Vinaya masters, who advocated a return to simplicity and emphasized the contradiction which a silk kesa (whose fabrication required the massive killing of silkworms) posed to the traditional Buddhist precept against taking life. As Faure shows, the kesa was at the heart of a continuing debate between Vinaya and Zen.

If Dogen is often presented as someone who, unlike his successor Keizan Ain, downplayed the importance of local gods, it is ironic that the later Soto tradition chose to emphasize how its founder, having fallen ill during his trip to China, was cured by the Japanese god Inari. The essay by Duncan Williams, which opens with this story, focuses on the intersection between the institutional history of Soto Zen Buddhism and the social history of medicine, or more precisely, the sale of a herbal medicine manufactured at a Soto Zen-affiliated pharmacy in Kyoto. He argues that the growth of the Soto sect during the Tokugawa period had less to do with Zen meditation or the study of classical Zen texts, than with the temples offering practical benefits (genze riyaku) to laypeople. One of the most appealing benefits was the prevention and healing of illnesses.

Williams' essay draws on documents he discovered at Eiheiji Temple, now catalogued as the Doshoan monjo collection. They provide detailed evidence for the sale of herbal medicines, especially one produced at Doshoan, a Kyoto pharmacy, called Gedokuen, literally 'poison-dissolving round [pill]'. Doshoan, which had an exclusive contract with the Soto sect, sold the medicine both directly to temples (most often from head temples to branch temples on down to parishioners) and to high-ranking monks who visited Kyoto. The reason for the exclusive contract was that it had purportedly saved Dogen's life when he became gravely ill on his way back from China.

This popular medicine gave Soto Zen temples a powerful alternative to other herbal medicines, such as Daranisuke (sold by the Shingon-affiliated Koya hijiri), which appealed to the vast majority of villagers who did not have access to the expensive town doctors of Edo or Nagasaki. The popularity of the medicine is attested to by Williams' analysis of the incidents of counterfeit pills appearing in different regions of Japan as well as of various instructions on how to administer the medicine (including how to treat ailments of farm animals). Through the study of this herbal medicine, Williams' essay shows how Soto Zen institutions participated in Edo-period medical practices, and also how medical practices shaped the character of the sect.

Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism: Myoshinji, a Living Religion by Jorn Borup  (Numen Book Series: Brill Academic Publishers) see here.

Zen Sourcebook: Traditional Documents from China, Korea, and Japan edited by Stephen Addiss , Stanley Lombardo , Judith Roitman (Hackett) Simply put this is an exceptional little guide to the essence of Zen lore and culture. Here are well-wrought new translations of well-known and germaine Zen classic texts. One may easily become fooled by this wonderful collection of sayings, poems, sutras, and haiku into thinking one can grop Zen and fall awake. Stephen Addiss is well known for his grasp of the visual medium of Zen calligraphy and painting has made an exception useful text for students.  Featuring a carefully selected collection of source documents, this tome includes traditional teaching tools from the Zen Buddhist traditions of China (Ch'an), Korea (Son), and Japan (Zen), including texts created by women. The selections provide both a good feel for the varieties of Zen and an experience of its common core. . . . The texts are experiential teachings and include storytelling, poetry, autobiographies, catechisms, calligraphy, paintings, and koans (paradoxical meditation questions that are intended to help aspirants transcend logical, linguistic limitations). Contextual commentary prefaces each text. Wade-Giles transliteration is used, although Pinyin, Korean, Japanese, and Sanskrit terms are linked in appendixes. An insightful introduction by Arai contributes a religious studies perspective. The bibliography references full translations of the selections. A thought-provoking discussion about the problems of translation is included. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels.

The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender by Bernard Faure (Buddhisms: Princeton University Press)(Hardcover) Innumerable studies have appeared in recent decades about practically every aspect of women's lives in Western societies. The few such works on Buddhism have been quite limited in scope. In The Power of Denial, Bernard Faure takes an important step toward redressing this situation by boldly asking: does Buddhism offer women liberation or limitation? Continuing the innovative exploration of sexuality in Buddhism he began in The Red Thread, here he moves from his earlier focus on male monastic sexuality to Buddhist conceptions of women and constructions of gender. Faure argues that Buddhism is neither as sexist nor as egalitarian as is usually thought. Above all, he asserts, the study of Buddhism through the gender lens leads us to question what we uncritically call Buddhism, in the singular.

Faure challenges the conventional view that the history of women in Buddhism is a linear narrative of progress from oppression to liberation. Examining Buddhist discourse on gender in traditions such as that of Japan , he shows that patriarchy--indeed, misogyny--has long been central to Buddhism. But women were not always silent, passive victims. Faure points to the central role not only of nuns and mothers (and wives) of monks but of female mediums and courtesans, whose colorful relations with Buddhist monks he considers in particular.

Ultimately, Faure concludes that while Buddhism is, in practice, relentlessly misogynist, as far as misogynist discourses go it is one of the most flexible and open to contradiction. And, he suggests, unyielding in-depth examination can help revitalize Buddhism's deeper, more ancient egalitarianism and thus subvert its existing gender hierarchy. This groundbreaking book offers a fresh, comprehensive understanding of what Buddhism has to say about gender, and of what this really says about Buddhism, singular or plural.

Bernard Faure is George Edwin Burnell Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University . He is the author of Visions of Power, The Red Thread, Chan Insights and Oversights, and The Rhetoric of Immediacy.

The Path of the Human Being: Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way by Dennis Genpo Merzel, with a foreword Bernie Glassman (Shambhala) In The Path of the Human Being, Dennis Genpo Merzel, one of the most highly regarded American Zen teachers, demystifies the experience of enlightenment, teaching that it is none other than the awakening to our true nature, which is ever present and inherent in all of us. Through the practice of meditation, one is able to turn the light of inquiry inward and discover this for oneself. Genpo Roshi lays out this journey of discovery for usfrom the first tentative glimpses of Buddha Mind to the full flowering of realized life.

Always practical and down-to-earth, Genpo Roshi shows that following the Buddha Way does not require us to leave behind our ordinary lives. Instead it is a process of integration, learning to flow freely between the many dimensions of our lives so that our existence becomes more meaningful and joyous, and so that we are able to carry the wisdom and compassion we have realized into daily life.

The value of this original book The Path of the Human Being] lies not only in its clear presentation of Zen teaching, but also in the long experience and the depth of insight of its author.Roshi Robert Jinsen Kennedy, author of Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit and Zen Gifts to Christians

Dennis Genpo Merzel is the founder of Kanzeon Sangha and is the abbot of Kanzeon Zen Center in Utah . He has been teaching Zen since 1978 and received Dharma transmission from Taizan Maezumi Roshi in 1980. Genpo Roshi now holds the position of president of the White Plum Lineage, the lineage of Maezumi Roshi. His other books include Beyond Sanity and Madness, The Eye Never Sleeps, and 24/7 Dharma.

At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos by Ezra Bayda (Shambhala Publications)

May we exist like a lotus,
At home in the muddy water.
Thus we bow to life as it is.

This verse, often recited in Zen retreats, is an important reminder, says Ezra Bayda, of what the spiritual life is really about: the willingness to open ourselves to whatever life presents no matter how messy or complicated. Through that willingness we discover wisdom, compassion, and the genuine life we want.

Bayda, a Zen teacher affiliated with the Ordinary Mind Zen School , a student of meditation for more than thirty years, lives, writes, and teaches at the San Diego Zen Center in San Diego , California . In At Home in the Muddy Water, Bayda applies the simple Zen teaching of being open to whatever comes to the range of concerns from everyday life including relationships, trust, sexuality, and money showing that we have all the material we need for practice right here before us, and that peace and fulfillment is available to everyone, right here, right now, no matter what the circumstances.

Sections include

  1. What Practice Is
  2. Attachments and Ideals
  3. Relationships
  4. Efforts

Part Three includes chapters on relationships, trust, forgiveness, forgiveness meditation, opening into loss, and practicing with sexuality.

This little book by the author of Being Zen provides a practical guide to anyone on the path of spiritual awakening. Bayda offers real, specific advice for extending our practice beyond meditation into every aspect of our daily lives. At Home in the Muddy Water helps us with the problems of daily life, in refining our decision-making. Above all it inspires us to face our fears and just be.

Opening a Mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters by Steven Heine (Oxford University Press)  In Opening a Mountain, Heine takes a matchless look at the Zen koan, delving into its mythological background and its relationship to folk beliefs. Even with available commentaries, koan are enigmatic at best, but in a virtuosic display of historical and textual scholarship, Heine brings us a step closer to understanding what the koan are saying and where they come from. Why are there spirits or supernatural rivals in koan? What is the significance of the staff or fly-whisk the monk carries? Why are mountains so central? These are some of the questions that Heine answers as he examines 60 handpicked koan, case by case, first translating them complete with their original commentary, then offering his own discussion that covers textual points, then going into the role of supernatural and ritual imagery. Scholarly in tone, Opening a Mountain opens up a new dimension in the study of Zen koan.

A Hermit's tale: The Mountain Torrent Runs Deep, So the Ladle is Long"

A monk built a hermitage at the foot of Mount Hsueh‑feng and lived there for many years practicing meditation, but without having his head shaved. Making a wooden ladle, the solitary monk drew and drank water from a mountain torrent.

One day, a monk from the monastery at the top of the mountain visited the hermit and asked, "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?" The hermit responded, "The mountain torrent runs deep, so the handle of a wooden ladle must be appropriately long." The monk reported this to the master of Hsueh‑feng temple, who declared, "He sounds like a strange character, perhaps an anomaly. I'd better go at once and check him out for myself."

The next day, master Hsueh‑feng went to see the hermit while carrying a razor and was accompanied by his attendant monk. As soon as they met he said, "If you can express the Way, I won't shave your head." On hearing this, the hermit at first was speechless. But then he used the ladle to bring water to have his head washed, and Hsuehfeng shaved the hermit's head.

With the growing popularity of Zen Buddhism in the West, virtually ‑ everyone knows, or thinks they know, what a khan is: a brief and baffling question or statement that cannot be solved by the logical mind and which, after sustained concentration, can lead to sudden enlightenment. But the truth about khans is both simpler‑and more complicated‑than this.

In Opening a Mountain, Steven Heine shows that koans, and the questions we associate with them‑such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"‑are embedded in larger narratives and belong to an ancient Buddhist tradition of "encounter dialogues." These dialogues feature dramatic and often inscrutable contests between masters and disciples, or between masters and an array of natural and supernatural forces: rogue priests, "wild foxes," hermits, wizards, shapeshifters, magical animals, and dangerous women. To establish a new monastery, "to open a mountain," the Zen master had to tame these wild forces in regions most remote from civilization. In these extraordinary encounters, fingers and arms are cut off, pitchers are kicked over, masters appear in and interpret each other's dreams, and seemingly absurd statements are shown to reveal the deepest insights. Heine restores these koans to their original traditions, allowing readers to see both the complex elements of Chinese culture and religion that they reflect and the role they played in Zen's transformation of local superstitions into its own teachings.

Offering a fresh approach to one of the most crucial elements of Zen Buddhism, Opening a Mountain is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the full story behind koans and the mysterious worlds they come from.

The Journal of Socho by Saiokuken Socho, translated by H. Mark Horton (Stanford University Press) (HARDCOVER) is one of the most individual self‑portraits in the literary history of medieval Japan. Its author, Saiokuken Socho (1448‑1532)‑the preeminent linked‑verse (renga) poet of his time‑was an eyewitness to Japan's violent transition from the medieval to the early modern age. Written between 1522 and 1527, during the Age of the Country at War (Sengoku fdai), his journal provides a vivid portrayal of cultural life in the capital and in the provinces, together with descriptions of battles and great warrior families, the dangers of travel through war‑torn countryside, and the plight of the poor.

The journal records four of Socho's journeys between Kyoto and Suruga Province, where he served as the poet laureate of the Imagawa house, as well as several shorter excursions and periods of rest at various hermitages. The diverse upbringing of its author‑a companion of nobles and warlords, a student of the orthodox poetic neoclassicism of the renga master Sogi, and a devotee of the iconoclastic Zen prelate Ikkyu‑afforded him rich insights into the cultural life of the period.

The Journal of Socho is remarkable for its breadth and freshness of observation, whether of the activities of literary men and the affairs of great courtiers and daimyo or of the daily lives of local warriors and commoners. This variety of cultural detail is matched by the journal's wealth of prose genres: travel diary, eremitic writing, historical chronicle, conversation, and correspondence. In addition, Socho has given us more than Goo verses that together illustrate most of the principal poetic genres of the time: renga, waka, choka, wakan renku, and comic or unorthodox haikai verses.

Song in an Age of Discord: The Journal of Socho' and Poetic Life in Late Medieval Japan by H. Mack Horton, Socho Shuki (Stanford University Press) is a companion volume to the author's translation of The Journal of Socho, the travel diary and poetic memoir of Saiokuken Socho (1448‑1532), the preeminent linked‑verse (renga) poet of his generation. The Journal‑which records several journeys that Socho made between Kyoto and Suruga Province during the tumultuous Age of the Country at War‑is unparalleled in the literature of the period for its range of commentary and freshness of detail, and for its impressive array of literary genres, including more than 600 poems.

The present volume opens with an overview of the author's life and times, and explores the relationships between politics, patronage, and the creative process in late medieval Japan. Raised in the service of a feudal lord in Suruga Province, Socho subsequently became the devoted student of the renga master Sogi and the iconoclastic Zen monk Ikkyu, a variety of influences clearly visible in his journal. Socho lived during an era in which established values and hierarchies were being questioned, and his journal reflects his own testing of traditional literary boundaries.

Subsequent chapters read the journal in terms of the standard norms of genres that Socho appropriated and reinterpreted in fashioning his own literary persona.

The norms of medieval eremitic literature are presented via works by two other noted linked‑verse poets, Shinkei and Shohaku, and those of travel literature are set forth in travel diaries by Socho's teacher Sogi, who also supplied the template for Socho's orthodox (ushin) poetry.

The comic and unorthodox haikai verse of Yamazaki Sokan serves as a point of comparison for Socho's frequent excursions into that genre. Unlike other orthodox renga masters, Socho maintained parallel interests in composing and preserving haikai poetry, and he contributed much to that evolving art form. Throughout, Song in an Age of Discord illustrates the dialogue Socho pursued with his literary and cultural heritage.


Wind Bell: Teachings from the San Francisco Zen Center - 1968-2001by Michael Wenger (North Atlantic Books) In the 1960s, the San Francisco Zen Center established itself as a focal point for the study and practice of Zen Buddhism. Lectures and talks given at the center and compiled for this collection cover such topics as applying Zen to family life (Karma, Dharma, and Diapers), to other disciplines (Facing the Darkness in Buddhism and Psychotherapy), and to artistic creation (Creation in an Instant).

Drawn from thirty‑three years of the magazine's history, Wind Bell presents favorite, enlightening, and seminal articles in five thematic sections: "Suzuki‑Roshi Lectures," the legacy of the founding Abbot of the Center. "Zen Center Teachers," essays from prominent leaders, among them four women. "Visiting Teachers," such as Robert Thurman, Thich Nhat Hanh, and artist/social activist  Kazuaki Tanahashi, who brought international influences to the Center. "Traditional Practice," examples of how instructors passed down teaching principles,  such as the first Memorial Service Lecture by Richard Baker in 1972, and statements of  lineage holders at their Dharma Transmission ceremonies (a graduation for advanced  teachers). "Everyday Zen" is the application of Zen practice to daily life: on creativity, parenting, psychotherapy, including the role of the acclaimed Zen Hospice Project.

Debuting as a one‑page monthly newsletter on December 2, 1961,Wind Bell became the definitive voice of the Zen Center. It started by reprinting short talks of the founder Suzuki Roshi with haikus, artwork, and events. It evolved to reflect the changes in its community role and society at large. As the Zen Center took on more projects, Wind Bell chronicled the founding of the monastic retreat center Tassajara in 1967, the purchase of a large city center in San Francisco in 1969, and the acquisition of Green Gulch Farm in 1972. Wind Bell became a lively forum for communal discussion, especially in the 1980s when the Center came under public scrutiny as students charged abbots with ethical misconduct.

Wind Bell's original directive was to record the Zen Center's teaching, practice, life, and spirit. From its founding, the Zen Center was a cosmopolitan nexus which hosted a wide variety of guest speakers every month. Immersed in the artistic culture of the 1960s and '70s, it was home for many of the Bay Areas' leading poets, writers, painters, and musicians, such as Gary Snyder, Diane DiPrima, Joanne Kyger, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Phillip Glass, and John Cage.

As its new editor in 1984, Michael Wenger began publishing Wind Bell twice year. As noted in his introduction to this book, Wenger opened the journal's scope to include more news about general and American Buddhist issues. Wind Bell investigated issues ranging from ethnicity and diversity, ethics, family practice, art, death and dying from the Zen Hospice Project, to art and creativity. Likewise, in 1999, Wind Bell was eyewitness to the huge fire that threatened the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near Salinas.

Wind Bell is an essential and heartfelt testimony on Buddhism's cultural imprint on American society, and a treasury of beloved teachings that illuminate unique approaches to Chinese and Japanese Zen. As the Center has influenced generations of teachers, artists, and citizens, Wind Bell continues to fulfill its mission as a clarion call toward personal enlightenment and as a barometer of eternal human concerns.

Excerpt: This confrontation between Abbot Sojun Weitsman and Mitsuzen Lou Hartman took place on January 29, 1997 on the occasion of Sojun stepping down as Abbott of the San Francisco Zen Center. It is a moment in a thirty‑year discussion between two practitioners of The Way. Dogen once said life is one continuous mistake. Dear reader, continue on! ‑M.W.

Mondo (Dharma Dialogue)

Mel Weitsman and Lou Hartman SUMMER 1997

MITSUZEN LOU HARTMAN: One third of my life has been spent in this practice and you were my first teacher. I can still remember your original teaching. One morning I ran into your old house on Dwight Way, waving Daisetz Suzuki's No Mind and saying, "I just have to talk to you about this book!" And you said "1 don't have to talk with you about that book. But if you want to go up to the zendo and sit, that's fine with me."

Well, I didn't realize it at the time, but that was my first step away from practice "based on intellectual understanding." Now it's twenty‑seven years later and not only don't I talk about books anymore, I don't write books anymore, and I don't even read them. So I'll tell you something‑your advice was a big mistake. [laughter] So what do you have to say to me now?

SOJUN MEL WEITSMAN [without a pause]: Make the best of a bad mistake.

Emerson and Zen Buddhism by John G. Rudy (Studies in American Literature, Vol 42: Edwin Mellen Press) It is not easy to produce a fresh reading of Emerson, but John Rudy has done just that. Instead of making small adjustments to one or another of the familiar ways of taking up Emerson‑modifying what this critic thought or that professor wrote‑finding a new source or an overlooked but now suddenly urgent emphasis, Rudy has cast Emerson in an entirely new light by holding his work up and reading it alongside two of the great schools of Zen Buddhism.

It is important to be clear at the outset. This is not a source study in influence. Emerson did know something about Buddhism; he had, at times, more than a little sympathy for what he understood of it, but he had no exposure at all to Zen Buddhism as such. What Rudy's study sets out to demonstrate‑his method is that of the comparativist‑is that Emerson's mind often worked in ways that are strikingly similar to those of some of the Zen masters, that Emerson's understanding of spiritual exercise is often Zen‑like, that his efforts to transcend some of the name‑brand dualisms of Western thought (Cartesian, Baconian) can be usefully studied alongside the efforts of Zen practice and meditation.

The focus of Rudy's study is his reading of Emerson in the light of Zen, and of Zen in the light of Emerson. He puts his greatest emphasis on the spiritual work of emptying. He quotes, for example, Emerson's account of one of his grand moments of illumination. "Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thought any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear." Rudy notes that the important phrase here is "without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune," and he notes how close this is to "the condition of nonpreference, what Buddhists call nonattachment "

Next Rudy takes up the famous transparent eyeball passage, a central Emersonian moment if ever there was one. "Standing on the bare ground,‑my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,‑all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye‑ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God." Rudy notes that there is a Chinese character, chien‑hsing, the first element of which is an "eye alone on two outstretched legs," that this first part of the character signifies the "pure art of seeing," that the second part of the character means "Nature, or Essence, or Mind," and that the character [in full] means "seeing into the ultimate nature of things, and not watching."

In essay after essay, sentence after sentence, and image after image, Rudy lays out a long string of such happy surprises‑coincidings, as Melville might say. Again and again we see Emerson reaching, or nearly reaching, some of the insights and states of mind of Zen. Ending his exhilarating reading of the transparent eyeball passage, Rudy reaches for an Emersonian summary of this Emersonian experience. "Emerson is himself the reverential ground of his relation to the universe . . . . Rhetorically speaking, enlightenment is all verb, no subject. Opening is all."

Rudy pursues the similarities, the mutual openings of Zen and Emerson to each other through Nature, "Literary Ethics," "Experience," "The Poet," "Fate," and other major essays. Rudy's language is not always easy, but his originality and insight make reading him well worth the effort. From first to last this is not just historical scholarship, not the cool documenting of similarity and difference. Rudy is after something much more important, more alive and present. He takes Emersonian spirituality, both in expression and practice, to be what William James called a "live option" for the present age. Emerson is as real to Rudy as Zen. Emerson is not just a part of our historical record, not just another station on the Am Lit railroad, but a spiritual teacher for today. As Stanley Cavell finds Emerson important for philosophy now, and as Richard Geldard finds Emerson an available spiritual guide for the present, so John Rudy, invoking Emerson's beloved Asia, shows us that Emerson's spiritual gifts and expressions are strangely similar to the now widely acknowledged power of Zen. Emerson is as alive and helpful now as he was when Henry and Walt and Emily were listening. "Speak the truth," says Emerson, and we may here say it of Rudy too, "and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there do seem to stir and move to bear you witness."

This study has a threefold purpose: to refine our understanding of the deep association Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882) draws between Buddhism and American transcendentalism, to advance our comprehension of voidist spirituality as emergent through the awakening practices of Zen Buddhism, and to enrich through interdisciplinary reading the dialogue between leading Buddhist and Western thinkers as it has been evolving since the pioneering efforts of the Kyoto School philosophers Kitaro Nishida and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki. The study endeavors to demonstrate that Zen and Emersonian writings provide a mutually generative context for both exploring and experiencing the meditative dynamics of voidist spirituality.

Though comparatists note occasional similarities between Emersonian and Buddhist thought, they question the extent to which Emerson entered into the spirit of voidist religiosity. The problem for scholars, both Eastern and Western, is that the teaching‑learning disciplines which drive Buddhism in general and Zen Buddhism in particular lie outside the conventional parameters of modern academic training and methodology. One cannot study Buddhist spirituality in the traditional sense of the word "stud" because the object of scholarship is not really an object. Nor is it a metaphor. It is, rather, a meditative condition which requires that the scholar transcend thought, language, and logical exposition even as he uses these tools to form an understanding of the subject. As a result, no one has attempted to examine the spirituality of Emersonian discourse in light of the meditative practices that impel and inform Buddhism. The following pages address this omission by reading Emerson's major essays in the spirit of the two leading schools of Zenmeditation‑the Rinzai and the Soto. The text attempts to determine not only the extent to which Emerson entered into a Buddhistic mode of thinking but also the extent to which his prose both enacts and enables voidist meditative practice itself. The study's working thesis is that if Zen provides a generative Eastern context for understanding Emersonian spirituality, Emerson offers in turn a discursive environment by which an Eastern meditative practice maybe apprehended in a Western mode. Combining an understanding of the focusing energies of Zen meditation with the methodologies of literary criticism and philosophical analysis, the study's procedure is, therefore, dialogical, privileging neither Emerson nor Zen, and mutually contextual, illuminating the meditative dynamics of "spiritual emptiness" (Emerson's term) as it unfolds in and through both Zen and Emerson documents.

1n deference to scholars from a variety of disciplines, the following pages avoid the idiom of poststructuralist literary analysis while retaining the modern critical emphasis on close textual examination and move incrementally from introductory‑level discussions of Zen thought in the early chapters to the more vigorously philosophical idiom of the Kyoto School of Zen Buddhism in the later sections. Pertinent to this effort is an interpretive strategy that seeks through occasional recursive examination to reflect, as well as to explicate, the transpositional logic of many‑in‑one and one‑in‑many that informs Emerson's prose and that drives Zen meditative, philosophical, and textual initiatives. This study attempts, therefore, to work from within the field of spiritual emptiness, endeavoring to offer, beyond the anticipated intellectual benefits of comparative analysis, a meditative alternative to conventional methods of modern readership as they affect the transcultural and interreligious exchange now occurring between Eastern and Western thinkers.

THE RED THREAD OF PASSION: Spirituality and the Paradox of Sex by David Guy ($23.95, hardcover, 257 pages, Shambhala, ISBN: 1570623597)

Is sex an enemy of spiritual practice, or a powerful and creative vehicle of enlightenment? THE RED THREAD OF PASSION describes a contemporary quest to understand the connection between the sexual and the spiritual. As a discussion of approaches to sexual healing discovered by the writer's exploration of sexual spirituality within an American cultural context, Guy gives us an account of Walt Whitman, D.H. Lawrence, Alan Watts and the lesser known but important gay writer, Marco Vassi. Guy then profiles some sexual spirituality advocates in and around the San Francisco Bay Area and how their practices  and opinions offer insights into the perpetual trial to integrate of spirituality and sexuality, eros with agape. Recommended as an introduction to some approaches to major topic in religion that is too often obscured by moralizing or pandering.  In THE RED THREAD OF PASSION, Guy strikes a journalistic balance.

THE RED THREAD: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality by Bernard Faure ($18.95, paperback, 324 pages, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691059977) HARDCOVER

Faure continues to offer some of the most critically stimulating excursions into the real social practice of Zen Buddhism. Not just devotee propaganda but a historically informed account of sexual attitudes in monastic practice in China and Japan.  Faure provides a cultural critique of sexual attitudes that should help correct false analogies of Buddhist monasticism with its western counterparts. Highly recommended.

In Chapter One, I draw from normative doctrine to examine a number of Buddhist hermeneutics of desire. In Chapter Two, I take a closer look at the Vinaya rules concerning "illicit" sex. In Chapter Three, I discuss various forms of Buddhist transgression and their subversive claims. Textual transgression does not always translate into social transgression, and in this context as in many others, the gender line remains the great divide. Chapter Four, opening the second part of the book, is a discussion of the discrepancy between monastic norms and ideals and what seems to be (at first glance) the social reality. Chapters Five and Six examine one specific Buddhist discourse on sexuality, in this case Japanese male homosexuality, or more precisely, "male love" (nanshoku). The first chapter and this is true for the rest of the book as well is not an attempt at a "cartography of desire," or even a Buddhist carte du tendre. It is not a map of Buddhist sexuality not even one of those premodern maps that leave many blanks, "virgin" lands for future intrepid explorers to fill but rather a Buddhism (and sexuality) ,a la carte. It is rather, to use the distinction between the map and the itinerary, an attempt at following a few paths in the diverse intellectual and cultural landscapes of my "own private" Buddhism place that, like Barthe’s Japan, is neither quite the same as nor different from the "real thing." It is only a cultural promenade, an intellectual peregrination, one which I hope will be stimulating to the reader’s appetite (or digestion). This work is to be read as a divertissement in other words, a very serious (and hygienic) activity.

Another caveat has to do with my references to Western sources. These references should not be misconstrued as a simplistic attempt at comparativism: they mean rather that, unlike some historians, I believe that my research has a subjective, transferential relation with its subject matter (object). In this subjective discourse about a constructed object, which also becomes a pretext (Buddhist sexualities), my own Western standpoint, as well as Western references or counterpoints, are constantly at work behind the scenes. If so, better to acknowledge it than deny it.

A shorter version of this text was published in French in 1994 under the title Sexualitis bouddhiques: Entre disirs et rgalitis. At that time, I followed the traditional (yet problematic) "three countries" model and tried to use examples from Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhism. In the process of rewriting this book, however, in the second half, in particular, I have privileged medieval Japanese Buddhism. This emphasis is in part due to personal circumstances (a recent stay in Japan), but also to the abundance of documents and the quality of recent historiography, as well as for reasons having to do with the historical specificity of Japanese Buddhism (at least in the context of sexuality and gender). It is indeed in Japan that one can most easily study the assimilation of Mahayana Buddhism to local culture. In that country, as in Tibet, although to a lesser degree, but more than in China or Korea, Buddhism became part of mainstream culture. Furthermore, the abundance of documents and the quality of recent historiography allow a much richer and complex study. This specificity, far from being the manifestation of some perennial Japanese "essence"as partisans of nihonjinron ideology claim was the result of a variety of historical "accidents" such as:

  • The systematic combination of Buddhism with local cults (through the so-called honji suijaku, or "essence-trace" theory) and culture (for instance, in the arts of entertainment, geino).
  • The extreme development of the notion of feminine impurity and the resulting exclusion of women from sacred places and events (temples, mountains, rituals, festivals).
  • The wide tolerance for monastic sex (nyobon) and the existence of married monks.
  • The development of the hongaku (innate enlightenment) theory, which paved the way to certain forms of antinomianism.
  • The elaboration of a state ideology based on Buddhist notions such as the identity of royal law and Buddhist Law and the medieval exegesis leading to the creation of a "sexual theology."
  • The tradition of male homosexuality seen as specific of Buddhist monastic culture.

PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATIONS ON ZEN BUDDHISM (Cambridge Studies in Religious Traditions, No 13) by Dale S. Wright ($54.95, hardcover, Cambridge University Press; ISBN: 0521590108)  This titles has become a surprise top-seller given its academic orientation. Wright offers one of the most engaging ways to approach Zen as a Westerner. Self-reflectively critical of the romancing mysticism of western Zen practice, Wright provides a gentle deconstruction of traditional attitudes and western popularizations with spry philosophical reasoning. Highly recommended.

This book addresses significant philosophical issues that arise in the Zen tradition of East Asian Buddhism as it has come to be transmitted to the West in the twentieth century. It focuses on the figure of the ninth century Chinese Buddhist master, Huang Po, whose recorded sayings exemplify the spirit of the "golden age" of Zen in medieval China, and on the historic transmission of these writings to the West in the work of the well-known English Asianist, John Blofeld. Outlining ways in which Blofeld’s understanding of Huang Po stands within the romantic tradition of western thought, these philosophical meditations make a bold attempt to articulate a postromantic understanding of Zen applicable to contemporary world culture. The book asks: how should we understand the roles of language and history in the Buddhist "enlightenment" of Huang Po? What do contemporary ways of thinking entitle us to think Zen enlightenment is, and how does this differ from the romantic account of "awakening" given by John Blofeld? If the Zen master, Huang Po, is described as living in ecstatic freedom, how should we understand the form that this freedom would take in realistic terms? If Huang Po’s enlightenment is described as a state of transcendence, what is it that we can now imagine the Zen master transcending?

The tension between traditional models of excellence (the results of prior activities of "going beyond") and the current act of going beyond those models through critical innovation is potent in its creative force. Positive idealization gives substance and concrete shape to the tradition; critical appropriation builds the tradition by pushing it beyond its old forms into further refinement or reformulation. Zen practice requires correlating these positive and negative functions so that they sustain each other over time.

Each practitioner had to do this on his or her own. Doing it, however, required "awakening." Only when stirred out of complacency do practitioners ask crucial questions. In the Zen tradition, one of the critical functions of the awakened masters like Huang Po was to expose the sleepy routines of everyday life, to show the ways in which even Zen discourse tended to objectify and substantialize the self, such that "the self " became a topic about which one could hold forth, all the while forgetting who it was that was holding forth. To counteract this tendency in discourse, Zen masters sought to force the self as "I" into manifestation, to bring the self out of its place of hiding within the language and customs of the tradition. When Huihai Tachu, the "great pearl," came to the master Matsu to study Zen, Matsu shocked him with the question, "why are you here searching when you already possess the treasure you’re looking for?" "What treasure?" In response to which Matsu replied: "The one who is right now questioning me."’ This was Ma tsu’s favorite line and the text has him present it to all of his students at precisely the right moment: the moment when, through prior cultivation, the "I" is prepared to emerge into self-awareness. This is about you, not "the self" in general, or some other self! Who are you, and what are you doing? When, on another occasion, Matsu was asked, "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?" he bent the inquiry back upon the asker: "What is the meaning of your asking at precisely this moment?"

As a question posed to modern, western interpreters of Zen, Matsu’s question could hardly be improved upon. What is the meaning of "our" asking at precisely this moment in our own history? Why are we interested, and what is the point of the modern western engagement with Buddhism? Asking these questions brings our own act of reading and thinking into view. Who are we, the ones who engage in these meditations across cultural and historical lines? These questions are crucial for the reflective reader of Zen Buddhism today. They are also similar to questions that Zen texts like Huang A sought to evoke in meditative readers of earlier times. The connection between these questions across historical eras is the focus on self-awareness. Thus we realize that when we are studying Zen, what we are also inevitably studying is … ourselves, regardless of when we are studying or why. And that, clearly, is the point of Huang Po’s Zen. Realizing this, and imagining the gleam in Huang Po’s eye, is all that it takes to bring these meditations to fruition.

Dale S. Wright is Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Program in Asian Studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles. His area of academic specialty is the philosophy and religion of East Asia. His publications focus on Buddhist philosophy, with particular attention to Chinese and Japanese traditions of Buddhist thought. He is coeditor, with Steven Heine, of The Koan: Text and Context in Zen Buddhism (forthcoming 1999).

Discover Meditation without Gurus

THE WOODEN BOWL: Simple Meditation for Everyday Life by Clark Strand ($19.95, hardcover, 224 pages; Hyperion; ISBN: 0786862866)

"I had a shaved head, an impressive set of robes, and was next in line to succeed my teacher, the temple’s abbot. . . But I no longer meditated in the way I bad been taught. Instead, I asked myself one question: Was there a way for people to slow down and experience their lives in the present moment without adopting a new religious ideology? Could meditation exist in a way that was merely human but nonetheless profound?"

After years of formal meditation practice, during which he left his wife, his home, and his career to become a Zen Buddhist monk, Clark Strand discovered that the path of meditation is not a journey outward, away from ourselves, but back to who and what and where we really are.

In THE WOODEN BOWL, Strand offers us all the richness, depth, and humor of his twenty years as a mediation, and of his apprenticeship under two Zen masters, one the abbot of an important monastery, the other an enigmatic recluse who gave no teaching apart from the inspiring simplicity with which he lived each moment of his life.

A book for anyone who has ever wanted to meditate but who felt no need for mantras or retreats to far-off monasteries, THE WOODEN BOWL offers a way of being present to ourselves, to nature, to other people without having to master complicated methods or adopt any special beliefs. "Each and every one of us is fully present already," writes Strand, "whether we realize it yet or not."

THE WOODEN BOWL gives clear, simple guidance on such subjects as finding your own meditation practice in daily life, organizing your own informal "present moment group," and avoiding the troubling preoccupations that often afflict many meditators: "Am I doing this right?" "Am I doing it enough?" "When am I going to get it?"

Strand presents meditation, for the first time, not as some unattainable Grail we search for but never find, but as something as simple and available as a wooden bowl. Useful, even beautiful, but most of all, familiar to the touch, THE WOODEN BOWL is the perfect guide for anyone interested in a personal and very profound way of meditating that is never too time-consuming, too rigid, or too difficult.

Clark Strand is a former Zen Buddhist monk and the author of Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey. In 1996 he left his job as senior editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review in order to write and teach full time. He now lives in the Catskill Mountains with his wife and two children.

THE RECORDED SAYINGS OF ZEN MASTER JOSHU by Chao-Chou, Joshu Jushin, translated by James Green ($25.00, hardcover, 184 pages, Shambhala ; ISBN: 15706241430) AltaMira Press Edition is identical to Shambhala's.

Joshu Jushin was one of the great Ch’an (Zen) masters of 8th-9th century North China. Many of the best-known koans originated with Joshu (including the famous "Does a dog have buddha-nature?"). His importance as a teacher can be measured by the prevalence of his sayings in the great koan anthologies of Zen literature: of the forty-eight koans collected in the Gateless Gate, five are Joshu’s and among the one hundred koans of the Blue Cliff Record, twelve are his.

This is the first complete translation of Joshu’s outrageous sayings, fanciful dialogues, and provocative poems, as well as records of his pilgrimages and a short biography. Green has done the English speaking Zen community a fine service.

Although Joshu’s life itself is an embodiment of the Zen ideal, it was his particular ability to express the true nature of enlightened mind in a pithy and succinct fashion that made his teaching so influential. His sayings and dialogues have been preserved in the Zen literature as timeless and potent expressions of the experience of enlightenment.

James Green is a Zen practitioner and scholar who spent many years as a monk. In the 1970s he was asked by the Japanese Zen master Keido Fukushimaroshi to translate this text and did so under the master’s guidance while in residence as a monk at Hofukuji monastery, Okayama, Japan.

THE ZEN PATH THROUGH DEPRESSION by Philip Martin ($19.00, hardcover, 146 pages, Harper San Francisco; ISBN: 0060654457) PAPERBACK

Since depression is a universal experience religious traditions traditions do offer non-medical ways to intervene. Martin's work is a personal account in how an Zen practitioner incorporates sitting with general depression. A psychiatric social worker having recovered from depression himself, Martin is a sympathetic voice, urging the reader not to escape from depression or fight
against it but to face it and work through it. He says that the mindfulness exercises appended to each short section of his book are optional, but they seem essential. It's true that the book could stand alone with its one- and two-page sections devoted to trenchant explorations of fear, death, sufficiency, choice. But the exercises bring you through the quagmire of depression and back into life. They are true experiences that untie knots impervious to thought alone. Instead of thinking your thoughts, you watch them, and where they can take you finally is back into joyful living. Martin's work lacks the Jungian and literary touches of John Tarrant's innovative Light Inside the Dark, though Martin's THE ZEN PATH THROUGH DEPRESSION offers a powerful alternative practical vision of how to cope through life's dark passages.

ZEN FLESH, ZEN BONES by Paul Reps, Nyogen Senzaki ($16.95, hardcover, Charles E Tuttle, ISBN: 0804806446) AUDIO CASSETTE EDITION (Ten Speed Press); POCKET PAPER EDITION (Shambhala) is a compilation of a life time of collaboration of Reps with Nyogen Senzaki to introduce Zen to Americans. The Zen stories recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries. The Gateless Gate is a collection of problems called koan that Zen teachers use in guiding their students toward release, first recorded by a Chinese master in the year 1228. !0 Bulls, or the oxherding pictures from the Chinese of a famous twelfth-century commentary upon the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment and is here illustrated by one of Japan’s best contemporary woodblock artists. Nyogen Senzaki, "homeless monk," exemplar-friend- collaborator" of Reps, delighted with him in transcribing the first three books. The fourth called "Centering," is a loose but inspired rendition of the classic meditation manual from Kashmir the Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness, a transcription of 112 Sanskrit sutras. It presents an ancient teaching, still alive in Kashmir and parts of India after more than four thousand years, that may well be the roots of Zen. Swami Lakshmanjoo, "that prescient man of Kashmir." guided Reps in these interpretations. Considering his stature as one of the last living exponents of Trika tradition or Kashmir Shaivism, Reps work deserves close study.

"The first Zen patriarch, Bodhidharma, brought Zen to China from India in the sixth century. According to his biography recorded in the year 1004 by the Chinese teacher Dogen, after nine years in China Bodhidharma wished to go home and gathered his disciples about him to test their apperception.

"Dofuku said: "In my opinion, truth is beyond affirmation or negation, for this is the way it moves." Bodhidharma replied: "You have my skin." The nun Soji said: "In my view, it is like Ananda’s sight of the Buddhaland seen once and for ever." Bodhidharma answered: "You have my flesh." Doiku said: "The four elements of light, airiness, fluidity, and solidity are empty [i.e., inclusive] and the five skandhas are nothings. In my opinion, nothing [i.e., spirit] is reality."

Bodhidharma commented: "You have my bones." Finally, Eka bowed before the master and remained silent. Bodhidharma said: "You have my marrow."

Old Zen was so fresh it became treasured and remembered. Here are fragments of its skin, flesh, bones, but not its marrow never found in words.

The directness of Zen has led many to believe it stemmed from sources before the time of Buddha, 500 B.C.E The reader may judge for himself, for he has here for the first time in one book the experiences of Zen, the mind problems, the stages of awareness, and a similar teaching predating Zen by centuries.

The problem of our mind, relating conscious to preconscious awareness, takes us deep into everyday living. Dare we open our doors to the source of our being? What are flesh and bones for?"

THE COMPASS OF ZEN by Zen Master Seung Sahn, Foreword by Stephen Mitchell ($20.00, paper, 394 pages, glossary, Shambhala Dragon Editions, Shambhala, 1-57062-329-5) 

An exceptional work by an important representative of the living tradition of Korean Zen Buddhism, THE COMPASS OF ZEN was not intended just for Zen students. According to Zen Master Seung Sahn, it was initially prepared with two purposes in mind: first, to clarify the bone of Buddhist teaching for anyone interested in understanding correct teaching; and second, to broaden the perspective of his own Zen students, that they might not remain conversant only with Zen-style teaching. It is said that this Zen master took great pains to remind his students to keep a very wide view of the Buddha’s teaching, and not let themselves be compartmentalized in their use of expedient means and just view the teachings in terms of Zen’s means. When someone asks him, in one of the talks from which this book is derived, why he, a Zen master, would present the teachings of Hinayana Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, he replies, "Go home and look in your medicine cabinet. How many medicines do you have there? Only one?" He encourages his students to keep this view: to understand the bone of Hinayana teaching and Mahayana teaching just as they would understand the bone of Zen.

For over twenty years, THE COMPASS OF ZEN was used within the Zen lineage established by Zen Master Seung Sahn in the West, the Kwan Um School of Zen. Initially the thirty-one-page root text was used by beginning students as a clear and simple map of the Buddhist teachings. It was also used to train dharma teachers and to test students during kong-an interviews. Although widely known within the Kwan Um School of Zen, it was seldom circulated outside the sangha. As the years passed, students began to ask the Zen master to comment on various subjects in the text. Zen Master Seung Sahn delivered several long series of talks on THE COMPASS OF ZEN beginning at the 1977 Dharma Teachers’ Yong Maeng Jong Jin, held in Providence, Rhode Island. In these talks he provided more detailed explanations of various aspects of the Buddhist tradition.

The present text is a compilation of several series of talks that Zen Master Seung Sahn has given on THE COMPASS OF ZEN since 1977. It is composed of lectures he gave at the Providence Zen Center (April 1988), Lexington Zen Center (May 1988), Hong Kong Zen Center (March 1993), Seoul International Zen Center at Hwa Gye Sah Temple (Winter Retreat, 1993-1994), Singapore Zen Center (Spring 1994), and Dharma Zen Center, Los Angeles (December 1995). This text also includes material translated for the first time from talks that Zen Master Seung Sahn delivered on THE COMPASS OF ZEN in his native Korean. Those talks were originally published in two books in Korea, Mountain Is Blue, Water Is Flowing and Moon in a Thousand Rivers, and translated by the editor exclusively for use in this text. Lastly, the present text includes material delivered by Zen Master Seung Sahn on various related subjects during his daily question-and-answer sessions with Zen students at the Seoul International Zen Center, Hwa Gye Sah Temple, from 1994 to 1996.

One of the most fascinating qualities of this particular Zen master is his extraordinarily spontaneous and almost limitless energy and his vigorous story telling style. This work is brimful of a masterful wit and playful wisdom. This text makes no pretense to being an academic treatise. It makes no claim to render any kind of scholarly veracity. Like the author who has delivered these talks, THE COMPASS OF ZEN is an uncompromising pointing at original nature that does not rely on polite expression. THE COMPASS OF ZEN treats the tradition and its teachings from the standpoint of purely enlightened insight, and doesn’t worry so much about convention. This is the way a Zen master teaches.


Just-like-this Is Buddha
The spirit remains clear and bright.
The six roots (senses) and six dusts (perceptions) fall away.
The original body remains clear constantly.
Speech and words cannot hinder it.
True Nature has no taint, and is already a perfect sphere.
Not attached to any thinking, just-like-this is Buddha.
The four elements [earth, fire, water, air] disperse as in a dream.
The six dusts [perceptions], roots [senses], and consciousnesses are originally empty.
If you want to understand the Buddha and the eminent teachers,
return to your original light:
The sun sets over the western mountains.
The moon rises in the east.

THIS IS A VERY famous poem. A long time ago in China, there was a monk named Shin Chang. When he was very young, he began study at a famous sutra temple. After three years of study, and still just a boy, Shin Chang passed all the highest examinations in the school. He was regarded as one of the most outstanding students of the temple’s master, Kye Hyon. He was also the one hundredth monk to be ordained by Kye Hyon, so Shin Chang was very special. The old master was not so interested in meditation, so he taught Shin Chang only sutras and expected the young monk to one day become a great sutra master and succeed him in the long lineage. In a few years, it was said that Shin Chang even surpassed his teacher and started to become a great scholar with a promising future. Master Kye Hyon had bright hopes for Shin Chang! However, the more Shin Chang read the sutras, the more he realized he didn’t understand himself. Gradually his mind grew attracted to the study of Zen.

One day, on the day the monks were graduating from sutra school, master Kye Hyon picked his three best students and offered them traveling money to pursue further studies for a period of three years. They could study whatever they wanted, anywhere in China. After the three years, they would come back and report on what they had learned. Then, Kye Hyon would give each of them transmission and they would teach in his school. The first student accepted the money and promised to study Confucianism. The second student promised to study Taoism. Finally it was Shin Chang’s turn. Though renowned as by far the most brilliant student in his class, Shin Chang waited until last.
"Master," he said, "I don’t like learning anymore. I don’t want to learn anything."
The master was taken aback by his bright student’s words. "What ?But that won’t get you anywhere. You are already well versed in the Sutras. I beg you to pursue more fruitful studies..."
But Shin Chang was very determined. "I am sorry, Sir. But I don’t want to study anything. I will only accept this three-year vacation that you offer."
The master, though sad, gave Shin Chang his consent and a small bag of traveling money. "Though it is not my wish, you may take a vacation. But You must learn something that you can bring back and teach to other people."
"Yes, Sir," Shin Chang said. "I will not let you down."

Shin Chang soon arrived in the community of the great Zen Master Pai Chang. He did very hard training. He already understood the Sutras. Now he only kept don’t know mind, with one hundred percent determination. After three years of hard practice, day and night, Shin Chang was finally enlightened. Though tempted to stay on in Pai Chang’s temple, he remembered his indebtedness to his old teacher who had ordained him and cared for him since childhood. He also remembered that his two classmates would be coming back to report to their teacher, as they had all agreed. So he packed his sack and returned to his master’s temple.

The three students all returned on the appointed day. After receiving them in his private quarters, the master began to ask after their studies. He asked the first student, "Did you study Confucianism?"
"Yes, I studied Confucianism."
"What did you learn from Confucianism?"
"I learned always to keep a correct relationship to others. I learned about my obligation to my parents, my teachers, and this whole world."
"Oh, that’s wonderful," the teacher said. "Congratulations on your study." Then he asked the second student, "Did you study Taoism?"
"Yes, I studied Taoism."
"What did you learn from Taoism?"
"I learned about this whole universe’s substance."
"Oh, that’s wonderful. Congratulations on your study."
Then the master came to Shin Chang. "What did you get these last three years?"
"Originally there is nothing, so I cannot get anything."
"What?" his teacher shouted. "Are you crazy? What did you do for the last three years while your two brothers studied so hard?"
"When I was tired, I slept. When I was hungry, I ate."
His teacher shouted at him, "You’re no good! Your two brothers both studied something, so they will become teachers. But you have done nothing but waste our money. So you must become my attendant!"
"Yes, sir," Shin Chang replied. I am sorry. I am sorry."
Every day, Shin Chang cleaned his master’s quarters. He prepared food, washed his teacher’s clothes, and did a lot of heavy work. He was always exhausted as night drew near, but he still found energy to do meditation long into the night. One day, the master ordered Shin Chang to prepare the bath for him, and asked him to scrub his back. While Shin Chang was scrubbing his teacher’s back, he muttered to himself, "The Buddha hall is wonderful, but its Buddha is not clear. . ." 
At these words, his teacher slowly turned his head to look at Shin Chang. Seeing this, Shin Chang continued, "Buddha is not clear, but he sure emits light!" With these words the master could feel something strike deeply into his heart, and he perceived dimly that Shin Chang was no longer an ordinary man. Something in this young monk had changed …

One morning a few days later, the master was in his room, intently studying a sutra. Shin Chang quietly swept the floor in the background, careful not to make any noise lest he disturb his teacher. Suddenly a bee flew into the room. It began loudly knocking itself against the rice paper window beside his teacher’s desk, trying to get out, even though the door was wide open beside it. Looking up from his work, Shin Chang said to himself, "The world is vast and wide. Why drill into this old paper?" After a few more moments, he composed the following lines aloud:

Ah, foolish bee!
Why use all your energy
Bouncing off rice paper like that,
When you can easily penetrate the empty gate?
Though you may drill rice paper for a hundred years,
Still you will never get out of the ocean of suffering.

Bent over his moldy sutra, the old master heard these words and was struck motionless. He slowly put the rice paper sutra back on the table next to his tub. His eyes met Shin Chang’s eyes: teacher and student remained like this in wordless contemplation of each other for several long minutes. After some time, the master said, "And here I thought you’d just squandered those three years … Please, during the time you were gone, what kind of study did you do?"

Shin Chang lowered his head. "Teacher, forgive me. I am sorry for my bad speech. In fact, while studying with Zen Master Pai Chang, I got something. Upon returning, I only felt pity for you still being engrossed in mere words and letters, without any interest in true study of the Great Matter. I knew you would not listen to my advice, so I decided to arouse your interest and desire for enlightenment with such crude words as these. Please forgive me."

"No, it is I who have been mistaken," the master replied. "Though for years you have been only my pupil, you are now a teacher to me in the study of Buddha Dharma. From now on you will teach me what you have learned." The master made this request while assuming a prayerful gesture. He ordered the great temple bell to be struck and had all the monks gathered in the Main Dharma. Hall for a talk.

Shin Chang climbed the high rostrum. All the great monks and novices bowed to him three times, and then he gave a dharma speech. "Zen Master Pai Chang always instructed us with these words," he said.

The spirit remains clear and bright.
The six roots and six dusts fall away.
The original body remains clear constantly.
Speech and words cannot hinder it.
True nature has no taint and is already a perfect sphere.
Not attached to any thinking, just-like-this is Buddha.
The four elements disperse as in a dream.
The six dusts, roots, and consciousnesses are originally empty.
If you want to understand the Buddha and the eminent teachers,
return to your original light:
The sun sets over the western mountains.
The moon rises in the east.

At these words, the old master was enlightened. With tears in his eyes, he bowed to his student for the profound teaching that he had received only now, at such an old age.

This important poem is originally the teaching of the great Chinese Zen Master Pai Chang. He says, "The spirit remains clear and bright. The six roots [senses] and six dusts [perceptions] fall away." These lines clearly describe the experience of emptiness, our original nature. "No eyes, no ears, no pose, no tongue, no body, no mind." The next lines "hit" sutra learning and all academic knowledge: "The original body remains clear constantly. Speech and words cannot hinder it." Intellectual understanding is not enough you must find your original body, your true nature, which remains clear constantly. It has no life and no death. If you attain this experience of emptiness, then you see that everything is already complete; therefore, "True nature has no taint and is already a perfect sphere." No matter what we ever do good or bad our original nature is always completely free of impurity and complete. There is no such thing here as original sin. Like a perfect sphere, our true nature has no beginning and no end. At this point, you see things exactly as they are. So, "Not attached to any thinking, just-like-this is Buddha."

The second half of this poem is very, very interesting. It contains the whole teaching of Hinayana Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Zen. It is like the Zen poem style which we talked about a little earlier. The first line says, "The four elements [earth, air, fire, and water] disperse as in a dream." This is Hinayana Buddhism’s teaching. We are living in a suffering world, a suffering dream. If you attain emptiness, or nirvana, all your suffering disappears.

The next line expresses the bone of Mahayana Buddhist teaching: "The six dusts [perceptions], roots [senses], and consciousnesses are originally empty." Everything is created by mind alone. Everything comes from your mind, which is already fundamentally empty and without self-nature. Whereas Hinayana Buddhism stops at this point of emptiness, or nirvana, emptiness is where Mahayana teaching begins. Everything is empty. Everything is without self-nature. Everything comes from your mind. The first two lines are merely an explanation of this point.

The third line is an important question. It can be rephrased as, "Where do the Buddha and all the eminent teachers return?" When you deeply ask this question, you get a don’t know mind. The experience of your mind before thinking is the place where the Buddha and the eminent teachers return! It is not somewhere other than your own mind. Then the last line expresses the complete view of truth, just as it is. "The sun sets over the western mountains. The moon rises in the east." The truth is just like this. That is an. If your mind is completely empty, it is like a clear mirror. just reflect the sun and moon.

By just reflecting, you attain moment world, which is simply truth. Just reflect. Your eyes reflect this world just as it is. That is the Buddha’s teaching. It is our true self. It is truth, correct Way, and correct life.

This whole poem explains our true nature, our primary point. [Hits the table.] Our true nature means Buddha nature. Yet that is just a provisional name for something that has no name. We can change these words quite easily. When I used to lead meditation retreats for the monks at the Gethsemani Monastery in Trappist, Kentucky, I never said the name "Buddha." That is a famous Catholic monastery, so why would we just talk about Buddha? During kong-an interviews with the monks there, I always read this poem as " Just-Like-This Is God-Nature." We changed the words. The lines "True nature has no taint. .." became "Our God-nature has no taint. . ." And the last line, which says, "Not attached to any thinking, just-like-this is Buddha," became " .. . just-like-this is God-nature." The Gethsemani monks were very happy, and we could all connect together. Because this point [hits the table] doesn’t depend on these words, we can change them. So these words are only an explanation of something which cannot be explained with any words or speech.

Other titles by Zen Master Seung Sahn include Bone of Space: Poems by Zen Master Seung Sahn, The Whole World Is a Single Flower: 365 Kong-Ans for Everyday Life (Tuttle Library of Enlightenment), Only Don't Know : The Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn, and Ten Gates; The Kong-An Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn. Some of the texts in these earlier editions are included in this Shambhala edition.

CHAN INSIGHTS AND OVERSIGHTS: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition by Bernard Faure ($45.00, cloth; 322 pages, Princeton University Press, 0-691-06948-4)


VISIONS OF POWER: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism by Bernard Faure, Phyllis Brooks, translator ($45.00, cloth; 329 pages, Princeton University Press, 0-691-003758-2)

THE RHETORIC OF IMMEDIACY: The Rhetoric of Immediacy, A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism by Bernard Faure ($17.95, paper; 400 pages, Princeton University Press, 0-691-02963-6)


Highly praised and severely criticized, Faure reopens the study of Chan/Zen theory and practice to a deconstructive social critique that flattens its own self-description with postmodern analysis. From the stark rationalism of the tradition we are given the living brew of tricksters, high jinx, and vanishing paradoxes. Faure writes with a social historical and structural self-consciousness that offers refreshing perspectives upon the significance of Chan/Zen Buddhism. In the rhetoric of immediacy: a cultural critique of chan/zen Buddhism and chan insights and oversights: an epistemological critique of the chan tradition Faure attempts to bring Chan/Zen thought and history into the same reflexive critical deconstruction that Western European thought has undergone. By so doing, Faure is attempting to bring Chan/Zen thought and history into the mainstream of postmodern thought. First as a cultural critique and then as a philosophical analysis of the paradoxes of the tradition, Faure works to revolutionize the study of east Asian Buddhism and religious studies. His most recent work, visions of power: imagining medieval Japanese Buddhism, Faure offers an intellectual biography of a Soto Zen master Keizan Jokin (1268-1325). He is portrayed here, less as an original thinker than as a representative of the Japanese religious ethos of his time. Faure uses his customary postcritical apparatus to engage and reveal the tensions and central paradoxes of Soto Zen. Issues of gradual and sudden enlightenment and the nature of rationality and of relics, are explored with his customary thoroughness. Enlightenment is generally thought of as being sudden. The meditators needs to be jolted awake, and the only one who can do this is his Zen master. The master-disciple relationship often involves private interviews in which the Zen trait of unconventionality sometimes comes to the fore. The master will allow no refuge in the Buddha or the sutras but demands from his disciple a direct answer to his assigned koan. Conversely, the master may goad the disciple by remaining silent or compassionately helping him out, but with the constant aim of trying to cause a breakthrough from conventional to absolute truth. These works will remain fundamental for some time to come. They bring Chan/Zen out of well ensconced mystiques of practice and story into the forefront of contemporary thought.

LIVING BUDDHA ZEN by Lex Hixon  ($15.95, paper; 255 pages, Larson Publications, 0-943914-75-2

Hixon became during his short life a one man interreligious phenomena. He was personally involved in Sufism, Buddhism, Yoga and earth-based spiritualities. His writings have shown great accessibility while at the same time penetrating insight and scholarship. His global perspective and fine volumes embracing Muslim and Buddhist mysticism will be valued and sought out by discriminate readers for years to come. In this volume Hixon provides commentary upon the koan tradition of Zen, by recreating the moments of enlightenment as the tradition evolved. This work opens up the meaning of Zen in a unique way while inviting the reader to entertain one’s own unique Buddha nature. Highly recommended.


The Posture of Meditation:

A Practical Manual for Meditators of all Traditions

by Will Johnson


$9.00, paper, 100 pages, line drawings


The Posture of Meditation illustrates that meditation requires the body as well as the mind. It is not strictly a mental activity. Will Johnson explains that the physical aspect is far too often underestimated and offers guidance and exercises for working with the posture of meditation and advice on how to carry its benefits into everyday activities.


A Zen Teacher’s 30-year Journey in Corporate America

by Les Kaye

Crown Trade Paperbacks

$14.00, paper, 169 pages, notes


A Zen teacher who balanced his commitment to Zen practice with a high-level business career shares the wisdom and practical experience he gained by integrating spiritual practice into the workplace.

Les Kaye started work as a design engineer with IBM in 1956. Five years later he began his 30 year sojourn of Zen practice. Now retired from IBM, he is the abbot of Kannon Do, a Zen meditation center in Mountain View, California.

For more than thirty years he maintained both a career at IBM, in a variety of technical and administrative positions, and an active and ever-deepening Zen practice. While at IBM, in fact, he grew from a novice to a Zen master. His example of devoted practice and business savvy offers an important model for the thousands of Zen students today. That such seemingly disparate worlds can mix, and how they can, is the central message of this book. With the clarity and warmth of a skilled teacher, Kaye weaves his explanations of impermanence, unity, mindfulness, enlightenment, and other basic Zen ideas with accounts of how he applied the teachings of Zen to his nine-to-five job at IBM, and how he found in work activities from the most rewarding to the most mundane path to greater spiritual understanding.


The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart

edited by Sherry Chayat

Shambhala Publications

$13.00, paper, 240 pages


"Maurine Stuart-roshi was much like these wonderful teachings: intelligent, clear, and crisp as a tart apple, yet profoundly compassionate, with that hard-earned simplicity which springs from the turmoil of examined life through unsparing reflection and devotion."—Peter Matthiessen

Maurine Stuart was one of the first American students of Soen Nakagawa Roshi and his dharma successor. An accomplished concert pianist as well as a Zen master, she was a founder and guiding teacher of the Cambridge Buddhist Association in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the years since her death from cancer in 1990, her reputation as a teacher of great practicality, humor, and compassion has grown far beyond her original circle of students.

From Subtle Sound:

There is nothing that is not sacred; nothing that is not spiritual practice. True Zen is carried on in the midst of activity. When we are cooking, we are in deep cooking samadhi. When we are cleaning, we are in deep cleaning samadhi. Samadhi is not a vacancy, a stupor, a spaced-out state of mind. It is a deeply awake, alert, vividly present condition- -and of course, it may be blissful. We may be so vividly awake we can hear the ash from the incense fall.
Last modified: January 24, 2016

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