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Zen Questions: Zazen, Dogen, and the Spirit…
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Zen Questions: Zazen, Dogen, and the Spirit of Creative Inquiry

by Taigen Dan Leighton

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201515,329 (3.63)5

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Six-word review: One minute of being a buddha.

Extended review:

This is exactly the sort of thing that I love about Zen:

Pay attention without judgments, or when making judgments, not making judgments about that, simply acknowledging a judgment about judgments without making a judgment about judgments. (page 54)

It's the paradoxical appeal of paradox. I can't resist it.

For the number of books I've read about Zen and the amount of instruction I've listened to, I probably ought to feel much more confident of my understanding than I do; and yet it isn't about achieving understanding (or anything else)--an attitude that Suzuki-roshi calls "gaining ideas" (ideas of gain) and this author labels "consumerism": trying to get something in return for our efforts. Rather, the focus of this book, if I dare to state my interpretation, is simply and completely "just sitting."

It's Taigen Leighton's way of presenting that, the teaching he imparts around it, that struck me in just the right way at just the right time with the reading of this book. I can't say whether it might do so for anyone else. That's my experience of it.

Serendipity led me to East West Books in Mountain View on July 5th. I hadn't been in the store in more than a year, and I hadn't sat with a Zen group in ten or more. I came out with a book (I always come out with a book), and this happened to be it. I don't even know what made me pick it up, other than the fact that I expect never to run out of questions, and so the title attracted me.

"Just sitting," he says, "is the subtle activity of allowing all things to be completely at rest just as they are" (page 26). Toward this end, he applies Bob Dylan's line "How does it feel?" and says this is a question to sit with. And so it proves to be.

Taigen Leighton's approach combines the scholarly, which I like and feel at home with, with the down-to-earth and practical, which I value, admire, and struggle with. He wants us to be present on the cushion, not engaging in what he calls "lobotomy Zen" or becoming "zafu potatoes."

When I began reading this book, I also began sitting again. I'm now trying to do so under the guidance he offers here, warding as best I can against the traps we set for ourselves, always coming back to the breath and relaxing into what is.

As Dogen may have said, "One minute of sitting, one minute of being a buddha." ( )
1 vote Meredy | Aug 11, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0861716450, Paperback)

Zen is about questioning. Zen continuously questions. This does not necessarily involve finding answers, but finding a space in which to sustain uncertainty, being willing to remain present and upright in the middle of investigations. Zen Questions begins by exploring "The World of Zazen," — the foundational practice of the Zen school — presenting it as an attitude of sustained inquiry that offers us an entryway into true repose and joy. From there, Leighton draws deeply on his own experience as a Zen scholar and teacher to invite us into the creativity of Zen awareness and practice. He explores the poetic mind of Dogen with the poetry Rumi, Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, and even "the American Dharma Bard" Bob Dylan. What’s more, Leighton uncovers surprising resonances between the writings of America’s Founding Fathers — including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin — and the liberating ideals at the heart of Zen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:29 -0400)

"Zen is about questioning. Zen continuously questions. This does not necessarily involve finding answers, but finding a space in which to sustain uncertainty, being willing to remain present and upright in the middle of investigations. Zen Questions begins by exploring 'The World of Zazen' ? the foundational practice of the Zen school ? presenting it as an attitude of sustained inquiry that offers us an entryway into true repose and joy. From there, Leighton draws deeply on his own experience as a Zen scholar and teacher to invite us into the creativity of Zen awareness and practice. He explores the poetic mind of Dogen with the poetry Rumi, Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, and even 'the American Dharma Bard' Bob Dylan. What ?s more, Leighton uncovers surprising resonances between the writings of America ?s Founding Fathers ? including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin ? and the liberating ideals at the heart of Zen" -- www.amazon.com… (more)

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