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Essential Zen (Essential (Booksales)) (edition 1997)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0785807217, Hardcover)In the introduction to Essential Zen, the editors remark in very Zen-like fashion that this book cannot rightly claim to represent anything "essential" at all about their subject; for how can mere writing bring readers to the heart of a teaching that lies "outside words and letters"? The essential Zen in book form, they say, would "more likely consist of blank pages; a reader fills them in. Or not."
But what a blessing that Tanahashi and Schneider, like others in Zen's long and prolific literary tradition, have nonetheless decided to spill a little ink and attempt to point toward that which cannot be told. In this lively little volume, they bring together some treasures of classical and contemporary wisdom that capture the enigmatic soul of Zen. Included are familiar works from classical masters--haiku by Japanese poet Basho, stories from philosopher Dogen, poems by Chinese recluse Hanshan, and koans and meditations by monks and nuns dating from the 5th century. And placed alongside "on equal footing" with the works of venerated Asian teachers are writings by contemporary Westerners--from poet Gary Snyder to students from Zen centers around the United States and Europe--emphasizing the fresh spirit or "nowness" of the tradition. At turns deeply serious, poignant, and humorous, the selections cover a wide range of concerns, from the inevitability of death to the importance of environmental stewardship. But all have in common a rootedness in the physical present while recognizing its fleeting nature; there is a freedom, they seem to say, that comes in appreciating but not clinging to the things of this world. Each piece is presented "clean," without accompanying commentary, but the editors' excellent endnotes give valuable biographical information and background on unfamiliar concepts. More than an accessible introduction to Zen for Westerners, this is a collection to be read for its insight into what it means to be human in a changing world. --Uma Kukathas
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:10 -0400)
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