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Masao Abe: A Zen Life of Dialogue

by Donald W. Mitchell

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This volume contains a compilation of essays examining the life and work of Masao Abe, considered to be one of the greatest Zen Buddhist teachers of the 20th century.

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I bought this for six dollars and ninety-five cents from a place called Downtown Books. Right up front, I will tell you, I had never heard of Masao Abe. Apparently, he had a large influence on popularizing the Kyoto School of Zen Buddhism in the West. Since this book was published 20 years ago as of this review, I assume that the man is dead now. Although, the Japanese are a people with good longevity, so he could still be around at 105 years old.

As the blurb on the back mentions this book is a collection of essays written by various authors from different walks of life. Some of them have specialties in Japanese Literature, some of them are followers of the path of Zen Buddhism, all of them are pretty well done. The essays are organized by theme. Some of them discuss the life and times of Masao Abe, others discuss his work in philosophy. More than anything, Abe was a builder of bridges. He attempted to foster relationships and develop discussions between Eastern and Western schools of thought. In some cases he was successful and in others, the Western Schools didn’t know what he wanted of them. Apparently, they thought that it was only for people that had studied Buddhism or had some grounding in the practice of it, while Abe was perfectly happy to have a total neophyte talk about it from a Western perspective.

I don’t really know what I expected from this book when I bought it, but I supposed it would be in the vein of a biography or autobiography. I did not really expect it to be a series of essays, but there isn’t really a problem with this format as it is. It makes it seem like a less formal affair and that seems appropriate for the subject matter somehow.

In any case, this book was pretty good considering my expectations and experiences. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
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