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Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  500 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
“Somebody comes into the Zen center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha statue, blows smoke in its face, and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?” This is a problem that Zen Master Seung Sahn is fond of posing to his American students who attend his Zen centers. Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a delightful, irreverent, and often hil ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 18th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1976)
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Ksenia Anske
Dec 14, 2016 Ksenia Anske rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If you want to learn about zen and laugh your ass off at the same time, this is a book for you. Actually, this is a perfect book for writers. On letting go. If you're blocked, it will get you unblocked. And if it won't, come to me and I will hit you with a stick thirty times and shout in your face: "KATZ!!!" That ought to do it. By the way, I'm buying it to reread in times of despair, and suggest you do too. As a bonus, it will turn your mind inside out and thoroughly empty it, and you will atta ...more
Feb 14, 2008 Bob rated it it was amazing
Favorite quote: You can take your dharma and shove it up your ass!
Jan 19, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it
A fun if sometimes bizarre read. Koan-intensive, lots of Seung Sahn focus, with some new information on Zen (from my perspective). /me slaps the ground.
Brian Park
Mar 01, 2010 Brian Park rated it it was amazing
An amazing book of Buddhist koans (kong-ans) taught by the late Seung Sahn. Seung Sahn is a Zen master and takes a very simple approach to his teaching, which makes this book especially accessible for the casual reader. To get the most out of this book, I'd suggest having some background info on Buddhism before delving in.

The book is a collection of lectures and conversations between Seung Sahn and his students. I got the impression that most of these occurred in between the late 60s and early 8
Dharmamitra Jeff Stefani
May 25, 2012 Dharmamitra Jeff Stefani rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any Buddhist, Zen Practitioners especially
• So, Here's the Scenario: "Someone comes into the Zen Center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha Statue, blows smoke in its face, and dops his ashes on the Buddha's lap. You are standing there. •What can/will You Do?"

•Wondrous Zen! The First book I was ever given, about the Dharma...and What an introduction it was! Albeit too bizarre, at the time. However, as things go in cycles, I would come back to this exact copy of "Dropping Ashes On The Buddha" (Original, first edition, paperb
Jan 11, 2009 Tsimplekelly rated it it was amazing
The Korean Buddhism that i learned about in the
Empty Circle Zen group in Hobart is based onthe teachings of Seung Sahn. I think this is a very good book to read to understand Seung Sahn, maybe not so much Buddhism.
May 17, 2007 Tahir rated it it was amazing
Cleared my mind
Jan 06, 2013 Darian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
beautiful book. every little story and letter had something remarkable to teach in a very new and fresh way.
Aug 09, 2007 Ted rated it it was amazing
The book that finally made sense of Zen koans for me.
David Birt
Jul 04, 2011 David Birt rated it liked it
I liked the opening discourse on the Zen circle. I have always been fascinated by koans. Must admit to getting fatigued though from being threatened with being hit 30 times in every interaction.
Jan 29, 2008 Phil rated it it was amazing
i like it so much, i got a tattoo of the cover
Apr 11, 2008 Spiderfingers rated it it was amazing
Collection of talks and letters between Seung Sahn and student that are short and easy to read. He addresses a lot of questions that come up for students in practice.
Jan 30, 2017 Samy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, spirituality
This book is a hard read, but I am so glad I finished reading through it. Unlike other spiritual books, this one isn't a guided instruction so much. Instead, the story here takes you through the riddles and 'questions and answers' the Zen master has with his students and those that approach him.

The biggest takeaway I got this book, is always to keep "don't know mind". "Don't know mind" in essence refers to the state of looking at the world, and yourself - without having preconceived notions. How
Ginger Leroy
Jan 21, 2017 Ginger Leroy rated it liked it
A very Zen book. KATZ!!!! Knowing you don't know. Not doing is doing.....get the picture?
Mar 06, 2017 T rated it it was ok

Attachment leads to suffering. Labeling is attaching.
Audrey Greathouse
Jun 07, 2016 Audrey Greathouse rated it it was amazing
This was the book that finally let me wrap my mind around Zen. I just finished it, and read it's page-long chapters one a day for months in order to slowly go through it and try to meditate on the teachings.

Eastern philosophy is really hard to grasp when you are coming from western civilization and a strong grounding in western philosophy. Unlike so many other books and discourses, Seung Sahn's traditional Korean teachings were distributed in America during the 1970s. He takes a fantastic legacy
Arun Jawarlal
May 29, 2016 Arun Jawarlal rated it it was amazing
Chapter 27. The Story of Won Hyo - This chapter moved me to tears. What seemed to be meaningless drivel at first made me sit up when this chapter came up. All the "KATZ" and "I will hit you 30 times" and "dry shit on a stick" repeating over and over was a bit annoying. The story of Won Hyo however gives us the essence of Zen Buddhism. Why is thought or the mind the disturber of peace, is in itself a great enlightenment. Then there is this poem from Soen-Sa:

"After so much suffering in Nirvanic ca
David Peirce
Dec 26, 2015 David Peirce rated it really liked it
"Zen is keeping the mind that is before thinking." I read a chapter or two or four of this book every week for several months during the second half of 2015. My intellectual self who is trying to understand and categorize Zen (and Buddhism in general) really loved his teaching in several chapters on different levels of enlightenment. Throughout, Master Seung-Sahn teaches the importance of practice while already possessing everything needed and without wanting to attain anything. It is one of the ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing
"If you are thinking, then all Zen books, all Buddhist sutras, all Bibles are demons' words. But if you read with a mind that has cut off all thinking, then Zen books, sutras, and Bibles are all the truth. So is the barking of a dog or the crowing of a rooster: all things are teaching you at every moment, and these sounds are even better teaching than Zen books."

"Within the village (of just like this) you must find your true home. Then, when you open the door, you will get it. It is only 'it is.
Jul 16, 2014 Troy rated it really liked it
I read this after coming off the heels of "Zen and the Birds of Appetite" which was fantastic. Being a big Stephen Mitchell fan girl, I was pretty excited to pick up this book to get an idea about the Zen training SM had received under Seung Sahn. Obviously this was much more Buddhist than "Birds of Appetite" as that was written by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk. I was confused throughout this book, but that is kind of the point. I figure even practiced Buddhists might scratch their heads at som ...more
Brittin Kemp
Mar 06, 2016 Brittin Kemp rated it it was ok
Shelves: bad
My review is with great attachment to the need for quality and the ability to understand its contents in a book. I was unable to get anything out of this book except for confusion. What is up with the hitting (as many reviewers have asked before me) and how is that in line with Buddhist teachings? This is a serious question. I am new to this quest for enlightenment. Perhaps I'm naive in my perception of Buddhism and that smacking people or threatening to smack them from simple inquiry is standar ...more
Aaron Gertler
Feb 05, 2017 Aaron Gertler rated it really liked it

Helped me feel unattached for a few hours, even in a very distracting environment. Wonderful accompaniment to the start of a meditation habit. Shows a side of the world that is easy, in these times, to forget about, but which was and is very real. Somewhat repetitive, but the form fits the content. Close to five stars.
Jul 18, 2014 Natalie rated it liked it
Shelves: newly-read-2014
And then I will hit you.

I suppose my fixation on the hitting aspect of the book is more an indication of my attachment to it than anything else.

I'll re-read this book in the future for sure, as I think this book would benefit from multiple re-readings, but it's just not where I am right now. If I understand the whole 360 degree no mind thing correctly, I'm not sure Zen Buddhism is for me. I'd been reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh, but this is something quite different.
Mubarak bin Jerusalem
Jan 23, 2014 Mubarak bin Jerusalem rated it really liked it
I've been dabbling in Buddhist texts all of my life. This a great forgotten book. I would give it five stars if I could find any faith more than mammalian reaction to death. For the enlightened Buddhist I am sure this is an instant five star. For me it is a great find, a class of its own, but nothing I can live by, for I don't really live by anything save fate and some nimble fingers, crossed by nocturne.
Nov 09, 2011 Dale rated it it was ok
Reading this book is like getting hit by a speeding hybrid in the dark. You don't see it coming, don't hear it coming and in the end you're left plastered on the ground wondering what the hell just happened. I'm not sure if the Buddha is three pounds of flax or dried shit on a stick, but please don't hit me 30 times. KATZ!
Oct 17, 2015 Liz rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It was meh. Too many riddles and I was too tired at night to dissect them. I'll keep it on the shelf for later on when my brain isn't so fried. (I realize this means I should make MORE time for meditation and learning, but alas and alack, the American system of work and parenting does not allow it.)
K. M.
Aug 23, 2015 K. M. rated it it was amazing

The grass is green, the sky is blue.
Kyle Holgate
Jan 01, 2016 Kyle Holgate rated it it was ok
Interesting, but not a whole lot you can take away if you don't practice Zen.
Rickard Godzkilla
Sep 11, 2013 Rickard Godzkilla rated it really liked it
good toilet read
Jun 23, 2014 Michele rated it it was ok
Meh, call me a Western schlump, but what's with all the hitting? Cannot get past that. Yoda, I dig. Corporal punishment as heightened awareness, not so much.
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Katz ! 1 3 Mar 29, 2013 11:09AM  
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Stephen Mitchell was educated at Amherst College, the Sorbonne, and Yale University, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. He is widely known for his ability to make old classics thrillingly new, to step in where many have tried before and to create versions that are definitive for our time. His many books include The Gospel According to Jesus, The Second Book of the Tao, two books of fi ...more
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“Once Seung Sahn Soen-sa and a student of his attended a talk at a Zen center in California. The Dharma teacher spoke about Bodhidharma. After the talk, someone asked him "What's the difference between Bodhidharma's sitting in Sorim for nine years and your sitting here now?"

The Dharma teacher said, "About five thousand miles."
The questioner said, "Is that all?"
The Dharma teacher said, "Give or take a few miles."

Later on, Soen-sa asked his student, "What do you think of these answers?"
"Not bad, not good. But the dog runs after the bone."
"How would you answer?"
"I'd say, 'Why do you make a difference?' "

Soen-sa said, "Not bad. Now you ask me."
"What's the difference between Bodhidharma's sitting in Sorim for nine years and your sitting here now?"
"Don't you know?"
"I'm listening."
"Bodhidharma sat in Sorim for nine years. I am sitting here now."

The student smiled.”
“Here is a poem for you: The candy peddler is ringing his bell, and the child cries to its mother. Money becomes candy and candy becomes money. Money goes into the peddler's pocket, and candy goes into the child's mouth and is sweet.” 1 likes
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