Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings” as Want to Read:
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,151 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
Paperback, 175 pages
Published December 20th 1960 by Doubleday (first published 1957)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sanjay Gautam
Dec 28, 2015 Sanjay Gautam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's one of my all time favorites. I have read and re-read this book countless times. And I absolutely loved it every time I read! Zen Flesh and Zen Bones is a compilation of zen koans, and stories.

A Koan is a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning; and provoke enlightenment.

What is the sound of clap by one hand?

From a rational or intellectual perspective, it’s not easy to make sense of such a puzzle. Some pe
Sep 05, 2011 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, favourite
Interpreting the meaning of Zen is difficult at the best of times, and from what I know of it, I’m not even sure that intellectualising it is the best way to go anyway. Therefore, I’m just going to list a couple of my favourite Zen kōans from the 101 Zen Stories, and then try to explain how they affect the way in which I attempt to live my life.

The Moon Cannot be Stolen
Ryokan, a Zen Master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the
Jul 15, 2007 Sabio rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
Zen is allusive.
Zen uses too many unnecessary contradictions.
But their hopes are that such techniques awake the deluded mind.
Nonetheless, I think people just get heady about the writings and forget how simple buddhist psychology is. Thus they get intellectual and cute and use that as another blanket of self-deception.

This has lots of fun stories, but it is not the Buddhism I am most fond of.
I must say I have been tempted by such trips though.
JT Neville
May 03, 2009 JT Neville rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all time favorites. Every copy I own is well worn. I love how the stories don't state anything, but leave it up to you to interpret. The moon can not be stolen and A Parable are two of my favorites.
Feb 09, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: No one.
"My review/What I learned from this book?"

I think the most appropriate answer would be "nothing".

I think it's on my shelf if you want it.
Feb 23, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 07, 2015 Suba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has in one way or another whispered itself into American culture with its Zen stories and pithy teachings. The very first story we get is a cup too full – how are we to receive when we are filled with opinions and beliefs.

Another classical story from this collection is of the two monks walking down a path and one helps a lady. After a while the other monk asked the first why he touched the pretty lady, and the first monk replies, I left the girl back there, "are you still carrying her
Mar 12, 2009 David is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I like it so far..., but I'm not to attached to it.
Joan DeArtemis
Aug 09, 2015 Joan DeArtemis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zen
You do not need to be a Buddhist for this book to work its magic on you. All you need is an open mind, and the desire to find a more peaceful way to be in the world. Here is how I use this book:

Every morning, before I even get dressed, I light a stick of Japanese incense and read a single koan. I sit and meditate on that koan for some period of time (often only 5 minutes), and then I go about my day. But, I try to remember that koan, and I think about it all day. I try to find ways that this day
Goran Powell
Dec 09, 2009 Goran Powell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zen
A collection of classic short pieces on Zen – often no more than a paragraph or two – which offer a good insight into the enigmatic nature of Zen writing. The book begins with 101 brief Zen stories, followed by the ‘Gateless Gate’ a further collection of thoughts, anecdotes, parables and Koans (Zen puzzles) designed to attune the student’s mind to enlightenment.

The classic ‘10 Bulls’ is also featured – an illustrated account of a bull-hunt that symbolises the ascending stages of awareness – as
Sep 06, 2015 Johanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jotkut tarinat avautuivat paremmin, toiset huonommin. Joka tapauksessa ne herättivät paljon ajatuksia ja ruokkivat todennäköisesti enemmän alitajuntaa. Hieno kirja ja ehdottoman viihdyttävä. Kyllä silloin ennenkin tarinoita osattiin kirjoittaa.
May 24, 2016 Rachelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great collection of Zen writings, which may or may not enlighten you on the subject. It did contain classic Zen stories and koans, and I really enjoyed reading it.
Just as the subtitle says, this book is divided into four parts, each expressing Zen Buddhist writing in a different format. I have read a fair amount of writing on or about Zen, and this is probably the only book I would strongly recommend to everyone interested. The only other book on this caliber would be The Zen Monastic Experience, but that was not about Zen literature but Zen monks' lifestyle and practice.

One of my former coworkers gave this to me as a going away gift, saying it changed h
Jenifer Mary Rune
I am not a student of Zen, but I enjoyed this collection. I recently took it on a bike tour with my partner, and we read from the 101 Zen Stories and The Gateless Gate together in the evenings. What we read left us both in a state of wonder and curiosity - and sometimes laughter and puzzlement. There aren't any interpretations in this book. No philosophical musings, no preaching or teaching. There are stories of book burnings, cat heads, irritable nuns, clueless intellectuals, and stingy artists ...more
Mark Darrah
Sometimes less is more.

This collection of stories, koans, and teachings provides a glimpse of Zen to English readers without adornment. Elegant and confounding in its simplicity, this book shares the experiences of Zen, stages of awareness, and mind puzzles to prompt awareness beyond words. The editors have wisely refrained from attempting to draw universal conclusions providing their insights or personal directives.

The book is a treasure. It's only 224 pages long but provides material for a li
Rob Errera
Feb 28, 2014 Rob Errera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. First published in 1957, the book remains a comprehensive and relevant introduction to Zen philosophy. According to the publisher:

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is ... a collection of accessible, primary Zen sources so readers can struggle over the meaning of Zen for themselves. It includes 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers ove
Mar 22, 2014 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book almost than 25 years ago now and found it often baffling, which is the point, I suppose. Regardless of how puzzled I was, I also saw shining, wonderful beauty. There is also a good deal of humor readily grasped even by those of us who, like myself, aren't going to become Zen masters any time soon.

The book is divided into four main sections. The first is a collection of 101 Zen stories which makes up roughly half of the book. Because the stories are short, often no more tha
Feb 05, 2015 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book along with the Dhammapada were my first introduction to Buddhist writing.

I was 14 years old when I was looking to the punk rock culture for personal liberation. I met an older teenage/early twenties guy on the train who was clearly punk rock. He was reading Zen Flesh Zen Bones and I asked him about it as an in to talking with a 'real punk'. He said something about his spiritual path and that he thought reading the book 'seemed to be helping'. At the time there were several street punk
Steve Malley
Jan 05, 2011 Steve Malley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not that Zen fits in a book, but this is the best work I've ever found on the subject. The hardcover, boxed-set presentation seems a bit much for me, but maybe that's just because I still remember the battered old paperback edition I carted around everywhere until some long-ago girlfriend 'borrowed' it. There was something lovely and humble about that paperback, more fitting with the book's parables and lessons.
Dec 06, 2008 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a small pocket version of this text. It is one of the few books that I read over and over again. I love the simple wisdom and the stories that make life so much more clear. I love the sayings that don't make any sense or those that do but only if I don't concentrate very hard.
Worth the read but not as inspiring as I'd hoped for. Seemingly a fine collection of anecdotes to encapsulate different aspects of zen history and thought.
I took many pages of notes and quotes, including these sections:

"Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever-blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive."

"Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Sinc
Eddie Black
Dec 21, 2008 Eddie Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read half of this 10 years ago. I gave it away as a gift to a stranger who came into the bar I worked at who i found out had cancer and who I later found out had given her copy to a friend in need.
Oct 21, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A collection of several different writings, a must book for new students of Zen, a recommended for students of philosophy. Nice because you need not read from start to finish. You can pick this book up, read a section (except for the "The Ten Bulls") and put it down for a month (ergo, a good bathroom read for those of you who partake of that disgusting habit :-) ). The first section is a collection of short parables that can be read in any order. This is probably the most interesting section for ...more
Lets ignore the silly title.

A collection of Zen writings. Some of the stories in the first version I've heard in many iterations, including Hindu ones. I'm not sure about the chronology of some of it, but some of it is clearly late, like even post ww2. Thats find though, the first set of initial stories is thought provoking, or non-thought provoking as it were.

The Gateless Gate continues on some of the ideas from the first story, and gives a good overall vibe of the teachings of Zen. Namely, acc
Tom Schulte
Aug 17, 2013 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always feel elated, wiser - "enlightened" when I read Buddhist texts. This is actually a few texts in one slim volume. Two have commentaries: "The Gateless Gate", my favorite for hints of a vast and colorful Buddhist history and the zings on the old masters, and 10 Bulls. Thanks to the latter, I finally understand the Cat Stevens album name "Catch Bull At Four".

The first book is 101 Zan Stories and introduces the "dance like no one is watching" attitude and simple wisdom, such as in "My Heart
Amit Pagedar
Jun 23, 2016 Amit Pagedar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredible book, and I have listened to it a few times now. Every time you listen you understand something more, but you cannot quantify what you understood. There is no actionable wisdom in this book, such as, "Do this to get that", but it overflows with moment of silence. The book has the capacity to make you stop thinking and just let the words penetrate your mind and soul.

This book is a must for any person who is interested in meditation or Zen.

Aug 28, 2010 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
"Zen Flesh" is a solid compilation of short Zen stories, anecdotes, and koans. The first part of the book, "101 Zen Stories" has a lovely range, and will give even a novice reader a good taste of Zen. The second part, The Gateless Gate (or "Mumonkan"), is the classic compilation of Koans, beginning with "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" Because some of the koans contain cultural references that require some explication, you might be better off reading the same material in Yamada's version ( http: ...more
Darlyn Valencia
Jun 04, 2014 Darlyn Valencia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book three times and will surely go through it again!! I never get tired of it. If you're into meditation or reading other books on Buddhism and then you read this again in between, you will find new layers unfold with the short stories in this book that you didn't see before. It's special for its humor, the large whales between the lines, simpleness, and beautiful passages open-endedly complete.
Francis O'Neill
This is a best-selling collection of enlightenment stories, anecdotes, and koans of Zen literature.

This wonderful book actually includes four books: 101 Zen Stories – anecdotes and enlightenment stories of the great masters; The Gateless Gate – forty-eight Zen koans to awaken the mind to enlightenment; The 10 Bulls – depicting the ten stages of awareness (shades of Catch Bull at 4 by Cat Stevens); Centering – offering a four-thousand-year-old Sanskrit text that may well be one of the roots of Z
Oct 08, 2014 TigressLea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's one of my beloved books I keep coming back to. It's not a book you can just read through, you need time to digest what you've just read, to take it in, meditate on it, before you can continue. It's equally relevant for those new to zen and those who've studied it for years.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings
  • The Three Pillars of Zen
  • Taking the Path of Zen
  • Moon In a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen
  • Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen
  • The Heart Sutra
  • Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
  • Everyday Zen: Love and Work
  • The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma
  • Nine-Headed Dragon River: Zen Journals, 1969-1982
  • Zen Training: Methods And Philosophy
  • The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-Neng
  • The Way of Zen
  • Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice
  • Master Dogen's Shobogenzo: 1
  • The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind
  • Buddhist Scriptures
  • The Compass of Zen

Share This Book

“14. Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unble to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carriedher over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he could no longer restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?”
“If the feet of enlightenment moved, the great ocean would overflow; If that head bowed, it would look down upon the heavens.
Such a body has no place to rest. . . .
Let another continue this poem.”
More quotes…