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Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  5,592 Ratings  ·  181 Reviews
When Zen Flesh, Zen Bones was published in 1957 it became an instant sensation with an entire generation of readers who were just beginning to experiment with Zen. Over the years it has inspired leading American Zen teachers, students, and practitioners. Its popularity is as strong today as ever.
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a book that offers a collection of accessible, primary
Mass Market Paperback, 175 pages
Published 1961 by Doubleday Anchor (first published 1957)
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Community Reviews

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Sanjay Gautam
Jun 17, 2012 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.
Feb 08, 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.
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 23, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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
Joan DeArtemis
Apr 24, 2011 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
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
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
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
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.
Niamh Dempsey
This was a strange one. I found the Zen tales at times amazing - one sent shivers down my spine and utterly stopped my mind. The rest of the time I was puzzled, bemused and oddly infuriated!

I loved the Kashmiri Shaivism text at the end - beautiful, concise, a lifetime's worth of wisdom teachings :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jun 09, 2017 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published in the 50's, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a collection of four books, most of which are collections of koans - basically micro stories with the point of leading the reader to enlightenment (whatever that means).

The first section, "101 Zen Stories," I enjoyed very much. I would read two or three of the stories, and then one would stick with me for whatever reason, and I'd stop reading for a while and think on it. Then, I'd stumble on one that was so baffling and over my head, I'd
Larry Littany Litt
This was my first introduction to Zen koans when in my teens. The idea that there are unanswerable riddles except for the reader's own answer was a mind blowing concept. This was about the same time I discovered Beatnik poetry. Pretty much ruined my relationship to traditional Western religious learning. Some of the koans are used today for teaching 'out of the box' commercial thinking. If you want a good place to start studying Zen mind games this is it. It's a delight to know that even today t ...more
Glen Leavens
Review of Zen Philosophy. Interesting.
Mar 12, 2017 Phanindra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful Zen collection that is a refreshing read! I particularly enjoyed the "101 Zen stories" and the "10 bulls" sections. The "Gateless gate" has several Koans, most of them defying logic and difficult the understand (that is actually the purpose of a Koan, to go beyond intellectual understanding). "Centreing" lists 112 meditation techniques told by lord Shiva to Parvathi and forms the text "Vignan Bhairava tantra". I found the text mentioned in some Yogic traditions. It is interesting to ...more
Teo 2050
(view spoiler)
Tom Schulte
Aug 02, 2013 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it
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
Bogos Kalemkiarian
Mar 14, 2017 Bogos Kalemkiarian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: third-eye
Possibly the best book to come out in the 60's counter-culture era about Zen, Tantra etc. without any of the bullshit.
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
Sep 15, 2016 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up Zen Flesh, Zen Bones probably close to 10 years ago with a mild interest in Buddhism and meditation and I was both promptly and appropriately deflected by a koan. Armed with a willingness to accept my own uncertainty this time around, this book was a much more pleasant read, but still it has its hitches. It’s divided into four sections: “101 Zen Stories,” “The Gateless Gate,” “10 Bulls,” and “Centering,” and they all offer distinct perspectives for considering existence and enlighten ...more
Bob Cline
This book is an introduction to Zen writings. It consists of Zen koans and stories as well as the Ten Bulls-a series of woodcuts and poems illustrating the path of Zen.
Jan 27, 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
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  • Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings
  • The Three Pillars of Zen
  • Moon In a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen
  • Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen
  • Taking the Path of Zen
  • The Heart Sutra
  • The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma
  • Everyday Zen: Love and Work
  • Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy
  • The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-Neng
  • Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
  • Zen: The Path of Paradox
  • Zen in the Art of Archery
  • Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice
  • Master Dogen's Shobogenzo
  • Nine-Headed Dragon River: Zen Journals, 1969-1982
  • The Lotus Sutra
  • The Blue Cliff Record

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“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.”
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