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Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life
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Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  209 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Bring Me the Rhinoceros is an unusual guide to happiness and a can opener for your thinking. For fifteen hundred years, Zen koans have been passed down through generations of masters, usually in private encounters between teacher and student. This book deftly retells more than a dozen traditional koans, which are partly paradoxical questions dangerous to your beliefs and ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Shambhala (first published October 19th 2004)
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Honestly, I think whether you identify as a Buddhist or not, there is something in this book for you. Maybe you'll find your first koan (or it will find you).

This one took me awhile, not because it's long, or particularly difficult, but because there was a lot there, and I wanted to spend some time with it, and I reread certain parts two or three times. This was my introduction to koans and koan practice. I've been a Buddhist for around four years, and I felt like my practice needed something to
I've read and wondered at koans before - wondered how seekers find meaning in the "sound of one hand clapping," and how long it takes them to find *the* answer. After reading Bring Me the Rhinoceros I realized that koans are like a shorthand for a longer story. In their truncated form, they act as a reminder of certain truths, and presumably one gets to hear the longer version before one entering into contemplation. And if not, now there's this book which can help guide you on your path to enlig ...more
I happened upon this book by accident, and it turned out to be one of the most unique reading experiences I've ever had. I found it by walking down an aisle in the library and realizing I was in the religion section. I had always had a curiosity about Buddhism, so I checked this one out along with a few others. Bring Me the Rhinoceros had such an odd title and a lofty promise (to bring me joy through something called a "koan") that I quickly ended up spending most of my time reading it.

I found o
Frank Jude
So, I'm not a fan of koan contemplation per se as practiced in Rinzai lineage zen. And I've not ever engaged in it as a practice. But I do like to "contemplate" koans in a less structured way -- and without the (often) egoic and heroic vigor encouraged by many within the Rinzai/Hakuin tradition.

That said, John Tarrant offers an intimate, rather down-to-earth, free (for the most part) of esoteric obfuscation approach to koan study and practice in this wonderful collection of 14 koans. Of course,
Jun 01, 2015 Mel rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mel by: Aaron
Shelves: non-fiction
I think this would be a good book if you didn't read it like I did. It's not to be read like a normal book. I think you should read each section and then mull it over for a month. I enjoy zen koans, but this book was just too much for me because I tried to read it all at once. And so many of the koans made no sense to me--of course, like Tarrant says, the koans comes to you not the other way around.

On the other hand, Tarrant does a decent job of explaining his takes on the koans. Even though I f
This book was OK. There did not appear to be any great insights or moving sections. It offered a rational explanation for about a dozen koans with the authors own life experiences as a backdrop. It is OK to read if you want a healthy dose of anecdotal experiences with Zen interpretations.
I thought I understood Zen and Koans until I read this book. I then discovered how little I did know.

This is an excellent book for anyone that is beginning or in an intermediate stage of the study of Zen. Though it is John Tarrant's journey into the world of understanding koans, he explains how you can learn to understand them and use them in your everyday world.

He also does much to dispel the notion of a follower of Zen being someone who sits and meditates all day long. By making the koan a par
The book seeks to help the reader study koans without the help of a Zen master. This is a lofty goal and, I'm afraid, the goal was not quite achieved.

John Tarrant's writing style was very warm and instructive and reading the book was quite easy. He captured the challenge of working with koans well. Unfortunately, I think individual experiences in working with the koans vary too much for a book to be as much help as an actual person could be. If Tarrant starts a correspondence course for people
Jun 17, 2012 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: spirit
This is a premature review because I'm only on chapter three but, this book arrived yesterday in the mail as a random present from my Dad. Yesterday was an unusually frustrating day, and by the end of it I was pretty wrapped up in irritation bordering into righteous anger.

I started reading with a pretty distracted mind, more with hopes of being put to sleep than anything else. Suddenly, two chapters later I found myself outside for a pee break, giggling out loud at the inanity of my emotions. My
John Nondorf
Quick read, but one that will stay with me for a while. Lots of wisdom in those pages.
I found Bring Me the Rhinoceros useful. If human beings have a natural ability to make bad situations worse, this book left me with some real tools for how not to do that. Through the use of koans and anecdotes of real scenarios he has lived through the author shows how to not add one's own expectations to a difficult situation, that is how to create harmony by not needing anything to be different. I felt he was successful in conveying what this would look like and why that was less painful for ...more
Jim George
Simplistic koans, messages to wrap your thoughts about - or not. Everything happens without needing me to do anything. Ordinary mind is the way, there is no need to add or take away from what is going on. Usually people work hard to make something happen, yet it might be that things happen by themselves. Nothing is wrong, there is no flaw. What makes a human life real and beautiful is available in every place. Little tidbits of life to meditate on.....grasshopper!
Feb 22, 2012 Jane rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is an amazing book, unlike any book about Zen that I've ever read. The koans are as mysterious and cryptic as I expected but John Tarrant's writing about them is simple and lucid. I need to own the book so I can read it again and again. I love my fictions, the stories with which I narrate my life. This book comes as close as any every has to convincing me that I would be blessed and relieved to let them go.
Michael Shube
Best book on zen I've read
Sara Miller
Just….interesting. At first I only felt so-so about it, but then with every koan came a real life issue I had and I grew to have a companionship with it. Pretty enjoyable read, it wasn't dry or anything, but I think I need to read it one more time to get the full effect of what he was trying to accomplish.
Loaned to me by a dear friend, this is one of the best books I have ever read. Plan on reading a chapter at a time and then arguing with it, talking yourself out of it, being mad at me for recommending it, meditating on it, and then hoping it will stay with you forever, and then diving into the next chapter!
Judy Kuhn
Wise, wonderful, imaginative, compassionate; in true Zen tradition, Tarrant causes us to look at presumptions we never knew we had, using koans as gentle prods. This is lovely stuff. I read it over and over. You can read more Tarrant at his online koan course at
Fred Sampson
Tarrant gives a rare gift with "Bring Me the Rhinoceros" -- the lesson that koans are not ancient dusty inaccessible mysteries, but are instead open to discovery through our own daily lives. I now feel prepared to take on a few koans for myself, to uncover their meaning in my life.
Smart. I love how John explains how to think of Koans. Th explanations don't give anything away, but help you to really think of Koans in a useful way... applicable to all live. John Tarrant is an excellent teacher.
Tarrant is one of the most interesting/accessible contemporary Zen teachers IMHO. The commentary in Chap 12 on the "Bodhisattva's Great Mercy" (Blue Cliff Record case #89) really spoke to me.
difficult but worth the effort for me.
koans are impossible questions or statements whose
aim it is to change consciousness and wake one up.

john tarrant has a very user friendly style.
Joe Hunt
This book is fun! [and, you know, insightful:].

What a great title.

(I've got to find the one I have, with "The Sound of One Hand Clapping." Pretty fantastic.)
I'll be returning to this book over and over again. These koans are so full of wisdom and perfect for a rich meditation practice.
Challenging, but fun. A little rambling, but most Zen books purposefully introduce a certain degree of incoherence, right?
Bryce Cason
Unbelievable. Life-changing. Too good. Beautiful. I may never look at the world the same way after this book.
I think I need a bit more background in this way of thinking before I can appreciate the book.
Chris Feldman
If I ever drop everything to become a Zen student, I want Tarrant for my sifu.
I keep thinking of this book as Bring me the Rhinoceros of Alfredo Garcia...
I think I should meditate on this book to feel it deeply ^_^
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b. 1949. John Tarrant is the author of “The Light Inside the Dark” and “Bring Me The Rhinoceros”. He directs the Pacific Zen Institute and has taught koans for over 30 years.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
More about John Tarrant...
The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan Upside-Down Zen Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism

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“It’s true though, that the impulse to give freely to the world seems to be at the bottom of the well of human intentions where the purest and clearest water arises. To be able to offer back what the world has given you, but shaped a little by your touch—that makes a true life.” 0 likes
“You need courage to find out what you really want in life, and what you want might be dangerous. But life is dangerous anyway, and there is a beauty in becoming more and more fully who you are, in paying attention to, as well as being pulled along by, your red thread.” 0 likes
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