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

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  5,376 Ratings  ·  172 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
Paperback, 216 pages
Published September 15th 1998 by Tuttle Publishing (first published 1957)
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Community Reviews

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Sanjay Gautam
Dec 28, 2015 Sanjay Gautam rated it it was amazing
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
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  ·  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
I like it so far..., but I'm not to attached to it.
Jun 07, 2015 Suba rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 09, 2015 Joan DeArtemis rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jenifer Mary Rune
Aug 03, 2016 Jenifer Mary Rune rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Steve Malley
Jan 05, 2011 Steve Malley rated it really liked it
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.
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
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
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
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.
Jesse Morrow
Nov 15, 2016 Jesse Morrow rated it liked it
Three collections of classic Zen stories. The first section - 101 Zen stories are very interesting and good thoughtful read. I find the next two sections just too mystifying for the lay person...
Louis Alvarez
Dec 01, 2016 Louis Alvarez rated it it was amazing
With me everywhere I go
Sep 20, 2016 Will rated it really liked it
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
Teo 2050
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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
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
Feb 05, 2015 Joshua rated it it was amazing
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
Rob Errera
Feb 28, 2014 Rob Errera rated it really liked it
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
Oct 21, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2010 Jake rated it liked it
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
Mar 22, 2014 Denise rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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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.”
More quotes…