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Essential Zen

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  196 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
The best collection of Zen wisdom and wit since "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones": koans, sayings, poems, and stories by Eastern and American Zen teachers and students capture the delightful, challenging, mystifying, mind-stopping, outrageous, and scandalous heart of Zen.
Paperback, 196 pages
Published November 1st 1995 by PerfectBound (first published November 1st 1994)
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Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book quite a bit. It is a collection of quotes and other words about Zen, called Koans, from ancient times to now.

The preface says Zen is not really about reading about Zen, and Zen is outside of words, but you have to start somewhere, and people have been writing about it for ever, so here you go.

It ranges from interesting to mind bending to near incomprehensible.

“If you are afraid of being grabbed by God, don’t look at a wall.
Definitely don’t sit still.”
Jiyu Kennett

I was intrigue
Nov 04, 2008 rated it liked it
an excerpt that i find endlessly hilarious:

Seung Sahn would say, "When you eat, just eat. When you read the newspaper, just read the newspaper. Don't do anything other than what you are doing."

One day a student saw him reading the newspaper while he was eating. The student asked if this did not contradict his teaching. Seung Sahn said, "When you eat and read the newspaper, just eat and read the newspaper."
Khashayar Mohammadi
what a mind-fuck
Tim Weakley
Without desire everything is sufficient ~ Ryokan

I'm still trying to work out if I consider that to be a negative, or a positive statement. This very interesting collection of zen source works is made up of a well selected group of authors modern and ancient. Gary Snyder and leonard Cohen are here. So are Hakuin, Ikkyu, and Ryokan. I don't suggest that you will understand, or even appreciate everything in the book. I know I didn't. What I will say is that if you have the time to read, and then re
Special Way
Feb 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: field-guides
A collection of short, but wise, teachings. A good resource for those interested in deepening their practice and/or bringing more awareness to their lives. My favorite so far:

A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, "I am very discouraged. What should I do?"
Soen replied, "Encourage others."
Dwan Tape
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: zen, buddhist
An outstanding collection. I'm sure I'll reread this more than once. I know I've just touched the surface of many of these.

I suspect that those who criticize the "essential zen"-ness of the book have not read the introduction, wherein the origins of this collection - and the consensus and community involvement it took to make it - are discussed.
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spirituality
Plenty of rehashed material easy to pick up from elsewhere. Does not give overview as title infers. A few neat insights, mostly material that I've gained else where as a non-reader about this subject.
May 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
As I contemplate the Infinite - I find comfort, challenge and inspiration from this work.

Perhaps a quote from another book - "Zen for Beginners" will help illustrate what Zen is all about...

" A funny thing happened on my way to all-pervading emptiness and bliss."
John Jolly
Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Zen
Shelves: buddhism
Great book covering the different aspects of Zen literature, with explanations and some history.
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
A collection of Zen Poetry, like some works better than others. A quick read, worth checking out.
Briana Moore
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: peotry, favorites
this is one of my favorites, I am constantly going back to it.
Kathryn Jennex
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read a few pages from this book when I need to calm down. Works for me!
Dylan Toropov
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zen
An accessible and welcoming collection of zen stories and koans that works well to create a lineage that includes modern Western teachers and practitioners.
Oct 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
Random anecdotes from the zen practitioners past and present. Every 20 pages something somewhat interesting. Abandoned 2/3 through.
Markus Stobbs
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
A wonderful survey of Zen teachings from its beginning to present day in thematically arranged quotes.
Duck You
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
An excellent overview of Zen. The excerpts are succinct and clear.
Antoine  McGrath
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Zen collection to open the mind in a poetic way.
Raffaello Palandri
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Mar 21, 2012
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May 18, 2012
'Winny-Janet McDonald
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Oct 10, 2012
G.Baba Sai
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Mar 08, 2016
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Dec 28, 2008
Paul H.
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Jul 07, 2007
Daniele Roganti
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Dec 10, 2013
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Aug 14, 2013
Brandon Lennán
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Oct 20, 2015
Tim Miles
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May 07, 2011
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Jan 09, 2017
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May 26, 2014
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  • Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series
  • Essential Tibetan Buddhism
  • Zen Speaks: Shouts of Nothingness
  • The Little Zen Companion
  • Nine-Headed Dragon River: Zen Journals, 1969-1982
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  • I quattro pilastri della saggezza
  • Taking the Path of Zen
  • Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters
  • The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza
  • Commentary of Living: Second Series
  • Transforming the Mind: Teachings on Generating Compassion
  • One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism
  • The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditations for Achieving the Miracle of Mindfulness
  • The Compass of Zen
  • Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy
  • The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra, and Dzogchen
  • Sermons of Meister Eckhart
Kazuaki Tanahashi, born and trained in Japan and active in the United States since 1977, has had solo exhibitions of his calligraphic paintings internationally. He has taught East Asian calligraphy at eight international conferences of calligraphy and lettering arts. Also a peace and environmental worker for decades, he is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.
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