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Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: the Zen journal & letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran
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Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: the Zen journal & letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  244 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
In 1979, 24-year-old Maura O'Halloran left her waitressing job in Boston and began her study of Zen in Japan. Today she is revered as a Buddhist saint, and a statue in her honor stands at the monastery where she lived. This is the story of her journey.
Paperback, 311 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1994)
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Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first read this book, it was just what I was looking for: soulful, searching, conflicting, thought-provoking, moving, and all set in a very different world than my own. I just re-read it recently, and it didn't fail to impress the second time around. This girl was amazingly courageous and so very driven. The process of reading about her experience in her own words and watching her transform during her time at the monastery was inspiring. She chases enlightenment with her head on fire (I g ...more
Kit James
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tip-toeing behind a real-live, Irish smart-ass as she self-deprecatingly achieves that which many continuously both seek and deny the existence of: enlightenment, zen, loss of ego. Due to her youth and subsequent untimely death...feels like a note she left for you....
Gives hope to Irish smart-asses everywhere.
Tina Stroh
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this quite awhile ago and just recall that it was very inspiring. A young woman's diary of her experience in a monastery with very austere conditions. It was published by her parents posthumously after she died in a bus crash in Thailand, I think.
Harry Allagree
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By whatever standard you would use, Maura Soshin O'Halloran (1955-1982) was an amazingly intriguing, strong & gifted woman. I'd never heard of her until I ran across her name in, of all places, a Roman Catholic publication which acknowledged her with a short bio of her as a deeply spiritual person. I say "of all places" because though Maura was the eldest of 6 children in a devout Irish Catholic family, born in Massachusetts, educated in convent schools & Trinity College, Dublin, she is ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a journey into the heart of a young Irish woman and her path to becoming enlightened. I enjoyed reading about her journey and learning about Buddhism through her experiences. I have much more of an understanding of the Zen way of life now and am inspired by her unending determination to proceed on a path even when the path is challenging in emotional, physical, and many other ways. I identify with her passion to become truly compassionate and it was heartening to read about her jour ...more
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book 15 years ago while living in the Western Pacific. 15 years later I still think about her and her journey. What more can you ask for in a book than one that sticks with you. I intend to read it again because we all know that certain books read you and not the other way around.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Fascinating book--loved it. I especially liked how Maura O'Halloran plunged herself wholeheartedly into her new life at a Zen monastery in Japan. Actually, she plunged herself into whatever she did.
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 日本
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2009 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zen
Wow, pretty gripping, and very natural. Very glad I read this. Zen from the inside.

It was the girl's personal diary and some of her letters, living as a Zen monk in Japan. It was very reassuring to see her sort of get the wrong idea in the beginning (and go through a grinning idiot phase), and also to see her struggling with her own pettiness, sense of resentment, etc. Human all the way through. Makes me wonder what the state of Irish Zen is, and what it would have been if it weren't for that sl
Talya Rubin
Apr 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: introspective searching with a sense of humour
Really beautiful account of a young Irish woman's experience as a Buddhist nun in a Japanese monastery. The book is taken from her journals and letters and the writing is raw, open, funny and a rare glimpse into a western perspective in the midst of a totally foreign world. She tragically died in a bus accident soon after leaving the monastery, which could make the book too sad to read, but in fact elevates it to another level - it becomes a true celebration of life.
Sep 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
This was part of the reading for my class about Buddhism in college. The nature of Buddhism is such that you will learn more about it from someones personal observations and not from a textbook.

This book is good for someone who wants a personal touch to understanding Buddhism and the fact that the author is from a "western" cultural background helps.
Irene Prabowo
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
A spiritual journey written spontaneously by a person who was raised in the western tradition into oriental culture merger. It was hard to see a different culture without prejudice, yet in this book we could see how a girl's open mind could pave her way to an enlightened soul. If you dare to question your faith, you should read this book.
Robert Sim
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Beautiful authentic views from a dedicated and pure-hearted zen practitioner. A kind of spirituality and groundedness that does the world a lot of good. Thanks to Maura-san, and thanks to her mother for publishing this diary as a tribute and a gift to us.
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Nice read. Interesting. Needs glossary for japanese terms also a LIST of Characters would be helpful.
She was obviously committed to her spiritual path. Wish there were more details as to WHY she was so
interested in Buddhism.
Eileen Ryan
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is a fascinating read about a young Irish woman who moves to Japan to train as a zen monk in a monastery over a 3 year period. The book is a mixture of diary entries and letters home.
A good one to get into a chilled frame of mind while yet remaining human.
Mar 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting memoir about a young Irish-American girl who becomes the first female Zen Buddhist monk in Japan. After she dies in her 20's, she is canonized as a saint.
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting and a gripping read if you are interested. I was reading an old copy. Apparently there is now an extented version of this journal available.
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
something about this book always speaks to me. it feels incredibly intimate, probably because the writing was for a private journal, never intended for publication.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring and human. Maura's voice and journey has continued to resonate within me. I'm very grateful that her mother has shared this with the world.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get through this. The format (letters and journal entries) just didn't work for me. Maybe I'll try it again at another time.
Edward Michael
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
the purity of Maura, her courage and indomitable strength are so needed as a model for all women on the path. It's a must.
Michael Mutolo
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book following the journal entries of an Irish Journalist/Scholar who leaves everything to become a Zen Master....
Karen Maskarinec
This is absolutely a five-star book for me. I am going to re-read it right away, with a highligter in hand.
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Simply superb.
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that has traveled with me from Mongolia to everywhere...
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary book -- I read it a few years ago for my contemplative literature class, and I'm reading it again these days, just for the sense of peace and wholeness it brings.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very intimate and touching. This is simply her diary entries, without any embellishment.
Mar 09, 2011 is currently reading it
This book makes me laugh and cry. I also do not feel so badly about my own practice anymore!
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book changed my life. Then my life kept changing. It seems to do that with our without books. Still, this sparked one of the better changes.
rated it it was amazing
Jun 15, 2013
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