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Taking the Path of Zen

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  886 ratings  ·  41 reviews
There is a fine art to presenting complex ideas with simplicity and insight, in a manner that both guides and inspires. In Taking the Path of Zen Robert Aitken presents the practice, lifestyle, rationale, and ideology of Zen Buddhism with remarkable clarity.

The foundation of Zen is the practice of zazen, or mediation, and Aitken Roshi insists that everything flows from the
Paperback, 176 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by North Point Press
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“Taking the Path of Zen” serves as a primer for the practice of zazen meditation. Aitken’s instructions are remarkably clear and explained in a way that makes them easy to approach: he gives very good advice on focusing the breath, the proper sitting posture (and exercises that can be done to facilitate that posture), all the while being gently encouraging.

As a short book on basics, it doesn’t dig very deep into Zen philosophy, focusing instead on basic practices and ideas. While this may not be
May 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
1. Being alive is an important responsibility.

2. We have little time to fulfill.

3. Rigorous practice is necessary.

4. Zen breathing: 1-10. When you lose count, come back to “one.” Breathe in “1” breath out “2”

5. Noticing and acknowledging your feelings is a step toward taking responsibility for them, and reflecting.

6. Rest is the essence of patience. Cultivate rest.

7. If we feed our problems by paying attention to them, they will grow and flourish.

8. Deepest experience is complete
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had the good fortune to meet Robert once and I have met his students. We share lineage. Both of us trained in the Soto school and I also trained in the Rinzai school. I read his book many years ago before starting a ten day meditation period at Zen Mountain Center. I loaned the book to a young woman who had been with us for the ten days. Many years later the book came back to me in the mail and I read it again. Amazing insight. Clear practical help for your practice. Now to pass it on.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
This is the Zen book I wish I would have had many years ago when I first started practicing. We read this as our topic for our Summer book group at Two Arrows Zen. It's a short book, but it contained an incredible amount of depth for the group to dig into. Made for great conversations. Aitken's pragmatic, no-nonsense commentary filled in a significant number of gaps in my understanding of Zen practice.
D. Pow
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My single favorite Buddhist Teacher died yesterday, a man whose writing saved my life in some respects. For anyone interested in Zen please try this wonderful man's lucid, wise and socially awre books.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zen
It seems that studying Zen is always about new beginnings. Even when enlightenment has struck the student must continually polish his or her mirror lest the dust settle and obscure the original insight.

Robert Aitken has the ability to reveal more than he should, to invite you to merge your eyebrows with his, to see through his eyes.

This is a sound introductory text, which contains sufficient meat and bones to satisfy the hungry. Well worth a read.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for those who are practitioners of Zen Buddhism or for those who simply want to know more about this philosophy/religion. I have found this book to be very insightful and overall it has been a good read.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zen
Great introduction to the practice of zazen, working with a teacher, and participating in a spiritual community. Highly recommend to anyone new (or old!) to the practice.
Robin Scanlon
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Robert Aitken is my teacher's teacher. This is the first in a long list of books he wrote.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Clear, insightful and practical guide to this most demanding of Buddhist disciplines.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the my first book on Zen so I can't compare with others. I considered it a good introductory Zen book, but coming from a secular background some passages made me uncomfortable to say the least. I found the author giving much more emphasis to the religious aspect of Zen Buddhism than I have hoped, making metaphysical claims such as the existence of multiple universes and dimensions, citing Bible passages and very dubious "scientific" studies.

A few examples:

Recent studies shows that
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Funnily enough, I started reading this mistakenly thinking that I was continuing a different book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and PracticeZen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice. The covers look nothing alike, but I still read all the way through this one without noticing until just now. This book wasn't bad but I don't know if I'll try zazen yet.
Phil Calandra
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Taking the Path of Zen" is the practice and philosophy of Zen Buddhism. The greatest strength of this book is the description of the meditative breathing techniques which are specifically geared for the novice as well as the more experienced practitioner. I would highly recommend this book.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
A good synopsis but felt a bit too clinical and, for lack of a more appropriate word, soulless. A good into to Zen, a less good into to Buddhism. I actually felt more depth and introspection reading Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gateless gateway drug into zazen practice.
Charles Sisson
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a good "nuts and bolts" guide to practicing zen in a center. The Nu Koan and other elements also rise to the more metaphysical.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: meditation
Very enjoyable read. Highly recommended for students of Zen or Buddhism generally.
Not exactly what I was looking for.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you're seriously considering practicing Zen, I strongly suggest you read this.
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
Fairly good description of the basics of meditation. Didn't realize there'd be so many different ways to focus on the breath. Explanations for the philosophy and precepts, not so good. And these sentences pushed my buttons: "He [the Buddha:] did not live in a time like ours, when dangerous competition between nations threatens to blow up the world. He was not faced with the probability of biological holocaust. He did not encounter the righteous imperatives of a feminist movement." What the hell? ...more
Rick Gardner
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: zen
The problem with some books on Zen is that they focus too much on the dogmatic; when to sit, how to sit, what hand position to make, what gatha to say for what meal. Perhaps if you're planning to live in a Zen monastery all that might be useful, but for the rest of us - well, me anyway - it isn't.

The book was recommended to me 20 years ago when I started on this path, and it, along with a few others, was the reason I spent the first two years completely lost. Thinking I needed to wear robes,
Nathan Zorndorf
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
A fantastic “spark notes” overview on (Rinzai) Zen Buddhism!
Has chapters of the history, philosophy, values, traditions, branches, and practices involved with Zen Buddhism.

I wish I had something like this for every major religion “taking the path of Judaism/Christianity/Hinduism/Zoroastrianism/Etc).

Minus one star because I thought the tone was a little pompous. But I think he also encapsulates some insights in a really beautiful way too.
Sylvia Kuras
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With little knowledge of Zen Buddhism, this introduction makes me want to know, understand, and study more. Aside from that, Robert Aitken had an unusual beginning with Zen and spent his life learning, practicing, and studying with much devotion and sacrifice. Clearly written with honesty for the western mind.
Stephen Shelton
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
4/4/15. I had put this aside with the excuse of being too busy. Actually, I have spent most of my time following what Aitken calls my "egocentric whims." Time to get back to a serious study of this work.

This looks like a "never finish" book. I am done. I have taken notes. But it is the basic text for my practice. I am creating a shelf called "never finish"
Alan Cantor
Mar 27, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a good book for the Zen student. I believe it was a series of talks which were probably heard better than they are read. Still, lots of very good information and guidance in a progression of sitting approaches. Very thorough. Recommended, but probably not as one's first Zen book.
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
A no frills, nuts-and-bolts kind of book, which I found quiet useful and refreshing in its simplicity and clarity. It's a how-to manual for mindful living, whether one is seeking some kind of Buddhist framework or merely trying to thrive a bit more in the present moment.
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a good brief primer of Zen Buddhism philosophy and practice. The meditation instruction is brief and simple. This book also has some historical info: how Aiken came to Zen (as a prisoner of war of the Japanese), how he established his zendo, etc.
Rusty N
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great intro to Zen. It is laid out as an instruction manual for someone new to Zen practice. I found it informative and easy to read. Nothing special beyond that. It doesn't include much history, but that is not a problem and is not essential to the material.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent introduction to Zen practice and meditation in general.
Bosco Farr
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent primer on Zen.
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Robert Aitken is a retired master of the Diamond Sangha, a Zen Buddhist society he founded in Honolulu in 1959 with his late wife Anne Hopkins Aitken.

A lifetime resident of Hawai‘i, Aitken Rōshi is a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i with a BA degree in English literature and an MA degree in Japanese studies. In 1941, he was captured on Guam by invading Japanese forces, and interned in Japan
“In realizing all this, we understand how we are just bundles of sense perceptions, with the substance of a dream or a bubble on the surface of the sea. The vanity of the usual kind of self-preoccupation becomes clear, and we are freed from selfish concerns in our enjoyment of the universe as it is, and of our own previously unsuspected depths.” 0 likes
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