Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bow First, Ask Questions Later: Ordination, Love, and Monastic Zen in Japan” as Want to Read:
Bow First, Ask Questions Later: Ordination, Love, and Monastic Zen in Japan
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Bow First, Ask Questions Later: Ordination, Love, and Monastic Zen in Japan

by
4.20  ·  Rating details ·  70 ratings  ·  11 reviews
What happens when a free-spirited, modern American girl goes on a spiritual quest into structured, traditional Japanese Zen life?

Gesshin Claire Greenwood was a liberal, free-spirited American girl who found meaning and freedom in disciplined, traditional Japanese Zen life. However, she came to question not only contemporary American values but also traditional monastic one
...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Wisdom Publications
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bow First, Ask Questions Later, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Bow First, Ask Questions Later

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  70 ratings  ·  11 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Bow First, Ask Questions Later: Ordination, Love, and Monastic Zen in Japan
Gabrielle
I have only recently become aware of Gesshin Claire Greenwood’s work, both through her blog (https://thatssozen.blogspot.com) and because I read her more recent book “Just Enough” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). That was when I realized I was absorbing all her material in the wrong order, but whatever. I liked what I read, so I got a copy of “Bow First, Ask Questions Later” – and I admit I got very excited when I realized Brad Warner had written the foreword. He's yet to recommend a ...more
Sherri
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bow First, Ask Questions Later is a memoir by Gesshin Claire Greenwood, a white woman from San Francisco, who ordained as a Zen monk in Japan at the age of 24 years. She talks about her experiences in the monastery, as a student, as a teacher, as a questioner. And she does so with openness and humor.

Simply running down the table of contents was fun, and yes, the book is named for one such chapter. It implied that I would be brought on a spiritual journey and would laugh along the way.

I loved thi
...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
The main thing I took from this was a better understanding of the perspectives and practices of the Zen priest I know who was trained in Japan. Basically, Zen training in Japan appears to be an even more extreme form of the long-term hazing that happens to graduate students. I don't get it, and I'm not convinced it's a helpful or positive thing. This was solid and the author has potential, but I thought the quality of the insights, and the incisiveness of the prose in which they were presented, ...more
Danny Martin
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I saw her interviewed on you tube, on Brad Warner's (Zen Monk) Hardcore Zen show, and thought she was interesting, and has had an interesting journey. Read the book, and, as I hoped, it was in fact, an interesting tale of how she became a Zen monk / Nun, living in two different Monasteries in Japan. The challenges, and fluctuation from happiness to frustration, to joy, was a pleasant testament to authentic vulnerability.
Jeffrey
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve waited many years for a book, and more importantly, an author who could speak to me about the uncertain path of this life. I cannot adequately explain the impact of this book. I can only say that it affected me initially at a visceral level, in the gut. Like having cold water or a blast of heat hit me. Then I felt it reach my chest and heart, which is where it has stayed. I feel now a new joy and calm acceptance without diminishing or quenching the thirst of the search.
Suzanna
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"What about the great matter of life and death? What can I take with me when I die?"

This is in the category of spiritual memoirs; I loved following Gesshin Claire Greenwood's journey, and her honest thoughts as a zen practitioner. I'm still thinking about the questions she raised.
Alexis Colton
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. I appreciated her views on feminism with respect to monastic life. Don't think I'm cut out to be a zen nun.
Dolores
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honest and Heartfelt


A good read that feels more like a discussion. Though I would have like more detail in some areas, this book touched me in its honest and humble prose.
Captain
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. My mom.and I shared it for a read and it proves a wonderful discussion about the spirit and love.
Gwen
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I felt this book needed a bit more time to settle, which is why I'm giving it three stars. It felt like a work still in progress, both materially and philosophically: the Big Questions she considers aren't ultimately still up for debate - but our, and her, response to them is - and the structure of the book felt inconsistent.
Patrick Green
rated it really liked it
Jul 08, 2018
Steffen
rated it really liked it
Apr 01, 2020
Joshua
rated it really liked it
Dec 01, 2018
Lindsay
rated it it was amazing
May 10, 2018
Ellen
rated it it was amazing
Jan 09, 2020
Mordred Deschain
rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2019
Stephen Sinclair
rated it it was amazing
Mar 06, 2020
Leni  Torvbråten
rated it really liked it
Jun 11, 2018
Alan Phelps
rated it it was amazing
Feb 13, 2019
Luis
rated it it was amazing
Apr 02, 2020
Robyn
rated it it was amazing
Feb 25, 2019
Mia Alpers
rated it it was amazing
May 18, 2018
Sister Ocean
rated it really liked it
Jan 24, 2019
Lisa
rated it liked it
Sep 07, 2018
GustafR
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, and an enjoyable read. I found a little bit too "light". Anecdotes from her life intermingled with contemplations on Buddhism and life, but both topics stopped without going the full length. Possibly a reflection of the fact that a lot of the writings started out as blog posts?

Regardless, what's there is valuable and enjoyable, and definitely a perspective and experience that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Dominick
rated it really liked it
Aug 21, 2018
Gensan
rated it it was amazing
Aug 17, 2018
Susan Hadler
rated it really liked it
Jun 24, 2018
Winnie Lim
rated it really liked it
Oct 10, 2018
Mistypane611
rated it it was amazing
Nov 27, 2018
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice
  • Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen
  • Everyday Zen: Love and Work
  • Don't Be a Jerk: And Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master
  • Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence
  • Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple
  • Nothing Special
  • Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist  Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything In Between
  • Snakes and Earrings
  • Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide
  • The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • Musashi
  • Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life
  • Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma
  • The Yellow House
  • The Body in Question
  • Waking Up to What You Do: A Zen Practice for Meeting Every Situation with Intelligence and Compassion
  • Blood Heir (Blood Heir Trilogy, #1)
See similar books…
Gesshin Claire Greenwood is the author of Bow First, Ask Questions Later: Ordination, Love and Monastic Zen in Japan. An ordained Zen priest, she spent over 5 years training in Japanese monasteries, and is currently the youngest American authorized to teach Zen.

An avid cook, dog lover, and sometimes collage maker, she blogs intermittently at http://www.thatssozen.blogspot.com. Her next book, a ve
...more

News & Interviews

Let's talk books, shall we? As you can imagine, Goodreads editors are voracious readers and there's nothing we like more than talking shop. Seriou...
2 likes · 0 comments