Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

An Introduction to Zen Training

Rate this book
An Introduction to Zen Training is a translation of Sanzen Nyumon, a key text by one of the foremost Zen teachers of the twentieth century. Written to provide a solid introduction to the physical nature of Zen training, this text discusses breath, pain, posture, drowsiness, state of mind, and physiology, as well as the context in which this training takes on meaning. An Introduction to Zen Training also addresses many of the questions that arise naturally when Zen training begins—ranging from how long to sit at one time to how to keep mindfulness when not sitting—and concludes with commentaries on two fundamental Zen texts, Zazen Wasen (Song of Zazen) and the Ox-Herding Pictures.

254 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2002

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Omori Sogen

18 books3 followers
Japanese Rinzai Rōshi, a successor in the Tenryū-ji line of Rinzai Zen, and former president of Hanazono University, the Rinzai university in Kyoto, Japan. He became a priest in 1945.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
46 (42%)
4 stars
30 (28%)
3 stars
21 (19%)
2 stars
9 (8%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Brett Green.
45 reviews8 followers
May 29, 2017
I'm not sure if this would be the right book for someone completely fresh to the practice, though the first 3 chapters on the fundamentals of what zazen is both in terms of aim (kensho) and in terms of form (posture, breathing) could be read on its own.

One drawback is the overreliance on zen master X telling student Y type stories, many of them reiterating the same point. However, I suppose this is again a form matching content matter, zazen being so simple, yet so difficult, the student needing to be reminded over and over of simple and overarching truths. A more fair criticism of the book may be 1) its overuse of finer-grained etymological distinctions that I, frankly, usually ended skipping over 2) its lack of organization: how to fit so much in one little book for 'beginners', sure. but perhaps a thematic approach would have worked better than his concrete approach used for chapter organization (which seemed somewhat arbitrary upon completion).

The tone of the book, for me, is quite good. The rigor and directness of the prose matching the proposed method of practice. There are also some reassurances thrown in there for the rest of us, like when he says later in the book about [sic] 'there is much talk these days about attaining rapid kensho' - such as I read a little too much about in Philip Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen - 'but for old timers like me, it took 8 or 9 years.' Speaking of tone, Sogen seems to grasp that a lot of us will be coming to the practice with self-interested ends in mind (eg. improve sleep, anxiety, health benefits, etc) and acknowledges these, but quickly moves on into stories of old zen masters using the practice to face their own deaths with dignity, etc. So he takes us up as 'bompu' zenners with the goal being to turn us into less ego-based practitioners. One starts with clay before a vase is made, or something like that, right? --> method, practice, form as one or something

There are practical pointers on the differences between Soto and Rinzai sects, how long to sit, handling Makyo, and disabusing us of the goal of meditation as being 'no-thought'. Throughout is weaved the overarching message that the point is to be fully engaged in the world in whatever we are doing with a selfless attitude. As per his discussion on Saijojo Zen and the final steps of the 10 Oxherding Pictures (and commentary), one ultimately drops all discursive consideration of dharma and karma and of Zen itself from one's being in the world. The Absolute self is fully self-contained and free as it is, both subject and object. I would only say at this point, that it filled me with a certain amount of glee that he Sogen both quotes from and seems aptly familiar with the German philosophical tradition (Kant, Schelling, Hegel).

As a beginning student myself, what I got most out of the book is that zazen is 1) serious business and yet 2) samadhi at play
Profile Image for Bernie Gourley.
Author 1 book91 followers
March 25, 2016
This is a guidebook that explains how to sit for meditation—particularly in the Rinzai style. It describes all the fundamentals one needs to begin Zen sitting including: posture, breathing, where to look, what to do with one’s hands, and even how to get up after a long session. It also provides background information about what to look for in a teacher, what differentiates Rinzai from Soto Zen, and what the objective of practice is (and why it is sought after.) This makes it sound like a dry, technical manual, and to some degree it’s unavoidably so. However, the author does include stories here and there to make the book more engaging and palatable. Overall, though, it’s written as a manual for students.

The book is arranged into 7 chapters, but it’s only the first five of these that are the author’s introduction to Zen meditation. These five chapters are logically arranged to cover the ground from why one should practice to what effects it will have with consideration of the aims, technique, and pitfalls covered in between. The last two chapters are commentaries on (including text from) a couple of the key documents of Zen Buddhism: “A Song of Zen” (Zazen Wazen) and “The Ten Oxherding Pictures.”

There are black and white graphics. First, there are line drawings used to convey information about posture and the physical body in meditation. Second, there are a few photographs of the author, including his dōjō and in the practice of swordsmanship. The author was a skilled swordsman; hence my tagging of this book in “martial arts,” as there may be some interest among martial artists in the author’s take as one who straddled the two worlds of Zen and budō. Finally, there are also copies of the ten ox herding pictures that go with the verse.

I think this book is well-organized and provides a beginner an excellent introduction to the practice of Zen. I didn’t really note any major deficiencies, and will thus recommend it as a good resource for anyone considering taking up a Zen practice or wanting to learn more about doing so. I should point out that the book does also get into the philosophical aspects of Zen, but if one isn’t looking for information about how to practice then there may be books more oriented toward one’s needs. Despite the fact that the book is a translation, it’s clear and readable. As I said, it includes stories—including those about Japanese warriors as well as Zen masters—and that helps to break up the dryness of what is at its core an instructional manual.
Profile Image for Ferci.
20 reviews
June 26, 2019
Great Book

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Zen, especially the Rinzai tradition. Good book overall. Deep and thorough.
Profile Image for Dillon.
18 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2018
Some useful material, but overall kind of clunky and unfocused--not sure how much is due to the translator.
Profile Image for Wina.
25 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2012
I picked up this book 4 years ago, when I started my zen training. I tried reading it at that time, but found it extremely difficult.

I started reading it again for my zen training and after 4 years, it is beginning to come together for me. Concepts and ideas that were uncomprehensible started to come together for me. I read the first 3 chapters and enjoyed the first two chapters the most.

This will be a book that I'll have to continue reading over and over again.

Profile Image for Wolf.
24 reviews1 follower
December 1, 2009
Its purpose is in its title. You cannot find a better manual for beginning the study of Zen.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.