Skip to content
Paperback Understanding Zen Book

ISBN: 0804818088

ISBN13: 9780804818087

Understanding Zen

Select Format

Select Condition ThriftBooks Help Icon


Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

Save $9.66!
List Price $14.95

1 Available

Book Overview

"The authors of this book, who both have university affiliations, present Zen as a "secular doctrine without any necessary relationship to Buddhism or Eastern culture." Some of the seven chapters deal... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Clear & Concise

This text is life-changing. Read it. Study it. Apply it. Forget it. Gassho...

One of the best books I've ever read. There, I said it.

I have been wrestling with Zen for 20 years. I caught my first glimpse of it in the book "Godel, Escher, Bach", and as a disaffected-Christian-turned-atheist, I knew Zen was something I needed to pursue. (Yes, yes, "pursue" is precisely the wrong word. Please read on before jumping on me.) The more I read and studied and meditated, the more I learned. And my conviction grew that here was the way for me. Yet, yet ... something was deeply, seriously wrong. It was this: Zen was too powerful. The practice of Zazen has incredible transformative potential -- so much so that I couldn't help but suspect that some Zen practitioners could become enamoured with an erroneous understanding. This suspicion was finally driven home when a Zen Roshi made me repeat his intro course again, promising to answer my questions but never actually getting around to it. He was, I concluded, in love with his own understanding -- his "way" of, well, grasping Zen. And yes, this time I do mean "grasping" in the pejorative sense. Stick with me, I WILL get to the book review. There's a reason for this prologue. My worries were compounded when I sought assistance on Alt.Zen and got naught but baffling blather for answers. In a moment of inspiration, I decided that I'd trying talking the way they talked. Lo and behold, I was now one of them -- so it seemed -- yet I was simply running an algorithm. I then posed the question, "Are you telling me that in 600 years, nobody has come up with a better technique than talking in riddles?" There was no answer -- just advice that I needed to find a good Roshi. "And how do I determine which one is good?" To this question I received no answer whatsoever -- just encouraging noises. Well, last week I was in the library and happened to pause by the Zen section. My shoulders sagged as I considered facing yet another round of intense effort to find one more tiny piece of the puzzle. For something dealing with the ultimate simplicity, this sure didn't SEEM simple. I picked up "Understanding Zen" (hey, I told you I'd get around to talking about the book) and within 20 seconds I knew that this was the book I'd been looking for. The authors dared to speak of Zen in Western terms and toss all the oriental idioms that had so confounded me. And you know what? I got it! I finally got it! It WAS, after all, so simple! So very, very simple, and obvious, and self-evident. What's more, everything written fit perfectly with the tiny nuggets I'd mined by the sweat of my brow over the past two decades. Incidentally, just because I liked the book doesn't mean everybody will. The list of prerequisites for "getting" it are pretty long. If you can't get through, say, "Godel, Escher, Bach", this book may not be for you. But it was exactly what *I* was looking for. Let me close by explaining that my ongoing worry has been what has been called "faux Zen". I was raised in a Christian religion that some call a cult. I wasn't going to tur

An Excellent Introduction to Zen

This is perhaps the best "first book" for someone interested in Zen (or Eastern philosophy in general) presently available. I first read it two years ago, along with several other introductory texts. It was by far the best. While I would quibble with some things (see below), on whole it is a remarkable book.Strengths: It presents a difficult subject in an agreeable way. Zen is hardly a straightforward subject, but the book does a commendable job. It works through the strategy of not so much "explaining" what Zen is as leading the reader to untangle the subject for themselves. The tone is a good middle ground between a dialogue with the reader and a conventional academic treatment. The writing is always pleasing--and sometimes beautiful. Weaknesses: I wish the discussion of mediation had been as inspired as the more intellectual material. The authors discuss the centrality of mediation in Buddhism, and provide some useful suggestions for practicing it, but in general their approach is a bit too cerebral (on this one point). The authors are at pains to draw connections between Zen and mainstream Western philosophy, but they keep this fairly muted--I wish there had been more of this in the text, instead of burying it footnotes. Then again, if you don't much care about, say, Existentialism, you may find this all for the best.Overall, my sense is that the book will appeal to those who are looking for a (relatively) easy to understand book on Zen and the implications of Zen for ordinary life. I think of it as a more abstract, intellectual background to the ideas that inspire (the Buddhist but of course not Zen) books by the Dalai Lama (such as the Art of Happiness, which I just finished).

A valuble tool for beginners

Have you ever been sitting in meditation, and suddenly realized that you don't really know why you're putting yourself through this kind of torture, or at least can't explain why in a way that really makes rational sense? If you have (as I have), you will understand just how valuable a book like this can be to anyone who is just learning how (and why) to be a Zen practitioner.First, a little personal background:I grew up in a generically Protestant, nearly-agnostic, nominally Christian setting. I never really had faith in what I was taught, and as I grew older, I evolved from nearly-agnostic to nearly-atheist. I didn't like the idea of completely denying the spirituality that was undeniably a part of so many people's lives, but I couldn't accept the dogma I grew up with, and nobody else's dogma appealed much to me, either.I started investigating Buddhism for the shallow reasons common to most Western practitioners: I thought the Dalai Lama was cool, Buddha statues were neat, and I liked the artwork I saw. I started reading about the life of the Buddha, and about various schools of Buddhism. It was still a very uncomfortable search for me, though, because despite the fact that it looked like there really was something deeper there, all the talk of "emptiness" and "illusion" seemed more silly than the beliefs I had already rejected.Then, about 7 years ago, I stumbled across "Understanding Zen".The book was very easy to read, and presented its philosophical arguments in a style far lighter than most serious Western philosophical texts, but also far more direct and reasoned than most Eastern philosophical texts. It explained what Zen was about in a way that my rational mind could accept, and it allowed me to say "I am a Buddhist" without feeling like I was claiming to believe things I don't believe.It helped me to grasp on a rational level the idea that thoughts and concepts, even the concept of self, are all simply tools for the conduct of life. That, in turn, helped me release some of my attachment to these concepts, though obviously it is impossible to achieve true enlightened detachment simply by grasping a new concept.As a result of reading this book, I suddenly had a rational basis I could use to goad myself into sitting and meditating when I didn't want to. I was suddenly able to actually justify to myself, in words, the things I'd been feeling I needed to do.I know that the philosophical arguments in this book are incomplete and doubtless have many epistemological flaws, but I think it's far better to talk in concrete terms about the difference between the concept of a thing and the thing itself (and the fact that even the concept that it is a thing is arbitrary) than to prattle on about the reflection of the moon on a still pond and tell people to stop looking at your finger.Either approach may eventually help someone on the path to clearer understanding and even enlightenment, but the advantage of a more rational approach is that people a

Grateful for this book

This book looks directly through all of the nonsense surrounding Zen and clearly spells out a rational way of thinking about the object of Zen. They show it is possible to speak of Zen before going beyond any notions of Zen. So is the hand pointing to the moon, the moon? Of course not, but when you were looking at the ground for so long, it's refreshing to be pointed in the right direction.
Copyright © 2023 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell My Personal Information | Cookie Preferences | Accessibility Statement
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured