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A beloved classic of American Zen
am 15. März 2007
This is a collection of talks by one of the first Zen teachers in the U.S. If you're already practicing Zen, I highly recommend this book. If you're new to Zen, you might love this book or you might find it largely incomprehensible, or maybe both. Suzuki makes liberal use of the paradoxical language that is typical of Zen--e.g., "For us, complete perfection is not different from imperfection. The eternal exists because of non-eternal existence." If you'd prefer a more ordinary, explanatory style, I recommend Charlotte Joko Beck's "Everyday Zen." If you're looking for practical instruction in meditation, you'll find it in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," but you might prefer Philip Kapleau's "The Three Pillars of Zen," which includes more detailed instructions, with illustrations of sitting postures.
When I first read "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," for a college class on Buddhism, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but I did end up practicing Zen, and maybe this book had something to do with that. For many years, even while living at a Zen monastery, I suspected that a lot of the enthusiasm for this book was an "emperor's new clothes" phenomenon: a few respected people said it was wonderful, so then everybody said it was wonderful. I figured its aura of profundity was due in large part to Suzuki's congruence with our archetype of mountaintop gurus--the short sentences and limited English vocabulary, and the paradoxical language that sounds deep even though nobody actually knows what the heck it means. More recently, I've come to think that the emperor really does have clothes and that the big issues of human life are hard to talk about without paradox, and this is now one of my favorite Zen books.