Essential Zen is a small hardcover book only 174 pages, but it is full of wisdom from Eastern and Western Zen teachers. Some of the writings are short and others are long. The book includes a Preface: On Positive Emptiness, Introduction: Graffiti on Perfectly, notes, and a middle section which includes the writings. The sections include: Skillful Guidance, Just Sitting, Chopping Wood, Cloud Water Assembly, How to Cook Enlightenment, Daily Reminders, Death, Great Death, Grandmother’s Heart, Great Doubt, Aesthetics of Emptiness, The Knot, Mountains and Waters and the Circle. Some of the writers include: Dogan, Ryokan, Hanshan, Ikkyu, Philip Kapleau, Soen Makagawa, Basho, Allen Ginsberg, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sheng- Yen, Robert Aitken, Rujing, Ed Brown, Gary Syyder, Peter Levitt, Alan Watts, Lou Hartman, Bankei, Ikkyu, and Kuoan.
Sitting and meditating is Zazen, but also reading books on on Zen and Eastern philosophy is important. The introduction states that in past centuries, masters have not cared much for their students to read books on Zen. However, a large collection of writings have been recorded throughout history. The teachings in this book are very helpful to the student. A lot of ground is covered, and since the passages are brief and written by a variety of individuals, the reader is always looking forward to the next piece of writing.
Essential Zen is a nice addition to your library, if you are interested in Zen, Oriental philosophy, or self improvement. Highly Recommended!
Below are three example writings from the book:
ON ZAZEN PRACTICE
abiding in the midst of
Who calls my poems poems?
My poems are not poems.
Knowing my poems are not poems,
together we can begin to speak of poems.
Watermelons and Zen students
grow pretty much the same way.
Long periods of sitting
till they ripen and grow
all juicy inside, but
when you knock them on the head
to see if they’re ready-
sounds like nothing’s going on.
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