It has been long time since I have read this book. This is another old book I found covered with dust, behind one of the wood shelves, when I was looking around with my headlamp for termite wings. The Zen Life is one of  the first books I read about Zen. Looking at the book today, some of the pages have holes because the termites over the years chewed away. Living in a tropical region has many benefits; 365 day suntan, no long winters, and able to grow exotic plants in a garden. Unfortunately, high humidity and termites are a couple of the downsides..

The Zen Life is full of black & white photographs (around 112 pages) of monks living in a Zen Temple. The pictures display an intimate look of daily life in the Empuku-ji Monastery (Japan). The photographer covers such activities as eating meals, lectures, work, zazen, head shaving, bathing, and the tea ceremony, etc. It is fascinating flipping the pages and looking at the monks going about chopping firewood, trimming plants in the garden, washing clothes, cooking meals, and cleaning the floors. etc. The monks rise at 3:30 A.M in the summer and 4:00 A.M in the winter. The simple monastic life!

The last third of the book is all writing. Some of the following topics include: the tradition and creativity of Zen, entering a Zen monastery, Zazen: method and practice, monastic work, the discipline of taking meals, Zen food, bathing, sleep, etc.  These 59 pages or so give the reader an excellent understanding of life in the monastery that complements the photos. If you have an interest in Zen or maybe wish to enter a Zen monastery, than this is an excellent book to have.

First English Edition: 1972

First Paperback Edition: 1977

Published By: Weatherhill | Tankosha


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See also:


Nibbling On Asian History & Philosophy

Eastern Philosophy Book Reviews


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