THANK YOU AND OK! by David Chadwick


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An affectionate glimpse at the worlds of Japan and Zen. Chadwick began his formal Zen training in San Francisco in 1966. In his first book, he gives us an account of his four years in Japan as a Zen student and English teacher, beginning in April 1988, when he was 43. He spent the first six weeks in a small, remote mountain temple. Then he settled down next to a large suburban temple (he doesn't say exactly where) and soon afterward married his American girlfriend, Elin. Prefacing each short chapter with the appropriate date and location, Chadwick moves backward and forward between his secluded monastic practice and his lay Zen practice in an often chaotic domestic setting. The result is at times confusing, but the contrast between the two serves to hold the reader's interest and even acts as a kind of koan, forcing us to ask what spiritual activity really is. We meet Norman, a fellow American Zen monk who continually (and unsuccessfully) battles to convert his fiery temperament into detached compassion in his collisions with Japanese attitudes. We share Chadwick and his wife's brushes with government bureaucrats dealing with their not-quite-legal immigration status. We join Chadwick, Norman, and the other monks on a takuhatsu, or formal begging trip. Throughout, Chadwick writes with humor and insight. He deftly portrays the different American and Japanese mentalities, for example, in his hilarious description of his interview for a driver's license, during which he was asked (among other things) the exact score of his written driving test and the rank of the official who administered it. The death and funeral of Chadwick's friend, Zen master Katagiri Roshi, dominates the final chapters, and the sudden need to vacate his apartment brings Chadwick's happy existence in Japan to an unexpected and Zen-like conclusion. Japanese and Zen terms are explained in a helpful glossary. Vivid, lighthearted, and unself-consciously profound.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 1994
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Arkana/Penguin