ZEN INKLINGS by Donald Richie


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An agreeable collection of ""stories, fables, parables, sermons, and prints"" by a man better known for his writing on Japanese film. Richie protests that he knows very little about Zen (""having had no real experience, I can have no real comprehension""); but if so, these 19 short pieces and the accompanying notes gracefully disguise his ignorance. Richie draws upon many sources: ancient Buddhist traditions, Japanese folklore, conversations with D. T. Suzuki, anecdotes by various Japanese and Western writers, and his own invention. Save for the last one, a dullish, overlong affair called ""The Swordsman,"" Richie's stories have the proper Zen flavor: tart, wry, bare, puckish, self-deflating. ""Bobo the Priest"" tells about a dedicated acolyte who does all the right things to attain satori, but fails lamentably year after year, until he finally gets his enlightenment--in the arms of a whore. In ""The Nature of Fish"" an inspired simpleton discovers the Buddha in the fish that he sorts and counts. ""The Zen Library"" describes with almost masochistic gusto how the published wisdom of innumerable sages goes up in smoke (""satori achieved needs no sutras, no lives, no commentary, no art""). ""The Holy Demon"" relates the comic devastation caused when a horrible cannibalistic monster decides to enter a monastery, under the delusion that a life of goodness might be easier than following his own evil nature. And so on. As a little Zen divertissement, Richie includes eight woodblock prints (his), which seem to present one image but, after some puzzling by the viewer, reveal a second and more fundamental pattern. Stimulating, unpretentious fare--in the genre of Paul Reps' Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Weatherhill