ZEN IN AMERICA: Profiles of Five Teachers by Helen Tworkov

ZEN IN AMERICA: Profiles of Five Teachers

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An accomplished study of five prominent Zen Buddhist teachers, providing ample evidence that this Japanese religion has sunk its roots deeply into American soil. Tworkov, herself a student of one of the teachers she profiles (Bernard Glassman), prefaces her profiles with a brief history of American Zen that highlights the pivotal importance of two Japanese proselytizers: D.T. Suzuki and Nyogen Sensaki. The profiles themselves, by ironic contrast, demonstrate the steady Americanization of the practice, as female teachers, decision by consensus, and other modern innovations supplant Zen's traditionally patriarchal, rigid structure. Robert Aitken, the ""unofficial American dean of Zen,"" encountered Zen as a Japanese P.O.W. in WW II; he now runs a zendo in Hawaii, coordinates the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and worries about whether Americans can handle the long-range demands of Zen's rigorous, lifelong discipline. Jakusho Kwong, the only Asian-American in the book, emphasizes the importance of sitting meditation, posture, and breath. More outr‚ is the supercharged Bernard Glassman, a.k.a. ""the boss,"" a former aerospace engineer who oversees the Zen Center of New York while pouring most of his energy into the gourmet bakery operated by his zendo. Maureen Stuart, once a concert pianist, runs the Cambridge (MA) Buddhist Association and offers an insightful female perspective on a heavily male-oriented religion. Finally--and most explosively--Tworkov scrutinizes the erratic career of Richard Baker, a Harvard grad who built the San Francisco Zen Center into a miniempire before tumbling from the summit following accusations of sexual misconduct. Entertaining religious gossip--and a lively introduction to the earthy, human side of an austere faith.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1989
Publisher: North Point