THE ZEN ENVIRONMENT: The Impact of Zen Meditation by Marian Mountain

THE ZEN ENVIRONMENT: The Impact of Zen Meditation

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A curiously abstract title for a fresh, readable, and altogether concrete book about Zen Buddhism--however personal. Mountain was a 40-ish divorcee and part-time career woman comfortably settled in Los Altos, Cal., when she got bitten by the Zen bug and left the whole bourgeois scene behind her. She spent a few years at the Tassajara monastery (best known, perhaps, for its popular cookbooks) in Los Padres National Forest, then four months in the solitude of the Santa Lucia mountains; now she roams back and forth between civilization and the wilderness in a little beat-up camper called Samsara, with her second husband, a cheerful, quasi-illiterate, outdoorsy brute named Jack. Mountain (a pseudonym?) recounts this middle-aged pilgrimage in a sprightly, self-deflating style, effortlessly blending autobiography and casual lessons in Zen. Thus Mountain's vagabond life as an occasional caretaker and house-sitter in the back country becomes a natural emblem of the Zen ideal of non-attachment. And when Jack lands a fish for their supper, she duly notes: ""It's a kelp bass, a small satori (enlightenment), satori that can be seen, smelled, touched, tasted, and digested by an ordinary person as well as a Zen student."" Mountain explains both theory and practice, what zazen is and how it feels to do it, etc. with exemplary clarity. One nagging question, however, keeps arising, and Mountain keeps ignoring it: how do you square Zen with public responsibility? The Zen drop-out may be an ecological saint, but in this case she sounds like a political sinner (through indifference and inactivity). In any case, this is as enjoyable a beginner's guide to Zen as any.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow