ZEN: DAWN IN THE WEST by Philip Kapleau


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An agreeable, often stimulating collection of odds and ends by the noted Zen Master. Kapleau spent 13 years studying Zen in Japanese monasteries, then wrote his widely read Three Pillars of Zen (1965), and founded the Zen Center in Rochester, N.Y., which he now heads. Here he brings together transcriptions of question-and-answer sessions at the Center, correspondence with his disciples, ""encouragement talks"" given to participants in seven-day closed retreats (sesshin), translations of some key Zen texts, an autobiographical sketch, and various other things. This could have been just another shapeless compilation by somebody too busy to write a book, but it holds up nicely. Kapleau's own personality--calm, clear-headed, incisive, dryly witty, everything one imagines a roshi to be--fuses the disparate pieces into a sort of unity. And the book has been well edited, with a glossary, notes, and an annotated list of recommended books. ""Reading about enlightenment,"" as Kapleau says, ""is like scratching an itch through your shoe,"" but readers who have at least a rudimentary notion of Zen will find him helpful on a broad range of subjects, from morality to meditation, and may even be led to try sitting zazen: and other Zen practices. Of course, they would first have to seek out a director at the nearest Zen center, and Kapleau implicitly urges his readers to do just that. Though many people will doubtless balk at his unblinking presentation of the doctrine of reincarnation, Kapleau is such a persausive teacher, and Zen is so full of practical wisdom, that almost anyone could profit from his lessons.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1978
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday