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Real Zen

Zen can be reflected in many ways, seen in many arts, but let us not forget the pure zazen. Just sitting. The rich history and essential practice of real Zen. There are lots of books to chose from — none of which can actually give you Zen — so I'll list a couple of introductory texts and a couple of books that show practice in modern America.


The Way of Zen
Alan Watts

An ideal introduction for Westerners. Written by an Englishman who spent the time in Japan to really know Zen, first published in 1957 and in print since. It's divided into two parts, 'Background and History,' then 'Principles and Practice.'

The Elements of Zen
David Scott and Tony Doubleday

One of the many 'lite' Zen books that cover similar ground as The Way of Zen, this edition is particularly clear and full of further sources of reference.

Everyday Zen: Love and Work
Charlotte Joko Beck

Real Zen, beautifully placed into modern American real life by the Third Dharma heir of Hakuyu Maezumi Roshi of the Zen Center of Los Angeles (told you she was real). Shows how to live each moment to the fullest. A favorite book of mine.

Zen at Work
Les Kaye

The personal story of an IBM design engineer who became abbot of Kannon do, a Zen meditation center in California. Here he shares 30 years of balancing a real corporate career with real Zen. Carrying water, chopping wood, and now facilitating meetings.



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The most instructive experiences are those of everyday life.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Do not believe what you have heard. Do not believe in tradition because it is handed down many generations. Do not believe in anything that has been spoken of many times. Do not believe because the written statements come from some old sage. Do not believe in conjecture. Do not believe in authority or teachers or elders. But after careful observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason, and it will benefit one and all, then accept it and live by it.

— Buddha

The Tao that is coded in words is dead. The teachings of the Tao are so precious and important that they cannot be revealed in the written word.

— Shui-ch'ing Tzu

He who speaks doesn't know; he who knows doesn't speak.

— Tao Te Ching

The Way isn't something that can be put into words. You have to practice before you can understand. You can't force things, including practice. Understanding is something that happens naturally. It's different for everyone. The main thing is to reduce your desires and quiet your mind.

— Hsueh-tou Chih-chien

Nobody understands Zen; nobody can explain it; writing books about it is effrontery and impertinence. In fact, Zen is itself a kind of impudence.

— R. H. Blyth

I later came to realize through my research that what I was experiencing is called, in the ancient literature, a spontaneous samadhi experience, to use the Sanskrit language word for it. This means that you can perceive the synthesis of things, but you experience their interconnectedness at a deep emotional level. It's very profound, life changing.

— Edgar Mitchell, sixth man to walk on the Moon.

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