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Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

by Paul Reps, Nyogen Senzaki

Buy the book: Paul Reps. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

Release Date: October, 1998

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Paul Reps. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

Highly recommended

Of all books about Zen, this is most unassuming I've seen. There is no theory or abridged version of zen philosophy. The stories are carefully chosen and gracefully translated. They leave the reader in a state of wonder, curiosity and puzzlement. What I liked in this book is that it is not trying to educate the reader by teaching him a doctrine. It seems to me that it is true to the zen spirit in this respect. A little literary gem.

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Better than a whack on the head?

I am sure the Zen masters of this book, would give me a whack on the side of my head, for writing a review, but here goes. The book brings together 4 original Zen sources. The first, 101 Zen stories, presents koans and parables. These can be confusing and amusing, such as the Sound of One Hand Clapping, and One-finger Zen. The Gateless Gate, by Mumonkan, further adds to the syncopation, by offering seemingly random arguments about some of the koans, and then concludes with a Zen students criticism of the rascal Mumonkan. So, the first two sections may be a multiple layered koan ... and one is left mildly uneasy about the use of words for teaching Zen. The 10 Bulls section and the Woodblock illustrations are beautiful poetry, more accessible, and metaphors for the stages of enlightenment. Finally, Centering, is a transcript of a pre-Zen document, 4000 years old from Kashmir. It is surprising Zen like, for example a favorite: "When in worldly activity, keep attentive between the two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew" . A great source book, without interpretation.

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