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Posted February 21, 2012
A refreshing perspective on Zen
This book is refreshingly different from many other books about Zen by a Zen ‘master’. In the first place, Mr. Nishijima exhibits a delightful sense of modesty and humor throughout the book. Also, his writing style is informal but very clear. And the examples he uses to make points about various aspects of Zen are practical (e.g., less about enlightenment and more about getting through our day to day activities). Finally, he largely bypasses the paradoxical stories that characterize so many other books on Zen. As a result the reader comes away with a sense of having spoken with a wise uncle who has lived a genuine Zen life in the real world rather than trying to understand some overly spiritual meditation master who can speak only in riddles. The thesis of his book is that one can live a good life if you see the world the way it actually is, with all its imperfections. And the way to see things the way they area is through the regular practice of zazen. Another key thread throughout the book is the thesis that the historical Zen master, Dogen, can be understood by distinguishing 4 different perspectives to his writings. This idea is particularly intriguing to those who have tried to read Dogen’s “Shobogenzo”, which is notoriously hard to understand. Mr. Nishijima suggests that each chapter in the “Shobogenzo” develops an idea from four different perspectives: as an abstract principle, from a materialistic perspective, from a traditional Buddhist view, and finally how Dogen views the reality behind the topic itself. I personally found this approach refreshingly different and a tool to understand many of the confusing issues involved in such basic Buddhist concepts as the Four Noble Truths. Despite Mr. Nishijima’s admonition not to over think problems, persons who do enjoy thinking will certainly enjoy this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.