Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction


Among Buddhist traditions, Zen has been remarkably successful in garnering and sustaining interest outside the Buddhist homelands of Asia, and “zen” is now part of the global cultural lexicon. This deeply informed book explores the history of this enduring Japanese tradition—from its beginnings as a form of Buddhist thought and practice imported from China to its reinvention in medieval Japan as a force for religious, political, and cultural change to its role in Japan’s embrace of modernity. Going deeper, it ...

See more details below
$35.00 price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (12) from $24.50   
  • New (10) from $31.23   
  • Used (2) from $24.50   
Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$24.49 price
(Save 30%)$34.99 List Price


Among Buddhist traditions, Zen has been remarkably successful in garnering and sustaining interest outside the Buddhist homelands of Asia, and “zen” is now part of the global cultural lexicon. This deeply informed book explores the history of this enduring Japanese tradition—from its beginnings as a form of Buddhist thought and practice imported from China to its reinvention in medieval Japan as a force for religious, political, and cultural change to its role in Japan’s embrace of modernity. Going deeper, it also explores Zen through the experiences and teachings of key individuals who shaped Zen as a tradition committed to the embodiment of enlightenment by all. By bringing together Zen’s institutional and personal dimensions, Peter D. Hershock offers readers a nuanced yet accessible introduction to Zen as well as distinctive insights into issues that remain relevant today, including the creative tensions between globalization and localization, the interplay of politics and religion, and the possibilities for integrating social transformation with personal liberation.

Including an introduction to the basic teachings and practices of Buddhism and an account of their spread across Asia, Public Zen, Personal Zen deftly blends historical detail with the felt experiences of Zen practitioners grappling with the meaning of human suffering, personal freedom, and the integration of social and spiritual progress.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 04/14/2014
The history of Zen Buddhism is intricate, involving transmissions and exchanges of political, economic, and religious institutions among countries of South and East Asia. Hershock presents a succinct but immensely illuminating overview of Zen from two different viewpoints: its "public" or institutional history and its "personal" or practiced history. Through its public aspect, Hershock carefully traces the development of Zen as a religious institution entangled in the political and social history of Japan, revealing its rise and fall to the modern day through the Rinzai, Soto, and Obaku sects. Through its personal side, he analyzes how Zen has been practiced by laypeople, clergy, and the ruling classes throughout its history, emphasizing the transformative and emancipatory disciplines that morally determine how its adherents engage and change the world. He does not shy from the darker elements of Zen's history, such as how some Zen masters defended Japan's participation in WWII. By doing so, he exposes the unavoidable deep connections between religion and the political, social, and economic institutions with which it coexists. Hershock has written a powerful portrait of Zen Buddhism that has much to offer not only to the uninitiated but also to those familiar with the history and practice of this religion. (Mar.)
James Mark Shields
In this illuminating narrative of Chan/Zen history, Peter Hershock provides an exemplary balance, which is frequently missing, by bridging the gap between the 'outsider/objective' and 'insider/subjective' approaches to Zen tradition. This is not an easy line to navigate, and one that most scholars fear to tread. Hershock succeeds admirably, thus showing that there is room within scholarship for an integrated or holistic approach to religious ideas. While there are a number of good introductory works on Japanese religions and a few on Japanese Buddhism, there are surprisingly few texts dealing exclusively with Chan/Zen as a whole and precisely none that deal with both the historical/social and doctrinal/practice elements of this complex tradition. This book fills an important niche.
Thomas P. Kasulis
Books on Zen Buddhism generally aim to accomplish one of two goals: either to be a scholarly, historical study of the development of the tradition or a pragmatic study that explains the ramifications of the Zen life for value questions we face today. Rarely does a book accomplish both goals, but this one does. Readers will be indebted to Peter Hershock for his care in treating the tradition in a balanced, scholarly manner while going beyond that scholarship to explain why Zen maintains its importance for engaging the personal and global problems of our times. A masterwork both informative and enlightening.
Graham Parkes
This superb book is a welcome follow-up to the author’s Chan Buddhism and an enriching complement to Thomas Kasulis’s Zen Action, Zen Person. Of special value here are the connections drawn between the history of Zen and its contemporary developments, as well as between personal and social practices and ideas. As in his previous writings, what gives Peter Hershock’s comprehensive understanding of the Buddhist tradition an especially keen edge is his ongoing experiential engagement with the practice of meditation and his emphasis on engaged activity in the actual world.
Library Journal
Zen Buddhism has long been understood as a path "beyond words and letters," which transmits its truth directly from heart-mind to heart-mind. Ironically, this most iconoclastic tradition has produced a vast literature, now including this excellent contribution by Hershock (director, Asian Studies Development Program, East-West Ctr., Honolulu; Chan Buddhism). Dividing his book into three parts, the author systematically recounts the complex origins of and persistent changes to Japanese Zen across time and through its peripatetic migrations. Part 1 covers the basic tenets of Buddhism from its beginnings in India through its emergence in 12th- and 13th-century Japan. Hershock reveals a symbiotic relationship between early Japanese Buddhism and the developing state that was to characterize institutional Zen well into the 20th century. Part 2 examines the evolution of the Rinzai (emphasis on koan practice) and Soto (emphasis on sitting meditation) schools of Zen Buddhism in response to changing Japanese culture, economics, and politics. In the third part, Hershock focuses on personal practice, ritual, and communal discipline through sketches of the lives of four very different masters: Dogen, Ikkyu, Hakuin, and Ryokan. VERDICT A well-written and accessible academic history recommended for practitioners and students of Zen. Most readers might be surprised by the practice's support of Japanese modernization and even military imperialism leading up to World War II.—James R. Kuhlman, Kentucky Wesleyan Coll., Owensboro
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Peter D. Hershock is director of the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu. A noted expert on Buddhism, he has written about the philosophical and historical dimensions of Buddhist practice in Chan Buddhism and Liberating Intimacy: Enlightenment and Social Virtuosity in Chan Buddhism. He has also made use of Buddhist thought to address contemporary issues in Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age, Buddhism in the Public Sphere: Reorienting Global Interdependence, and Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflection on Realizing a More Equitable Global Future.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Part I: Zen Origins
Chapter 1: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha from India to China
Chapter 2: The Japanese Transformation of Buddhism
Chapter 3: From Chinese Chan to Japanese Zen
Part II: Public Zen
Chapter 4: Rinzai Zen
Chapter 5: Sōtō Zen
Chapter 6: Ōbaku Zen
Chapter 7: Zen in a Modernizing Japan
Part III: Personal Zen
Chapter 8: Practicing Zen
Chapter 9: Zen Exemplars: Dōgen, Ikkyū, Hakuin, and Ryōkan
Chapter 10: Zen Here and Now

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)