Waking Up: A Week Inside a Zen Monastery

Waking Up: A Week Inside a Zen Monastery

by Jack Maguire

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An essential guide to what it's like to spend a week inside
a Zen Buddhist monastery.

The notion of spending days at a time in silence and meditation amid the serene beauty of a Zen monastery may be appealing—but how do you do it, and what can you really


An essential guide to what it's like to spend a week inside
a Zen Buddhist monastery.

The notion of spending days at a time in silence and meditation amid the serene beauty of a Zen monastery may be appealing—but how do you do it, and what can you really expect from the experience?

Waking Up provides the answers for everyone who's just curious, as well as for all those who have dreamed of actually giving it a try and now want to know where to begin.

Jack Maguire take us inside the monastery walls to present details of what it's like: the physical work, common meals, conversations with the monks and other residents, meditation, and other activities that fill an ordinary week. We learn:

  • What kind of person resides in a Zen monastery?
  • Why do people stay there/ And for how long?
  • Must you be a Buddhist to spend time there?
  • What do the people there do? What is a typical day like?
  • How does the experience affect people's spiritual life once they're back home?
  • How can I try it out?

A detailed "Guide to Zen and Buddhist Places" and a glossary of terms make Waking Up not only a handbook for the curious seeker, but an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know more about the Buddhist way.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Welcome to Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, N.Y. Zen monasteries, Maguire (The Power of Personal Storytelling) reminds us, are devoted to "facilitating zazen," a form of Zen meditation. Nowadays one can go to Zen centers or zendos (meditation halls) to practice zazen, but monasteries, with their unhurried quietude, remain the best spot. This guide introduces readers to Zen sacred space via the design of traditional monasteries (the Zen Mountain Monastery is "Oz-like," says Maguire). Maguire also expands readers' notions of who goes to a Buddhist monastery--Christians, multifaith experimenters and "hopefully happy wanderers" can all find a place at Zen Mountain. Maguire cautions that while time in a monastery can be relaxing, it can also be quite a challenge. Sitting still for half an hour is no mean feat for the novice, and retreatants may be assigned to an onerous chore, such as cleaning toilets or weeding the garden. In a particularly helpful chapter, Maguire explores Zen time, describing the "natural rhythm" of a day in the monastery: the community rises at dawn, eats its most substantial meal in the middle of the day, and so on. A useful directory of Zen monasteries, zendos and retreat centers fills out the book. Readers who would like to try a retreat at a Zen monastery, or simply want to experience it vicariously, will enjoy this helpful slice-of-life approach. (Dec.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
To the average person, monasteries seem dreadfully forbidding. Yet for all their isolation and austerity, monasteries are hospitable and welcoming places where you may go to be apart and center yourself. This is true of both Trappist and Zen monasteries, as we discover in these two accessible books. Journalist Aprile (Louisville Courier-Journal) is a longtime friend of many of the Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani, one of 17 Trappist abbeys in the United States. Like most Roman Catholic monks, the Trappists follow rules devised by St. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. Trappists do not insist that guests have a purpose, so a retreat is usually informal. The guest makes a reservation to stay for a weekend or a week (their guesthouses are booked for months in advance); he or she may attend church or meet the guestmaster or another monk for spiritual advice. Aprile offers a thorough, readable introduction to the Trappists and experiencing one of their monasteries. Maguire (The Power of Personal Storytelling) takes us through a week at Zen Mountain Monastery (Mount Tremper, NY) under the guidance of its abbot, John Daido Loori. The retreat experience here is very different. While Trappists impose little structure on guests, at a Zen monastery visitors follow a formal schedule and an ideal style of observance. Guests have a specific goal: waking up to oneself and one's life. The principal means of waking up and becoming attentive is zazen ("sitting meditation"), but other activities are also directed to that end: kinhin ("walking meditation"), dokusan or daisan ("meeting with a teacher"), and mondo ("informal question-and-answer sessions"), among other activites. Both books are well worth reading, and if they inspire one to spend time with the Trappists or Zen monks, so much the better. For both public and academic libraries.--James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Longhill Partners
Publication date:
A Week Inside Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Jack Maguire is a Zen student and author of more than twenty books. He lives in the town of Highland in New York's Hudson River Valley. His books include Essential Buddhism (Simon&Schuster).

John Daido Loori, Roshi, is abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and author of numerous books, including Two Arrows Meeting in Mid-Air and Making Love with Light.

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