An exceptionally original riff on Alice in Wonderland, Daniel Silberberg’s Wonderland uses Lewis Carroll’s classic story as a jumping-off point to convey the Zen concept of “One Mind”. Using a lively mix of tone, quotation, and levels of discourse, he references everything from Timeless Spring and the Diamond Sutra to Kill Bill and ketchup, creating a unique contribution to contemporary American Zen that honors its historic roots while striking out into fresh areas. With stories from his own life as well as from...
An exceptionally original riff on Alice in Wonderland, Daniel Silberberg’s Wonderland uses Lewis Carroll’s classic story as a jumping-off point to convey the Zen concept of “One Mind”. Using a lively mix of tone, quotation, and levels of discourse, he references everything from Timeless Spring and the Diamond Sutra to Kill Bill and ketchup, creating a unique contribution to contemporary American Zen that honors its historic roots while striking out into fresh areas. With stories from his own life as well as from the larger cultural swirl around him, Silberberg reflects on the differences between how we perceive the world and the way it actually is. His take on a variety of Buddhist ideas and concepts is immediately useful and relevant, enabling readers to address many of the issues they deal with in their own practices.
In this short book Silberberg weaves snippets from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with personal anecdotes, classic Buddhist sutras, koans and popular culture to illustrate Zen approaches to the true nature of enlightenment: “When we get to the other shore, to what I am calling Wonderland, we may experience One Mind.” Rather than using Zen to explain Alice, Silberberg playfully mingles, for example, the upside-down logic of the Caterpillar and Mock Turtle with the wisdom of the Diamond Sutra to explain key ideas. A longtime practitioner and former vice abbot of the Kanzeon Zen Center in Utah, the author is adept at explaining Buddhist teachings and ideas, such as the causes of suffering and Siddhartha's search for the truth of existence. Silberberg's description of the Zen path demonstrates more rigor than gentleness, reflecting a “warrior” approach to the search for knowledge that isn't present in all forms of this Eastern philosophy; indeed, a little more clarification about which approaches are specifically Zen among the range of Buddhist practices would have been helpful for the novice. While the Alice analogies are thin, Silberberg's clear writing and in-depth knowledge of his subject make this addition to the “Zen of” genre engaging. (Oct. 1)
In his first book, Silberberg, a Zen teacher and practicing psychologist and counselor, gives a good, brief introduction to Zen practice by drawing on ideas he finds in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. For example, he finds something koanlike in pieces of the narrative that shake up our ways of thinking and foster new insights. To make religion or philosophy more relevant, practitioners have written many works associating philosophy or religion with popular culture, e.g., Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh, Open Court's "Popular Culture & Philosophy" series, and the University Press of Kentucky's "Philosophy of Culture" titles. Silberberg writes clearly and with humor and intelligence, but he has a tendency to exhibit a smug certitude that some readers may find irritating. Small criticisms aside, Silberberg puts forth many valuable ideas. VERDICT Readers with some general acquaintance with Zen or other spiritual practices will find this an accessible introduction, but the lack of information on basics like sitting posture, breathing, and receptivity may puzzle those with no prior knowledge.—James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
Daniel Doen Silberberg is a Zen Teacher and founding director of the ‘Lost Coin Sangha’ in the ‘White Plum Lineage’ that descends from both the Rinzai and Soto schools.
Born in Bad Hartzburg, Germany, in 1947 his parents moved to New York City when he was four. Mr. Silberberg began formal Zen practice under Abbot Maezumi Roshi and resident teacher, Daido Roshi, at Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York. He draws on a rich and varied background. He received a B.A. in English literature, with an emphasis in Eastern literature, and has a Masters and Ph. D. in psychology. Prior to receiving dharma teacher transmission from Genpo Dennis Merzel in 2003 he had a successful career as a musician and has spent 25 years as a psychotherapist and as a coach and consultant in New York and Salt Lake City.