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Zen Flesh - Zen Bones - Zen Thoughts

Updated on February 17, 2014

My Review

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is one of those books that might best be read for the first time as a child would listen to a parent reading her a fairy tale. Hearing each word as if for the first time and letting the words paint a narrative that is both amazing and without expectation. The child lets the words flow over her and transport her attention deeply into the moment.

Together Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki have collected dozens of stories that show both the wonderful humor and stark simplicity that are Zen.They have taken four distinct volumes and made them into one.

1.101 Zen stories is a compilation of short tales, many derived from original koans, all of them illuminating and humorous.

2.The book's second section, entitled The Gateless Gate, is a selection of 48 ageless koans.

3.the third section, the famous 10 Bulls is an exquisite collection of minimalist paintings and verse that describe the stages of spiritual unfoldment.

4.The fourth and final section, called Centering, contains aphorisms and meditations from an ancient Sanskrit manuscript.

One thing that stands out about the book is the emphasis on preconscious awareness, a concept I never really understood until I heard Pema Chodin speak in her Getting Unstuck talk of a concept called "Shenpa" and upon hearing it I was moved toward understanding.

The book is one of those you can carry around in your back pocket to pull out whenever you have a minute. I highly recommend it to everyone .Zen Flesh Zen Bones is a book that invites you to struggle with it, invites you to pound your head against the wall at each Koan wondering "what can it mean". Struggle with it if you want, though I think you will miss what's there if you do, but we all like to struggle in the beginning in hopes we can over power the obstacle and find victory or in this case some form of Zen Enlightenment.

"When Zen Flesh, Zen Bones was published in 1957 it became an instant sensation with an entire generation of readers who were just beginning to experiment with Zen. Over the years it has inspired leading American Zen teachers, students, and practitioners. Its popularity is as strong today as ever." (intro from amazon page)

While it might seem very un-Zen that one of its premerie books would become an instant sensation I can't help but believe many Zen masters would smile at this thought. Non-craving and Non-attachment may be the foundations of Zen but at its heart is the realization that we are all human beings who are not bereft of common human frailties.

"whenever he expressed happiness

I only heard happiness

whenever he expressed sorrow

sorrow was all I heard"

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It's All Right Here

A monk told Joshu, "I have just entered this monastery. I beg you to teach me." Joshu asked, "Have you eaten your rice porridge?" The monk replied, "I have." "Then," said Joshu, "Go and wash your bowl." At that moment the monk was enlightened.

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Leave a Thought - got a thought, Zen or otherwise ?

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    • BSieracki profile image

      Bernie 6 years ago from Corbin, KY

      i read it a few times about 20 years ago

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Good lens. I am into the alternative ways of thinking and life. I enjoyed this.

    • Zen Automat profile image

      Zen Automat 7 years ago

      Ha ha ha ,,,,,,, made me smile..thanks for stopping by..

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      "Now and Zen" I come across a great site like this one!

    • profile image

      divinityfaemyst 8 years ago

      I really love your page! I'm new here... "hugs"

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 9 years ago

      Welcome to Everything Spiritual. Have a great day!

    • patinkc profile image

      patinkc 9 years ago from Midwest

      Welcome to the Buddhism Group.

    • Piksychick profile image

      Piksychick 10 years ago

      I haven't read this particular Zen book. But the ones I have read never made sense at first. Understanding Zen came in steps. Reading, walking away thinking (or scratching my head), and then coming back to it later. After letting the stories simmer for awhile and then rereading them always gave me the most acute insight. Suddenly, or not, the stories made sense.

      Thanks for the great review.

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      tdove 10 years ago

      Another great Zen lens! 5*