Just finished rereading Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. I try to reread it at least once every few years, both for pleasure and for the new insights it provides.
Amazon has a pretty good description of what it's about:
With over one million copies sold fifty years after its first printing, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones has inspired countless lives. Hailed as the most profound religious philosophy ever, this far reaching system of aesthetics truly tackles the question: What is Zen?
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones has been sharing wisdom and enlightenment with readers since 1957. An inspirational four-books-in-one volume at your fingertips, this collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings includes: 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries; The Gateless Gate, the famous thirteenth century collection of Zen koans; Ten Bulls, a twelfth century commentary on the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment; and Centering, a 4,000 year-old teaching from India that some consider to be the roots of Zen. ..
About the Author
Paul Reps was the author of several books of poems and prose inspired by Zen, including Zen Telegrams.
Nyogen Senzaki, an internationally renowned Buddhist scholar, was a homeless monk studying and wandering the land from monastery to monastery. His wandering eventually brought him to the United States, where he lived for over 50 years.
I first read this book the summer before the start of my freshman year in high school.
My grandmother had a house on Cape Cod that she occasionally rented out during the summer to friends and people with 'good references.'
In keeping with one of the many traditions of Cape Cod "summer house" residence, her guests often left behind whatever books they read while on vacation. Over the years, my grandmother's house (by the beach rather than "over the meadow and through the woods") acquired a fairly large library of abandoned paperbacks and inexpensive hardcovers that spanned the gamut of reading interests.
Her living room had a wall of bookshelves on either side of a built-in fireplace. When she first bought the house, these shelves mostly held knick-knacks and her antique Sandwich Glass
collection. As the years went by, the books gradually crowded out her collectibles, forcing her to finally move them to a locked (to keep out the books!) curio cabinet she bought specifically to house them.
Most of the books were the usual "summer fare" light espionage, murder mystery, 'bodice-ripper', horror, and (rarely) fantasy & sci-fi titles. But hidden within this collection of literary trash were a few dozen real gems such as The Hobbit
and Frank L. Baum's complete collection of 14 illustrated Oz Books
One day, while rummaging, I found a slim little book wedged between and half hidden by a couple of large craft books. It was Zen Flesh Zen Bones
. I started reading it, and got hooked before I got less than ten pages into it. And while it may sound trite, I can honestly say this little book changed the course of my entire
life - and set me off on a spiritual adventure that's continued to this day.
Dynamite little book.
: This book will
The interesting thing about Zen, and it's way of looking at the world, is that it will change you. And it will do it without
your doing anything other than becoming aware of what Zen teaches.
No need for rituals (although there are ritual practices if you want them) or complex rules of ethics (Zen is both ethical and moral - yet it paradoxically professes no creed or moral dogma).
Just read through this book and you'll find your perceptions and beliefs changing in many subtle ways - whether you agree or disagree with what you read. Not that there's anything to really disagree with since Zen doesn't espouse any specific beliefs or doctrines. It simply asks you to become consciously aware of what you think of as yourself and the world around you.
Then, once you've reached that level of awareness - look both inward
. (Note: see the Ten Bulls
for one roadmap of how to get there!)
What comes next will both amaze and delight you - even if you'll never be able to actually put into words what you've discovered.
Fun stuff if you're up for it!