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Zen / Mahayana

The Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, of which Zen is an important expression (along with Chinese Chan and Korean Soen), arose sometime around the first century C.E. in South India and spread throughout Asia.  It is characterized by the ideal of the bodhisattva: the compassionate being whose desire for enlightenment isn’t an individual quest but includes all other sentient beings as well.

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  1. Cold Mountain Poems

    Cold Mountain Poems

    Zen Poems of Han Shan, Shih Te, and Wang Fan-chih

    • by
    • Han Shan
    Popularized in the West by Beat Generation writers Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac, T’ang-era rebel poet Han Shan is an icon of Chinese poetry and Zen. He and his sidekick, Shih Te, are known as the laughing, ragged pair who left their poetry on stones, trees, farmhouses, and monastery walls, calling others to “the Cold Mountain way” of simple, honest, joyful living. J. P. Seaton takes a fresh look… Read More

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  2. Sky Above, Great Wind

    Sky Above, Great Wind

    The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan

    • by
    • Ryokan
    Ryokan (1758–1831) is, along with Dogen and Hakuin, one of the three giants of Zen in Japan. But unlike his two renowned colleagues, Ryokan was a societal dropout, living mostly as a hermit and a beggar. He was never head of a monastery or temple. He liked playing with children. He had no dharma heir. Even so, people recognized the depth of his realization, and he was sought out by… Read More

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  3. Wild Ivy

    Wild Ivy

    The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin

    • by
    • Hakuin
    A fiery and intensely dynamic Zen teacher and artist, Hakuin (1685–1768) is credited with almost single-handedly revitalizing Japanese Zen after three hundred years of decline. As a teacher, he placed special emphasis on koan practice, inventing many new koans himself, including the famous “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” This English translation of Hakuin’s intimate self-portrait includes reminiscences from his childhood, accounts of his Zen practice and enlightenment… Read More

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  4. Elegant Failure

    Elegant Failure

    A Guide to Zen Koans

    • by
    • Richard Shrobe
    Zen koans are stories of exchanges between Zen masters and their disciples at the moment of enlightenment or near-enlightenment. These stories have long fascinated Western readers because of their wisdom, humor, and enigmatic quality. Drawing on over thirty years of practice and teaching, Richard Shrobe (himself a recognized Zen Master) has selected twenty-two cases from The Blue Cliff Record, Book of Serenity, and Wu-men-kuan that he has found to be… Read More

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  5. A White Tea Bowl

    A White Tea Bowl

    100 Haiku from 100 Years of Life

    • by
    • Mitsu Suzuki
    • edited by
    • Kazuaki Tanahashi
    A White Tea Bowl is a selection of 100 haiku written by Mitsu Suzuki, the widow of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and published in celebration of her 100th birthday. The compelling introduction by Zen priest Norman Fischer describes the profound impact on her life and work of war in Japan and social upheaval in America.Part I: 100 Haiku presents a kaleidoscope of poems by Mitsu Suzuki that touch all aspects of… Read More

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  6. The Poetry of Zen

    The Poetry of Zen

    • edited by
    • Sam Hamill,
    • J. P. Seaton
    A Zen poem is nothing other than an expression of the enlightened mind, a handful of simple words that disappear beneath the moment of insight to which it bears witness. Poetry has been an essential aid to Zen Buddhist practice from the dawn of Zen—and Zen has also had a profound influence on the secular poetry of the countries in which it has flourished. Here, two of America’s most renowned… Read More

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  7. The Poetry of Enlightenment

    The Poetry of Enlightenment

    Poems by Ancient Chan Masters

    • by
    • Chan Master Sheng Yen
    For the masters of the Chan tradition, poetry was a form of creative expression, but even more than that, it was a primary vehicle for teaching. Here a modern master presents ten teaching poems from the ancient masters, with illuminating commentary. “These poems flow directly from the minds of the enlightened Chan masters,” Master Sheng Yen says. “We get a glimpse into their experience at the time of, and after,… Read More

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  8. Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf

    Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf

    Zen Poems of Ryokan

    The Japanese poet-recluse Ryokan (1758–1831) is one of the most beloved figures of Asian literature, renowned for his beautiful verse, exquisite calligraphy, and eccentric character. Deceptively simple, Ryokan's poems transcend artifice, presenting spontaneous expressions of pure Zen spirit. Like his contemporary Thoreau, Ryokan celebrates nature and the natural life, but his poems touch the whole range of human experience: joy and sadness, pleasure and pain, enlightenment and illusion, love and… Read More

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  9. Wild Ivy

    Wild Ivy

    The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin

    Hakuin Zenji, also known as Hakuin Ekaku (1689–1769), is often referred to as the "father" of the Japanese Zen Rinzai school. His reforms revitalized the school, ensuring its endurance even to our own day. A fiery and dynamic teacher and renowned artist, Hakuin reemphasized the importance of zazen, or sitting meditation, in his teaching. This intimate self-portrait of the Zen master includes reminiscences from his childhood, an account… Read More

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  10. The Spring of My Life

    The Spring of My Life

    And Selected Haiku

    Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), along with Basho and Buson, is considered one of the three greatest haiku poets of Japan, known for his attention to poignant detail and his playful sense of humor. Issa's most-loved work, The Spring of My Life, is an autobiographical sketch of linked prose and haiku in the tradition of Basho's famous Narrow Road to the Interior. In addition to The Spring… Read More

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