Book Review

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones  is a collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. First published in 1957, the book remains a comprehensive and relevant introduction to Zen philosophy. According to the publisher:

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is … a collection of accessible, primary Zen sources so readers can struggle over the meaning of Zen for themselves. It 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.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones transports you back thousands of years, to a time when Far East teachers dedicated their entire lives to quiet contemplation, personal discovery, and spiritual enlightenment. How much better would the world be today if everyone spent a little time each day on contemplation, discovery, and enlightenment?

This book of mind-clearing koans is itself like a giant koan; the circular prose is borderline hypnotic. The 101 Zen stories in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones are tasty morsels of WTF? The Gateless Gate offers more content — a Zen tale, Master Mumon’s wiseass commentary, and a verse to sum in all up — but it isn’t any easier to grasp. Figuring out what the ancient Zen masters mean is half the fun, and the whole of the journey.

What is Zen?

Zen is nothing.

Zen is everything.

But is everything Zen?

I don’t think so!




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