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Today it seems the west is in a big backwash of Zen related themes The Zen of Gardening, the Zen of Grooming your Pet, the Zen of brushing your teeth etc Most of these accounts are by people who wouldn t know Realization if it jumped up and bit them in the rumps It s due to these circumstances that Philip Kapleau s account of Zen is truly refreshing Roshi Kapleau traveled back to Japan after having been stationed there post World War II to study Zen and stayed for 13 years When he came back to the west before the big Zen fad had hit he longed to share his experiences so that others could come to self awakening and experience peace of mind Thus we end up with this wonderful book that contains an abundant wealth of information You ll find in this book translated talks of Kapleau s own teacher Yasutani Roshi, and also Yasutani s personal teachings with ten different westerners Later in this book you ll find a section on the enlightenment experience This section gives 8 different accounts of people from varying ages and occupations and their first person accounts of enlightenment Also, you ll find illustrations and important instructions on cultivating a meditation practice Lastly, this book serves as an important reference work There s a nice glossary and many notes contained in the back, which help to clear up any confusion over terminology, contained in the book I found that something new can be found every time you read this book That s why it really makes a great one to have in your personal collection As your personal insights grow deeper and your understanding widens certain passages in this book will seem vivid and real The last thing I would like to say is that ultimately no book can convey the true nature of Zen or teach you how to attain it You have to practice for yourself and learn for yourself much like learning how to ride a bike But while no book can do these things for you this book certainly serves as a nice map to give you instructions to start on the path and then hopefullyultimately burn the book itself Comment Permalink Must read for meditation practitioners The book clearly explains in details all things about Japanese Zen It is very useful, helpful for people who are learning and practicing Zen Buddhism meditation.I will have to re read it As I can t consume everything in the first read It s great though.PDF for Vietnamese edition is here @Free Ebook â The Three Pillars of Zen ⛓ Through Explorations Of The Three Pillars Of Zen Teaching, Practice, And Enlightenment Roshi Philip Kapleau Presents A Comprehensive Overview Of The History And Discipline Of Zen Buddhism An Established Classic, This Th Anniversary Edition Features New Illustrations And Photographs, As Well As A New Afterword By Sensei Bodhin Kjolhede, Who Has Succeeded Philip Kapleau As Spiritual Director Of The Rochester Zen Center, One Of The Oldest And Most Influential Zen Centers In The United States Searching For MuThere is a famous Zen koan a Zen paradox which the student of Zen must resolve on the path to enlightenment known as Mu As recounted in this book page 82 it goes like this A monk in all seriousness asked Joshu has a dog Buddha nature or not Joshu retorted Mu A great deal in Philip Kapleau s book discusses the Koan Mu and its role in Zen or some forms of Zen Kapleau was trained as a court reporter and served as a court reporter after WW II for the war crimes trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo While in Japan, he became interested in Buddhism In 1953 at the age of 46 Kapleau gave up his business and his possessions in New York City to travel to Japan to study Zen He remained in Japan for 16 years Upon returning to the United States he founded the Rochester Zen Center and published The Three Pillars of Zen Over the years, the book has been instrumental in introducing Americans to Zen The book has appeared in a 25th anniversary edition and in this 35th anniversary edition.And why Zen Why the Koan Mu The most valuable part of this book is the freshness, enthusiasm, and zeal which Kapleau brought to his subject 35 years ago and which strikes the reader today In describing his own experiences and the experiences of other students set out in the book, Kapleau gives a good picture of the discontent and the suffering arising from an experience of death, illness, restlessness, or disillusion that lead him to leave his established life in 1953 and search for meaning in Zen The discussion in the book never stated explicitly of why people look to Zen and how Zen responds to the needs of its seekers is what gives meaning to the book.The book describes long hours, months and years of sitting in monasteries Another excellent feature of the book is Kapleau s realistic picture of the rigors of Zen life This is something that, with the spread of Zen in the United States, might be too easily forgotten Kapleau emphasizes the long hours of painful sitting, the use of the rod to strike students during the sitting to keep them awake, the sometimes stormy and discouraging interviews with the master teacher or roshi, and the frustrations and difficulties in wrestling with the Koan Mu and other Zen teaching techniques He describes how some people, after deep effort attain to a degree of realization He does not stint the difficulty and endlessness of the process, which ultimately returns the seeker to himself and to living in the everyday.The book itself includes materials from a variety of sources including introductory lectures on Zen by one of Kapleau s teachers, Yasutani Roshi, a commentary on Mu, a discussion of the famous Zen oxherding pictures, and much For me, the most revealing section of the book was the discussion in Part II of Eight Contemporary Enlightenment Experiences of Japanese and Westerners These discussions gave me some insight, I think, into what the Zen path was about I particularly learned from Kapleau s own account of his experience and from the account of the woman who became his wife Another excellent part of the book is the enlightenment letters written by a young woman named Yaekeo Iwasaki on her deathbed to her teacher, Harada Roshi The letters are poignant and Harada Roshi s comments are revealing.In reading this book, I saw that the Zen path was difficult and not for everyone I learned something of it and about why people are attracted to it Zen and other forms of Buddhism have made great strides in the United States since Kapleau wrote his book The Three Pillars of Zen survives due to its sincerity and freshness It can t be institutionalized Every seeker must find his own path find Mu for him or herself.Robin Friedman I have had my reservations regarding this book And though I still have them, this is one powerful read regarding Japanese Zen Varying human perspective letters to students, all kinds of experiences etc plus commentaries, insights and some facts I am not sure how I feel reading about enlightenment experiences for I don t know what s that and I am not sure how to relate to that But it is an amazing text overall and I am glad I ve got myself to read it. Spiritual books often rely on a variety of literary devices biography, testimony, instruction and problem statements for contemplation Nearly all have a fair bit of repetition usually because the ideas presented are not our default way of thinking Reading this one wonders if a spiritual doctrine like this formed the basis of the western world It s devoid of the political, often war like passages in the bible it focuses on internal development and it emphasises peacefulness It s hard to imagine capitalism thriving in such a cultural basis but the cost of the idea of righteousness through political force may have been avoided As a book to enter a practice of zen it s perfect It has the intellectual inspiration as well as detailed instructions on meditation The book itself emphasises finding a teacher or community but lacking that one could begin a practice with determination This of course is the real determinant of spiritual growth a willingness to go beyond a fear of exploring ones true nature Of all the things we can spend our time doing this is the most worthwhile. A fairly good book on Zen, especially as it focuses so much on the practice of zazen Nonetheless, it is a bit long and repetitive for how much it emphasizes the uselessness of discursive intellect. The practical nature of the first part is inspiring Up to page 161 covers a small group of short talks on very useful points such as delusions that can be experienced in sitting, types of sitting, motivation in sitting and so on This is followed by a series of transcripts of interviews between teacher and student during a sesshin it functions like FAQs of zazen However, the struggles of these students are quite inspiring real questions, issues and problems and how they are faced or not by the individual This is followed by a selection of letters that show how the experiences described today are very similar to those of earlier sitters This pattern is repeated with experiences of those who have gained some degree of enlightenment My only real criticism is that the focus is almost entirely on those who have been enlightened using koans, especially Mu This makes the reader feel that the type of full on spiritual warfare described by these sitters is the only way to move forward Some interviews with those who practice shikantaza would have balanced things a little Indeed at the start of the book several types of zazen are mentioned but only the kensho seekers get highlighted. I was expecting a different kind of book when I picked up The Three Pillars of Zen I think I was expecting a teaching book, with a clear plan sort of like On Zen Practice , for lack of a better word, as where it is a collection of interesting testimonials It is really inspiring, and it helps me stay very motivated and focused to read these students dokusan records and about their satori experiences But I am not sure I d call it a manual for lay students per se Kapleau does an amazing job of breaking down the mechanics of Zen practice zazen, koan zazen, etc to give the reader a clear understanding of what the purpose of each practice is, and how it works I m the kind of person who always wants to know why things are done a certain way, and I find the clear explanations and instructions in the first part of this book to be thorough and valuable The tone is quite formal and serious, but not ponderous and it remains easy and straightforward to read.The middle part of the book is a collection of transcripts from a teacher s encounters with his Western students dokusan , of Dharma talks given by a few teachers, some of their correspondences, as well as the testimonies of several lay students who achieved enlightenment This is followed by an appendix containing some common zazen postures, QA as well as the Oxherding Pictures, with accompanying commentary and verses I thought the afterword was also very interesting, highlighting a lot of differences between Japanese Zen and Western Zen, and the way they overlap.This book was written from the Rinzai Zen perspective, so it is very intense about the rigidity of practice and it puts a lot of emphasis on attaining enlightenment I lean towards the Soto Zen school, so I can appreciate the style, but it s a bit too intense for me Don t get me wrong discipline, determination and hard work are quite important to both schools of thought, but Rinzai has a militaristic style that quite simply doesn t suit every student or mind For example, the use of the kyosaku during zazen is something that I can t help but feel uncomfortable about I understand why it is used, the explanation in the book is quite clear, but and perhaps this is a unconscious cultural blockage I can t agree with the idea of hitting students, even if it s a light tap.This is nevertheless a very interesting and often greatly inspiring text, that I d recommend any serious Zen student to check out 3 and a half rounded up. First of all, language is conceptual, dividing the world up into categorical separations The most basic instructions given for Zen practice should be sufficient to experience this simple, delicate, easy task Yet we as westerners have been trained to reason, deduct, and to ask why , at least that seems to be the common obstacle for western practitioners Sadly you can go into all of the logical explanations, but never touch the very simple experience that is Zen, and become lost in the discussion of it It is for this reason that most teachers do not get into the conceptual teaching of Zen, but rather focus on the orthorpraxy, or the practice This is very disappointing for people who are, looking for something Strangely by looking for it, you never find it, yet it is discover able, if you simply sit for a bit After I read a book called Zen Mind Beginner s Mind, and through learning fine arts I discovered , something When I went to a Zen Center it was initially frustrating because there were no direct answers I attended some classes, and read this book and suddenly it was clarified to my conceptual mind, what it was I was doing We westerners look at things as parts of a whole, as if they are solid, unchangeable things Yet everything is in process and not static at all This book helped me tremendously, it spoke to my conceptual mind and answered many of its questions so that I could continue to practice without over thinking, if this makes any sense at all It will not lead to the direct experience, yet it will address the questions that arise for a western mind, at least, it did for me I know at one point this book did not do it for me, and that was precisely the problem, I had to, do it It is rather a dry book, until you start practicing a bit, and attending a zen center or have a teacher of some sort I think by itself the book could introduce even questions, actually initiating counter productivity , I simply mean to say that one should take this as a static representation of what is fluid Like a photograph, it is a clear representation, but not a full one And yet, I would name it pivotal in allowing me to relax into my practice.