Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen

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9780385081306: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen

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.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a book that offers a collection of accessible, primary Zen sources so that 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.

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About the Author:

Paul Reps, the compiler, was an American who lived in many countries, including India, Norway, and Japan, and studied many of man's efforts to find and realize his true spiritual stature. He was the author of several books of poems and prose. He once said that he felt "the equal of each grass blade and pebble and believe that it is possible to be happy though human and grown up."

Nyogen Senzaki, a Buddhist scholar of international character to whom Reps acknowledged a deep debt of gratitude, was born in Japan. Early in life he became a "homeless monk," wandering the land and studying from Buddhist monastery to monastery. His wanderings eventually took him to America, where for over 50 years he lived in California, with no connection with any sect, denomination, or cathedral, radiating the free and creative spirit of Zen upon all who cared to share his study, meditation, wisdom, and loving kindness.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

37. Publishing the Sutras

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the Sutras, which at that time were only available in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

It happened that at the time the Uji River overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save the others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.

Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people.

For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing block which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

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Paul Reps
Published by Doubleday (1976)
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