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Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life Paperback – November 11, 2008


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Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life + The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life + The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; Reprint edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159030618X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590306185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

<p >“John Tarrant is one of the most interesting minds in American Buddhism. He weaves his deep immersion in Buddhist practice, Western psychology, and the arts into a unique yet completely authentic story of the Zen life and its mysteries.”—Melvin McLoed, editor-in-chief, the Shambhala Sun <p >“You’ve never read a Zen book like this before. Having digested the traditional koan literature, which he has taught for many years, Zen teacher John Tarrant cheerfully goes beyond it. His koan re-tellings read like postmodern short fiction, complete with anti-heroic characters, visible scenery, and attitude. Rather than the usual Zen mystique that treats koans as arcane meditation objects, Tarrant discusses them as open secrets that actually matter for our lives here and now.”—Zoketsu Norman Fischer, poet and Zen priest; author of Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to Navigate Life’s Perils and Pitfalls

<p >“Bring Me the Rhinoceros is one of the best books ever written about Zen.”—Stephen Mitchell, translator of Gilgamesh: A New English Version <p >“Here’s a book to crack the happiness code if ever there was one. Forget about self-improvement, five-point plans, and inspirational seminars that you can’t remember a word of a week later. Tarrant’s is the fix that fixes nothing because there is nothing to fix. Your life is a koan, a deep question whose answer you are already living—this is the true inspiration, and Tarrant delivers.”—Roger Housden, author of the Ten Poems series <p >“Every life is full of koans, and yet you can’t learn from a book how to understand them. You need someone to put you in the right frame of mind to see the puzzles and paradoxes of your experience. With intelligence, humor, and steady deep reflection, John Tarrant does this as no one has done it before. This book could take you to a different and important level of experience.”—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul <p >“John Tarrant’s talent for telling these classic Zen tales transforms them magically into a song in which, as you read, the words disappear as the music continues to echo in your mind and make you happy. Mysteriously, like koans.”—Sylvia Boorstein, author of Pay Attention, For Goodness’ Sake

About the Author

A Zen teacher who has studied koans for thirty years, John Tarrant directs the Pacific Zen Institute, a venture in meditation and the arts, and teaches culture change in organizations. He is the author of several books, including The Light Inside the Dark. He lives among the vineyards near Santa Rosa, California.

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Customer Reviews

I was very impressed with the presentation.
D. gavurin
Bring Me The Rhinoceros will stay by my bedside table to read again and again.
P. A. Muccigrosso
Like all good koans, this book is best experienced for yourself.
eShu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ray Watkins on November 15, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is no end to the making of books; Amazon exists for that, and it's great to learn how to, say, repair a window.

But in the "wisdom" category, 99% of books merely engage the old chattering mind, and you just end up with new noise. Nothin' wrong with that, but somehow, Tarrant does something different when he writes, and I come away smiling deep, breathing freer, paying closer attention to my wife, my tasks, the wind battering the tree limb against my window. I shake my head again and again at how much I'd been missing. Sometimes, this shift persists for hours.

Hey, reader: you've earned a brief reprieve from worry and other secret babble. Don't miss this one; it may take you home to the core.

And I, after reading way too many books, don't know how he does it.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Bob Flannery on October 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Let the teaching flow out from your own breast

to cover the sky and the earth."

- Yantou

"When you unpack all your motives and other people's motives and get to the bottom of things, you find love. I know that this is a shocking thing to say but I will try to show how it is true." - BMtR

The single most satisfying aspect of this book is the sharing of personal experience. The author relates his "Stumbling into Koans" as well as sharing the experiences of others who have encountered koan practice. Many of the traditional koans are themselves dialogues or interchanges.

Each of the fourteen chapters stands alone as the presentation of a koan with commentary. Each chapter is entitled, for example "ON AVOIDING BAD ART" or "LIFE WITH AND WITHOUT YOUR CHERISHED BELIEFS" or "THE HEAVEN THAT'S ALREADY HERE". Each koan has a section "Working with the Koan", with one or more personal stories from the author or another person. The honest sharing of life experience makes the book intriguing.

"Koans might be imagined as vials of ancient light. There is one strange thing about meeting ancestors in this way: when they reach down across night and the years to give you their light, you might find that what you have been given is your own light, something that belongs to you." - BMtR

On the other hand, one can lose one's precious maps that over and over lead one into the familiar den of misery. Tarrant strongly advises to discard the old, familiar roadmap to Misery, AND don't replace it with anything. Not knowing is preferred to being CERTAIN and suffering. Life is allowed to be itself, not scrunched into little ugly molds.

Try it. You'll like it!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Daniel M. Kaplan on October 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is more than a book about Koans. It is a complete presentation of The Matter itself. John Tarrant goes directly to the heart of the matter and directly to OUR hearts. One can't help but take up koans as one reads the book. Koans are about our life, not about some chinese buddhists who lived 1000 years or more ago. John show the way to freedom, demonstrates the way to freedom and the kicker is, it's already here if you can see it and use it. What a gift. Nine bows.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By William Krumbein on December 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am a member of Pacific Zen Institute (PZI) and John Tarrant is my primary teacher. That being said, I offer a little different perspective than what you may read in other responses to his book, "Bring Me the Rhinoceros."

We at PZI have one-on-one interviews with John during any given month as well as at retreats. This is the context in which most people view koan work. But the word koan literally means "public notice". John has reconnected our community to the ways of old Chinese masters by bringing public discussion back into koan studies. He does this by conducting koan seminars throughout the year where we will meditate with a koan, then share our experience with the group.

What John has done with "Bring Me the Rhinoceros" is to offer every reader the opportunity to join in a grand public koan discussion. John writes how these koans have affected him; he writes about other people and their koan experiences; but it doesn't end here.

Sometimes I read one chapter just before going to sleep. Other times I read a chapter just before my morning meditation period. How have you experienced these koans? Join us, then, in this grand discussion.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nina Jo Smith on March 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Okay, Mountain Tasting runs a close second, but this book gets me through hard times. It is great to read aloud to a friend or spouse. It is the only book I now recommend to those dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

The koans work me and transform my suffering into something like acceptance.

My only complaint is that it has not yet come out in paperback.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By eShu on December 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book sneaks up on you.

When I first came across "Bring Me Rhinoceros" in a favorite used bookstore I thought "The nerve of John Tarrant! How dare he try to explain what is essentially unexplainable!" I flipped through it, read a couple of passages here and there and put it back on the shelf.

But some of the things I read stayed with me. And after a few months, I found myself wanting to explore the book more. So I broke down and bought it.

As I read the book, I realized Tarrant is not trying to explain the koans at all.

He first presents each as they were originally written (translated into English, of course). Then he explains the history and historical environment around them, which can sometimes be important to their understanding. Finally, he relates a personal experience around working with the koan.

And like the koans themselves, Tarrant's words slowly creep into your thinking. And sometimes they contain brief flashes of enlightenment. But the book definitely has expanded my own practice and study of the koans.

But don't take my word for it. Like all good koans, this book is best experienced for yourself.
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