From Publishers Weekly
Zen Buddhist priest and longtime teacher Hagen makes his central point emphatically and repeatedly throughout this book: Buddhism is about direct experience, not about the thoughts people habitually entertain about experience. A student of Japanese Zen master Dainin Katagiri authorized by his master to teach, Hagen cites the Buddha's one-word summary of the goal of Buddhist teachings: awareness-awareness of whatever is taking place in the ever-changing present moment. Hagen's Buddhism is oriented toward big questions, strongly ontological and epistemological, and concerned with reality and how reality is ordinarily perceived (or, as he argues, habitually misperceived, because it is overlain with hopes, desires, concepts and other delusions). So the author is not given to a lot of specific examples or stories from present life, though the book is peppered with the ancient-master stories that Zen teachers always draw on. The tone of the book is strongly didactic and abstract. Unlike Zen writers given to simplicity or poetry or startling paradox, Hagen relies on typographical conventions-italics and capital letters-to articulate and underscore his central point about Buddhist awareness ("to see Reality"), which contributes to a ponderous tone. His Zen exegesis of Emily Dickinson is provocative, and the book would have benefited from more such surprises and re-readings of the lessons of everyday experience. That Hagen isn't a poet of prose doesn't detract from the worth of his content, but it does make his book harder to read.
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“This is not just another nice book about Buddhism, one telling us what we like to hear and are used to hearing. No--it is a clear and challenging showing of the fundamental truth of our lives. This is an exceptional book. Make good use of it.” (Charlotte Joko Beck author of Everyday Zen)
“Hagen (Buddhism Plain and Simple) here presents 43 short chapters dealing with various aspects of Buddhist practice in a way that cuts to the heart of the matter. Hagen reminds us that whenever we’re grasping, aspiring, analyzing, judging, or in any way adding to the simple experience of the present moment, we are missing the point. The book will appeal to readers interested in what true Zen practice is supposed to be about beyond all the popular images and colorful stories. For practitioners it is also a book that will reward multiple readings over time.” (Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)