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Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn Paperback – February 18, 1994


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Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn + Only Don't Know: Selected Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn + The Compass of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (February 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130525
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I love the simplicity of Seung Sahn's teachings.
Austin D. Hunt
The book was compiled and edited by a student named Stephen Mitchell(whose translation of the "Tao Te Ching" I highly recommend.)
Damon Navas-Howard
I would recommend this book to beginners interested in Zen, and to people who have followed the path for a very long time.
Amy L Reese

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on December 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
This early book of Stephen Mitchell's is still one of his best. Not only that, but in my own opinion (for whatever _that's_ worth) it belongs on a shortlist of genuinely helpful books on Zen -- next to Kapleau's _Three Pillars of Zen_, Reps's _Zen Flesh, Zen Bones_, Suzuki's _Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind_, and a very few others.
Seung Sahn is a hoot, and Mitchell does a wonderful job presenting his teachings (in 99 fairly short sections, mostly taken from Seung Sahn's Dharma talks and personal correspondence). This book will annoy you in all the right places.
For guidance on koans generally, I like Thomas Cleary's _No Barrier_, recently republished as _Unlocking the Zen Koan_.
(And as other readers have noted, you shouldn't buy this book for advice on sitting, because there isn't any in it.)
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By John E. Chadwick on November 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
The first time I read this book I was stunned. I knew, I just knew, that it made sense somehow. But for the life of me, I could not figure out the "leaping logic" of ZMSS. However, I have kept it by my bedside for almost 5 years now, and a couple times a week, I pick it up, open to a story at random and again enjoy the wisdom contained within it. And believe it or not, after many years of this, I find that the stories all fit together.
This book is the perfect companion to "The Compass of Zen". (Also by ZMSS) Instead of theory, it presents various conversations and letters from the 1970's between the Zen master and his students. On more than one occasion I have found myself nodding in agreement with his students as they question and answer. Only to learn a new lesson from the master.
Now that ZMSS is no longer here in the flesh teaching us, this book is even more important, as the Zen master will be beside us always. Teaching, correcting and guiding. A must have for the serious student of Zen.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Damon Navas-Howard on October 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Dropping Ashes on The Buddha" by Zen Master Seung Sahn is a truly unique gem in the boundless sea of Zen literature. It was one of the first books I read on Zen and it had a huge impact on me when I read it much like "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" did. Like "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" this book is filled to the brim with humor and compassion and wisdom, defying all logic that will truly awaken you. Seung Sahn was the first teacher to bring Korean Zen Buddhism to America and has since founded his own school. The book was compiled and edited by a student named Stephen Mitchell(whose translation of the "Tao Te Ching" I highly recommend.) The book is a collection of lectures, stories, letters, and stories(both modern and old) all by or having to do with Seung Sahn. It was also great to hear some great Zen stories from the Korean tradition and also a little bit about its lineage. Like koans and other Zen stories, this book shows a great account of buddha nature in action that is beyond words and thinking. Seung Sahn helped erase alot of misconceptions I had in my mind about Zen. I highly recommend this book. I am always re-reading certain stories every now and then and still finding them as fresh as the day I first read them.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
After reading this book about a year ago, I finally made the decision to really find out what all this zen stuff was all about. Though as someone "philosophically inclined" it took me some time to wrap my self around his "just don't know" and the like. But never for a moment was I anything but totally engrossed by his presentation. And he's funny too! What more could you want?!? A Stand-up Zen master...exactly what I've been waiting for! For a more complete presentation, check out Seung Sahn's "The Compass of Zen".
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Austin D. Hunt on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
I finally read this book in its entirety recently after a year of randomly reading the charming stories and koans comprising the book. I love the simplicity of Seung Sahn's teachings. The love he has for his student (you) truly shines through when reading. However, there are other books I would recommend to the beginner who knows little of Zen before this one -introductory books, otherwise the "methods" of zen teaching are easy misunderstood.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C.A. Montana on July 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Look no further! You made it, you have arrived, this is it: you have found this book. Now open it... Are you laughing yet? This book is a most wonderful key. It will hit right at your core, dazzle you, stun you, strip you, enrich you, bust the locks of your mind, and flung open the doors of your heart . Whoever said Zen 'had' to be austere and bitter anyway? Do yourself the favor of a lifetime: meet this simple and loving man, and listen to his teaching. It's about life, it's about death, empty words and the color of snow, a flag moving in the wind, moments of everyday; it's about you. Everything becomes clear; are you laughing yet?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jim Martin on October 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very interesting read indeed... I found the intermittent cursing to be quite humorous. It's without a doubt - an entertaining, and mind boggling adventure. It makes you feel as if you're right in the classroom, getting smacked with Seung Sahn's stick.

I'd be lying if I said I was able to figure out the various kong-ans, but I'm sure I'm not the only one (I wish there were answers to these riddles, BUT that's probably asking for way too much). However, I did notice that even though I didn't understand the kong-ans that certain things did make more sense as the chapters went on... So, by the end of the book, you have a slightly better understanding than you did at the beginning. This book definitely needs to be reread. Some stories are just plain funny, some are puzzling, and some have a story to tell. *It seems that every other page someone is getting hit hard, hahaha... It's a good thing that hitting is a sign of affection from student to teacher. I've never read a book even close to something like this - it makes you wonder how amazing this man was in person. I subsequently purchased another book from Soen-sa, "Wanting Enlightenment Is a Big Mistake". I want to see how this one fares as well.

I'm hesitant to take a stab at this BUT, if I had to write something that I learned through these pages:

Naturally scriptures, holy reading and their corresponding history are very important (so is growing up and learning all the necessary skills we need to survive in this crazy world). Additionally vital is at some point in our life, we have to stop thinking we know everything. Human beings today are at a point where we just think our way through life. We think we have an explanation for everything --- I think, I think, I think....
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