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Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple 1St Edition Edition

60 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-4770030757
ISBN-10: 4770030754
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Here is an unusually fine translation of a most unusual best-seller. . . We sometimes have the odd idea that Zen means simply sitting around until satori happens. . . . It is much more, as novice Nonomura discovered when he joined the beginners at Eijeiji, one of the most rigorous temples in Japan. . . . a boot camp of a place that would make even brave marines quail. . . .Nonumura stood the strain. He stayed a year. . . . This painful route, then, is the true Zen path. . . . Almost as painful must have been the translation of this book with its extraordinary width of styles from the arcane Zen tracts of Dogen and others, to the diary-like grumbles of the clueless young Nonomura. Here, translator Juliet Carpenter not only stays the course, she defines it .here is a particularly felicitous translation, especially in the handling of the colloquial within the religious context. DONALDRICHIE, in The Japan Times

About the Author


Born in 1959, Kaoru Nonomura traveled widely in Asia as a university student, and upon graduation began to work as a designer in Tokyo. At the age of thirty, he decided to put his career on hold to spend a year as a trainee monk at Eiheiji, a monastery famed for its rigid discipline. Twelve months later, he returned to his design job, and it was during his daily commute on a crowded train that he began to jot down his recollections of his Eiheiji experience. These notes eventually became Eat Sleep Sit, the author's only book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770030754
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770030757
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.2 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,009,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book offers a view of Zen Buddhist practice that will come as a surprise to many Americans with an interest in Buddhism. The book tells of the rigorous, harsh, and all-consuming training that young male recruits undergo at Eiheji. Located in the mountains in a remote area of Japan, Eiheji Monastery was founded by Dogen (1200 -1253) in 1244. A Buddhist monk, Dogen travelled to China and brought back to Japan what became known as the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. Eiheji remains the head temple of Soto Zen. It trains priests who serve in Zen temples throughout Japan.

In this memoir, Kaoru Nonomura describes the year he spent in training at Eiheji. As a young man of 30, Nonomura was a university graduate who had travelled throughout Asia and had a good job as a designer. He lived with his parents. Nonomura is vague about what led him to abandon his life for the rigors on training as a monk. He writes "I'd grown weary of my life, had come to feel the entanglements of society so burdensome and disagreable that I'd resolved to flee them by becoming a Zen Buddhist Monk --and yet now that society's hold on me was slipping. I felt increasingly sad and sentimental." (p.13) Nonomura bids a short farewell to his parents and his girlfriend and sets out for Eiheji.

Nonomura's book details the harsh, rigorous training to which he had subjected himself at Eiheji. Designed to strip the recruits of their egos and concepts of self, the training subjected Nonomura, who as a monk received the name of Rosan, to beatings, kicks, and abuse, to long days beginning at 1:30 a.m. and ending at 10:00 p.m.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Brian Whistler VINE VOICE on June 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is not an easy read. The author, experiencing an early midlife crisis goes off to the toughest Zen monastery in Japan for a year. Like the subject, the writing is austere and deliberately lean. Pages, indeed whole chapters are devoted to the description of how a monk should brush his teeth or conduct himself during a meal. This is spiritual boot camp and I can tell you, I wouldn't last a week in such an environment. The author is subjected to emotional torment and even beating as he bumbles his way through the labyrinth of arcane rules and regulations, memorizing prayers and rituals that include the striking of various drums, bells and gongs in an exact order and timing throughout the day. Everything is regulated and deliberately uncomfortable. Rigorous does not begin to describe the life these men must endure. Everything from the way they wear their robes and wash their faces is proscribed down to the finest detail.

Does the author learn something in his year at Eiheiji? Its hard to say. On reflection, he says he thinks twice about killing an insect. He no longer eats more than necessary. He has become capable of tears. All good and useful things. He does seem to come away with an appreciation for the preciousness of each moment. This is golden wisdom. Still, I couldn't help but wonder what the Buddha himself would've thought of this extreme training designed to strip a person of his ego but in such a brutal way. Would the Awakened One see this as faithful to the Middle Way he espoused?

This book maddened me, frustrated me and several times I grew impatient with it. How could this calculated and systematic breaking down of a man actually lead to freedom? They say there are many paths to the top of the mountain.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eric San Juan VINE VOICE on March 17, 2009
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Kaoru Nonomura decided to throw away his normal life and for a time live in one of the most rigorous, harrowing Zen temples in Japan. Why did he do this? For the experience, we presume. His motivation was not altogether clear.

And what an experience it was. As he chronicles in Eat Sleep Sit, he endured brutal training, harsh discipline, and an altogether uncomfortable way of living on his way to reaching enlightenment.

But don't expect a philosophical book. This book does not wax philosophical, it chronicles what seems like the mundane -- doing chores, washing floors, maintaining a strict daily routine -- in outlining what Nonomura endured. Oh, and the physical punishment. A LOT of physical punishment. Getting slugged for not sitting properly is the norm here.

Yet Nonomura not only endured it, he found that the experience enriched his life and view of the world.

Western folks in love with the idea of Zen Buddhism too often romanticize it, not fully understanding what it means to devote your life to the practice. This dose of reality is eye-opening, fascinating, and absolutely necessary.

Sparsely and simply written (and translated from Japanese), Eat Sleep Sit is easy to absorb for even the most casual of readers, yet the simple presentation saps none of its power. Recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Hyman VINE VOICE on March 30, 2009
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I did not know what to expect from this book, and was very happily surprised. It is a lovingly told story about the author's year in an austere zen monastery, that he entered in part to find meaning in life.

He recounts with great detail the feelings and the rituals of existence in the monastery, often strict, often seemingly cruel, but he provides a beautiful context around it, and shows how these rituals lead to a peaceful introspection.

The book doesn't preach. It doesn't provide spin. Instead, it provides a detailed recounting of the experience, in a way that makes you appreciate and respect the traditions and what the author went through.

Although I know it is not an experience I could go through or want to go through, it brought me great respect for those who do, and a much better feeling for what it is like.

In a world filled with lightweight Zen babble, it is a refreshing book that is quite the opposite.

Very interesting and a lovely read.
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