on October 8, 1999
I love this book. It is for me, a book that strips away stereotypes about zen and zen monks, and shows the compassionate suffering and enlightenment of a rare being dedicated to dharmma and to life. This book is highly reccommended for anyone considering zen practice, or even for the sound novice who may consider monastic life. So much compassion comes from this book.
on February 7, 2005
Nakagawa Soen was marvellous artist and a poetic genius. He was one of the first spokesmen of Zen Buddhism in America, and one of the most eccentric. However it would be incorrect to call this wonderful character an exceptional master in the Japanese Rinzai line. Nakagawa Soen's "Inka" (authorization to teach) came from a single Japanese master of the Sozan Genkyo line. It was never independently verified. Consequently those who studied with this magnificent eccentric and themselves teach Zen tend to pass on his unusual views. The Zen master who best exemplifies the no-nonsense spirit of Rinzai Zen in America is Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, founder of Rinzai-Ji. Joshu Roshi's Zen is as solid as Nakagawa Soen's was ethereal. Nevertheless for breathtaking haiku and unforgettable images, graphic and verbal, there is no one like Nakagawa Soen.
on May 21, 2005
My favorate Soen Roshi story, not found in the book, goes as follows; once during a T.V. interview Soen was asked about his foundness for wine - was drinking an appropriate behavior for a priest? Soen replyed, 'If you always do what your Mama says you'll never be a playboy!'.
Another favorate story took place in Yellowstone National Park. Soen was soaking in a thermal hot pool that was clearly off limits. In the end a ranger chases naked Soen through the park.
Please read and enjoy Soen's poetry, the product of a truely free mind.
on November 13, 2005
I gave up everything to become a Zen monk. In London I met Sochu Suzuki Roshi, then sub-abbot under Soen Nakagawa of Ryutakuji monastery in Japan. His Zen led me to travel from England for immersion in true Zen, disappointed with the short-pedigree western zen that I found at home.
Ryutakuji monastery was a bucket of water in the face, with Soen holding the bucket. Genial, smiling, inscrutable, tiny but immense. "Give me MU!" he demanded, when I was on bathhouse duty.
I wept when I saw his grave at Dai-Bosatsu Zendo in America. An outstanding man, bestriding East and Western culture.
Any book commemorating his spirit is to be commended.
This book outlines some the history of his lineage relating to his own teacher Gempo-Roshi, who was the prior Abbot of Ryutakuji, describes Nakagawa's development and practice, as well as providing cultural and spiritual background to the intention to take Zen Buddhism beyond Japan, to the West, where interest in Eastern spirituality was starting to grow.