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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2005
More than any other known source, this series of essays (including the other two companion volumes) have probably done the most to put Zen 'on the map' - in the Western world. In some quarters - at least, it has become fashionable to regard D.T. Suzuki as 'passe' - a bridge builder, whose work has now reached its 'sell-by' date. While I can see why some people might feel that way - if training with a Roshi, or tired of 'reading too much' - Suzuki's 'essays' continue to have relevance for people making their first dip into the world of Zen.

In one sense, you could say that Suzuki wants to say too much, and the 'purists' may fault him for it. But he was good at his job - and knew exactly how to write about such things for a Western audience, saying enough to entice them and whet their appetite, then drop them in at the deep end! His way of doing this was lively and engaging. Suzuki was a good communicator (he had an American wife, which certainly helped. Beatrice Lane Suzuki was an accomplished student of Buddhism in her own right) - and, in some respects, Suzuki was more successful than some of the roshis teaching in the West. He wasn't trying to sell you an institution, but pointing to the 'treasure house' we must all find, for ourselves.

One thing is worth noting about Suzuki's 'essays.' For the most part, the anecdotes he has presented were taken from the T'ang masters in the Dentoroku (Chuan Teng Lu). You get a pretty fair spread of teaching-examples, and they are not all from masters in the Rinzai (Lin-chi) lineage. In the T'ang, there was no such sharp division between the Zen schools and in that sense, Suzuki's account has a freshness about it.

Suzuki will not bog you down with laboured academic digressions. He was rather slap-dash about footnotes - and as such, you get the very 'marrow' of Zen teaching. Suzuki had his foibles - but, he remains the 'grand old man of Zen' who whetted our appetite. These essays have life in them yet! Digest Suzuki. You wont regret it!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966) was a Japanese author of books and essays on Buddhism, Zen and Shin that were instrumental in spreading interest in both Zen and Shin to the West. Suzuki spent several lengthy stretches teaching or lecturing at Western universities, and devoted many years to a professorship at Otani University, a Japanese Buddhist school.

He wrote in the 1926 Preface to this book, "Some of such scholars sometimes try to explain the truth and development of Zen, but they sadly fail to do justice to the subject. On the other hand, Zen masters so called are unable to present their understanding in the light of modern thought... unfortunately from the scholarly point of view, they ... do not show any lively intellectual interest in the psychology and philosophy of Zen... it is thus incapacitated to walk out of the seclusion of the cloisters... great mistake it would be if one should ever take ... that Zen could be mastered from its philosophical presentation or its psychological description; but this ought not to mean that Zen is not to be intelligently approached or to be made somewhat accessible by our ordinary means of reasoning... This book is a collection of the Essays originally published in 'The Eastern Buddhist'... The book will be followed by (Essays in Zen Buddhism, Second Series) before long..."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"So we see that Enlightenment is not the outcome of an intellectual process in which one idea follows another in sequence finally to terminate in conclusion or judgment. There is neither process nor judgment in Enlightenment, it is something more fundamental, something which makes a judgment possible, and without which no form of judgment can take place." (Pg. 68)
"Zen... does not base its authority on any written documents, but directly appeals to the enlightened mind of the Buddha." (Pg. 86)
" thesis that the reason for the introduction of supernaturalism into the Mahayana literature of Buddhism was to demonstrate the intellectual impossibility of comprehending spiritual facts." (Pg. 102)
"The general tendency of Buddhism is, as we know, more intellectual than emotional, and its doctrine of Enlightenment distinguishes it sharply from the Christian view of salvation..." (Pg. 231)
"Generally we have no records of the inner working prior to a satori... When we read such records, we have to supply from our own experience, whatever this is, all the necessary antecedent conditions for breaking up into a satori." (Pg. 259)
"Satori is not seeing God as he is, as may be contended by some Christian mystics. Zen has from the very beginning made clear its principal thesis, which is to see into the work of creation and not interview the creator himself." (Pg. 263)
"As I stated before, Zen followers do not approve of Christians, even Christian mystics being too conscious of God, who is the creator and supporter of all life and all being..." (Pg. 346)
"In Christianity we seem to be too conscious of God, though we say that in him we live and move and have our being. Zen wants to have even this last trace of God-consciousness, if possible, obliterated." (Pg. 352)
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 1997
Suzuki's works offer a clear insight look at the often misunderstood world of zen. Suzuki gives the reader the ability to understand zen, rather than dictating what zen is. This work would be of benefit to any one wishing to see if zen is 'right' for them
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2010
I studied Buddhist philosophy in some detail as an undergraduate, but that was many years ago. I am revisiting it now, so I turned to the writings of D.T Suzuki, perhaps the most widely respected author in this field, both for his erudition (knowledge of all the primary texts in their original languages from origins in India, through China and Japan) and his accessibility to the layperson. This is something of an amazing feat, given the subtleties involved in explaining Zen, a formidable exercise in itself, given that the entire philosophy is based on enigmatic sayings/practices employed by masters approaching their students.

Suzuki was the first to truly explain Zen Buddhism to the Western world and it is a must read for anyone who seeks the root understanding of the subject.

I give it the highest recommendation.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2013
This was a tough read for me. Obviously a classic, but unless you are an advanced student of Zen, I would go for a more basic book on Zen Buddhism. This would be a good addition to an extensive Zen library for someone who has been studying for years.
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on March 5, 2014
This analysis was classic scholar mode. A little hard to understand because of Sanskrit language at first but the author's handling of converting to English was enlightening. The deeper you get into the meat of the subject the reading becomes much easier. Although I did not give up on trying to pronounce the Sanskrit, it allowed me to understand the Indian roots to the Chinese culture that it became because of the difference in the two cultures. A friend gave me a magazine on United States adaptation of Buddhism and I found it comical to see Eastern Buddhism culture of poverty to the American way of making a buck. Well worth the effort for the historical significance. If you are looking for a twenty-first century model this is not for you. However, if you want to become a student of Buddhism it is a must!
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on April 2, 2014
DTZ has as much historical as academic creds by now. He was a pioneer in presenting Zen to the Western world. An academician rather than a Zen Master, he still knew more than most of his academic predecessors combined and had a good hand with the King's English.
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on January 13, 2009
This brilliant book by Suzuki has changed my life. Several times reading it I felt that I had experienced a small degree on satori or enlightenment. Heaven and earth should be experienced as one. The truth is in the present moment inside me.
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on October 13, 2015
Great book to get an overview on the subject, but it might be too much if you don't know anything about zen or buddhism in general, which was my case. If you are patient enough it's a very rewarding read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2014
I just looked up what year these were published and nearly fell out of my seat when I saw 1927, this version I think came out in 1948. I first became interested in it in the 1960s when I was a philosophy major looking for enlightenment!!
Now I have then on my Kindle so I can't lose them as I did my original paper back. You can never lose a Kindle book thank to Amazon!!

D T Suzuki is a scholar and this is a scholarly work not a self help book. Reading it now in my post enlightenment phase, I am amazed at it depth and the amount of information included between these covers. Back when I first read it there was not the vast material on Buddhism as there is now, so often these early works get put on the back burner. I invite those who read it long ago like me to revisit it on their Kindle. For those who are serious about Zen, but who have not read it, I am sure you will be surprise like I am the amount of material that is here. Just remember this is not a Pema Chrodron book, this is a scholarly work but one of the greatest scholars on this subject.
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An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Paperback - January 13, 1994)

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Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. T. Suzuki by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Paperback - July 1996)

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Manual of Zen Buddhism by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Paperback - January 13, 1994)

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