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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen at the Source, August 7, 2000
By 
Michael P. McGarry (Berkeley, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions) (Paperback)
The masters of the Five Houses of Zen did for Zen Buddhism roughly what the Church Fathers did for Christianity (recall that without these latter figures, there would be no Christian Bible!) Yes, the Five Houses, in the second half of the T'ang Dynasty (619-906), came almost half a millennium after Bodhidharma (470 - 543(?)), legendary founder of Zen. But the Five Houses represent a high point of Zen, having reached a critical mass of realized masters, and the writings of his period form the basis and touchstone of anything that later called itself Zen. Indeed, this period is universally recognized as a kind of "golden age" of Zen. Thomas Cleary's selections from the masters of the Five Houses give the general English reader direct access to the essential words of this foundational period of Zen. (This is yet another installment in Cleary's project of making all the essential ancient Zen writings available in brilliant English translations; I consider his ongoing work a priceless spiritual offering to the modern age.) This book is full of selections from the masters who (better known by their Japanese names) populate the great classical koan collections, the *Gateless Gate* and the *Blue Cliff Record*: Pai-Chang (J: Hyakujo), Lin-chi (J: Rinzai), Tung-shan (J: Tozan), Hsueh-feng (J: Seppo), and Yun-men (J: Ummon). Two of the houses, the House of Lin-chi and the House of Tung-shan, were the progenitors of what came to be called, respectively, the Rinzai Zen and Soto Zen traditions. This book is indispensable for making sense of how the important figures of this fecund period fit together. I highly recommend this book to beginners in Zen as well as to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the tradition and history of Zen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of Zen tradition explained, October 4, 2000
This review is from: Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions) (Paperback)
It's without doubt, to mr Cleary's credit for his wonderful translation, this book represents a great collection of literature in English about the Five establishments that are seen as the foundation of Zen Buddhism in China. Great texts like The Secret of the Mind Elixir, the Five Ranks (of Absolute and Relative) and masters like Lin-Chi and Huang-Po make up this book - displaying the history and development of Zen.
Although I do not recommend this book for the beginner in Zen Buddhism, certainly a valuable asset to add to your collection.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Really Enjoyed This Book, August 24, 2012
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This review is from: Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions) (Paperback)
I am a history buff as well as a zen buff, so this was a fun book for me. The writing of the "characters" was crisp and clean. The history provided was to the point, but I felt that I got a lot out of each chapter.

Very good overview of the Golden Age of zen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, October 18, 2014
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This review is from: Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions) (Paperback)
Love the part where a Master belittles a mountain yogi's attainment of rainbow-body.
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Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions)
Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions) by Thomas Cleary (Paperback - April 15, 1997)
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