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A Heart Blown Open: The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi Paperback – February 1, 2012

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A Heart Blown Open: The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi + The Heart of Zen: Enlightenment, Emotional Maturity, and What It Really Takes for Spiritual Liberation + The Junpo Roku: The Dharma of Junpo Denis Kelly
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Divine Arts (February 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611250080
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611250084
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews



ForeWord Review

“Kelly came back to the question again and again: what did it mean to be an American Zen Roshi nearing the twenty-first century?”

If Denis Kelly’s life was made into a novel, no one would believe it, so the truth, told here as accurately as possible by author and fellow Zen Buddhist Keith Martin-Smith, must suffice: Kelly crossed every inner river, climbed every emotional mountain, slayed every psychological dragon, to arrive at a place of peacefulness.

Most of us imagine that a spiritual master would be a person of high moral integrity, likely celibate, and definitely vegetarian, someone who speaks in terse mysterious phrases and smiles a lot. Someone rather like the Dalai Lama, whom Kelly has met. Kelly had a habit, begun in grade school, of telling people in authority that what they said was “bull––” and he didn’t spare the Dalai Lama that assessment. The assertion generally resulted in shock and expulsion, but not in the case of the Dalai Lama, who just smiled and told Kelly that his spiritual insight wasn’t deep enough yet. Oddly, it was his tendency to blow up at authority that led to Kelly’s heart being blown open, and to his becoming a spiritual master himself.

Kelly grew up with an abusive alcoholic father who savagely beat his sons while his mother turned a blind eye. This gave the boy a hatred of men in authority and a mistrust of all women that took him years to overcome. The only saving grace in his youth was a memory from infancy, of finding solace in a “sense of pervasive peace … a silence out of which everything arose.” Because of that fleeting but seemingly endless moment, despite all the self-ruining experiences Kelly had to go through, he was drawn to meditation and to Buddhism.

Along the way to becoming a Zen adept, he was a wealthy drug dealer, a founding member of the California “family” that in the 1970s manufactured a notably pure form of LSD known as Windowpane. Kelly believed that enlightenment, that sense of peace he had felt as a baby, could be achieved through LSD. He traveled to India and met some interesting gurus, but none who could disabuse him of the notion that satori, the goal of Buddhist meditation, was available through a chemical. He wound up in prison for that belief. Finally he agreed to bend himself to the discipline of Eido Roshi (who pronounced him to be “worth civilizing”), lived in a Buddhist monastery, and became Vise Abbot for a time.

Martin-Smith keeps Kelly’s story rolling on a fast track, just as the man’s life has been lived—the women, the violence, the good times, the regrets, the fear, and loathing, all are recounted. There is something in this book for everyone: spiritual seekers and unrepentant sinners alike will find Kelly’s ride hilarious, frustrating, poignant, and thoroughly human. The result of the journey is a new unique form of spiritual practice that Kelly, now a cancer survivor in his seventies who leads international workshops, calls “Mondo Zen”—“the radical invention that brought Zen into the twenty-first century and fully into the West.”

Barbara Bamberger Scott
August 6, 2012
(Barbara Bamberger Scott ForeWord Reviews)

From the Back Cover

From his beginnings in an abusive and alcoholic home in Wisconsin to becoming a major force in the counterculture movement, and then from a life on the run and in prison to a life in a monastery and in service, Denis Kelly's journey is as entertaining as it is inspirational. 
"Written with extraordinary heart and skill, this book chronicles the making of an Integral Zen master. Jun Po's life has been as unpredictable as it has been astounding.  Jun Po's dedication to exploring his own psychological shadows in light of his own awakening consciousness is the story of our times, and is an absolute must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in human evolution." Ken Wilber, author of Integral Spirituality

"This is a legendary story of an inspiring teacher that mirrors the journey of many contemporary Western seekers. A flash of white light from psychedelic theophanies leads to a lifetime's pursuit of enlightenment under the Buddha dharma prayer flag." Alex Grey, artist and author of Transformations, Sacred Mirrors, and The Mission of Art 

"This book provides a provocative window into one of the more controversial Zen Masters of our generation, and will not fail to touch and inspire those who read it. Jun Po Roshi has lived a life of amazing fullness. Few have risen to such heights of notoriety and wealth in their youth and given back so much wisdom and service later in life. His greatest gift is his continuing effort to discover the best way to transmit the ancient wisdom of Zen into the 21st Century."-- Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel, author of Big Mind Big Heart: Finding Your Way

"This is the real life saga of a true spiritual warrior. What is so fascinating about Jun Po Roshi's story is that it describes, at times with painful honesty, the challenges of warriorship in the strange new world of postmodernity. This biography is a time capsule colorfully and poignantly conveying the powerful emergence and evolution of a cultural revolution from the inside out." 
-- Andrew Cohen, founder EnlightenNext, author of Evolutionary Enlightenment

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Customer Reviews

Rather, it is a criticism of what this book is not.
His story is as rich as I could have expected from a man as deeply experienced as he is.
Michael D Brown
If you simply want to read a Really Great Story - read this book!
Thomas Carroll

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Carroll on February 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must start by explaining that I've known the central character in this story for 38 years. I found myself riveted by his presence the first night I met him at "Johnny's" house when I was a mere twenty years old. He continues to guide and challenge me and all who know him these many years later.

Readers should judge the value of my remarks with the knowledge that I will do my friend the courtesy of writing nothing here that is less than an honest appraisal of both the story and the quality of the story telling. That said, it pleases me to say that I found this to be an excellent story written near perfectly.

From the beginning pages readers are reminded of the rigidity that was the American experience in the nineteen fifties and sixty's. A man holding the intuition that real freedom was not to be had without a fight - was in for a fight. And so the story of Denis Kelly begins.

The majority of us didn't get to Woodstock or live the street scene that was The Haight in San Fransisco, 1967. But these and other highlights are our heritage as members of the Boomer generation just as much as "Abraham, Martin and John", Vietnam and Watergate.

However, in "A Heart Blown Open" we ride with an insider. We see a man - who for reasons that cannot be easily explained - a guy who was at the right place at the right time with the right mix of the "mean streets," savoir faire and nascent transcendental intuition, such that he begins to look like more than just a clever opportunist - more like a gift we gave ourselves - Conscious Creativity knowing just what it would take to push the American experience off it's static pedestal, tipping it back into the crucible of transformation.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By James Wall on January 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having sat a sesshin (long retreat) with Jun Po and met him a few times in between, I was eager to read this biography.

It arrived on Friday afternoon and I had it finished on Sunday afternoon. Yes, that good. Denis Kelly's life is simply fascinating. Nothing more to say than just that. What else do you need? -- drugs, partying, sex, violence, more sex, wealth, money, travel to exotic places, cancer, catastrophe, heartache, and a long but engaging spiritual awakening.

It's like "Eat, Pray, Love" for dudes, only far more interesting and better written.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. Lam on February 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
I got this book knowing the quality of Keith Martin Smith's writing and of his intimate relationship with his teacher, JunPo. What surprised me and delighted me about reading the book was how authentic and transparent he was about the process of his teacher's awakening. Not one to gloss over the difficult and shameful moments, but using them as fuel to awaken, JunPo allows his biography to be a tool for the readers' ability to awake. I am inspired to practice more meditation after reading this book because of how clearly it showed the transitions of consciousness from a conventional viewpoint to a post-conventional viewpoint, and finally to an integral viewpoint. With out using the weight of the integral theory, Keith Martin Smith tells a lucid story about the growth and evolution of consciousness itself through the wildly entertaining ride of his teacher.
To be transported into the world of JunPo's wild life was pure pleasure but to have the added effect of using its transparency to map my own being was invaluable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Karen Speerstra on March 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
What a tall book! Not that A Heart Blown Open is a "tall tale" because it's not--it's a very real and truthful story of a most complicated life. And not only because it's an elongated book--11 ˝ inches high and 5 inches wide. No it's "tall" because it stands head and shoulders above other books about enlightenment, spiritual gurus, ecological integrity and intentional living. It also may stand tall over most other books written about Zen Buddhism, but as a Christian, I haven't read many so I can't attest to that. I only know that I was captivated by this biography of a man about my age called Roshi, Jun Po or Denis Kelly as he is known in Green Bay Wisconsin, also my home state. We also both have blue eyes, but the similarities end there. I wasn't abused as a kid. My Dad also smoked, but, he was Norwegian and unlike Kelly's Irish father, mine had given up drinking long before I was born. Unlike Kelly, I haven't climbed a mountain, much less fallen off one. Nor have I hobnobbed with the Chicago underworld, flown to India to glean amazing, mystical insights, met the Dalai Lama, or partied with rock stars. I haven't even experimented with drugs, much less spent a decade controlling a whole LSD industry. I've never been super-rich, nor have I spent any time in prison. Moreover, unlike Kelly, I've spent my life with only one partner. But I am living with cancer and I have had chemo-therapy. So I can identify with one tiny facet of this man's complex and amazing life, and I can attest to how, from that one aspect, I am assuming all the rest rings equally true.

But maybe an even more important perspective on this book is that its writer is a very "tall author." He may not be 6'2",as is Kelly, but I'm speaking of his writing stature.
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