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Making Zen Your Own: Giving Life to Twelve Key Golden Age Ancestors Paperback – January 31, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"By personalizing Zen lineage masters including Bodhidharma, Mazu, Guishan, and Xuefeng, these seemingly untouchable mystics are situated anew in a practitioner's narrative of Buddhism." (Buddhadharma)

"Abels writes about the Zen Ancestors with clarity and a depth of knowledge that comes from long practice and study. Her rich and succinct descriptions of the lives of the Zen ancestors will help many find their own way into the Zen path." (Andy Ferguson, author of Zen's Chinese Heritage)

"Janet Abels walks hand-in-hand with the ancient Chinese Zen Ancestors. She brings alive their struggles and triumphs on the road to awakening. Through Abels' excellent narratives and her own deep understanding, she has revealed the profound teachings of these great masters for present-day students of the Way." (Gerry Shishin Wick, author of The Book of Equanimity)

"In this enlightening work, Abels shares the lives and teaching of 12 Chinese Zen masters during a period which has come to be known as Zen's Golden Age. She successfully captures and conveys their idiosyncrasies as ancestors and the breadth of their skills as spiritual mentors." (Spirituality & Practice)

"Janet Abels has given us a strong presentation in spirited prose of the lives of the founding teachers of Zen Buddhism during China's Tang Dynasty. She clearly presents the personalities of these teachers, their place in history, and the individual's contribution to Zen practice." (Father Robert Kennedy, Roshi)

"Abels has an easy way of bringing us into deeper relationship with the hit parade of luminaries from Zen's Chinese founding. Telling their stories and putting them in historical context, she invites us again and again to see their lives as our lives, their stories as our stories. A book of inspiration and challenge for all of us who are interested in clarifying the great matter of being a human being." (David Rynick, author of This Truth Never Fails)

"A delight...This is an excellent book of teachings with clear insight evident which should help many on the path. Those unfamiliar with the stories will delight in the narratives of these masters and the sparkling, engaging style Abels brings to these tales. There is over a thousand years between the masters and us but they are still alive and teaching us and I'm sure they will continue for another thousand years." (The Zen Site)

About the Author

Janet Jiryu Abels is the founder and now co-resident teacher, with Gregory Hosho Abels, of Still Mind Zendo in New York City, and the guiding teacher of Plum Blossom Zendo in Pittsburgh. She received dharma transmission as a Zen teacher in the Soto White Plum lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi in 2000. She is a certified Bio-Spiritual Focusing teacher, and is a member of the White Plum Asanga as well as the Lay Zen Teachers Association.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; Original edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861717023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861717026
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Sensei Abels, thank you so much for writing this book! I have not been able to put it down and I must say that it is one of the best Dharma books I have read thus far and I have an M.A. in Buddhist Studies and have read the great classics as well as the more recent user-friendly works by American and Tibetan teachers. No kidding... it even led me to the direct insight during Zazenkai that Zen is nothing special- it is our life just as it is (and not from my head and rather from 'knowing' in the moment- complete and unfettered) And, over the mountains, mountains!

I appreciated the Zen ancestors and myself so much more after reading about their humanity. Who knows how much is myth or story telling - it really doesn't matter. What did make a difference to me as a zen student was realizing that these great teachers could only be great because they were so human. That is what hit home and helped me to awaken to the fact that there is no 'Zen' or 'awakening' per se outside of how I live my own life. So you see their stories and struggle are mine and brought my practice and approach to Zen down to earth. Thank you again.
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Format: Paperback
In Making Zen Your Own, Sensei Janet Jiryu Abels gives the Chinese Chan masters new life as she expounds on their personalities, wisdom, and teachings. And she does so from a present-day Zen perspective.

Having practiced in the Chan and Zen traditions, I was happy to see again how both traditions complement each other.

Making Zen Your own is more than an historical treatment about the Chinese masters. Here, one can find dharma lessons that Sensei Janet smoothly blends into the telling without disrupting the narrative flow.

This work is eminently readable--thanks in no small part to her daughter and editor, Carrie Abels--but not in a pure-reading sense. The lessons Sensei Janet offers need to be read with meditative awareness and taken to heart.

Making Zen Your Own is well worth not just one, but many reads to capture the dedication and spirit of Sensei Janet.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gave this two stars because it did not meet my expectations….which says more about me than the book. I think it might be very interesting to someone interested in the history and evolution of Buddhism as opposed to the more evolved and current thought.
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Format: Paperback
I have long not ben really interested in studying the old Zen Masters. After all, what do these old Masters have to do with me and my Zen practice today? It wasn't before reading Sensei Abel's book that I realized: everything! They were just like us. Struggling and searching. Getting such an intimate account of these old Masters makes them come alive today. And ultimately feel connected.
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Format: Paperback
Janet Abels opens her extraordinary book thus: "A generic Zen master on a mountain top -when I began doing koan work in my formative years of zen training, this is how I generally perceived the Chinese Zen masters whose paradoxical teachings I was trying to break open..... These teachers were, for me, shadowy figures with strange names.... seemingly devoid of individuality, life history, and societal context" Not finding a book that could fill in those blanks and infuse with life the Masters of Zen's Golden Age she wrote it. But the author did much more than that: this is a book that teaches in the most profound sense of the word. It teaches history, it clarifies complex concepts, it shows why and how the question of lineages is important to Zen, but, more importantly, it teaches the fortunate reader how to "make Zen your own". The author is sensei at the Still Mind Zendo in New York City and some of her inspiring talks are available at their website.
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Format: Paperback
I have not studied Zen nor Buddhism, but had always been interested in the life of Buddha, ever since I read a book about his life when in my twenties, many years ago. Subsequent efforts to educate myself always ended in a feeling of frustration - the books were too erudite, too long, too wordy, too pompous. At last - here is a book written with simplicity, with humor, with true insight into the past, and written so clearly it's like looking into a limpid pool of water. Thank you, Sensei, for a wonderful effort of research, and a presentation so clear that it captures the mind on page one, and is, in the reading of it, akin to meditation!
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