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on June 3, 2001
MANUAL OF ZEN BUDDHISM by D. T. Suzuki. 192 pp. London : Rider and Company, 1974 (1950) and Reprinted.
Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was no ordinary man. A Buddhist scholar, and proficient not only in Chinese and Japanese, but also in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, English, and other languages, after attaining his Enlightenment at the age of twenty-seven he imposed upon himself an extremely difficult task - that of bringing a knowledge of Zen Buddhism to the West, and of somehow trying to get over into English, a language which was quite unprepared to receive them, the ideas and insights of the great Zen Masters.
For over two thousand years, many of Asia's most brilliant intellects have been actively engaged in exploring the mysteries of mind, an exploration which Jung himself was to admit could hardly be said to have yet begun in the West.
Anyone who has looked, for example, in one of the huge collections of Buddhist Scriptures such as the Taisho Tripitaka, or in a comprehensive Sanskrit-Chinese-Japanese Dictionary of Buddhist technical and philosophic terms, will have realized that, Buddhism has developed tens of thousands of words, many of them expressing the finest shades of meaning, for which English has no real equivalents.
This fantastic profusion of ideas and vocabulary, a sort of higher mathematics of thought compared to simple arithmetic, has generated a literature of extraordinary subtlety and sophistication.
One of the fruits of Suzuki sensei's sixty-five years writing, translating, and teaching, is the present book, the object of which, as he states in his Preface, is "to inform the reader of the various literary materials relating to [Zen] monastery life" (page 11). We are, in a sense, being invited into a Zen Monastery, and granted the privilege of viewing a selection of its literary and artistic treasures.
In the case of an actual applicant for admission to a Zen Temple or monastery, no-one would think of simply breezing in and saying : "OK. I'm here. What can you guys offer me?" Applicants, as is well known, are kept waiting at the gate, often for many days, before being allowed the privilege of meeting with the Master.
It's a test, a test of the applicant's humility, respect, and determination. And when the applicant finally does get to see the Master, he is expected to show the same respect, not perhaps so much for the Master as a person as for what he stands for - for the state of enlightenment and for the vast ocean of Buddhist knowledge he represents.
Suzuki sensei, would, I feel sure, have hoped that we ourselves show a similar respect for the contents of the present book - for its Prayers and Invocations; for its selections from the Sutras and from the Zen Masters; and for its fifty interesting plates and illustrations which depict Chinese and Japanese statuary, scroll paintings, woodblocks, etc., of a kind one would find at any Zen Temple in Japan.
All of them are standard Zen and are standard Buddhist fare, but just as at a feast we are not expected to eat everything on the table, readers are free to select whatever most appeals to them, without necessarily being dismissive of items that don't happen to suit their taste.
The more devotionally inclined may be strongly drawn by some of the Prayers. Students of the sutras will be delighted to find one of the key sutras of Zen, the Prajnaparamitahrdaya or Heart Sutra, a sutra one could spend one's life studying (as did Edward Conze), along with extracts from the Lotus, Lankavatara, and the mind-boggling Diamond Sutra, and a useful resume of the Surangama. Those drawn to the early Masters won't be disappointed either.
Personally I was happy to discover Suzuki sensei's fine translation of Seng-ts'an's 'Hsin-hsin-ming' ('On Believing in Mind,' pages 76-82), the very first verse treatise on Zen - which in the original Chinese takes up just two thirds of a page in the more than 100,000 pages of 'Taisho' - a text which embodies the quintessence of Zen and that deserves to be far better known. Here is the first of its thirty-one verses, with my slash marks to indicate line breaks:
"The Perfect Way knows no difficulties / Except that it refuses to make preferences; / Only when freed from hate and love, / It reveals itself fully and without disguise" (page 76).
I don't know how long Suzuki sensei spent on his translations, but I do know that Peter Haskel spent ten years to give us his marvelous translation of Bankei, and I myself, inspired by the version in the present book, spent three years working on a translation of the Hsin-hsin-ming, a text which has yet to yield up its full lode of meaning.
There are many other deep and wonderful texts in this book, including two versions of 'The Ten Oxherding Pictures.' Some of these texts will appeal to one kind of person, others to another. But all will repay careful study by the serious student, and by one who approaches them in an attitude of humility and respect.
Many other Zen anthologies have appeared since Suzuki sensei's pioneering effort, some of them with more 'up-to-date' (though not necessarily superior) translations, but his 'Manual of Zen Buddhism' has always had a special importance for me. After three years spent studying just one of its texts, I wonder how long it will take me to assimilate the rest? And there must have been many in the past, in both China and Japan, who were happy to nibble on much less than the feast provided here.
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on February 15, 2006
This was fully intended to be an actual Zen manual, full of liturgy, ritual and explanations. D.T. Suzuki, the preimminent and enthusiastic ordained Japanese Zen Scholar, presents the subject matter as always with perfect confidence and numerous flying sparks.

Good book to have on hand if learning how to perform formal Japanese Zen liturgy or hosting your own sittings.
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on December 30, 2012
This review is for the quality of the HARDCOVER version released by Filiquarian Publishing, LLC, 2007. And a lousy job they did. Luckily I'm still in my return window.

Today I went to used book store to find the Suzkuki's Essays and stumbled across a used version of this book published by Grove Weidenfeld 1960.

The Filiquarian Pub. version doesn't have:
* The illustrations or Plates
* A detailed table of contents
* The original editor's notes that says: "All references to the Author's `Essays in Zen Buddhism,' Series One and Two, and to his `Introduction to Zen Buddhism' are to the second edition of these works, published in `The Complete Works of D.T. Suzuki'."
* "The Thundering Silence of Vimalakirti" which appears on the 1960 edition just before the first chapter, possibly because it was wrapped around a graphic.

Further publisher flaws:
* They misspelled the "Suzuki" on the cover of the book, "Sukuki."
* The footnotes have been converted to endnotes for the "short section" not the end of the chapter so they are close. BUT they are in the same typeface as the rest of the text. They are wrapped in square brackets but that doesn't help much when footnotes can be several paragraphs long. This took a bit to figure out. It's as if someone scanned the original and didn't bother to correctly do the footnotes or printed out a "Kindle" version for hardcover.

I haven't finished comparing the two copies so I don't know what else is missing or screwed up.

Publisher-wise this book is travesty. Search for a used copy if you need this or look into the paperback version from BiblioBazaar available from Amazon. NOTE I haven't looked at that version but this hardcover is just ... bad.
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on February 28, 2001
This is basically a collection of textx commonly used by Zen Monks in Japan, although not very comprehensive. The Dharanis are somewhat confusing, but the Gathas are nice and work well as liturgy. The Sutra excerpts are pretty run-of-the-mill, not worth comprehensive study, mainly liturgical. There is the Diamond, Heart, an excerpt from the Lotus, as well as some from the Lankavatara and some from the Surangama (more a paraphrase). Then there are numerous teachings from Chinese & Japanese masters. These are pretty good too. The Pictures are interesting as well, but perhaps more suited toward Deity Yoga. The Indian pics have a Tantric, Vajrayana feel to them. This book is not a "How-to" manual. I don't know if D.t. Suzuki actually ever wrote one. It is more of a daily recitation and/or devotional. The kind of thing you read in the morning & evening, or memorize. If you really want a good Zen Buddhist Manual, there are many to choose from, and if you want a good assortement of text, there are many more comprehensive and better organized than this. But, this book has alot of appeal to it and can be quite useful as a book for daily reflection.
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on September 13, 2010
I actually had studied Zen off and on for many years, and read many texts. But, I wanted to read a book that I felt would give me some direction, a manual. So obviously the title caught my attention. D. T. Suzuki was very well known, honored and respected scholar and practitioner of the Zen way. But a quotation on the back of the book by Carl Jung cinched my decision to purchase, "Suzuki's works on Zen Buddhism are among the best contributions to the knowledge of living Buddhism...We cannot be sufficiently grateful to the author, first for the fact of his having brought Zen closed to the Western understanding, and secondly for the manner in which he has achieved his task."
This book is a must have for the library.
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on September 9, 2008
Found the print copy of this in a bookstore and thought it was an interesting reference. Starts from the very beginning and covers quite a lot. If you are interested in the rituals and readings of Zen Buddhism, this the book to have. Well worth the small cost.
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on August 8, 2008
This is a classic book and important for any Zen Buddhist Library. I am very happy that it is still available.
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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 Preface to the First (1935) Edition of this book, "In my An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, an outline of Zen teaching is sketched, and in The Zen Monk's Life a description of the Meditation Hall and its life is given. To complete a triptych the present 'Manual' has been compiled. The object is to inform the reader of the various literary materials relating to the monastery life. Foreign students often express their desire to know about what the Zen monk reads before the Buddha in his daily service, where his thoughts move in his leisure hours, and what objects of worship he has in the different quarters of his institution. This work will partly, it is hoped, satisfy their desire. Those who find my Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series too bulky or too elaborate may prefer these smaller works on Zen."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"...there is no knowledge, no attainment, [and] no realization, because there is no attainment." (Pg. 27)
"When Buddhists declare all things to be empty, they are not advocating a nihilistic view; on the contrary, an ultimate reality is hinted at, which cannot be subsumed under the categories of logic." (Pg. 29)
"As long as Zen appeals to one's direct experience, abstraction is too inane for the mind of a master." (Pg. 73)
"For walking is Zen, sitting is Zen, Whether talking or remaining quiet, the Essence itself is ever at ease..." (Pg. 94)
"[This inner Light] is beyond both praise and abuse... It is only when you seek it that you lose it. You cannot take hold of it, nor can you get rid of it..." (Pg. 98)
"A monk asked: 'How does one get emancipated?' The master said: 'Who has ever put you in bondage?' Monk: 'What is the Pure Land?' Master: 'Who has ever defiled you?'" (Pg. 106)
"This One Mind only is the Buddha, who is not to be segregated from sentient beings... This Mind is no other than the Buddha, and Buddha is no other than sentient being..." (Pg. 113)
"That Mind is no other than Buddha is not understood by Buddhists of the present day; and because of their inability of seeing into the Mind as it is, they imagine a mind beside Mind and seek Buddha outwardly after a form." (Pg. 114)
"There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth; Indeed, it has no form, much less a name; Eyes fail to see it; It has no voice for ears to detect; To call it Mind or Buddha violates its nature... It is Dharma truly beyond form and sound; It is Tao having nothing to do with words." (Pg. 145)
"This very earth is the Lotus Land of purity, And this body is the body of the Buddha." (Pg. 152)
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on November 3, 2008
For your information, Here is the Table of Contents: This is a very useful book for followers of zen, of course, The Ten Oxherding Pictures are a must have!

I. GATHAS AND PRAYERS: 1. On Opening the Sutra 2. Confession 3. The Threefold Refuge 4. The Four Great Vows 5. The Worshipping of the Sarira 6. The Teaching of the Seven Buddhas 7. The Gatha of Impermanence 8. The Yemmei Kwannon Ten-Clause Sutra 10. General Prayer 11. Prayer of the Bell. II. THE DHARANIS: 1. Dharani of Removing Disasters 2. Dharani of the Great Compassionate One 3. Dharani of the Victorious Buddha-Crown. III. THE SUTRAS: The Prajnaparamita-hridaya-sutra, or Shingyo (complete) 2. The Kwannongyo, or "Samantamukha Parivarta" (complete) 3. The Kongokyo, or Vajracchedika (The first half and extracts from the second half) 4. The Lanikavatara Sutra, or Tyogakyo
(Extracts) 5. The Tyogonkyo, or Surangama Sutra (resume). IV. FROM THE CHINESE ZEN MASTERS 1. Bodhidharma on the Twofold Entrance to the Tao 2.The Third Patriarch on "Believing in Mind" 3. From Hui-neng's Tan-ching 4. Yoka Daaishi's "Song of Enlightenment" 5. Baso (Ma-tsu) and Sekito (Shih-tou) 6. Obaku's (Huang-po) Sermon from "Treatise on the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind" 7. Gensha on the Three Invalids (from the Hekiganshu or Pi-yen Chi) 8. The Ten Oxherding Pictures, I The Ten Oxherding Pictures, II. V. FROM THE JAPANESE ZEN MASTERS 1. Daiio Kokushi on Zen 2. Daio Kokushi's Admonition 3. Daito Kokushi's Admonition and Last Poem 4. Kwanzan Kokushi's Admonition 5. Muso Kokushi's Admonition 6. Hakuin's "Song of Meditation" VI> THE BUDDHIST STATUES AND PICTURES IN A ZEN MONASTERY Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Protecting Gods, Historical Figures.
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on February 12, 2011
Suzuki's works have withstood the test of time. Along with writers like Alan Watts, Suzuki was at the forefront of introducing Zen to young people in the West. The only real criticism I have of the book is that no work by Dogen was included. My guess is that Suzuki was influenced more by the Rinzai school of Zen, so perhaps one shouldn't expect to find any works by Zogen included in this manual.

I am not a Buddhist of any school, but I still like to read certain Suttas from the Pali Canon, the Dhammapada, a couple of the Sutras used in the Zen Schools, as well as Dogen, what we have by Bodhidharma, and some of the writings of a few other Zen Masters. I recommend Suzuki's Manual of Zen to anyone who wants to learn more about Zen Buddhism. For a different flavor of Zen Buddhism, I also recommend "Chanting from the Heart: Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices" by Thich Nhat Hanh and Monks and Nuns of Plum Village. But the best introduction to Buddhism that I've found is Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught and a good second book after this is "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" by Thera Nyanaponika. Or, you can follow the suggestion of the Zen layman who suggested I read "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" when I only had basic information about the 4 Noble Truths and the 8-Fold Path. I didn't finish the first section of that book, and I didn't read another book about Zen for almost a decade. Now, if I'd only made it to the Koan section .... (smile).
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