The jolt of confidence you get when discussing a day's performance with a seasoned veteran can take any activity to a higher level. In his concise and informative Zen Meditation in Plain English
, meditation veteran John Daishin Buksbazen gives detailed directions for each step of Zen-style meditation, from getting into the different postures and developing breath concentration, all the way up to intensive training periods. With only one short chapter on what the mind should be doing while "sitting" (as they say in Zen), his focus is on getting the fundamentals right. He also offers a rare introduction to the importance and mechanics of group practice and a well-selected "Frequently Asked Questions" section at the end. While Buksbazen repeatedly says that there is no substitute for a good teacher, until you find one, Zen Meditation in Plain English
will do nicely. --Brian Bruya
From Publishers Weekly
Buksbazen, a psychotherapist who was ordained a Zen priest in 1968 and is affiliated with the Zen Center of Los Angeles, offers practical and down-to-earth advice about the specifics of Zen meditation. He begins by encouraging readers to get involved with meditation and not just read books about Buddhism: "After all, cookbooks are fun to read, but... they are most helpful to somebody who is actually involved in cooking." The bulk of this short primer is concerned with introducing the basics of zazen, or seated meditation: how to position the body, particularly the legs; how and when to breathe; what to think about. Helpful diagrams illustrate the full lotus, Burmese, kneeling (seiza) and other positions. Buksbazen even provides a "zazen checklist" to help beginners remember all of the steps involved in zazen, which as he notes is more difficult than it appears. What distinguishes this book from any number of Zen self-help books is its final section, which focuses on community. Arguing that "true Zen practice cannot be fully experienced in all its diversity and richness by just one person alone," Buksbazen builds a strong case for the powerful effect of being involved with a community of other practitioners. He follows this ideological argument with concrete information about group practice, including meditation retreats and other intensive training periods. In all, this is a fine introduction to Zen meditation practice, grounded in tradition yet adapted to contemporary life.
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