It's not every day that you come across a book by one of Japan's top Zen masters. Soko Morinaga was head of the most famous monastery in Japan and of the Rinzai Zen university, but in his book Novice to Master
we see that he started out as green as a novice can be. In brief episodes that span most of his 70-year lifetime, Roshi Morinaga tells us the stories of his life, those from which he learned a lesson and from which we can learn: how he implicated himself in his beloved grandfather's death, the thrill of his enlightenment experience, the grueling existence of life in a Zen monastery. Just the opposite of most books of this type, Novice to Master
is heavy on anecdotes and light on explanation and advice. Near the end, however, the advice comes on thicker, such as how to not only live in the present but how to die in every moment. Well translated for the most part, Novice to Master
represents the accumulated wisdom of a modern-day master of Zen. --Brian Bruya
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From Publishers Weekly
From orphan to abbot, Morinaga Roshi tells his condensed life story in this slender, highly interesting volume. Before his death in 1995, he was the leader of Daitokuji Monastery and was also head of Hanazono University, a primary training facility for Buddhist monks. Finding himself completely adrift in his early 20s at the catastrophic end of World War II, Morinaga Roshi turned to several Zen temples for food and shelter, but he finally found these and a life's path at Daishuin Temple in Kyoto, Japan. In the opening chapters, Morinaga Roshi details his initial inner conflicts and describes his teacher Zuigan Roshi, who told him in their first conversation that he must believe in something again: his teacher. The second section, "Training," is a fascinating, up-close look inside a Zen monastery, where the day begins at 3 a.m. and may not end until 1 or 2 a.m. The final section ("Master") is by far the most sublime, for here rolls forth the accumulated wisdom of the unmanageable boy now grown into full stature as an esteemed abbot. The considerable grace here owes a large debt to the apparently effortless translation by Attaway Yamakawa, so that Zen's aphorisms glide home to hit their marks. Despite the odd subtitle that hints at humor, the volume instead has a soft poignancy and a certain presence within a tale well-told. It shines a light on "the living koan of human life which continues without limit."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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