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Novice to Master: An Ongoing Lesson in the Extent of My Own Stupidity Paperback – June 15, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (June 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861713931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861713936
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Ordered this book for a class.
chelsea
If you are very busy and need something to snap you back into the present, read this.
W. C Dotson
This helps you understand the growth processes that everyone follows to find wisdom.
Brian Norris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joseph A. Coleman on January 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
on the day that i received this book, i found that i had read it from cover to cover in matter of a couple of hours. roshi morinaga's words left me with the realization that, although his widom may appear to be quite simple, it takes a lot of learning from erroneous mistakes throughout one's life in order to put zen training into action. after blazing through this book i had found myself drawn to give it another read a couple of weeks later. reading it again, i became aware that the roshi's simple wisdom was not to be taken in stride but to be pondered more deeply. the translation of his words is unpretentious and terse, the way zen literature, in my opinion, is best transmitted. roshi morinaga opens our eyes to the initial tribulations of a zen novice such as the feelings of inadequacy in comparison to one's zen teacher, the stubborn fight that the ego plays among other things. i would strongly recommend this book for the serious zen student. may it help us all see our teachers in a more human light.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The best darn zen book I've ever read. It has 2 or 3 pearls of wisdom applicable to anyone's life experience while also giving a detailed picture of traditional Japanese zen training at one of the oldest and most prestigious monasteries in Japan. Hard realities are delivered with a gentle demeanor unlike none I've ever encountered before.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Swing King on February 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Rinzai Zen master Soko Morinaga talks to us in very funny and frank language about the strains he's encountered in his own Zen training over the years. We are left without any doubt that he began as bemused and puzzled as you and I are perhaps in our own current practice. And it's ongoing! He is a Zen master, but still experiencing the limits of his own stupidity. It's wonderful news for you and I! We can take a sigh of relief now!
There is one particularly hilarious segment where he discusses pissing. He began addressing an audience who received a short break between talks. Out of concern for them Morinaga said, "Did you all have time to urinate?" The audience seemed a little stunned by this question. Maybe they were surprised that the person saying this was a monk. "Pissing is something that no one else can do for you. Only you can piss for yourself." He said this in front of this pretty large audience, and they all broke out in laughter! Yet this is a very critical statement. Dogen Zenji once had said something along very similar lines. He had been out in the field one day and a young monk said, `master, you should not be out here in the hot field doing work, you are master. You should go inside, leave the work for me." Dogen replied with something like, " If you did it I would miss the experience, I must work for myself." This is not a word for word account, but you get the picture.
I cannot capture all of the wonderful teachings you will find in this book for you in such a short review. You will have to purchase it and see for yourselves. This book makes practice abobe anything else, FUN! Enjoy yourselves! Zen master Soko Morinaga makes my sides hurt all throughout here. But the most precious part of it all, is how insightful it is. Not only does it make you laugh yourself silly, but it helps us all come closer to tackling the great question of life and death. Enjoy this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book reads like novel and leaves the reader subtly transformed by the author's insights. Along the way, Morinaga paints an evocative and often quite humorous portrait of monastic Zen training as it functioned in Japan at the end of World War II.
Though the setting and culture may seem distant and unfamiliar, Morinaga's elegant prose shines with gentle and generous wisdom that easily transcends the specifics of time and place, bringing another world vividly to life.
There is undoubtedly something for everyone here whether you're looking for inspiration, dharma teaching, or just an enoyable read. I would recommend this book highly to anyone at all.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Reader on May 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
this book adds very necessary layman emotional elements to the canon of often removed zen buddhism texts which focus on things that seem so far away from the lives of ordinary people who get up and go to work every day and don't shave their head. yet it is still able to capture the essential points without being like zen-lite. it reads like novel, and teaches like einstein. one of the most original around.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Etc. VINE VOICE on July 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
What a great read. The roshi gives his history as an aimless student in Japan who ends up at the monastery, where, despite his obstinacy and mistaken notions, the master there sees something in him. Morinaga details the stringent daily life of the monks, and also the joy of awakening, in simple, generous prose that can touch the beingness that is beyond the exhaustible and the inexhaustible. It made me happy to read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H. Talat Halman on April 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this autobiography, Soko Morinaga gives us a feeling for living in the real-life daily struggles of practicing Zen. Morinaga takes us behind the abstracted mystifying experience one is left with from zen koans by telling us about his actual life. He recounts how hard it was to follow his master's instructions and fulfill the standards of _samu_, the Zen discipline of work. Morinaga starts out by proclaiming the difficulty of the task of verbalizing the inexpressible and then approaches fulfilling that task by sharing the everday details of his process. His earthy opening story dashes at pretense. As the second speaker at a conference in which the first speaker had spoken at great length, Morinaga asked the audience if anyone needed to go to the bathroom. Morinaga then explains that like going to the bathroom, enlightenment is something noone else can do for you.

In one very touching scene he recounts how as a child he struggled with watching his gradfather's death. Later he tells of a woman who seems at peace with her oncoming death. The book, as the subtitle suggests, is divided into two sections: first his novice years; second his years as a Zen master.

Because Morinaga gives us a real picture of Zen, this is an important, valuable, and enlightening book.
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