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Taking the Path of Zen Paperback – January 1, 1982

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A good introductory text by one of the founding fathers of American Zen, this covers the basic teaching of Zen, including an emphasis on proper meditation practice.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“I welcome with great pleasure Robert Aitken Roshi's introduction to Zen practice, Taking the Path of Zen. I feel this will be a valuable source of information and inspiration both for those who have a passing interest in the subject and those who have determined to set out on the path of Zen themselves.

As an American who has trained in Zen practice for many years Aitken Roshi has a special understanding of the problems and questions which plague Western students of Zen. His book will thus be a godsend for people who have sought an introduction to Zen in their own language, free of the foreignisms that cultural differences can produce.

It is my sincere wish that this work will gain the wide readership it so deserves.” ―Yamada Koun Roshi

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865470804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865470804
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a Zen book for the beginning Zen practitioner, by which I mean someone who has already decided to try zazen meditation practice and may have been practicing for a few weeks or months. Note I do not say it is for the Zen scholar or the Zen wannabe, but for the person who plants their rear on the cushion every day and wants to know what to do if their feet are falling asleep or who's noticing background noise in the mind. If you want to be hip and know "about" Zen, there are flashier books. But as one who had finally tired of reading cookbooks and hungered for the meal, this book pointed me in the right direction (or, at least, ONE right direction) and helps me actually "cook," so to speak.
Like the saying goes, "Meditation: it's not what you think," so if you are attracted to Zen but aren't actually sitting zazen, give up the critiquing and dabbling, find a teacher, and get to work. This book helps both in choosing a teacher and in addressing random questions and common pitfalls for the beginning meditator.
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Format: Paperback
After reading many books that attempted to explain
Zen, I stumbled on this work by Robert Aitken. By far, Aitken puts into words what many authors have failed to. His easy-to-understand writing style makes what was once an impossible task; putting Zen into a western context, seem natural.

Aitken helps those of us who do not understand Japanese get a glimpse into the world of Zen and
its philosophies. There are many books on the topic, but few offer as much information to the
beginner.
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This book is the written form of the introductory speeches given at Aitken's Zendo. It is an excellent book on getting started in Zen. If you haven't yet decided to visit a Zen center or other place where you get instruction, but you want to start sitting and want to kind of know what to expect, this is a great book. It was a welcome change from many books that are a collection of koans, and from the books that are a collection of inspirational stories. This one is very much a how to do it.
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Format: Paperback
Despite (or perhaps because of) a plethora of books on thesubject, many readers continue to see Zen Buddhism as littlemore than an impenetrable enigma. Robert Aitken cuts through much of this mystery with an elegant guide to the rudiments of contemporary Zen theory and practice. Speaking to much of what is common to all of Buddhism, as well as thinking specific to various schools of Zen, these short essays were originally part of the orientation process at Aitken's Diamond Sangha training centers. He carefully explains both the why and how of basic Zen meditation, appropriate attitudes for Buddhist religious practice, and the ethical implications of this spiritual path - a path which he offers as but one path among many, a path both open to and compatible with other major systems of faith and practice. Chapter by chapter, Taking The Path of Zen demonstrates that which is beyond words by encouraging the reader to directly experience Zen - in Aitken's words, by making it personal.
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By A Customer on August 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Aitken's book is well worth reading and does offer useful information, but I disagree that it is for people first taking the path. The book is dry. Some see that as no-nonsense, an important quality is such a confusing arena, but it also is uninspiring. It, further, does not focus on what Zen offers, but is more of a how to follow Zen once the decision is made. If you think Zen Buddhism gives you liscense to ignore societie's rules and standards, this is a must read. If you want advice on meditation, it is a must read. If you are still considering whether Zen is for you, or you aren't sure what Zen is, look elsewhere first.
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Robert Aitken-Roshi (1917-2010) was one of the first ordained Western Zen teachers in addition to being a social activist. This is a brief introductory volume for Americans who have decided to take up the Way of Zen and need a starting point. A primer on the bases of practice, this is also a good book for the more experienced practitioner to revisit from time to time as it presents Zen in a clear, concise and accessible (if somewhat erudite) format. Had the book been available when I first developed an interest in Zen in my late teens, my practice would be far more matured today.
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Format: Paperback
This book has some valuable basic stuff on zazen, and the prose is clear and pleasant to read, but I was a bit disappointed. Too much of the book is filled with vague, New Age-sounding assertions like "there is no death" or "all things are one," which are not fully supported or explained by the author (by, e.g., reference to the Nikayas or to Nagarjuna). Buddhism, Zen or not, should never be vague in this way.

In addition, Aitken does little to describe why Zen in particular makes sense as a way to approach the world. It is just assumed that Western dualism is a bad thing, that meditation is an excellent way to spend your time, and so on. Aitken's plainspokenness is wonderful, but the book suffers from the lack of any discussion of the underlying rationale (if you can call it that) behind Zen.

On the plus side, some nice stuff about zazen and koan basics, some good discussions of famous stories from the zen tradition. Overall, however, the reader would be much better served by the following:

1) Sekida's book Zen Training (even better than this one for many aspects of sitting meditation and koan study, especially the importance of the tanden);

2) Shunryu Suzuki's book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (for the overall feel of Zen).

Best of luck!
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