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The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism Paperback – February 22, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; annotated edition edition (February 22, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609804669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609804667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith, author of several anthologies of Buddhist writings, sets out in her latest work to equip the curious beginner with the basics needed to practice Zen. She successfully anticipates a novice's questions and problems by including sections not only on how to meditate but on what to expect and how to behave when visiting a Zen practice center. This book has the potential to bring Zen to a wider audience; Smith excels at providing simple, clear explanations and packs a parcel of basic information into a small book. However, this work also epitomizes some of the problems attending Zen's recent popularity in America. Smith shies away from calling Zen a religion, sugarcoating the more religious aspects of Zen practice, such as making offerings or paying respect to one's teacher, in an effort to make them palatable to the Zen consumer. She eschews literal translations of Buddhist verses for liberal ones and skims over the differences between Zen and other Buddhist traditions, leaving readers with a Zen whose complexities and contradictions have been neatly rationalized. One hopes that readers will not be disappointed by the actual practice of Zen communities after digesting the idealized portrait presented here. The book's strong point is its popularization of Zen, but here popularization flirts with oversimplification. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Author and editor Smith has written an excellent, beautifully clear, and carefully illustrated guide to the most famous and popular form of Buddhism in America today. Her guide addresses, in addition to essential Zen teachings, the meaning of zendo, zazen, koans, and many other core beliefs and practices. She also provides an extremely useful chapter of frequently asked questions. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the book readers should seek to answer the question, "Where should I begin with Zen?" Highly recommended.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Very informative and easy to understand.
Bonnie Clark Ruiter
With her clear writing style, Smith offers anyone interested in Zen Buddhism a very good basic introduction, including practical advice and a resource guide.
R. F. Hahn
After reading this book, I feel like I have a base to work from.
Philippe Haddad

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Philippe Haddad on May 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am a newcomer to buddhism. After reading this book, I feel like I have a base to work from. What this book did for me, is clarify the most important questions a newcomer can have, such as, what is the goal of buddhism, what is enlightenment,and many other basic questions. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious intrest in discovering what buddhism is about.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
As one curious about Buddhism, I found this book to be very informative. It focuses on the meditative aspect, with an interesting glance at the history of Buddhism, as well as essential tenets...''suffering is caused by our desire for things to be different from the way they are.'' The book is basic, but quite profound in it's impact. If you're exploring Buddhism as a newcomer, this is a good book to begin your library with. My wife is now interested because of Jean Smith.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. F. Hahn on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
With her clear writing style, Smith offers anyone interested in Zen Buddhism a very good basic introduction, including practical advice and a resource guide. While she introduces the reader to the beginnings and diversity of Buddhism as a whole, she emphasizes Western approaches to and developments in Zen. Smith's work is informative and unpretentious, terse without omitting any vital details, reflecting respect and admiration for Zen traditions without worship of personalities and exoticism.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
An excellent book for beginning zen practitioners. Beautifully written. After reading this book you will be on the right path to exploring zen.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By ingndave on May 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Its funny how life long followers of buddhism would consult with this book, as it is for beginners. This book is for someone with little or no knowledge of what path to take. Buddhism is inherently diffucult to begin with, thus a book is of extreme importance to new zennists.No book will encompass all that is needed to know especially a book on Buddhism.This should be considered a introductory on Buddhism.However and i believe the author would agree with me that NO text on buddism is all inclusive. This you take a little from here and a little from there and paint your "own" picture. You didnt learn math from one book did you??
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Olivia Deffenderfer on May 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
An excellent beginner's guide to Zen. This book addresses everything from basic meditation practice to proper etiquette in a zendo. Buddhist philosophy is discussed towards the end of the book but this section is best supplemented with other resources that Jean Smith recommends. A great book for learning the practice of zen in a very straightforward manner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Dronkers on March 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
As someone new to Zen Buddhism, this gave me a great overview and background to start. It's very readable and goes into all the main topics I was curious about, including etiquette, history and basic principles. I highly recommend this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Rose VINE VOICE on December 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've had a fairly regular experience of meditation over the past twenty years and this very useful and readable book reminded me that meditation is not Zen Buddhism. It's easy for someone like me to unconsciously equate the two when "spirituality" or "mindfulness" has sometimes blurred the distinct characteristics of traditional practices and communities.

I imagine that Jean Smith's guide will be of value to those who are just beginning with Zen Buddhism and may not, as beginners, be aware of or exposed to the long history and diverse expression of the tradition. This was my experience as a follower of a parochial and sectarian Christian tradition in my young adult years. It was only after I struck out on my own that I discovered the bigger picture, with the help of wise and searching writers, teachers, friends and family members. So I can readily appreciate how Smith's handy guide would be equally valuable to spiritual searchers ready now to commit to a particular religious or traditional community.

Books like Smith's fascinating work here are of great help to those just joining, or seeking to join a way of awakening like Zen Buddhism.
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