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What Is Zen? Paperback – October 5, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (October 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577311671
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577311676
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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This book is a short, easy read.
Learner
I recommend this book to the beginner as well as the seasoned veteran of Zen studies.
T. Enns
May you always find your way in life that is the way for you.
Craig Schreiner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By T. Enns on March 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is another in a series of great books that are compilations of lectures of the late Alan Watts by his son Mark. It is an excellent introduction to Zen, and it is also a very good synopsis for those who have studied Zen in detail for many years. With his typical genius for getting to the heart of the matter, Dr. Watts describes exactly what is the essence of Zen in the first chapter. Later on he even gives a tip for understanding the sometimes puzzling behavior of that unique species of human beings, the Zen master. Watts stresses the need for us to set up an environment where we can stop thinking or talking to ourselves, which is meditation, and he clearly describes a good technique for doing this. The state of mind that is a result of this suspension of thought is not a blank mind, but rather a mind that is deeply aware of the world as it is. Finally, Watts sums it all up by showing us how the Zen mind is not only a mind that can most effectively deal with those infamous Zen koans, but also with all of life's situations.
I recommend this book to the beginner as well as the seasoned veteran of Zen studies. It is short, to the point, and a brilliant expression of the essence of Zen.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Enns on March 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is another in a series of great books that are compilations of lectures of the late Alan Watts by his son Mark. It is an excellent introduction to Zen, and it is also a very good synopsis for those who have studied Zen in detail for many years. With his typical genius for getting to the heart of the matter, Dr. Watts describes exactly what is the essence of Zen in the first chapter. Later on he even gives a tip for understanding the sometimes puzzling behavior of that unique species of human beings, the Zen master. Watts stresses the need for us to set up an environment where we can stop thinking or talking to ourselves, which is meditation, and he clearly describes a good technique for doing this. The state of mind that is a result of this suspension of thought is not a blank mind, but rather a mind that is deeply aware of the world as it is. Finally, Watts sums it all up by showing us how the Zen mind is not only a mind that can most effectively deal with those infamous Zen koans, but also with all of life's situations.
I recommend this book to the beginner as well as the seasoned veteran of Zen studies. It is short, to the point, and a brilliant expression of the essence of Zen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rodney G. Stevenson on July 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Alan is my favourite author on Zen and Taoism, and this book certainly maintains his standard! Paradoxically, he says that such subjects can't be written or spoken about to convey their true nature, yet after reading him I find my way of thinking had become changed without me being able to identify why! Sort of like having an audience with a Zen Master I suppose, not that I have! Somehow things are conveyed and absorbed by 'osmosis'!
This book is so relatively cheap that if you are at all interested in the subject, I advise giving it a try; I'm sure you'll want more from Alan!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Campbell on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
A remarkable book in description and clarity for the western reader. Once this has

been read you'll only wish to read more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Diana L. Dickerson on July 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A broad basic overview of the principals of Zen...The book explains the basics well enough, although I think there are a few better alternative books for those that wish to delve much deeper in exploring the philosophy, methods and paths of Zen. All in all, this is still a decent book on the principals of Zen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Learner on February 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
The best book I have found to introduce me to Buddhism is Mindfulness in Plain English: 20th Anniversary Edition. Another good one is Buddhism Plain and Simple.

However, What is Zen? is also a good book, even if a little abstract. With this book, I recommend that you read the last chapter first. That chapter, "Zen Mind," is the best explanation of Zen I've found - I've read a few other books, but after this chapter I now feel I have a clear idea of what Zen is.

The previous chapters are good, but as I read them I kept thinking, "When is he going to tell me what Zen really is?" Now that I have read the final chapter, I will have to read the first ones again.

This book is apparently a compilation of lectures. Each "chapter" is a different lecture, I assume. The chapters have the informal feel of lectures before a small group, rather than essays or usual chapters in a book.

I've just begun to study Zen. People will tell you that Zen is not something you can put into a book, but "sazen" lectures like this are surely helpful to point you in the right direction.

The book's language is simple and plain, which I appreciate as I'm trying to learn about Zen. This book is a short, easy read. I read it in probably three hours.

If you want a much more in-depth book about Zen, I recommend The Way of Zen by the same author. I'm halfway through it so far, but can already recommend it wholeheartedly.
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