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The Whole World Is a Single Flower: 365 Kong-Ans for Everyday Life (Tuttle Library of Enlightenment) Paperback – March, 1992


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Product Details

  • Series: Tuttle Library of Enlightenment
  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Pub; Second Printing edition (March 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804817820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804817820
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I felt very sad when I read the review from someone in Winslow, Arizona. This person missed the point. I practice koans with one of the editors of this book, Jane McLaughlin-Dobisz, a Zen Master who received transmission from Zen Master Seung Sahn. She is a completely alive teacher who brings the teaching of this book alive in practice. The entire point of koan practice is to connect the teachings with everyday life, so that there is no separation between you and this world. This book presents some of these koans, or questions, to entice you to more deeply explore your mind before critical, analytical thinking. Zen Master Seung Sahn calls this your "don't know mind". By allowing yourself to be absorbed by these questions and respond from your gut, you may come to trust yourself, to believe in yourself. Through this belief, you will be able to participate in your life 100%, with compassion and vital presence. This is something that 100 books about Zen cannot give you. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Zen practice, or koan practice, as an introduction to this centuries old path to cutting through the mind of opposites and returning to the source. If you have some idea about the path to enlightenment, you will have a big problem. This book may help you see through your ideas and wake up! I sit a seven day retreat every year and I read this book and it always helps me, I hope it will help you too.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
There are three classic collections of kong-ans (the Korean word; Japanese is koans, Chinese is kung-ans) from ancient China: the Mumonkan, the Blue Cliff record, and (less known) the Book of Serenity. They follow the same basic form: the kong-an (the word means public case, and it's generally a very short story, e.g.: "A monk asked Joju, does a dog have Buddha nature? Joju answered Mu.") is presented, followed by commentary. In the Mumonkan and the Blue Cliff record the commentary is by the book's compiler; in the Book of Serenity you get a grab bag of comments by various teachers. This book is a contemporary representation of that tradition, presenting a large number of classic kong-ans from the Korean tradition, as well as kong-ans based on poems or fragments of poems (e.g., there's a series of kong-ans from the Tao Te Ching) and derived from other traditions (including the Christian tradition). Each kong-an is followed by a question or series of questions, and then by a short commentary. (Historical note: Today we tend to identify the kong-an with the question, but traditionally it's the basic situation that's the kong-an.)
Winslow AZ, who wrote the extremely negative review, is right on one point --- these stories, questions, and commentaries can seem incomprehensible if you read them the way you'd read, say, a review on Amazon.com. Well, hey, I'm a mathematician and mathematics papers are incomprehensible if you read them that way too. So, no, this isn't a book for people wanting an introduction to Zen Buddhism, whether philosophical or practical, and it isn't an analytical text for students working toward their PhD's either.
What it is is the real thing, a contemporary snapshot of a living tradition, and that's its value.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
The secret to understanding this book is to follow Zen Master Seung Sahn's advice and cut off all thinking. Zen Master Seung Sahn is a great contemporary Korean Zen Master who has been teaching in the West since 1972. He has an intimate appreciation of his Western students' minds, and also a profound understanding of the whole Zen tradition. The book will give a valuable question to the mind of those who have never practiced, but it will be most treasured by those with some experience of meditation. Kong-ans (Jap. koans) which might seem paradoxical at first are revealed as simple and illuminating to the mind which sheds its attachments. That is the beauty (and the frustration) of studying kong-ans with an experienced teacher. This book should enlighten as well as provoke. It also contains many heretofore unknown stories from the Korean Zen tradition, as well as Taoist and Christian Kong-ans. A rare find!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
It's clear that the last reviewer has never actually practiced with koans, which is all this book asks of you -- to practice. Perhaps "the author [seems to give] ludicrous explanations" because, as the author writes, One action is better than 10,000 sutras. In other words, this isn't a book to read in the same way that you'd read the newspaper, & you either agree or disagree with the author (like maybe reading about a jockey and deciding you hate riding horses -- when you've never even seen a horse). Plus here, essentially, there is no author. To put it another way: YOU'RE the author.
The reason I give the book five stars is also why I think the last reviewer is a bit off: Zen is NOT "the ultimate psychology of self knowledge" or anything else fitting so neatly into what we'd like it to be. Let go of "Zen," then what is this? Just this! What can you do?
Bring me the sound of the cicada, asks one of the koans. Seung Sahn might say, Put it all down, put down "psychology" and "self knowledge" and "Zen is supposed to be this," and bring me the sound of the cicada.

(And to clarify: I've never been a student of Seung Sahn's. Unfortunately.)
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