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Zen for Christians: A Beginner's Guide 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0787963767
ISBN-10: 0787963763
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Editorial Reviews


"Whereas other Christianity-meets-Buddhism books stress ideology and the intellect, this one emphasizes daily acts of practice" -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"an excellent introduction to Zen -- clear and to the point, practical, respectful, and even humorous at times" -- Yoga Journal

"makes Zen practice more approachable and less esoteric. . . . a straightforward guide for those who want to try Zen for themselves." -- Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin


"Kim Boykin writes in the skilled language of simplicity. While addressing those new to Zen, she offers practical wisdom, challenge, and encouragement to all practitioners." -- Rose Mary Dougherty, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Bethesda, Maryland

"The great religions of the world have much to learn from each other. Kim Boykin's book is a skillful step in that direction. The heart of the matter of Zen is presented in a direct and informative way that is based on her firsthand experience of Zen training. This should prove to be a helpful guide book for any Christian who wishes to explore Zen practice." -- John Daido Loori, Roshi, Abbot, Zen Mountain Monastery

"This lovely, wise, and practical introduction to Zen keeps its promise of companionship as the kind of spiritual cookbook you can bring right into the kitchen. Recipe-reading like this, in fact, inspires you to get into the kitchen, encourages you to keep at it, and invites you to share your efforts in communion with others." -- Steven Tipton, coauthor, Habits of the Heart

"An excellent resource on Zen practice, written f rom a pragmatic, personal, and yet sophisticated point of view. What a fine contribution to Buddhist-Christian understanding!"--Judith Simmer-Brown, coauthor, Benedict's Dharma: Buddhists Comment on the Rule

"Kim Boykin braids together strands, first, of her experience of Zen, as she came to it from a fairly non religious background but with a profound sense of anguish over the suffering of the world; second, of her very helpful reflections on what she sees as the essential lack of tension between Christianity and Zen; and finally, of her clear instructions and important information for beginners in the practices of Zen. This is a good-humored, intelligent, non-guilt-inducing book written by a person who shows us clearly what it would be like to reap the benefits of what she preaches."--Roberta Bondi, author, Memories of God and Houses: A Family Memoir of Grace


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787963763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787963767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a simple, direct, and trustworthy introduction to Zen thought and practice. It's really Zen -- not watered-down relaxation exercises -- and it's really for Christians, for serious, fully committed Christians. There is nothing vague or wishy-washy about Boykin, either as a Zen practitioner or as a Christian.
Her meditation instructions are wonderful, and she spends plenty of time talking about the physical enterprise of meditation -- the mechanics of how to sit, where to sit, how long to sit, and so forth -- something I think many teachers neglect, forgetting maybe just how large that looms to a beginner. She corrects the most damaging misconceptions about meditation -- that it's a matter of trying not to have thoughts, for example, or that it's always a peaceful and calming occupation -- but she never lets the reader forget that meditation is a practice, not an idea: the only way to find out what meditation has offer is to meditate.
She presents the theory of Zen -- if it can be said to have such a thing -- just as clearly. "In Zen," writes Boykin, "the Buddha's teachings are not understood to be divine revelations or doctrines to be believed. Rather, they are understood to be observations about human experience -- observations made by a human being, the Buddha, that can be made by any human being." She goes on to summarize the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, as clearly as I've ever seen them summarized. This part of the book alone would be worth the price of admission
When she considers parallels and analogs between Zen and Christianity, she does so without simplifying or compromising either. There's no nonsense about Zen "really" being Christianity or Christianity "really" being Zen.
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Format: Hardcover
While it is true that one could practice, say, yoga, and practice it well and fairly near completeness and still be a Christian, it is a bit of a stretch to fully immerse oneself in Zen Buddhism and remain a Christian. Or vice-versa.

This is not and cannot be immediately apparent to casual and beginning practitioners of either Christianity or Zen. Certainly however it should be clear to Kim Boykin. And, after a fashion, I think it is. What she has done is reduce Zen to something close to a non-spiritual practice, a "Zen for health," if you will, in particular Zen for mental and emotional health, and in that way make Zen compatible with Christianity.

As Boykin points out, the central tenet of Christianity, that of salvation, is similar to the Buddhist tenet of right behavior. In Christianity all have sinned, but if we accept Christ, who died for our sins, as our savior we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In Buddhism we are not "unsaved" or in a state of mortal sin, rather we are in a state of pain and suffering, some of it psychological. We overcome that state through Right Living, Right Behavior--the famous Eightfold Path. (See especially page 91.)

Boykin goes into the differences and similarities in her third chapter, "Zen Teachings and Christian Teachings." Basically she resolves all apparent conflicts by stating that "Zen teachings are not doctrines." This is precisely, exactly correct. Indeed, the central spirit in Zen is to laugh at all doctrines, to find enlightenment through "killing the Buddha" and "no thought," which are ways to get away from the limitations of the so-called rational mind.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm glad these sorts of work are becoming more and more popular in the literary world, because we have them coming from both the Christian and Buddhist community. Kim Bokyin is a teacher of contemplative prayer (a subject Merton always wrote extensively about) to both Christians and non Christians. This books' more like a beginners guide for people who don't have any idea what Zen Buddhism is actually about. Like a nice lure giving the fish just enough that, with any luck, they will come begging for more.
She's a very concise instructor in here, pouring over the fundamentals with a sort of ease and conviction. She explains meditation, koan work, non duality, The Four Noble Truths here; and what's more, Christians don't need to feel they need to give up Christianity to practice Zen. It may be true on a deeper level that in order to truly devote yourself, this might be so. But you can enhance your current religious traditions and spiritual practice with zazen (Zen meditation) at any time. Even contemplating scripture as though they are koans, is a beneficial practice. Christianity has a lot to benefit from Zen, allowing people to place aside desires for achievements (I dare say even heaven) and simply realize your life as this moment. There is no "goal." Only this.
This was an excellent book, and for those with interest in further reading on the matter I recommend Ruben Habito's book "Living Zen, Loving God." He has studied Zen and Christianity for decades, and provides further illuminating insights for Christians on reconciling Zen with Christianity. Anyway, get this book. It's an invaluable tool on the spiritual path.
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