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Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice Paperback – November 14, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195304683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195304688
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,297,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"These essays are valuable because they reflect a crucial sea change in the contemporary study of religion: a shift away from the study of what religion says it is about (as explained in sacred texts) to what religion is actually about (as discovered in historical records and sociological observation)."--Buddhadharma

"This impressive collection of essays by prominent Zen scholars should dispel the popular notion of Zen as a religious experience independent of ritual and institutional structures. The writers explore a range of ritual activities in the tradition, including rituals to protect the emperor and the country, formulaic sermons, seated and walking meditation, empowerment and healing rituals conducted by nuns, and a dharma-transmission ceremony recently formulated for North American Zen. This volume fills an important lacuna in Zen Studies, and it merits a close reading by anyone interested in ritual, Buddhism, or East Asian cultures." --Christopher Ives, author of Zen Awakening and Society

"Zen Ritual is an excellent volume and should be of great interest to scholars of East Asian Buddhism, be useful in upper-level undergraduate courses, and may also challenge Western Zen practictioners to further refine and define their own traditions vis-a-vis Japanese Zen. Each essay has something interesting to contribute, and together they deomnstrate unequivocally that Zen, like all Buddhism, is inextricably associated with many kinds of ritual and that we cannot hope to understand Zen without understanding its rituals." --Journal of Japanese Studies

"Ten excellent scholars contribute nine chapters (plus an introduction) that cover such aspects as women's rituals of 'actualizing empowerment,' meditation as a rite of enactment of original enlightenment (in Dogen's enigmatic formation), and dharma transmission...Highly recommended." --Choice

About the Author

Steven Heine is Professor of Religious Studies and History and Director of the Institute for Asian Studies at Florida International University. Dale S. Wright is David B. and Mary H. Gamble Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies at Occidental College. They are the coeditors of The Koan, Zen Canon, and Zen Classics.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on November 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Finally the study of Zen here in the States is coming of age, and this excellent book is a key contribution in that regard. Consisting of an assortment of interesting and scholarly articles by various writers, it is something of a successor to Heine and Wright's prior collections "The Zen Canon" and "Zen Classics" though it shifts the focus from Zen texts to Zen ritual praxis. Years ago I would've considered the very idea an oxymoron, since Zen has for decades been presented as spontaneous and anti-ritualistic--the reason I and others had this skewed impression are fully addressed herein, but the writers spend less time polemically slamming predecessors in the field and instead concentrate their efforts positively in exploring just what Zen rituals are and how they function in the Zen tradition, subtly overturning earlier misrepresentations in the process. This is one of the few studies of the subject that properly addresses what I actually saw Zen temples doing in Japan when I lived there back in the 1990's, too, and was something of a breath of fresh air in that regard--not abstract idealizations but concrete actualities. In fact, with the exception of the second article which looks at Chan historically in China, the overriding emphasis of this book is on Zen in Japan, with a fairly even balance between Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions along with extensive considerations of the role of Obaku Zen in their development. Each article is quite detailed but with larger implications, and the tone throughout is pleasantly academic and accessibly readable.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Book Review (corrected - I wrongly attributed the quote from Albert Welter to Michel Mohr)

Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice

This book is a welcome addition to the growing collection of literature revealing the huge gap between the actual practices of the various Zen schools and the common Western ideals of what Zen Buddhism represents.

It presents in-depth analysis on the actual practices (from Zen's early history through the present) of many Zen rituals. These studies focus on Zen rituals as diverse as "Dharma Transmission" and "Zazen", to the rituals to "Glorify the Emperor" and "Protect the Country." For those readers familiar with Zen only through "romantic" treatments of it by charismatic popularizers, this book may be an eye-opening read. For instance, the actual incorporation of Zen into Japan seems to have had little to do with "spiritual realization." As Albert Welter writes:

"While it is commonly supposed that early Kamakura bakufu leaders were attracted to Zen for spiritual reasons and for its discipline and rough and ready call to action that was part and parcel of samurai life, nothing could be further from the truth. Early Zen patrons looked to Zen ... to honor the dead, ensure victory in warfare, and alleviate sufferings associated with drought and natural disaster."

While many of the truths revealed and outlined in this wonderful and readable collection of essays have already been revealed (or at least implicated) in previous works, this book brings them together in one place offering an overview of the actual activities and functions of Zen institutions.
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By D. K. Carrigan on July 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
Good book.
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