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Zen Skin, Zen Marrow: Will the Real Zen Buddhism Please Stand Up? Hardcover – December 31, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195326776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195326772
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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"As we enter the 21st century and western Zen Buddhism develops the roots and branches of its second and third generations, the time has come to reflect on what aspects of this ancient tradition we are importing. What are the Zen myths and realities we are disseminating throughout the West? Most importantly, does Zen address the moral and ethical issues unique to our time and place? Steven Heine is eminently qualified to crack open this Pandora's box and help us sort out the real from the apparent. With its critical reflection, deep investigation and outstanding scholarship, Zen Skin, Zen Marrow is a step in the process allowing Zen to take the shape of the container that holds it. This book belongs on the shelf of every Zen center in the West." --John Daido Loori, author of True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koans and Sitting with Koans


"This book provides a valuable and insightful effort to clarify the conflict between two competing streams of Zen scholarship: the Traditional Zen Narrative and Historical and Cultural Criticism. Steven Heine is among the world's leading scholars of Rinzai and Soto Zen, and this latest work will make an extremely valuable contribution to such fields as Zen/Chan studies, East Asian Buddhism, comparative mysticism, and other related areas." --Steve Odin, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa


"This book makes an extremely valuable contribution to Zen studies, general Buddhist studies, and comparative studies of mysticism. ...Highly recommended." --Choice


"For the scholarly community, Heine's work contributes to the possibility of healing within the field of Zen studies...Only a scholar of Heine's stature in the field could offer such an invitation." --Journal of Japanese Studies

About the Author


Steven Heine, Professor and Director of Asian Studies at Florida International University, is an authority on Japanese religion and society, especially the history of Zen Buddhism and its relation to culture in China and Japan. He has published over a dozen books, including Zen Classics and Zen Ritual, coedited with Dale S. Wright.

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hats off to Steven Heine for risking a bloody nose by interposing in an ongoing quarrel. What quarrel? Well, the more you delve into Zen Buddhism, the more you probably start noticing a gaping disjuncture. Some portray Zen as a pure, individualistic pursuit of an unmediated experience of enlightenment through meditation minus all the usual trappings of religion such as scriptures or rituals--an ancient form of eastern wisdom with profound answers to our modern ills. Others would take this apart as a recent, ideologically-driven reinvention if not a plain big fat lie, uncovering evidence to show what they take to be a much more down-to-earth and monastically conformist tradition very much steeped in scriptures and rituals, with prayers and worship often eclipsing meditation--just another interesting variant of the Buddhist religion in Japan, and one that has ethically compromised itself through the ages by actively contributing to social discrimination and fanatic militarism. Often these two sides ignore each other. Other times they collide in acrimonious argument, merely talking past each other to no avail. Heine attempts valiantly to break this impasse in "Zen Skin, Zen Marrow" by bringing the two approaches into some sort of fruitful dialogue and mutually beneficial compromise.

And nobody's more qualified. The author and co-editor of many fine scholarly studies of Zen (some of my favorite, in fact) that quietly test the boundaries of what we consider Zen but with fair even-handedness, he brings both his vast store of knowledge and his fine diplomatic skills to the fray here, along with a long and intimate familiarity with the ups-and-downs of the controversy (as well as its prehistory) over the years.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ted Biringer on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Zen Skin, Zen Marrow, Steven Heine again serves up a tasty treat of information and insight on and about the current situation of Zen Buddhism. This time, Professor Heine highlights the overall condition of Zen in the present day by examining it from two extremes.

One extreme, which he calls the "Traditional Zen Narrative" (TZN), views Zen from the perspective that "Zen is an idealistic, utopian vision of nondual experience." TZN is presented as a type of Zen that claims to be beyond rules and definitions, where only the "enlightened" understand and "silence" is exalted as the highest expression of wisdom.

Heine's descriptions of this view of Zen immediately conjures images of the kinds of western Zen centers where "Roshi" and "Scandal" seem to be nearly synonymous.

The other extreme, "Historical Cultural Criticism" (HCC) is portrayed as viewing Zen as literary, rational, discriminative, and most importantly, nothing like the TZN adherents claim it is.

Here Heine seems a little more sympathetic in that he does not posit as extreme a view as he does with the TZN view. Nevertheless, those familiar with Critical Buddhism can fill in the gaps. Suffice it to say that the extreme adherents of this view would offer little more than a sterilized, air-tight philosophy.

After defining, outlining, and critiquing these two camps, Heine sets about trying to find some common ground (or at least some rules for a fair fight). His model of the solution is based on Dogen's handling of Bodhidharma's Skin, Flesh, Bone, and Marrow, koan. (which Heine calls a "minority opinion").

Heine's interpretation of this koan, as with others he presents in this book, varies quite a bit from my understanding of the case. Nevertheless, it is a plausible approach.
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