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Ambivalent Zen : One Man's Adventures on the Dharma Path Paperback – March 25, 1997
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First, there's the father, a successful Memphis department store magnate dominating dinnertime conversation with personal existential laments. A philosophical hummingbird who dips into the wells of Krishnamurtism, KarenHorneyism, AllanWattsism, DTSuzukism, the senior Shainberg makes their teachings a peculiar confirmation of some unspecified emotional malaise, happily projecting a sense of his own failure. In fact he is dominates at business and at home, the star of his own firmament, successfully competing for the lion's share of his family's attention and sympathies, and making an apparent virtue of self doubt. And, there's a legacy to be carried forward after his death. He sends both of his sons to psychiatrists as a matter of course.
Then there's the inscrutable family psychiatrist intent on remaining the long term inscrutable family psychiatrist who, after years of analysis, on the day Shainberg quits says. . . he's been looking forward to that day ... but why the need for approval?
There's a Japanese Zen Master whose mastery has affinities with Masters and Johnson.
There's an American Zen Master real estate developer.
There's a karate master who heals long distance by telephone energy, belly to belly.
And as a foil to all this madness one true voice, from a comically and brilliantly malaproping Japanese Zen monk, whose modesty in personal expectation, Lawrence, even by the end of the book, cannot make his own. In the end there is not Zen but ambivalence, its antithesis.Read more ›
I will admit that this book has its moments. Shainberg uses an easy-to-read back-and-forth style, continuously shifting between his late adolescence and various periods of his adult life, as well as interspersing periods in the development of Zen practice both in the United States in the 60's-70's as well as its origins in Japan. And Shainberg's journey would make for a fun movie, so long as Woody Allen was cast as Shainberg and Pat Morita, in a version of his character from Happy Days, played Kyoto Roshi.
I read Shainberg's book when it first came out and then re-read it again this last weekend. I had forgotten how incredibly funny the book is and how honest Shainberg is in reporting his experiences. When I read it the second time, I was struck most strongly by the pernicious power of Shainberg's "monkey mind." It's hard to believe that someone could do as much zen practice as he did without his mind quietening down enough to allow a few major insights. Nevertheless, I take him at his word. It reminds me of one of my friends who told me that after meditating for two years, his internal dialogue had not diminished at all and that he had never had a single moment of mental silence. I guess some people just have bad karma. Either that, or some people just don't want to know the truth badly enough. Personally, I was eaten up by the need to understand. I felt like a rat in a trap, and the idea of dying without ever understanding the universe struck me as absolutely intolerable. I was willing to die to know the truth. Ironically, what I discovered at the end of the trip is that I had never been born! For those who are still trapped by their thinking habits, try to make sense out of that statement.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The first 100 or so pages that describe Lawrence's father and mother are engaging and read like a novel. Read morePublished 5 months ago by DR.H
This is an astonishing book--one that's beautifully written, but hard to read...mainly because the author is constantly changing his mind. Thus the title. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Soho's Song
A "zen biography" by a professional writer - loved this book. The author gave a recent talk on his teacher, available on youtube at:... Read morePublished 20 months ago by zakatista
Very interesting book that should be particularly interesting to Buddhists of all types who have or are practicing with a sangha and a teacher. Read morePublished 20 months ago by M.E.Anderson
The anecdotes in this book are a hoot! An honest, tortured look behind the scenes of Zen Buddhism in this country.Published 24 months ago by Wolfgangus
"Still thinking about virtue , I ask if he (Roshi) considers himself a
religious person? No, he says. I am not against religion, but it's an
inconvenience. Read more
This memoir spans forty years of a smart man's attempt to shake off an authority figure. That figure may be his father, Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, a series of Japanese Zen masters,... Read morePublished on June 13, 2013 by John L Murphy
I started reading this book a few months back. I only got 20 pages into it and I was hooked. When I was given the opportunity to buy the book and continue reading it later on, I... Read morePublished on September 24, 2012 by franktothemax
That's how I felt about half way through this book.
The author's story isn't uninteresting. Read more