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Bankei Zen Hardcover – July, 1985

4.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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From the Back Cover

The eccentric Bankei has long been an underground hero in the world of Zen. At a time when Zen was becoming overly formalized in Japan, he stressed its relevance to everyday life, insisting on the importance of naturalness and spontaneity. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Haskel received his Ph.D. from Columbia University.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Grove Pr (July 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394535243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394535241
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,906,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As of this date, there are only two comprehensive English translations of this essential teaching on the nature of Zen: Norman Waddell's The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei and Peter Haskel's Bankei Zen.
Much of what I offered in my posted review of Waddell's translation would equally apply to the Haskel text reviewed here. Subjectively, I feel that the Waddel version is a slightly more fluid read. Bankei Zen, however, offers the additional benefits of selected letters and poems including Bankei's famous "Song of the Original Mind." Photographs of his calligraphy, paintings, and intricately carved statues further enhance the text.
Both volumes were originally published in 1984, and there is inevitable overlap between the two texts. Nevertheless, they are complementary and each has its own merit. I have personally benefited from reading both.
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Format: Paperback
BANKEI ZEN : Translations from the Record of Bankei by Peter Haskel. Edited by Yoshito Hakeda. 196 pp. New York : Grove Press, 1984.
If Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) is Zen's supersonic jet, Bankei (1622-1693) is its horse-and-buggy. But when it's simply a matter of getting from point A to point A, since what we are looking for is no further than the end of our nose, either type of conveyance will suffice.
Dogen transports us to the stratospheric heights of Zen. His thought is totally brilliant and hyper-sophisticated, and once you get a taste of him you may find yourself completely captivated. Those who may be interested might care to take a look at Kazuaki Tanahashi's fine anthology, 'Moon in a Dewdrop : Writings of Zen Master Dogen.'
Bankei, in contrast, is a very different kettle of fish. For him the sutras, the koans, and the works of the great Chinese Masters were so much waste paper we needn't be bothering our heads about. Very much a man of the people, and immensely popular in his day, his following, as Haskel tells us, "embraced nearly every segment of Japanese society : samurai with their families and retainers, merchants, artisans, farmers, servants, even gamblers and gangsters, as well as monks and nuns of all the Buddhist sects" (page xvii). All of them, in crowds that could number over a thousand, would flock from all parts of Japan to listen to his unusual teaching.
What was the teaching that held such a powerful appeal for so many different kinds of people?
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
A great gem of a book for any seeker. Master Bankei's teachings revolved around the principal that we are all a part of the Unborn-here and now and that once we abide in that no other knowledge or practice is really necessary. His teachings mainly point this out from many angles based on peoples questions and issues at the time. After many years of his own struggle as a seeker he came to the realization that since everything arises from the Unborn we are all Buddhas once we really abide in the Unborn, which is possible NOW without any other knowledge. He felt that seekers distanced themselves from this very direct teaching by doing too many things like working on koans or spending a lot of time reading religious Buddhist texts, all the while missing the Unborn Buddha Mind right now that is always present. It seems hard to believe but Master Bankei very profoundly and intelligently makes a great case for this teaching in this wonderful book. I strongly recommend it. It is along the lines of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and more recently Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now & Stillness Speaks).
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Format: Paperback
Bankei-Zenji was a maverick, a figure unique in the history of Japanese Zen. Unable to find an Enlightened teacher, he set himself a regimen of asceticism and meditation that nearly killed him. But once he attained realisation he turned his back on all that and began to teach, becoming more popular than any Zen Master before or since: thousands flocked to hear him, so many that he was forced to teach outdoors. Zen associated itself with the military and scholarly elite, but Bankei-Zenji taught anybody and everybody: peasants, beggars, aristocrats, merchants, criminals, men and women, monks and laypeople.

What he taught was this: the ordinary mind we use everyday is itself the Unborn, Unoriginated Buddha-Mind. Becoming Enlightened is neither necessary nor possible: we are Enlightened now. All we need do is avoid exchanging this innate mind of Enlightenment for a contrived mind of greed, fear, anger, pride or delusion. He rejected koan-study and regarded meditation and devotional practices as optional.

This book is an exemplary account of his life and teaching: if I take off one star this is no criticism of editor or translator. But I'm sure that Bankei-Zenji had a presence, a charisma, that taught more effectively than any words. (His Bodhisattva calm became legendary: a sword is swished in his face, he bats it away without even blinking.) In the absence of this it's easy to miss the point. Significantly his teachings, so popular in his lifetime, did not survive him.

By contrast Hakuin-Zenji, who loathed this talk of the Unborn and established rigorous discipline and struggle with koans as the basis of Zen training, created what remains today the framework of the Rinzai School of Zen.
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