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Beating the Cloth Drum: Letters of Zen Master Hakuin Paperback – March 20, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“From Norman Waddell, the tireless translator of Hakuin, a new book: Beating the Cloth Drum. Containing letters, some of them only recently discovered, written by Hakuin to his disciples, both monks and lay believers, it covers topics ranging from the nature of enlightenment to the cost of getting a book printed in eighteenth-century Japan. A must-read for anyone interested in the life and teachings of this Master of Zen!”—Burton Watson, translator of The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry

“Norman Waddell is far and away the finest translator of Hakuin’s writings, bringing to life many facets of the great Zen Master’s work. Amazingly, this is the first book in any language to gather together his letters. Supported here by thorough and helpful commentaries, they fully demonstrate the generosity of Hakuin’s spirit, the breadth of his knowledge, and the compassionate rigor of his teachings.”—Stephen Addiss, author of 77 Dances and The Art of Zen

“Exuberant collection. . . . Writing so vivid it takes the breath away. [Zen Master Hakuin’s letters] throw open windows onto his personality: his penchant for playful hyperbole and subterfuge, his humor, his aspirations for his students, and his relentless pursuit of a Dharma heir.  With Waddell’s illuminating commentary, they fan a Zen breeze, bringing the spectrum of Hakuin’s life and the intensity of his dedication before us.”—Mountain Record: The Zen Practitioner’s Journal

“Hakuin’s letters . . . give modern readers a glimpse into the compassionate activity exhibited by this formidable Zen master.”—Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly

About the Author

Norman Waddell has published translations of Suzuki and Dogen, and, most recently, "Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin". He lives in Japan.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590309480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590309483
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
There are two towering historical figures in Japanese Zen: Dogen and Hakuin Zenji. Dogen was the 12th-century founder of the Soto school, while Hakuin was a 18th-century Rinzai revivalist. The latter did for Rinzai Zen what Martin Luther did for Protestantism.

Much has been written in English about Dogen, but not so much about Hakuin, at least available in mass market. Although he wrote (and painted) voluminously throughout his career, and despite the popularity of Rinzai-influenced koan study in the West, not much of Hakuin's work has been translated into English. What we have is a handful of titles--Hakuin on Kensho, Wild Ivy, The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin, Zen Words of the Heart, etc.--that explore his doctrinal position, opinions, and even his spiritual autobiography.

However, Beating the Cloth Drum, the latest translation of Hakuin's work, is a collection of Hakuin's letters, which provide a unique window into this complicated man's life and personality. Because they were never intended to be published, these letters reveal aspects of the great teacher that his published work doesn't, or refused to. For instance, despite his constant refrain that his work was unworthy of publication, his letters demonstrate that Hakuin was in fact working tirelessly to publish his writing. Publication, after all, is one way to share Zen with a broader audience, which was one of his ultimate goals.

Translated by Norman Waddell, a highly regarded translator of Japanese Zen writers, such as Dogen, Hakuin, and Bankei--Beating a Cloth Drum shows Hakuin corresponding with people of all classes and types: disciples, lay people, and friends in the Dharma. Although not for casual readers, this book is an important contribution to Hakuin studies, and a dream come true for Hakuin enthusiasts.

--Andre Doshim Halaw
[...]
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Any of the writings of this remarkable human being are worth reading again and again. The wonderful thing about "The Cloth Drum" is that it allows insight into the daily concerns and endeavors of this pivotal Rinzai Zen Master.
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