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Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts Paperback – September 5, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
American Buddhism is a unique expression of the ancient Eastern spiritual path, yet within its natural cultural transformations, practitioners are still sustained by the potentially exquisite lineage of teacher to student; the reliance on time-tested principles to guide the human light; and the manifest glory of every day realized. Anderson (Warm Smiles from Cold Mountains) captures these traditional strengths and renders them very skillfully for the here and now. Anderson is a key spiritual heir to the legendary Shunryu Suzuki, who founded San Francisco Zen Center and authored the enduring classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Here, Anderson discusses receiving the 16 great Bodhisattva precepts; taking refuge in the Triple Treasure of Buddha, dharma (teachings) and sangha (community); and embracing and sustaining forms, ceremonies and good actions. He also addresses abstaining from killing, stealing, misusing sexuality, lying, intoxication, criticizing others, mean-spirited self-praise, possessiveness, harboring ill will and disparaging the Triple Treasure. In the best sense, Anderson's fresh treatment of these topics is well suited for his American audience, but is also useful beyond our borders. In readable style, Anderson conveys his message didactically, in story and in precious glimpses of the seminal American Zen master Suzuki. Although definitely written for practitioners, Anderson's emphasis on Buddhism's grounded practicality shines clearly for any open-minded seeker.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Reb Anderson moved to San Francisco from Minnesota, in 1967, to study Zen Buddhism with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, who ordained him as a priest in 1970. Since then, Reb has continued to study at San Francisco Zen Center, which includes Beginner's Mind Temple at The City Center (San Francisco), Green Dragon Temple at Green Gulch Farm (near Muir Beach, California), and Zen Mind Temple (Carmel Valley, California). Reb served as abbot from 1986 to 1995 and is now a senior dharma teacher.
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It does not presume to dictate precept practice to anyone. As the book makes clear: Practice arises out of one's realization while practice simultaneously fosters realization.
The author does discuss targets to aim for. However hard those targets may seem at this point in your life, shooting at a target with no bullseye won't improve anyone's aim. Ultimately, of course, we each set our own targets.
One caution: "Being Upright" says it is written for people already in Zen practice. It is for those who are considering making a public, formal statement of their personal dedicated intent to follow specific Buddhist precepts. As the author says, his title refers to "the integration of precept practice and meditation." He makes it clear that it is the Zen meditator who decides whether or when to make the vows to practice the precepts. He also says that while some, in his experience, might make their avowal after six months of meditation practice, most should have sat for three years or more (many, many more in his own case). Don't buy this book if you are looking for an introduction to Zen.
This book does a wonderful job of connecting the personal to the traditional. It also does a great job of taking traditional precepts and making them meaningful in contemporary American culture. The most important thing is that, like any great work of religion or ethics, it inspires the reader to be a better person. The only, minor, detraction is that at some points it feels like Anderson is trying too hard to explain certain actions he took in the past in more of a defensive manner than an educational manner. Even so, the discussion is relevant to the ethical lessons in the book.
Overall, this book illuminates the precepts, makes them relevant to contemporary American life, and inspires the reader to incorporate and apply them. It makes you want to be a better person, which is the main thing a book like this is capable of achieving.