- Hardcover: 199 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (November 30, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520219821
- ISBN-13: 978-0520219823
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
This book is billed as a sequel to Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Suzuki's classic collection of talks on Zen, but it stands on its own considerable merits as an eloquent, humorous series of lectures on the Sandokai, an eighth-century poem central to the Soto Zen tradition. These lectures show Suzuki, head priest of Tassajara monastery in California until his death in 1971, using his line-by-line exposition of the poem to illuminate what it means to practice Zen Buddhism. He stresses the simultaneity of the relative and the absolute, skillfully using words to direct his listeners toward understanding, all the while emphasizing that words are merely fingers pointing at the moon of enlightenment. Suzuki's devaluation of the verbal frees him to embrace humor and paradox as teaching methods; his examples range from ancient Chinese stories to anecdotes about weeding in the Tassajara garden and encountering an earwig. Readers of his previous book will be familiar with his earthy, clear, intense style. This book also conveys the texture of monastery life; it recounts 12 consecutive talks and includes the question-and-answer sessions at the end of each talk. These exchanges offer some of the most fascinating parts of an already excellent book, as they explicate some of the unclear points and illuminate the indirect yet confrontational quality of traditional Japanese Zen teaching. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Suzuki (1904^-1971) came to San Francisco in 1959, established the first Zen Buddhist monastery in the U.S., and wrote the seminal Zen text for Westerners, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1972). Toward the end of his life, Suzuki presented a series of talks based on the Sandokai, an eighth-century poem written by the Chinese Zen master Sekito Kisen. An elegant set of 22 couplets, it addresses a number of dichotomies, such as light and dark and sharp or dull, and it is chanted daily in Zen temples. In his cogent discussions and the question-and-answer sessions that follow--edited for publication by Mel Weitsman of the Berkeley Zen Center and Michael Wenger of the San Francisco Zen Center--Suzuki worked his way through the entire poem, expounding on the meanings of the Sandokai's imagery and its relevance to Buddhist practice and to life. The fact that one text can inspire a book's worth of philosophical thought and practical advice is testimony both to Buddhism's depths and to Suzuki's considerable gifts. Donna Seaman
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And, somehow, it works. By the end of the book when the poem is repeated in Suzuki's translation, it makes sense. He has successfully lead us into a place of darkness, that is a place beyond intellectual understanding.
A book to be read slowly, in small doses, and to be contemplated, rather than analyzed and thought about.
Of course, this is also a great benefit to those, such as monks, living a life dedicated to enlightnenment and living the Way. I can't begin to explain the Sandokai itself, or Master Suzuki's insightful commentary--suffice it to say that its true wisdom presented in a skillful way to help anyone living the most more mundane and ordinary life.
However, it is probably not a for novice reader: "Zen Mind, Begginner's Mind", and "Not Always So" are excellent prerequsisites to this book. Although it is understandable, the ideas and teachings are rather advanced. The intro mentions that these teachings on the Sandokai are often the last that a Dharma teacher will undertake in his lifetime -- and this series of lectures was Suzuki's take on it shortly before he passed away.
It took me an entire summer to read -- and I would frequently have to read a chapter 3 or 4 times before I felt that I had absorbed the trur meaning of what he was trying to say. That is, the teachings it presents can be absorbed on many different levels from superficial to very deep. It is up to the reader how deep they are willing and able to go...