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The Elements of Zen Hardcover – 1997
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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After an introduction in which the authors explain that "Zen is first and foremost the experience which the student must recognize in his or her own life," the book charts the history of Zen from the birth of the Buddha in sixth century BC India, through its arrival in China in AD 520 and Japan in the 1200s, and concluding with its growing popularity in the West. The book also covers the basic differences between the Rinzai and Soto schools, the former of which emphasizes practice toward enlightenment while the latter emphasizes practice as enlightenment itself.
The next few sections cover za-zen, or the practice of Zen meditation, with explanations, tips, and illustrations, also briefly describing monastic life and the inner workings of a Buddhist temple. There follows a section on "Zen in Daily Life," including the Four Noble Truths (in short: suffering is caused by clinging to desires) and the Eightfold Path (in short, how to find liberation from worldly desire), and interesting discussions of Zen cooking and the martial arts. Concluding the book is a Q & A section, which answered most of my immediate questions, and a collection of sutras.
All in all, a good introduction.