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The Flowing Bridge: Guidance on Beginning Zen Koans Paperback – November 28, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"After a Zen student has had a first awakening experience, the most important phase of training begins. In the Rinzai tradition, that training includes mastery of a series of 'miscellaneous' koans, which vary according to the lineage. With grace and deep insight, Elaine MacInnes has presented pointers to the beginning koans of her teacher Koun Yamada Roshi. Zen students everywhere are grateful for her profound and skillful contribution to our practice." (Gerry Shishin Wick, author of The Book of Equanimity, and co-author of The Great Heart Way)

"Elaine MacInnes is a Catholic nun and a Zen teacher in the lineage of the renowned master Koun Yamada. Over the years, she established zendos in the Philippines and in Canada. MacInnes has served as the director of the Prison Phoenix Trust in England, placing meditation teachers in more than 86 prisons. In this paperback, the author examines all the first koans that Zen students encounter in practice. MacInnes helps us to see the way koans enable us to let go of that which is unimportant." (Spirituality and Practice)

"This book is the only one so far that takes up the Miscellaneous Koans, a small but very important collection that can play a crucial part in a practitioner's training. Zen Master Elaine MacInnes has given the world a great gift." (Ruben L.F. Habito, author of Living Zen, Loving God)

"Who would have thought one of the most formidable Zen masters in the West would be a Roman Catholic nun living in retirement in a Toronto convent? With skill and grace Sister Elaine MacInnes guides us through a long neglected but essential aspect of koan introspection. A foundational work for anyone wishing to take up koan practice as an authentic spiritual discipline." (James Ishmael Ford, Guiding Teacher of Boundless Way Zen and author of Zen Master Who? and If You're Lucky, Your Heart Will Break)

About the Author

Elaine MacInnes, a member of Our Lady's Missionaries, studied koans with, and was authorized to teach by, the renowned Zen master Koun Yamada. She has established zendos in the Philippines and in Canada. She has served as the director of the Prison Phoenix Trust in England, and has placed meditation teachers in over 86 prisons, and she is also the founder of Freeing the Human Spirit, a Canadian charity that also teaches meditation to prisoners. In 2001, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. She lives in Toronto.

A former Jesuit priest, Ruben L.F. Habito is professor of world religions and spirituality at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and resident teacher at Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, Texas. A dharma heir of Yamada Koun, he is also the author of Healing Breath and other works in Japanese and English.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; First Edition edition (November 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861715454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861715459
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm a bit surprised by the negative tone of other reviews. The author makes no secret of the fact that she is a Christian nun, practising Zen. It is wonderful to know that the koans are accessible whatever one's belief system. And I find her commentaries on the koans very readable. Her treatment of kongen in particular is inspiring. "I have faith in nights". Indeed.
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I have really enjoyed this book. One of the reasons that I enjoy koan study is that I find it opens up my point of view to a larger range of possibilities. I think that the author supports and demonstrates that broadening of viewpoint in her teishos on the various koans. Her writing is very descriptive and at the same time accessible. It's also nice to read about a personal view of koan study rather than an academic or historical view. I am very grateful to have bumped into this book.
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I purchased this book on the description alone, in spite of being wary on account of it having no reviews. I found it odd, as it hadn't just come out.

I suspect people like myself don't want to write anything negative. I'm giving the book three stars, which I think is a neutral rating, for I would imagine this book could resonate with some people.

It did not resonate with me. The author's take on koans is quite analytical and leaves me feeling like there is a right or wrong way to understand them. Not so.

Once, Zen monks-in-training purchased books with the "answers" to koans. 16th century Cliff's Notes, if you will. I thought of that as I read this book. There is not one right answer. Even though the author states that we need to find our own way, she leaves little room for the reader to do so.
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I enjoyed this book. Being a beginner with koan study I found it very helpful. The author crosses over between wisdom traditions and this is something I grew to appreciate.
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It is no doubt a poor reflection on my own level of tolerance, but this feels to me like Zen through a Christian filter. There is a lot of Jesuit theology for a book on Buddhist koans and a lot of talk about God with a capital G for any Buddhist book, it seems to me, but then I'm more of a Stephen Batchelor kind of Buddhist. See:Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
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