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Footprints in the Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 21, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 21, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly

The author is a master of Chan Buddhism, the Chinese antecedent of Zen Buddhism that is not nearly as well known as Zen and other Buddhist schools that have migrated to the West. The Chan master's story is less Buddhist dharma and more history of his homeland. Born in 1930, he had a ringside seat for China's Communist revolution. In 1949, he left his Buddhist schooling to join Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army, spending more than 10 years in military intelligence. That experience was but one of many teachers along his spiritual path, along with a few bizarre Chan masters. Sheng Yen has also traveled, spending some time teaching in America. His efforts, however, have been concentrated in Taiwan, where he has developed the fourth-largest Buddhist organization in that area. This book is timely, given that China is opening to the West this year on account of the Olympics in Beijing. China is also becoming more open to religious practices, especially its own distinctive Buddhism. This son of China is a distinguished teacher with a revealing, simply told story. (Oct. 21)
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This straightforward account of the possibility of a contented mind in a complex world, from the outset, is spoken in such a voice of sweet compassion. Endearing and touching, it is like Zen itself.” —Sylvia Boorstein

“Chan Master Sheng Yen is a great teacher and I have great confidence in his scholarship and wisdom. I feel privileged to be his friend, and admire what he has been doing for the Buddhadharma in the East as well as in the West.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

“When I listen to Master Sheng Yen’s presentation of Chan Buddhist teachings, my immediate and very profound feeling is that I am listening to words of wisdom from someone who is very experienced and a great practitioner.” —His Holiness, the Dalai Lama


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385513305
  • ASIN: B003JTHRT6
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Have you ever dreamed about becoming a Buddhist monk? I have. I've visited some of those temples, and can imagine living there, doing the daily work, chanting, meditation, and so forth. After reading this book, I see that my mental picture of it all may have been a bit rosy.

Footprints in the Snow is the autobiography of Sheng Yen, a Chan ("Chinese Zen") Master. There are several biographies of the man in Chinese, but this is the first edition in English. Sheng Yen was born in an extremely poor farming family in the Chinese countryside. With few other options, he was taken by a family friend to the Wolf Mountain monastery, where he learned the basics of becoming a monk. He later moved on to Shanghai, but the war between the Communists and the Nationalists drove him to become a soldier-for-life in Taiwan. Eventually securing his freedom from the soldier's life, he once again became a monk. After travels to Canada, the USA, and back to China, he finally became a Chan Master and one of those most influential Buddhists alive today. He combines his personal story with historical events, and we can see how political changes in China and Taiwan altered not only his life, but Buddhism in general.

I found this book hard to put down. I'm not usually a fan of biographies, but his easygoing writing style and obvious love of what he does makes every page enjoyable. Along with the story, the author explains a bit of Buddhist philosophy in a comfortable, jargon-free style that DailyBuddhism readers will appreciate. My favorite parts of the book, however, are his interactions with the monks and abbots of the various monasteries. Far from being the altruistic teachers and devoted worshipers we usually envision, he shows us the real picture.
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Format: Hardcover
I could not keep the book down once I started reading it. Chan master Sheng Yen gives a very open and honest account of his journey and that is what I liked most about this book. The chapters are not too long and flow smoothly. He talks about his successes as well as challenges, how things looked very promising at one point and how they turned out to be nothing. It is very inspiring to read about how he stayed focused on the path in face of challenges and was eventually able to overcome various difficulties and went on to spread Chan knowledge in US. This book also allows reader to get an idea about course of Buddhism after the cultural revolution in China, we read and hear a lot about modern history of Buddhism in Japan but not so much in China.

He talks about his meditative experience as well as the readings he undertook. His story is not meant to paint an ideal picture, it is very much an account of how it was. He talks about various stages on path, how he find perfect happiness in being a wandering, homeless monk, how he overcame language and other barriers in teaching an eastern science to western students and how he learnt from every one around him. He comes across as a very humble and down to earth person. Indeed a treat for any one interested in life of Buddhist masters.
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Format: Hardcover
I immediately read this book when I first received it, and it made a good impression. Then I felt compelled a month later to re-read it, and I came away deeply impressed both by the author's spirit and the profundity of his life's story. Yes, Master Sheng Yen was unbelievably humble and sincere, but more than that, he seemed to have embodied the spirit of Buddhism. Also, which almost seems unusual for a Buddhist, he displayed a deep religious faith, which for him was centered around Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion. His life seems amazing in that he started out as a weak, sickly child whom his family considered mentally deficient and practically worthless and also as a total "hick" from the Chinese countryside--naive and unsophisticated--but yet he went on to participate in the revival of Chinese Buddhism and to eventually establish the third largest Buddhist organization in Taiwan with branches in several countries, along the way living as a homeless person (but still a Buddhist teacher!) in New York City for a time. Of course, his innate keen intelligence was always there along with a desire to do more with his life and for Buddhism, but I think, more than anything else, it was his deep spirituality that led him further and further on. Some biographies and autobiographies of spiritual masters are filled with miracles and amazing stories that are meant to leave the reader in awe, but this one is so amazingly down-to-earth that I think its effect is more profound, demonstrating and emphasizing that spirituality is all about our state of mind and how we conduct our lives.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Master Chan Sheng Yan has done much for Chan Buddhism, both in the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) and in the Western world. Many Western people have come to the Dharma through his work. His organisation is profoundly successful and respected. I am glad I read this book. It lacked the depth of context that John Blofeld achieved in his writings about Chinese Buddhism in the pre-war years. I would have loved to hear more intimate descriptions of temples, hermitages and not the least of Kuan Yin, whom Master Sheng acknowledges his own profound devotion to Of course, I only wished I could read and speak Mandarin, to see if the subtle features and nuances of the native first hand-language convey more than this translation. The book needed photos, to convey visually the richness of Chinese Buddhist culture, prior to the Communist decimation and to signpost the spiritual career of this truly significant Buddhist leader.
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