- Paperback: 246 pages
- Publisher: Dogen Sangha Publications; 4th Revised ed. edition (August 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0956299903
- ISBN-13: 978-0956299901
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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To Meet the Real Dragon 4th Revised ed. Edition
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The book is structured as a series of short talks; each talk is usually followed by questions and answers. Overall, the questions strike me as quite astute, and greatly illuminate the subject. The questions are sometimes incredulous, rather than trite or fawningly indulgent (as a cynic might expect).
In this book, Nishijima introduces us to a few of the key persons in Buddhist lore, and elaborates Buddhist ideas. The book is perhaps unfashionably intellectual for a Zen treatise aimed at the common man, but the book is not frivolously intellectual. The author goes on some dubious philosophical diversions so that he can subsequently explain his understanding of Dogen's teachings and the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. This is most audacious! Nishijima offers his own re-articulation and re-construction of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. As a layman, I find his modest proposal to be useful, and loosely consistent with traditional dogma. Nishijima is not pushy, but offers his alternative re-construction for those who find it to have merit. He also explains why and how he came to his conclusions; and his arguments resonate with me. Even if I choose to reject Nishijima's re-construction of the Four Noble Truths, his writing made traditional elaborations of them more accessible to me. Admittedly, much of this book is merely Nishijima's own musing and supposition. But that is the circumstance in which we find ourselves: thousands of years removed from Buddhist inception; from which teaching occurred largely via oral transmission through the centuries.
Readers who wither when afflicted with intellectual discussion may, ultimately, prefer other books.
Despite this book's subtle virtues, it is not my favorite when it comes to explaining technical aspects of how to practice Zazen (sitting meditation). For learning to practice zazen, I currently favor Katsuki Sekida's book, Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy. That was the book that really helped me grok sitting meditation for the first time. Your mileage may vary.
I advise against reading dogmatically. The goal is merely to point you in the correct direction so that your own practice and experience will be fruitful.
Gudo Nishijima is a Zen master who has held a full time job in a Japanese company for many years. This fact impresses me in that I am able to relate to him better than other teachers who have spent the majority of their time in cloistered monastic environs. Not meant as a knock on monastic Buddhism which has its role to play for sure, but it is refreshing to know that this teacher knows what it's like to grind it out in the modern rat race with the rest of us. He also has an impressive knowledge of western philosophy and history that he uses to great effect to clarify the presentation of Buddhism here. His appreciation for science is very refreshing as well.
This is not a book that I would recommend to someone who is looking for an orthodox academic presentation of Buddhism that might be used as a textbook for a class, that would be "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula. This book deconstructs Buddhism down to its essence and presents it logically without all the obscurity and "long windedness" found in many other books. This is one you can really take something from, it has inspired me to stop just reading about Zen and actually start practicing on daily basis.