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Novice to Master: An Ongoing Lesson in the Extent of My Own Stupidity Paperback – June 15, 2002
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It's not every day that you come across a book by one of Japan's top Zen masters. Soko Morinaga was head of the most famous monastery in Japan and of the Rinzai Zen university, but in his book Novice to Master we see that he started out as green as a novice can be. In brief episodes that span most of his 70-year lifetime, Roshi Morinaga tells us the stories of his life, those from which he learned a lesson and from which we can learn: how he implicated himself in his beloved grandfather's death, the thrill of his enlightenment experience, the grueling existence of life in a Zen monastery. Just the opposite of most books of this type, Novice to Master is heavy on anecdotes and light on explanation and advice. Near the end, however, the advice comes on thicker, such as how to not only live in the present but how to die in every moment. Well translated for the most part, Novice to Master represents the accumulated wisdom of a modern-day master of Zen. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
From orphan to abbot, Morinaga Roshi tells his condensed life story in this slender, highly interesting volume. Before his death in 1995, he was the leader of Daitokuji Monastery and was also head of Hanazono University, a primary training facility for Buddhist monks. Finding himself completely adrift in his early 20s at the catastrophic end of World War II, Morinaga Roshi turned to several Zen temples for food and shelter, but he finally found these and a life's path at Daishuin Temple in Kyoto, Japan. In the opening chapters, Morinaga Roshi details his initial inner conflicts and describes his teacher Zuigan Roshi, who told him in their first conversation that he must believe in something again: his teacher. The second section, "Training," is a fascinating, up-close look inside a Zen monastery, where the day begins at 3 a.m. and may not end until 1 or 2 a.m. The final section ("Master") is by far the most sublime, for here rolls forth the accumulated wisdom of the unmanageable boy now grown into full stature as an esteemed abbot. The considerable grace here owes a large debt to the apparently effortless translation by Attaway Yamakawa, so that Zen's aphorisms glide home to hit their marks. Despite the odd subtitle that hints at humor, the volume instead has a soft poignancy and a certain presence within a tale well-told. It shines a light on "the living koan of human life which continues without limit."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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When I picked up this book I was hesitant, being that it was so small and many said it was simply the story of a monk. There were so many other stories out there about the lives of monks but this was the story written BY the monk while he still lived. So I risked it.
My appreciation for his narration knows no bounds. Within the first few pages was the idea that with all people and all things, NOTHING is trash. That struck something within me and I was hooked until the finish. The language is plain and each small chapter in the book goes over a different concept, yet they all build on one another. Further worthy of another read are the sections where he discusses how enlightenment came upon him, as well as how he helped his elderly assistant go through her cancer peacefully.
This isn't the kind of book that will give you ideas on how to meditate better, or how to improve your ability to have compassion for others. What it does offer is a view of life in to a world where an individual who came from a very un-compassionate period and culture eventually \came to grasp the nature of reality and that he did not exist. It is not for emulation, but understanding the process and the peace and simplicity that is attained from practice.