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The Zen Eye: A Collection of Zen Talks Paperback – July, 1993

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Weatherhill; 1st edition (July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0834802724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0834802728
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
The Zen Eye presents a delightful and fresh look at Zen from one of its most original voices. Sokei-an, who first made his way to these shores in 1906, was the first Zen Master to make his home in America. In good company, with the likes of Soyen Shaku, D.T. Suzuki and Nyogen Senzaki, Sokei-an, played a key role in the transmission of Zen to the West. Although a somewhat lesser known figure in contemporary Zen circles (due in part to his untimely death in 1945 after release from a Japanese internment camp), through Sokei-an's talks on Zen and a true-to-life rendering of his life in the introduction by Mary Farkas, we come to intimately know Soke-an's mind. In his own words: "I am of the Zen sect. My special profession is to train students of Buddhism by the Zen method. Nowadays, there are many types of Zen teachers. One type, for example, teaches Zen through philosophical discourse; another, through so-called meditation; and still another direct from soul to soul. My way of teaching is the direct transmission of Zen from soul to soul." This sets the tone of the entire book, and is one that distinguishes Sokei-an from so many other teachers. Sokei-an, and other early 20th century pioneers who helped plant the seeds of Zen in America were disillusioned with the rutted, monastic style of Zen practiced in Japan at that time, and were looking for ways to pump fresh blood into the practice. Throughout the book the reader is offered many glimpses of the mind-to-mind transmission and sudden awakening traditions that characterized so well the original spirit of Chan (Zen) in China, as expressed by Hui-neng (Eno), the 6th patriarch and his heirs.
Sokei-an comes across being completely authentic, yet at the same time, unpretentious, without any airs. He seems utterly at home in America.
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Format: Paperback
This book is different in flavour, tone and texture from anything else I have read on Zen. Sokei-an, trained in the Rinzai School, was the first Zen master to teach in America, arriving in California as early as 1906, living a rootless and extemporised life for years before founding the Buddhist Society in New York in 1930. He died in an Internment Camp for Enemy Aliens, and was all but forgotten as the post-World War II wave of Zen arrived.

His kind of Zen may have vanished from the earth; or may linger in obscure temples in Japan. He talks about himself, his early life, his training and his spiritual experiences frankly and directly, always calling to mind the long-vanished Japan chronicled by Lafcadio Hearn. Sometimes his attitudes are disturbing: a phenomenon often noticed when Japanese speak frankly to Westerners. (No doubt the converse is equally true.)

These are Dharma Talks given to New Yorkers interested in Buddhism, not records of Zen instruction strictly speaking. A variety of subjects are covered; only a part of the book could be labelled "Meditation" or even "Buddhism." But among the casual talk are some teachings that move me as deeply as anything I have ever read. If you want to sample the book, read the chapter called "The Transcendental World".

"The Zen Eye" grows with reading and re-reading. When you put it down you have the sense of emerging from a corona of light. I don't know if Sokei-an was "Enlightened", but I can tell he lived in a place I would like to get to, from which I'm always eager to hear messages. This quiet book would suit those beginning on Zen, but I recommend it to anyone, at any level.
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Talking about Zen is interesting: the moment it sounds like you know something, anyone who knows, knows you know nothing. Talking about dogs is easier. No one gets a dog thinking it is going to sleep on the bed. Sokei-An is like that. You get the book thinking about zen. But over the years it moves around the house and ends up beside the bed and Sokei-An one of your friends. He tells you he is a salesman, a salesman who is selling Nothingness. Great Nothingness. I am not sure how you buy Nothingness. But suspect it's like the dog. You begin letting the dog sleep with you and end up you sleeping with the dog.
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