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Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen Paperback – October 20, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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"For all who have wondered about the difference between a roshi and a sensei, this book sorts these two kinds of Zen Buddhist teachers and offers lots more information about Zen schools and influences. [...] Ford is a sympathetic insider who knows much of his history firsthand, yet sees clearly enough to acknowledge the distortions and even abuses in the history of Zen as it came to this country. His delineations form a road map to persons and places in Zen in America. His eye is especially keen in appreciating the early teachers who brought Zen from Japan and adapted it to an audience growing in numbers and receptivity to Asian religious wisdom. End matter, including a guide to finding a teacher, is helpful [...] The very existence of the book is evidence of the growth and maturation of a small but culturally significant group of what Ford rightly characterizes as religious believers. Beyond the obvious niche audience, this book holds interest for all curious about American Zen Buddhism and contemporary expressions of American spirituality." (Publishers Weekly)
"James Ford is a charming and thoughtful guide to the who, how and why of Zen coming to the West. That's because he is a Zen master himself, with an unparalleled knowledge of the people, the big trends and the interesting details. James is a major figure in adapting Zen to America and this book will give you the inside picture." (John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (and Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy))
"In his forty-year study of the tradition, Zen teacher and Unitarian Universalist minister James Ishmael Ford has digested the 'whos and whats' of Zen, presenting a personable and readable introduction to its major players and teachings, both in the East and West. Zen Master WHO? is a friendly orientation to Zen for the new student of Buddhism, and the book's final section, in which Ford considers the future of Zen in the West, will prompt discussion among its older students." (Shambhala Sun)
"Provides a thorough orientation for the prospective student of North American Zen... in a balanced, straightforward style, peppered with enough original anecdotes to make it enjoyable, even to Zen students already familiar with the basic material." (Buddhadharma)
"At last, a book that helps those beginning Zen practice figure out who's who and how they became a Who. Zen Master Who? is a greatly useful guide, bringing together the legendary, the historical, and the contemporary in one compact, engaging read. You'll feel like an insider after reading this book." (Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha and The Buddha's Apprentices)
"Zen Master Who? is a comprehensive survey of the Asian masters who first brought Zen to America and of their American students who have been empowered to carry on their legacy. It tells the story of American Zen clearly - and honestly. By telling the story of real people, with real problems and real accomplishments, Ford makes us ponder just what it is we expec from practice, from teachers and from ourselves. This is a great book." (Barry Magid, author of Ordinary Mind)
"What happened when the Bodhidharma came to the West? From an insider's perspective, James Ishmael Ford tells us stories and gives colorful portrayals of the major figures linked to the ongoing transmission of Zen in the North American continent. A respected Zen Master himself, he describes his spiritual ancestors and Dharma sisters and brothers in candid and also endearing terms." (Ruben Habito, author of Living Zen, Loving God and Healing Breath)
"Ford brings to all his work a keen mind grounded in a thorough understanding of Zen practice and the nuances which pervade its development in the Western world. His insights are clear, unbiased and aim at presenting an honest picture of the development of Zen." (Diane Eshin Rizzetto, author of Waking Up to What You Do)
"Apart from Rick Fields' classic How the Swans Came to the Lake, reportage on the history of Zen in the West has tended to center on one or at most two traditions, e.g., Japanese Soto and Rinzai schools. James Ishmael Ford has instead taken a broad perspective, covering not only the Japanese and Chinese pioneers and influences but also extending his coverage to Korean, Vietnamese, and the syncretic Harada/Yasutani lineages. I found his clear account of the Korean Kwan Um school's Dharma transmission model to be especially interesting. Informal in tone and extensive in coverage, Zen Master Who? should prove both informative and absorbing reading for a new generation of Zen students and teachers alike." (John Daishin Buksbazen, author of Zen Meditation in Plain English)
Top Customer Reviews
James Ishmael Ford's fine book "Zen Master Who?" is worth reading if you want a bit of information about who's who in the Western Zen Buddhist world, how it got the way it is and where it might be heading.
It's written in three parts. The first restates what he calls the Buddhist founding "myths". The second tries to to give us a feel for the story of the people who brought Zen to the West from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, concentrating a bit more on Japan, as to-date the Japanese have had the most visible impact on establishing Zen in the West. The third and shortest part discusses the directions in which Zen in the West may be headed.
My most serious criticism? I felt that Ford's description of the last few generations of Zen Masters was not even-handed. I didn't appreciate how the serious character failings (e.g., inappropriate sexual relationships, substance abuse, financial misdeeds) of some Zen Masters were described in some depth while others were only mentioned in passing and those of many others (including his teachers) were omitted completely.
In the same vein, he glosses over the critical discussion of what "enlightenment" means in the context of unethical behavior by simply saying that Zen Masters are not perfect masters, not "gurus" and are subject to the same desires and temptations that all of us face.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really like finding out how others like me got to where we are in this new american zen place & James Ishmael Ford can tell my story better than I canPublished on December 3, 2013 by Eric E Cornetta
An important condribution to understanding modern Zen in West. If one do not want to know anything about the person behind the title (sensei, roshi, master etc. Read morePublished on January 11, 2012 by Ryusan Thorbjörn Carlsten (M.A. in Theology, Zen Monk) Sweden
James Ishmael Ford has written what I consider to be the most groundbreaking and comprehensive print publication on Zen Buddhism. Read morePublished on November 2, 2010 by Adam Kō Shin Tebbe
This book provides an extensive accounting of the many Zen masters / teachers in America over the last 100+ years. Read morePublished on May 17, 2010 by T. Enns
The late Dr. Reverend Soyu Matsuoka-roshi, Archbishop of Soto Zen Mission North America.
Dharma Master Matsuoka-roshi, a Gondaikyshi (Bishop) of the Soto Zen school,... Read more
This book is a comprehensive resource covering the various lineages and notable Zen teachers in Zen Buddhism, particularly in the modern era. Read morePublished on March 23, 2008 by Gazzelloni