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Hoofprint of the Ox: Principles of the Chan Buddhist Path as Taught by a Modern Chinese Master Paperback – 8 Aug 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (8 Aug. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195152484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195152487
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 1.5 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 570,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Master Sheng-yen is an expatriate monk from mainland China who has been teaching in Taiwan and the United States for over two decades. He is the author of numerous popular and academic works and leads Dharma Drum Mountain, one of the three largest organizations in Taiwan.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The word chan (Wade-Giles romanization: ch'an), from which Chan Buddhism, or Zen Buddhism, takes its name, is a Chinese transliteration of the Indian Buddhist term dhyana, meaning "meditative concentration" or "meditative practice." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By calmly on 31 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a book I believe will help me with my Chan meditation practice. I've found a few lately which seem like they do or will help: I need to stop reading now so much and start meditating more.

It is fortunate that there are some books on Chan meditation which seem helpful. This is the most thorough. Others I have found recently are:
1) Attaining the Way: A Guide to the Practice of Chan Buddhism, also by Sheng Yen. Not as thorough but arguably sufficient and better focused.
2) The Chan Handbook: Talks About Meditation by Hsuan Hua, also not as thorough but also arguably sufficient and seemed more intimate than "Attaining the Way"
3) Chan Buddhism (Dimensions of Asian Spirituality) by Peter Hershock, which covers both Chan history and the spirit of Chan meditation but not technical details.

Reading all these books may risk "overdosing", as I may have done, but probably can't hurt. If I had to pick only one to learn the practice of Chan meditation, I'd pick this book ("Hoofprint of the Ox"). If I had to pick only one to learn either the history or spirit of Chan Buddhism, I'd pick Herchock "Chan Buddhism". At the moment, all these books seem relatively affordable so you may be able to "avoid picking and choosing!"

Besides teachings of substance to be found in this book, a few relatively minor lessons from this book that helped me are:

1) even if not ideal, it is okay to sit in a chair when doing silent illumination.
2) to minimize distractions, restraining oneself from much talking and socializing helps at all times. Is that obvious?
3) modern life being as complex as it is will, almost certainly, make it more difficult to quiet oneself. Sheng Yen details methods for calming oneself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 May 2001
Format: Hardcover
'Hoofprint of the Ox' is a beautifully well structured book which deals comprehensively with the most important aspects within meditation and day to day living for one on the Buddhist path. It is particularly relevant for those following or who are considering following a Cha'n or Zen route. I am extremely grateful to be fortunate enough to receive this clear guidance from one of the world's truly remarkable human beings. Thank you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Compendium of Chinese Chan Buddhist Practice! 13 Mar. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Hoofprint of the Ox is by far the best-written and presented systematic book on Chinese, especially Chan, Buddhism out there. Master Sheng-yen's words are so clear and specific. His voice combines the insight of an experienced Chan meditation retreat master and a knowledgeable Buddhist scholar.
This book stands out as a rare jewel in the mountain of books on Buddhism. For example, master Sheng-yen's presentation of meditation techniques from "five points of stilling the mind" (shamata) and contemplative meditation (vipashyana) to gong'an and silent illumination is the best that I have ever read. This book is for the serious practitioner of Chan or Buddhism in general.
Most of the books out there present Buddhism as a "packaged product." For example, most books on Zen or Chan presents it as some isolated, idealized spiritual practice free from religiosity (rituals, faith, and so on), as if it can be adapted to anything. Most times these books are watered down. Hoofprint of the Ox presents Buddhism as it is, without being apologetic or "fundamentalist."
The book covers issue of: buddhist doctrine (clarifying the misconception of buddhist emptiness, selflessness, correct views, etc), path (Chan and classical path: precepts, different types of meditation methods, etc.), and various levels and types of experience (experiences of enlightenment and delusion). Most importantly, master Sheng-yen also delineates what it means to be a Chan master. This is a revealing chapter of the book. It dispels many romantic ideas we may have as a practitioner in the West.
Enjoy the book!
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The Ultimate Ch'an Overview? 22 May 2006
By The Masked Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Master Sheng Yen has spent a lifetime devoted to understanding, mastering and teaching Ch'an. This book explicates as much as it outlines. Any Sheng Yen book tends to be an absolute find. I'd have to say that this book has impressed me most thus far, out of all the Ch'an books I own...(I own a LOT).

Expect to learn very nearly everything you ever wanted to know about Ch'an and the subtleties of samadhi and practice. American Ch'an/Zen practictioners, you simply have to have this book. If you're shikantaza'd out, welcome to an intelligent Ch'an book to set you straight again and make sense of non-sectarian Ch'an. It's a worthwhile meditation, even if you intellectually "know" everything contained (Which would likely mean you are already ordained or well on the way or the equivalent). Sheng Yen is a great teacher, and sometimes it's not what's said, but how the teacher says it that makes the overwhelming difference. Sheng Yen has much to say on emphases and overlooked aspects in Rinzai and Soto differentiated Zen practice, illustrating how Zen is not intellectualism, not cold "emptiness," not "just sitting," but rather a full sweeping life-transforming experience that entails everything one does, and is not owned by any one practice, faith, school, sect or tradition. This is also perhaps something of a cure for those who are brainwashed into thinking that there is no such thing as bad/wrong zen or that one spiritual path is automatically equivalent to another.

The quality of attention and straightforwardness that Sheng Yen puts into every chapter and subject in this book is somewhat impressive. Historical and schematic overview lends great depth of understanding to whatever one already knows of any of the various forms of Buddhist and Ch'an practices.

What if we all bowed to each other when we passed on the street, instead of playing games relating to our appearance and presumed cultural cache or gender roles? What if we all looked on each other with the warm glow of enlightenment, rather than cool, smug competitiveness as the auto-default style of interaction nowadays? If you have ever asked yourself this question in a sincere state of mind, then Sheng Yen's Ch'an is also yours. This is a skillfully-written technical manual of sorts on how the engine of Ch'an practice really works, written by a trained and aged monk who has entirely devoted his life to perfecting, teaching and articulating Ch'an practice.

This is a book I think I will probably come back to again and again.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Everything you wanted to know about Chan meditation .. and more 31 Dec. 2007
By calmly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book I believe will help me with my Chan meditation practice. I've found a few lately which seem like they do or will help: I need to stop reading now so much and start meditating more.

It is fortunate that there are some books on Chan meditation which seem helpful. This is the most thorough. Others I have found recently are:
1) Attaining the Way: A Guide to the Practice of Chan Buddhism, also by Sheng Yen. Not as thorough but arguably sufficient and better focused.
2) The Chan Handbook: Talks About Meditation by Hsuan Hua, also not as thorough but also arguably sufficient and seemed more intimate than "Attaining the Way"
3) Chan Buddhism (Dimensions of Asian Spirituality) by Peter Hershock, which covers both Chan history and the spirit of Chan meditation but not technical details.

Reading all these books may risk "overdosing", as I may have done, but probably can't hurt. If I had to pick only one to learn the practice of Chan meditation, I'd pick this book ("Hoofprint of the Ox"). If I had to pick only one to learn either the history or spirit of Chan Buddhism, I'd pick Herchock "Chan Buddhism". At the moment, all these books seem relatively affordable so you may be able to "avoid picking and choosing!"

Besides teachings of substance to be found in this book, a few relatively minor lessons from this book that helped me are:

1) even if not ideal, it is okay to sit in a chair when doing silent illumination.
2) to minimize distractions, restraining oneself from much talking and socializing helps at all times. Is that obvious?
3) modern life being as complex as it is will, almost certainly, make it more difficult to quiet oneself. Sheng Yen details methods for calming oneself.
4) exercises and self-massage before meditation can help. For exercise, I'm considering doing chi gong again regularly for which I recommend Master Lam Kam-Chuen's The Way of Energy: A Gaia Original
5) Chan Buddhism historically was actually associated with the production of much literature and the many of early Chan masters were well-versed in Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts
6) Sheng Yen recognizes the difficulty in finding and identifying a suitable Chan teacher, as well how difficult it can be to trust any teacher one may consider.
7) practice with a huatou (meditation subject) may be more suitable than silent illumination practice, one needs to try and find out. Silent illumination is recommends to try first.

I suspect I will not find a more thorough guide to Chan meditation. Nevertheless, I did not feel lost in the details although I will certainly need to reread this book, in whole or parts, in order to truly benefit from it. Given all the reading I've done lately on Chan meditation, I am well overdue for such rereading and to focus more on my meditation practice itself.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hoofprint of the Ox 20 Jun. 2011
By X. Damrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I read this book while on an extensive tour of China. Having studied and practiced Rinzai zen in Japan, I was eager to discover Chan Buddhism in China. This book is an invaluable resource. Clearly written by a Master it contains the spirit of Chan as practiced by laypersons, monks, and nuns. It is also a splendid guide to Buddhist practice and shows the way to living as a Bodhisattva in the world.
Insightful overview of Chan Buddhism! 17 Mar. 2013
By BluePhoenix - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In this book, Master Sheng Yen explains things that I have often wondered about since becoming a Chan Buddhist. And, my faith has increased accordingly. I am deeply grateful for his various published works. We are very fortunate to have had a master such as this teaching Dharma in the US.
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