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Nothing Is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans [Kindle Edition]

Barry Magid
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

In this inspiring and incisive offering, Barry Magid uses the language of modern psychology and psychotherapy to illuminate one of Buddhism's most powerful and often mysterious technologies: the Zen koan. What's more, Magid also uses the koans to expand upon the insights of psychology (especially self psychology and relational psychotherapy) and open for the reader new perspectives on the functioning of the human mind and heart. Nothing Is Hidden explores many rich themes, including facing impermanence and the inevitability of change, working skillfully with desire and attachment, and discovering when "surrender and submission" can be liberating and when they shade into emotional bypassing. With a sophisticated view of the rituals and teachings of traditional Buddhism, Magid helps us see how we sometimes subvert meditation into just another "curative fantasy" or make compassion into a form of masochism.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1030 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (16 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00F21WVMC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #603,777 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is an important book which moves the dialogue between Buddhism and Psychotherapy forward significantly. It dares to say things which have not been stated as yet explicitly. In a few years time the dialogue may have moved forward yet again, but for now this is a refreshing step forward. The book is given both depth and credibility by the author's years of experience both in Zen and in Psychoanalysis.

I thought that the author's earlier book "Ordinary Mind" was by far the best book to date on the interface between Buddhism and Psychotherapy. Consequently I read this new contribution with interest. Although the book is subtitled "The Psychology of Zen Koans" and each chapter leads with a traditional koan or similar, this should not discourage the reader who (like me) has relatively little practical experience of the Rinzai tradition.
Barry writes: "I will try to show how the vivid imagery of koans can offer us a metaphorical way to engage in the splits in our psyche and how they point to a re-engagement with the whole of ourselves, a wholeness far greater and more encompassing than we ever imagined".
I can find some books on koans a tad dry and esoteric, whereas here I thought the discussion of each koan easy to understand and relevant to all Buddhist perspectives.

I will now give some quotations that have particularly interested me. I apologise if these may be seen by others to distort the overall picture of the book in some way, but for me they are central to the author's discussion.

"It turned out that even the seemingly most intense transcendent experiences faded and their afterglow did not so reliably trickle down into our unconscious minds. More and bigger realizations were not by themselves the answer.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A light through the fog 30 Nov. 2013
By Gail Zivin - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Barry Magid’s new book is a light through the fog for Western Zen practitioners, especially those having doubt about koan practice. Magid shows the transformative effect of koan study and implies approaches to it. He does this in Western psychological and philosophical terms—a feat blending years of Zen and psychoanalytic practice, intellectual breadth and a talent for straight, simple writing.
The book holds analyses of a total of twenty two classic koans. Some show how the student’s struggles with each is work toward fundamental Zen states, including Immediacy, Identity, Impermanence, Attachment, Transcending dualism, and Change within unity. Other analyses illuminate additional struggles in Zen, such as appearance and reality, objectifying reality, falling into idealization, surrender vs. submission, self-sacrifice vs. compassion, constant striving vs. self-acceptance and “Uselessness “as Zen uses it.
Throughout all, Magid emphasizes the importance for a life’s practice of experiencing emotional clarity, healthy relatedness to others, and awareness of one’s own unconscious distortions. These concepts are absent from traditional Zen. Magid argues that their absences have made Zen practice less than it could and should be for Western student and their teachers. Strict traditionalists may dismiss Magid, seeing the addition of psychology to Zen as putting “a head on a head.” Very strict traditionalist may say that practice affects the whole person, taking care of all psychological development. Magid counters this by citing the pathological behavior of long-practiced masters who were great teachers in the Zendo and yet abused students outside of it. He also departs from traditional Zen by making it explicit that self-acceptance-here-and-now is a fruit of practice and needed for continued practice. He argues that literal acceptance of idealized enlightenment—or just constant prodding by teachers—can undermine such self-acceptance.
Magid is committed to making Zen practice effective for the average Western student today. He boldly takes on what he sees as blocks to this in traditional approaches and in behaviors of some teachers. And he holds out a welcoming hand to students who may have sensed such problems but did not know how to see them and continue practicing with confidence.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your grandma's Zen 11 Oct. 2013
By Rick Whitaker - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Like Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Barry Magid writes directly and forcefully with little concern with being polite or dumbing down for beginners or those clueless about Zen. This is a book for those already pretty seriously interested and involved with Zen practice. It's meaty and memorable, a bona fide addition to the canon.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tenth if an inch's difference 11 Oct. 2013
By Mr Milton Moon - Published on
If Zen has a sin -- and like all churches it has many -- claiming 'one is enlightened' is a major one. A moment of kensho or a deeper experience of satori (which sounds better) is not enlightenment but only the birth of the 'holy foetus.' Proper enlightenment is yet light years away. One is reminded of the lines from the Hsin-hsin-ming (Inscribed on the Believing Mind) attributed to Seng ts'an, the third Zen patriarch: 'a tenth of an inch's difference and heaven and earth are set apart.'
I began my formal Zen training almost forty years ago as one of a small group fortunate enough to receive instruction from Kobori Nanrei of the Ryokoin. (The group also included James Austin of Zen and the Brain fame.) Like others I collected books, most of which have been unopened for years. Kobori Nanrei never claimed the title 'roshi' although for most of his lay students he was just that. I have had contact with some American-styled 'roshi' and in all cases I found them to be disappointingly competitive, and certainly dwelling in that 'tenth of an inch's difference.'
Nothing is Hidden by Barry Magid is a book worthy of the title because he shows Zen for what it is, dirty linen and all. If some claim that, as psychiatrist/psychoanalyst it is as much about 'ordinary life' then full marks for that. In my opinion most Zen aspirants dwell in that space of 'a tenth of an inch's difference' Nothing is Hidden may close the gap between so-called heaven and earth.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I liked it a lot! 29 Nov. 2013
By Coral Lee Mack - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Barry wrote a winner! The book was very helpful to me as a long time Zennie and meditator. He doesn't mix Zen and psychology, rather interprets phenomena from both view points - one then the other. I don't think Buddhism and psychology mix well at all and we end up with new age zendos and garbage like "Big Mind". I admired that he was unsparing of Joko Beck, a teacher he plainly loved and honored. Anyway I loved the book and ordered eight copies to give to friends. Shōzan
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Book with Great Insights 16 Nov. 2013
By Al Rapaport - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a ground breaking work in my opinion - on a par with Welwood's Towards a Psychology of Awakening, only from more of a Zen perspective. As an authorized Zen teacher of koans with over 40 years of experience, I'm very sensitive to anyone who would "psychologize" koans, but after reading Magid's book I realized that rather than dumbing koans down or translating them into psychology, he shows how Zen koans embody universal psychological truths that all humankind experiences. I consider this book a must read for Zen teachers and students.
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