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The Tao of Zen [Hardcover]

Ray Grigg
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Book Sales (Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785811257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785811251
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.5 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,141,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In this text, Ray Grigg examines the development of Ch'an (Zen) in China and later in Japan where the "way" was a term used interchangeably to describe the essence of both Taoism and Zen. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tao of Zen 25 Sep 2004
This is one of the very best books I have read on the subject of Tao and Zen. His assessment of the history of these two is very interesting, but more profound is his assessment of philosophical similarities. I used to think that Alan Watts was the best in these areas, but I would have to say that maybe, just maybe Griggs is number one.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars highly speculative and dualistic 4 Mar 2012
By sanyata
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
this book is kind of a paradox: author attempts to divide taoism (which te thinks is the true zen/ ch'an) from buddhism (which he thinks of as a religion, particularly mahayana).

(author shows no knowledge of how mahayana is actually a liberalization of hinayana.)

author trumpets zen as being inclusive and nondualistic and buddhism for being "laborious". author writes in the 'beat zen' tradition of alan watts. the scholarship is speculative, even if most of author's historical overview in part 1 of the book is sound and clear.

at the heart of the book, however, is a strange paradox; if the message of zen/chaan/tao is to be open and inclusive, why should we exclude buddhism from the mix? why not be open to buddhism, as tao is open to everything? this question is never touched upon, nor answered in the book.

still, the first part is really good and nice to have read. the second part can be skipped in favor of books like Each Moment is the Universe: ZEN and the Way of Being Time
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Shedding" the Buddhism in Zen Equals Taoism. 11 Dec 2000
By "fakj" - Published on
The most definitive and readable work on Zen that I've ever read. In all my years as a student of Zen Buddhism (Soto), I've had a difficult time with the sutras and other Buddhist doctrine. Yet, I continued to enjoy the practice and the members at the Zendo where I studied. I often commented that I felt more a "Zennist" than a Buddhist, but was unable to describe or define the feeling..... Then I stumbled on Mr. Grigg's book. I'm re-reading it now, for the third time in one year. Mr. Grigg's history of Zen and the split with the sixth patriarch:Hui-Neng, was one of the best "enlightenments" I've experienced in my studies. I'd die to study with Mr. Grigg! I'm heading for a small island off B.C.!!
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oversimplified division of Taoism and Buddhism 27 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on
The historical section of this book does a decent job examining how the marriage of Buddhism and Toaism may have taken place. It exposes some of the stories linking Chan to India as probably more legend than fact. However, the author makes no mention whatever of any influence Buddhism may have had on Taoism, or of any of the other quietist philosophies in China. It is very likely that there was interaction between all the traditions for centuries, making it impossible to extricate one from another.
For example, the Mahamadra teaching, Homage to the Coemergent Wisdom, of Vajrayana Buddhism is very similar to Taoism. Take this line: Space has neither color nor shape; it is changeless, it is not tinged by black or white. Likewise, the luminous essence of mind has neither color nor shape; it is not tinged by black or white, virtue or vice. Another line says: Remain in the state of nonmeditation. If you have attained nonattainment, then you have attained mahamudra. Also, the bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism is not trying to be good or kind, but is spontaneously compassionate. This is similar to the Toaist spontaneity.
The Heart Sutra which says emptiness is form is common to all Mahayana Buddhist traditions. How is this different from the undifferentiated Tao? The author seems to want to have nothing to do with Buddhism, to put Buddhism in one basket and Taoism in another. This emphasis on separtation doesn't seem very Taoist.
The author also has a negative tone when speaking of Buddhism. He says that the Chinese recognized Buddhism as a simplified form of Taoism. Then he says in another passage, "Simplicity is one of the foremost philosophical impulses that has moved through the long history of Toaism." Simplicity was supposed to be the hallmark of Taoism I thought, but he disparages it in Buddhism.
He also attacks zazen, formal meditation, as evolutionary baggage from the religious Indian Buddhism. (The word religion most likely comes from the Latin word ligare, meaning to bind, and re, meaning again. In Buddhism, the goal is to awaken to the reality of the emptiness of self, and in Taoism, to be one with the undifferentiated Tao, the original source of all things. There really is no difference in the religious aspects of Taoism and Buddhism.) Zazen is evidently not supposed to have been a part of proper Chan. But he quotes Shunryu Suzuki Roshi many times. Suzuki is an ardent supporter of zazen. His lectures in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind made sense to me only after long hours of zazen and effort. Suzuki says effort is required, but you forget yourself in your effort. Also, Taoism is not entirely devoid of effort. Only after your attainment is there less effort. The author emphasizes the effortlessness of Toaism but totally ignores the practice required. In the book Taoism, John Blofeld gives an account of Taoists using formal meditation in the mountains back in the 1930's.
The emphasis on nonduality is not necessarily a purely Taoist idea. John Blofeld also described Taoist alchemy, the purpose of which was to convert your bodily fluids of the world of dust into a purer form to achieve the ultimate attainment, union with the Tao. This is not a purely nondual appraoch to life. Buddhism is more nondual (LOL) than this.

I think the author short-changes the contribution of Buddhism to Zen. Zen is vigorous because of the blending of the two traditions. The Buddhist component is more introverted, focusing on the illusion of ego, while Taoism is more extroverted, focusing on finding harmony with nature, and ultimately, blending seemlessly with the Way of nature. The combination of the two traditions is what makes Zen unique, but not very different from many other spirtual traditions. This account of Zen is the work of an artist/scholar who does not practice Zen. I get the impression that the author is simply lazy and dislikes effort and guidelines, the Buddhist component as he sees it, preferring flow and ease, the Taoist component. For most, the ultimate attainment of Taoism and the awakening of Buddhism require effort and guidelines, both of which are found in Taoism and Buddhism.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the beginning .......... again! 25 July 2000
By Robert Eliason - Published on
Reading this book when it was first published in 1994, I was naturally surprised to see it re-published in 1999 as a hardback edition that cost far less than my paperback. I am glad to see it resurface and am in the process of re-reading it now. I think that this is a particularly good time for it's re-emmergence in light of all the work coming forth now concerning Tibetan Buddhism and Tantric Buddhism. In the intervening years I have delved into the study of those forms as well and will continue to do so. The Tao of Zen has always had a prominent on my bookshelf, and in fact is one of the few books that I bought extra copies of to give away. The first reading helped me to understand the worlds of distance between the practiced forms. The second reading is a reminder of why, in spite of my love for Buddhism and Hinduism, which I will surely study for the rest of my life, and in spite of my dislike of titles for myself, I picked up the banner of Daoism as that which rang truest in my heart. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, if you are not locked into the nutshell of who you believe yourself to be, try it ..... you'll like it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting history, questionable conclusions 28 Feb 2000
By nativewater - Published on
Very readable analysis of Zen trying to squeeze its Taoist feet into Buddhist shoes. I can buy the premise that Zen owes more of its character to Chinese Taoism than to Indian Buddhism.
However, I think the author is pushing his premise beyond the available evidence when he asserts that meditation (zazen) is irrelevant to Zen just because the technique is of Indian origin. While the culmination of practice is to re-enter the market place and live an ordinary life, getting to that point is difficult without sitting zazen.
I give historical analysis and insight 5 stars and conclusion about how zen should be practiced 3 stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, without being enlightening. 4 Feb 2000
By MG - Published on
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Zen, balance, or just plain old philosophy. This book clears up common myths and misperceptions about zen and buddhism, and seperates the two. Not an entirely difficult read, and very few (if any) boring parts.
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