on 2 December 1997
This is the most important book I have ever read - especially the introduction! The intro did an excellent job of explaining how Zen can't be explained, how you can't find your essense on purpose, that you can make yourself free. Working from these few pages of the intro, I was able to finally free myself and practice Zen.
The book itself is full of quotes from Zen masters over the centuries. In these quotes you can see how much we have in common with the past, as well as get authoritative support for the non-religious / non-cult view of Zen. These simple, timeless quotes provide no-nonsense guidance for finding your own Zen essence.
on 27 November 2012
This little book contains a collection of short quotes, anecdotes and remarks by Chinese Zen masters ranging from the eight to the fourteenth century.
The quotes are very to the point and do not appear dated. The translation seems clear and modern and the collection is concentrated.
There is a 35-page essay by the translator as an afterword, offering a good context of the culture and practice of Zen.
In the West Zen is better known as coming from Japan, but this compilation will presumably give the reader the impression that Chán (Chinese Zen) is mature, sound, and complete, without further additions.
For the seriously interested reader, and the beginning or advanced practitioner, this book is without doubt recommended.
I have the impression that one way or another this reading is different from (that is: significantly better than) the older introductions and compilations that were popular in the fifties (and before), like those of D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts.
Also, for whoever is curious to read a Zen-translation by Thomas Cleary and does not know which of his many works one could begin with, this is a good starter.
To proceed after this one, I would recommend (also by Thomas Cleary): 'Teachings of Zen', 'Dream conversations',
and 'The five houses of Zen' (but there are several other good titles).