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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Three Pillars of Zen (Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition)
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 1996
When a beginner decides to look into Zen, good books can
be hard to find. The subject is enormous, many varied,
contradictory, and complex discussions abound. All views
may be valid, indeed, complimentary, but they may need years
of experience to verify. There are also the simplistic
explanations. These are wonderful, but they might not be
fulfilling to those with real curiosity. Roshi (Japanese
for "venerable teacher") Philip Kapleau's book fills this
gap masterfully. The book is both scholarly and anecdotal.
With teachings from historic and modern masters; as well as
the authors first hand account of his study of Zen.
The book is informative, inspirational, and practical.
This is the book that turned the corner for me. I went from
being interested in Zen, to feeling Zen.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 1998
One of the best "how to" books for beginners, or anyone. A thick collection of miscellaneous stuff, some of which I've read over and over, and some of which I've never read. Skip or skim Kapleau's sections and jump right into Yasutani Roshi's introductory talks on Zen training--worth buying the book for. Also useful: pictures of sitting postures with questions and answers, and a glossary of Zen vocabulary. If the stories of people's "kensho" experiences seduce you into serious Zen practice with a Zen community, well, that's great (and maybe that's why Kapleau included them), but then eventually you'll need to read Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" or Joko Beck's "Everyday Zen" as an antidote to your now-warped view of what practice is all about. If you want to actually DO Zen, I think this is a great place to start. Also take a look at "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" and "Everyday Zen."
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 1999
I am not a Buddhist, simply a human being seeking to know his true nature (please forgive the use of the word "seeking" :-). That said, I find this book to be revelatory in nature, a work for which there are no words. Even if you never have an intention to practice zazen, and are a Hindu or a Vedantist or a streetwalker or a businessman or a murderer, if you want to know who you are, this book will point you toward the moon and beyond.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2012
The market is pretty much saturated with Zen titles which promise to take you to the `heart' of the subject. Painful - and expensive - experience has taught me that most of them don't deliver. `The Three Pillars of Zen', however, does.

I think what makes this book different from the rest is that it offers concrete, practical guidance on how to begin Zazen meditation oneself. There is of course no substitute for a reputable Zen teacher, but the fact of the matter is that in the West most people live many miles away from such support.

The guidance in Three Pillars allows those interested in Zen to begin practice themselves; those who benefit from the experience can then take it from there and join a Zen group or practice with a teacher.

Including practical advice in a book on Zen sounds deceptively simple and common-sense, but anyone who goes on to read other Zen books will see how rare this is. There are hundreds of books about Zen psychology, Zen philosophy, the Zen `way of life', but practically none on something as elementary as how one should sit!

Don't read those other books - they simply muddy the waters and lead to confusion. If you want to reach the heart of Zen then sit down, shut up, get meditating and discover it for yourself. This book will help you do that.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 1998
Its a very nice book to start with. He writes about the details of zazen(meditation) and also talks about postures. He also tells you about experiences people have had during their practice of zazen. Its a nice guide for someone who wants to start practicing. The book is very encouraging too, for those who are not sure about the powers of meditation. He also talks about the Zen philosopy which is very well expressed. Its a good read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 1999
I have read this book and recomended it over and again. What makes it special is that the practice for Zen living is emphasized beyond the mere philosophy of Zen. This is important because, as often misunderstood, Zen is not philosophy but practice- a way of life. The author has the understanding that true knowledge is only gained through practice and experience. He does not deny the years of disciplined sitting and diligence necessary to master oneself. There is no easy way, but the techniques given are sound and true and will facilitate your journey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2011
A seminal introduction to the world of zen buddism, focusing mainly on the rinzai sect, although aspects of soto are also explored. Still very contempory and relevant for the modern world, exploring both practice and experience. Don't be put of by the terminology, or worry about not grasping alot of the content at a first read, that's just zen. Buy with confidence and enjoy, a classic.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 1999
This was the second book I read on zen, when I was getting started on the zen path. That was 13 years ago. Since then I have bought literally hundreds of book on zen and have read them all. The Three Pillars of Zen remains ever vibrant, clear, penetrating and,inspirational. This book insiried me so much that it actually motivated me to make adjustments in my life when in turn has brought a lot of happiness to my life (just by siting). If you asked me to summarize this book in one simple word, I can do that. MU!!!!!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 1998
The most important purpose of Zen is not theory or deep concepts. In this book you can find the very Heart of Zen; realization. This book trascends itself, his importance is bigger than its pages. The goal is not just its read, but immersing you in the practice, what is really what matters.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 1998
This book offers true hope, in a world that seems to be rushing headlong to disaster. One of the many wonderful features of this book is its exceptional clarity. Every word counts. The stories of enlightenment are truly wornderful - it is here especially that the feeling of hope is most vivid. Another wonderful feature is the careful, clear instrction in how to practice zen 'meditation' (zazen) and so find one's true nature and experience the majesty of life that many sense is there to be found somewhere. Roshi Kapleau has done the world a great service.
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