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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 July 2001
A personal, analytical look at what you could call the mechanisms of Zen training. The author examines sitting posture, offers advice on breathing patterns that will help on the path towards kensho, and acts as a friendly, but intensely disciplined and experienced advisor to the student. Although zen is a mystical experience, this work is almost completely uncoloured by religion, and doesn't overwhelm the reader with apparently cryptic anecdotes which he's not yet ready to encounter. Sekida does discuss koans, but firmly within the context of their purpose in breaking the chains of thought and self. A chapter on "Laughter and Zen" draws comparisons between the release of internal pressure that laughter and kensho both signal: "Internal pressure is ego, and laughter is the cancellation of ego." Towards the end of the book, Sekida opens himself up in a personal narrative showing how zen can grow from seeds sown at any age (his first experience of kensho was during calligraphy classes when he was a child), and how he moved away from and back into zen practice, as every student does. A final chaper, "Stages in Zen Training" includes a gentle illustration of the Ten Ox-herding pictures ... "Until yesterday you took great pains to develop the solemn state of absolute samdhi and fiercely checked all activity of consciousness. Now you let consciousness gaily open into full bloom." A very helpful book for those sitting, or thinking of sitting, zen.
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on 8 December 2005
One of the best and most under-rated books on zen and meditation, this book is a rare find because it is true to the real meaning of zen: which is that if you sit you will realise everything for yourself, and almost everything else is a distraction. This is a truly great book about 'how' to meditate.
You just know when you read this that the author is not speculating at any point - he has sat and realised everything that he is writing about. There is no second-hand knowledge or regurgitation of other people's ideas. When I bought this over ten years ago, it was a breath of fresh air - most of the other books I had read were just 'background' to Buddhism (e.g. Christmas Humphreys books), rather than 'how to' books.
One anecdote about this book that shows how factual it is... I was reading the book and gave up when it started talking about ichi-nen thought etc because it seemed so complex. Then when I was sitting I saw clearly how thoughts are linked so I thought I would draw a diagram. Then I looked back at this book - it had almost exactly the same diagram!
Can't recommend it highly enough...
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on 16 February 2013
This has to be the best book I've ever come across on Zen meditation practices. It gives the physiological effects as well as the mental side. I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting to take up meditation as a means of relieving stress and for better physical health. It's not the answer for all ills by any means, but over time the effects of meditation are positive, and this book is the best start you could have. It's also ideal for dipping into now and then to remind yourself of why you are here. Highly recommended.
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on 12 October 2004
I first read this book in 1975, and in those days finding books on esoteric subjects was highly unsusual. On the rare occasions when one did, they were of the mystical variety - "Open the thousand-petalled lotus and raise the serpent to the next chakra." OK, sure thing, but how do I do that. Mr. Sekida's book is written for the westerner who wants to know how but has no personal access to a guru or master to show him. In may ways a forerunner of writers like Master Mantak Chia and Master Yang Ywing-Ming who have published detailed descriptions of Chinese Internal Alchemy and other Taoist Arts, this book guides you through the "how" of sitting in Zazen in detail without losing the mystery and wonder of what is an intensely personal experience. Just writing this review brings me fond memories of the doors which this book opened for me and my eternal gratitude to Mr Sekida. I must pick up my dog-eared copy again, light a candle, ring the prayer bell and continue the quest.
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on 22 September 2013
ekida expains in detail the methods of zazen that that have led countless individuals to samadhi, and later,to Kensho and beyond. Many readers may find this book slow and methodical at first as he explains in detail, the different methods of breathing in zazen and the physiological affects these techniques have on the body. However, please don't lose heart because as you progress you will find all this is for a reason as it's the foundation you will need. Think of this book as training program in which you need to study the "boring" aspects of your art in order to perfect it later.
As a westerner I know all to well a large majority of us our not able to meet a spiritual teacher in our busy lives let alone search for one, but if you are reading this you have found Katsuki Sekida and if you embrace his advice wholeheartedly you won't go wrong. It will take time but don't give up as this book is truly a gift to the westerner if you follow it with precision.
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on 7 April 2015
An interesting book on sitting Zen, that also contains a parallel story of an English teacher studying Zen and what this contributed to his existence. It contains the basic necessary breathing exercises, that will get you into higher atmospheres. If you are looking to realize yourself, this is an excellent guide. All of the principles of breathing can of course also be applied to walking Zen and so forth.
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on 16 December 2015
Read many books about meditation but this is the only book that explains successfully how you can control your thoughts while meditating,hence meditating with no interference from your mind.
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on 23 June 2010
Great book. A few other reviews I read before buying this book said - its not for beginners!
I am a relative biginner in the world of zen. This book has a lot of physiological explanations about how the mind is linked to the tanden, the mechanisms which induce samadhi, etc. If you havent discovred zazen yet, this isnt the book to do it. Read "The Eight Gates of Zen" and you will have all the inspiration you will ever need - extraordinary book. However if you're on the path, even if only a few faltering steps along it, like me, this book will take you up a notch, will help you understand more precisely what you are supposed to be doing (its not just sitting!!!) and your zazen will reap immediate rewards. Its not a book you can become absorbed in, but it it is fascinating, and should be treated almost as a text / reference book for the wonderful world of zazen. I suspect that every time I read it, it will reveal something more, depending on my stage of the journey.
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on 15 April 2014
This is a great book for somebody like me who only knows a little bit about meditation and wants to know. It is readable and doesn't compromise on the philosophy.
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on 10 May 2016
This is a book I wish I've fread years ago. Clear and to the point, essential reading for Zen teachers and serious Zen practitioners.
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