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A clear view of the methods of zen and mechanisms of mind
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.