79 internautes sur 84 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Three Books by Kosho Uchiyama
February 21, 2000 and September 28, 2004
Reviewer: Eric Arbiter from Houston,TX
"Opening the Hand of Thought", "The Wholehearted Way", and From "Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment"
I am re-posting this review because "Opening the Hand of Thought" went out of print for several years. It has just been re-released with wonderful new introductory materials.
Ten years ago I had determined to take up Zen practice and this book was a key ingredient in that process. I was truly saddened that it was not available to help others as a guiding inspiriation for doing zazen during the time it was out of print.
I am so grateful to Wisdom Publications and the authors for taking the time to refine and make this seminal work available again for people sincerely seeking to undertake the practice of zazen (Zen seated meditation). Below is the original review, of these three books, with a few additional observations in parenthesis.
I have re-read these books so many times that I think of them as different components of the same work, since the subjects interweave to produce a wonderful fabric of integrated Zen practice viewed from different perspectives. At first glance all of these books might seem "lightweight". I thought so at first because of their covers. Especially "Opening the Hand of Thought- Approach to Zen" (this is no longer the case with the new edition). It suggests a new-age type of quick fix book about Zen. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was just the book I needed, though I didn't yet know it. Having come to Zen meditation 2 years before reading this book, I was still unclear about meditation (zazen). (Ten years later I am still unclear about it- but I am still sitting!) Many of us reach the point where we realize that we need and want to practice meditation. Then we get to the same point of the monk in Master Dogen's (1200-1250) quote in Fukan Zazen-gi:
"When Yakusan was sitting [in meditation], a monk asked him 'What do you think when you sit?' The master said, 'I think of not thinking.' The monk inquired further, 'How do you think of not thinking?' Yakusan replied, '[by sitting] beyond thinking'".
What is beyond thinking? This is where Uchiyama makes his point of departure, walking us through just this juncture. He describes the movement of the mind and what need be done or not done about it. He even includes a diagram of the action of the mind getting caught up in thoughts and alternatively falling asleep. He speaks of zazen as neither developing thoughts, nor hating them, but releasing them (hence the title Opening the Hand of Thought). Zazen is opening the hand of thought (not grasping thought) and returning to seeing the wall millions of times.
"Opening the Hand of Thought" addresses the vast world of seated meditation and the religious and personal underpinnings behind it. It is as though Uchiyama Roshi is your own grandfather, telling you about his life, and your life, too. It is about living the "most refined way". This is not a detached dry retelling of ancient stories about someone else, but the vital story of ourselves living the life of ourselves (which he says is the very life of the buddhas, patriarchs and matriarchs). It is the way of "not being dragged around by our thoughts" and living our lives based on this even-mindedness. We take this into our daily lives in every encounter.
"From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment- Refining Your Life" at first appears to be a popular cookbook appending Zen to the title for more interest. Again, not so. This is Uchiyama Roshi's commentary on another of Master Dogen's texts: Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions to the Zen Cook) which was part of Dogen's manual for his monks. Translator and practitioner Thomas Wright says in the introduction: "Now, what possible connection could a text written for a group of male monks some 750 years ago have for present-day Europeans and Americans, neither living in a monastery nor particularly familiar with the society or way of looking at life which differs totally from our modern Western societies? That is the question to which Kosho Uchiyama Roshi addresses himself when he began writing the commentary that accompanies Dogen's text". I would say that the emphasis of this book is on Master Dogen's "three minds": magnanimous mind, joyful mind and parental mind. Through meditation we come to the place where we see that the world is none other than the self and that we take care of others because they are really ourselves. Everything which arises in your life IS your life.
"The Wholehearted Way" is Uchiyama Roshi's commentaries on Master Dogen's Bendowa, his early manifesto about the practice of zazen. It is followed by questions and answers (probably asked by his chief disciple, Ejo) directed at various misunderstandings of what Dogen felt to be the true significance of zazen.
"Sitting is itself the practice of the buddha. Sitting itself is nondoing. It is nothing but the true form of the self.
Apart from sitting there is nothing to seek as the buddha-dharma."
Eihei Dogen, Shobogenzo-Zuimonki
Uchiyama Roshi's commentaries are in the same vein as the other books, bringing these ancient teachings to us in a fresh and vital way so that they function in our daily lives. The translations and introductions are done by three of Roshi's close disciples and long-time practitioners, Tom Wright, Daniel Taigen Leighton and Shohaku Okumura. Their comments in themselves are worthy of our study.
There is for me tremendous appeal in the great scope and depth of Roshi's teachings expressed in his straightforward and engaging way. Although carefully thought out, I get the feeling, (as I expressed earlier) of being spoken to directly. He takes great pains to really look into and study certain Buddhist terms that can cause confusion if we are unclear about them. For example, he devotes several pages to the term "buddha-dharma".
I consider these three books to be essential in the deepening of my practice of Zen and meditation. Here are Uchiyama's closing words in his foreword to "Opening the Hand of Thought":
"Above all, I hope that when you read this book, (Opening the Hand of Thought) you will forget your sentiments about exotic foreign lands and read with a completely fresh mind. I hope that, as you read, you will look at your own life and apply what I have written to your everyday life. That is the only place where the real world of Zen is".
35 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Well-written and carefully, lovingly edited. Quite a tribute to a great teacher!
What struck me most about this book was the personal, honest insights into the author's own mind. This is at once a book about Zen Practice, and a very personal voyage through life. Uchiyama Roshi must have been an intelligent and thoughtful man, and he left us a gift of his unique, unadorned dharma.
From the beautiful persimmon metaphor to his talk about zazen being useless (and why we should do it anyway), he takes us on a varied journey, examining our practice from numerous angles. Rich, fresh insight fills each talk.
There are some talks "for beginners" you might say. In one such chapter, you will find zazen, itself, drawn on a simple cartesian graph, with mathematical designations of points along the path. What a simple, useful metaphor, especially for those of us with an overactive left-brain! And, perhaps to keep us from taking the graph too literally, there are sketches of a young practitioner falling asleep, or daydreaming. Sketches drawn with humor and compassion!
25 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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This book is on Zen practice of course. Beautifuly written, translated and edited, it covers just about every aspect of practice that a book like this could. This is a thourough examination of Zen/Zazen from many angles.
After reading this I realize my attitude and knowledge of zen was shallow and very incomplete. Thats not to say you can "pin it down" after reading this. That would be impossible. This book will however help you understand Zen as life, masifesting life itself (Uchiyama often speaks like this to show the "wholeness" of Zen life), it brilliantly illuminates the "life" of the way. I am very thankful to Uchiyama for this. In a time when words like "Zen" are used and abused as catchwords and such. It is very nice to have books like this, to help practitioners understand more clearly, the heart of these teachings. He does this very well.
As far as Zazen goes, Kosho Uchiyama Explains, illuminates and clears up misapprehensions about "just sitting". He tells us how the very process of bringing our attention back to the reality of this moment and our posture is the profound wisdom of Zen in action (wich is our most important teacher). That is Opening the Hand of Thought. Opening this "Hand" is what allows us to go beyond the small selfish ego and realize the universal self. The self of everyone and everything. Wich is enlightenment, without the baggage of words or ideas like enlightenment (to "Open the Hand of Thought" means to let everything come and go without grasping). Someone said I beleive in a review, that not even Dogen gives as clear and precise account of Zazen as Uchiyama. I completely agree.
Uchiyama also give us a rich and detailed account of Zen as a religion, a daily practice, a way of life, and a way to a peaceful world. I'd be hard pressed to find an aspect he didnt cover. Of course all these 'aspects and distinctions' as Uchiyama points out, are in fact, just conceptual ideas and therefore cant in anyway capture reality. They can and do capture us though. Atleast our egos. Uchiyama shows us the means to be truly free from just such bondage.
He talks about everything from a fleas genitals (laugh) to the utmost important things to remember in practicing Zen. That would be as he puts it "one Zazen, two practices, three minds". Two practices are vow and repentance. Three minds are magnanimous mind, nuturing mind and joyful mind. He explains all of these very well in the book. One thing though I wish he would have touched a little more on is breathing and its place (as far as the attention it should recieve) in Zen.
This is a very practical and extremely powerful book (especially the last chapter, simply amazing). Uchiyama is as gifted a teacher as anyone. Now that I have this book, I cant imagine practicing without it.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Let's face it, even though Zen is often claimed to be based in utmost simplicity and directness, the sad truth is that the majority of Zen books and teachers are (often deliberately) opaque, if not flat-out UNREADABLE: rife with academic abstractions, badly translated religious jargon and pious rhetoric, not to mention encumbered by massive cultural baggage and exoticism (=the slavish, obsessive fetishization of all things Japanese). Which is why books like Charlotte Joko Beck's "Everyday Zen" are so rare and so successful---ditto for the work of the marvelously concise, plain-spoken and unpretentious Pema Chodron, an American in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
This is particularly true when it comes to teachings on "shikantaza" which is the practice of "just sitting" or objectless meditation, known as "choiceless awareness" or "open presence" in other schools. John Daido Loori's compilation of writings on shikantaza, "The Art of Just Sitting," is mostly a catalogue of ancient Chan/Zen teachers taking a long time to say nothing, albeit in a very artful manner.
So Uchiyama's book is a real gift: it is almost wholly devoid of the ritualized obfuscation all too common in the Zen tradition. This is the clearest book on seated meditation since Shunryu Suzuki's classic "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" which is much denser and far less cohesive since it was cobbled together from months of his lectures. Uchiyama does get a bit repetitive in a few spots, resorting to tautological assertions when he advocates for a "pure" practice having no goal or purpose---but this is a common Catch-22 inherent in any contemplative practice that seeks to discourage the ego from grasping after some mental object like "enlightenment" but to sit for the sake of sitting, what Uchiyama calls "life living out life."
Shikantaza itself is a difficult practice, which is why few Zen teachers will recommend it to beginners; it is usually reserved for advanced students. This in part is due to the fact that it takes a very long time for most people's minds to settle enough to do it, so concentration practice like counting the breaths is employed in the beginning to slow down the mind. Thus it is especially unfortunate that the vast majority of Zen practice centers (especially in the US) today spend a ridiculously small amount of their time actually meditating---the average Zen retreat has only 5-6 hours of scheduled sitting a day with each sit being as short as 25 minutes at a time, while the rest of the day is consumed by rituals/liturgy, dharma talks, private interviews with the teacher, work practice periods, or long personal breaks. In contrast, Uchiyama's teacher Kodo Sawaki believed in what he called "Zen without toys:" minimalist, bare-bones retreats where you TRULY "just sit," which consist of fourteen 50-minute periods of sitting per day, with brief 20 minute breaks following each meal, pervasive silence, and absolutely NOTHING else. Zero preservatives, additives or sweeteners. Having recently done one of those retreats myself (there are only two places in the US which offer this Antaiji-style format: Sanshinji in Indiana, and Pioneer Valley Zendo in Massachussetts) after having read this book, I can attest to the powerful efficacy of this utterly clean and simple schedule. It makes for a rare and precious manifestation of "dharma not drama," in which the elusive flower of shikantaza is finally given enough time and space to fully open.
22 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I was waiting for this classic of Zen to be back in print --- and it is even better than before! It used to be the best book on the meaning and purpose of Zen and actually doing Zen practice, and now it is even clearer, so I can really recommend it for everyone from beginners to adepts. And I'm glad they changed the illustrations. Also great new prefaces. Highest recommendation.