Hoofprint Ox


Master Sheng-yen, author of Subtle Wisdom and the head of monasteries in both Taiwan and the United States, has written another inspiring introduction to the Chan Buddhist tradition of China, more familiar to Americans as Zen, its incarnation in Japan. Eastern religion bookshelves these days are crowded with Zen primers and collections of sermons by eminent monks or nuns, but Sheng-yen's work stands out, bridging the two genres in a way that has been much needed. Buddhist sermons by Asian masters, when transplanted to American soil, can be misinterpreted by an audience lacking the cultural context for deeper understanding, leading to disillusionment with the institutional practice of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Sheng-yen, having taught in America for many years, is well aware of this and places Chan meditation in the larger Buddhist picture, showing its basis in history and morality. He explains the relationship between actual practice and the ideals expressed in sermons and in the paradoxical stories of early masters in such a way that a beginning student of Chan/Zen can then read the sermons with a deeper understanding of their relevance to his or her life. Aided by a masterful introduction by well-known scholar Dan Stevenson, this work brings introductory books on Chan/Zen to a new level of sophistication, accuracy and relevance to both the more advanced and the novice American practitioner.