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Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go : Waking up to Who You Are
The Zen school of Mahayana Buddhism contends that each one of us is already a Buddha - the enlightenment we seek is always within us, waiting to be realized through mindfulness and concerted spiritual work. This truth pushes us toward practice, in the hopes that we may awaken our potential and live up to what is inside us. This is a notion taught widely by ninth century Zen Master Lin Chi, and in his tradition Thich Nhat Hanh employs the teachings and writings of Mahayana Buddhism to discuss specific topics in Buddhist study and practice. With these teachings, readers have the tools to awaken the Buddha within.
Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh usually presents teachings simply and often lyrically. This book, a translation and commentary on teachings of the Chinese master Linji, a founder of the Zen tradition, is not so simple and not very lyrical. But there's a good reason. Linji was one of those Zen masters who was given to paradox, shouting at students and employing cryptic behaviors and words. As Nhat Hanh helpfully notes, "Reading his words is like taking a very strong medicine." So the contemporary Zen master is, comparatively, a more penetrable guide to his predecessor, as a commentator ought to be. The text calls on Nhat Hanh's scholarly abilities. He is more than a humble monk, and this side of him is much less familiar to his many readers. He is able to encapsulate Linji's philosophy in his characteristically memorable way: the enlightened person has "nothing to do, nowhere to go." Also true to form, he offers easy breathing practices based on what Linji says. The book could be better organized; the text and commentaries are in separate chapters, necessitating a lot of flipping back and forth. This book is fresh and stimulating for advanced Zen practitioners. (Oct.)
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August 27, 2007
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