The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism
Here is a comprehensive introduction to Zen Buddhism for those who don't know how or where to begin, nor what to expect once they have started practicing. It includes the fundamentals of meditation practice (posture, technique, clothing), descriptions of the basic teachings and major texts, the teacher-student relationship, and what you will find when you visit a zendo, plus a history of Zen from the founding of Buddhism to its major schools in the West. In addition to answering the most frequently asked questions, it offers a listing of American Zen centers and resources, an annotated bibliography, and a glossary.Jean Smith's enormously practical approach ensures that The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism will become the book teachers and students alike will recommend.

The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism Details

TitleThe Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 22nd, 2000
PublisherHarmony
ISBN-139780609804667
Rating
GenreReligion, Buddhism, Nonfiction, Spirituality, Self Help, Zen, Reference

The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism Review

  • Lon
    January 1, 1970
    A very broad, not very deep, introduction. Really, much more of an orientation into Zen practice (sitting meditation, finding a community of practitioners and what to expect when you go to your first sesshin or meditation retreat, etc.) as it was an introduction into Buddhist beliefs and Zen Buddhism in particular. I think I would have preferred buying Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind instead; the stuff in this book could have been found in a half hour of Google surfing. Still, it delivered wh A very broad, not very deep, introduction. Really, much more of an orientation into Zen practice (sitting meditation, finding a community of practitioners and what to expect when you go to your first sesshin or meditation retreat, etc.) as it was an introduction into Buddhist beliefs and Zen Buddhism in particular. I think I would have preferred buying Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind instead; the stuff in this book could have been found in a half hour of Google surfing. Still, it delivered what it promised in an easy to read style.
    more
  • Harry
    January 1, 1970
    For someone who has little or no experience with or exposure to Buddhism in general, or Zen in particular, this book would be a good place to start. Smith begins with an outline of practice (how-to instructions on meditation, etc.) and then gives a brief outline of the teachings of Buddhism, particularly as reflected in Zen. I've been reading about Buddhism (and sometimes practicing meditation) for over thirty years, so for me, there wasn't really anything new in this book. As I said, though, it For someone who has little or no experience with or exposure to Buddhism in general, or Zen in particular, this book would be a good place to start. Smith begins with an outline of practice (how-to instructions on meditation, etc.) and then gives a brief outline of the teachings of Buddhism, particularly as reflected in Zen. I've been reading about Buddhism (and sometimes practicing meditation) for over thirty years, so for me, there wasn't really anything new in this book. As I said, though, it would be very good for a beginner. The only critiques I'd give are the following:1. I think in some places she could have given a little more detail--e.g. she often uses words (such as "gassho") before defining them, and her sketch of some of the teachings of Buddhism is very brief. For a beginner, though, this might be a feature and not a bug.2. I think she could have expanded more on the nature of the teacher/student relationship in Zen. Several times she emphasizes that sooner or later in one's Zen practice, one needs to get a teacher. She briefly mentions that selecting a teacher is a major decision, and that teachers can be imperfect. However, in light of many well-known sex scandals in the 80's and 90's in the Zen community (and others in Western Buddhism more generally that have occurred as recently as last year), I think it would have been good, not necessarily to dish dirt, but to note that one has to take precautions in picking a teacher or a sangha. This is especially true of both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in both of which antinomian ideas and the concept of "crazy wisdom" have often been used to cover up totally inappropriate dynamics and behaviors.All that said, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to someone first starting to look into Zen.
    more
  • Patrick Coakley
    January 1, 1970
    The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism is a solid entry text that covers most of the general topics in Zen Buddhism without being too drawn out. While it does a solid job of explaining what makes Zen unique, I think it could have included a bit more detail on the practices of the Rinzai and Soto schools. It also has a lackluster conclusion, with the last two chapters dedicated to extra resources instead of giving any strong closing remarks or wrapping everything together. Still, I enjoyed it, and The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism is a solid entry text that covers most of the general topics in Zen Buddhism without being too drawn out. While it does a solid job of explaining what makes Zen unique, I think it could have included a bit more detail on the practices of the Rinzai and Soto schools. It also has a lackluster conclusion, with the last two chapters dedicated to extra resources instead of giving any strong closing remarks or wrapping everything together. Still, I enjoyed it, and I think it's a worthwhile first-read on Zen, though you won't learn much about Buddhism as a whole here.
    more
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism is both fantastic and flawed. It is a valuable resource for beginners in establishing a basic mediation method, understanding the basic structure of Zen practice, and learning, albeit briefly, some of the history of Zen. This book's brevity is also part of its flaws. Short books is the norm for Zen studies, but this book claims to be a beginner's guide while glossing over much of the actual cognitive aspects of Zen. Couple this with the book's age, and it's v The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism is both fantastic and flawed. It is a valuable resource for beginners in establishing a basic mediation method, understanding the basic structure of Zen practice, and learning, albeit briefly, some of the history of Zen. This book's brevity is also part of its flaws. Short books is the norm for Zen studies, but this book claims to be a beginner's guide while glossing over much of the actual cognitive aspects of Zen. Couple this with the book's age, and it's value slips a bit from being the perfect primer it aims to be (the title is THE Beginner's Guide... after all). The age is a problem when it comes to resources. There is a decent list of suggested readings in the first appendix, but the second lists Zen centers, mostly in the U.S. I don't know how many of the groups are still in practice, but the one listed for my city is a relic. In fact, a quick internet search revealed more active groups (likely splinters of the original listed in this book) active in my community. So the appendices are useless in the Internet age. The emphasis on groups raises my next point of contention. While it might be useful to know what to expect when entering a zendo, the emphasis on formalized teaching and group meditation presupposes two problems: first, that readers are so interested in zen as to seek out local groups to practice with; and two, that practitioners need group practice. One of the key teachings is that there are nearly infinite paths to enlightenment. The presupposition that followers need to practice in ritualized groups might hold for some, even many, believers, but risks turning off others who might mistake this emphasis as a requirement. The author makes perfunctory attempts to clarify that group practice is not a requisite, but then goes on to extoll the virtues and group practice and even at one point claim that one needs a teacher before one can actually surpass a certain point. While I concede that is probably true for most people, it can possibly turn off the few who wouldn't. This may seem like I'm laboring a point that even I don't feel is completely bad, but it typifies the problem with this book. It makes an attempt to disclaim itself as a be-all source of Zen education, but it puts far to much emphasis on minor points of practice without explaining some of the finer, more important aspects in detail. With that said, it works as a resource for beginners with a couple other books as backup, so it's worth the read. Just don't put too much stock in the advice it gives that you don't find in other books as well.
    more
  • Laura Lynch
    January 1, 1970
    This book gave me a broad overview of Zen Buddhism. It discussed the practice of meditation and later joining a group where there are certain protocols. The book also touched on the basic history, teachings and texts that are the foundations of Buddhism. I learned that the key to Buddhism is mindfulness (now). I also found out more about the four truths that address suffering which is often caused by the desire for things to be different from the way they are. If one can accept things as they ar This book gave me a broad overview of Zen Buddhism. It discussed the practice of meditation and later joining a group where there are certain protocols. The book also touched on the basic history, teachings and texts that are the foundations of Buddhism. I learned that the key to Buddhism is mindfulness (now). I also found out more about the four truths that address suffering which is often caused by the desire for things to be different from the way they are. If one can accept things as they are that person is on their way to nirvana. Nirvana is also part of the 4th truth that becomes the Eighfold path which is more involved. I liked the book as it was informative in a reader friendly fashion.
    more
  • Jordan Palmer
    January 1, 1970
    This is, as it is titled, a very simple introduction to Zen Buddhism. I cannot tell if I enjoyed it a little more or a little less than a person reading it with no background whatsoever in Zen. In college, I took an Asian religions class that went a bit more in depth and I have visited a Zen temple before. Overall, I found it to be a nice refresher, a primer almost, to a subject I am looking to reacquaint myself with. Smith's instructions for how to begin your medication practice are helpful and This is, as it is titled, a very simple introduction to Zen Buddhism. I cannot tell if I enjoyed it a little more or a little less than a person reading it with no background whatsoever in Zen. In college, I took an Asian religions class that went a bit more in depth and I have visited a Zen temple before. Overall, I found it to be a nice refresher, a primer almost, to a subject I am looking to reacquaint myself with. Smith's instructions for how to begin your medication practice are helpful and unfussy. Overall, I think it offers a nice touch point for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with the very basics of zen before moving on to books that explore different aspects of zen and mediation with more depth.
    more
  • David Wu
    January 1, 1970
    Good intro, though the formatting could be better. I liked how they listed out the practice for you to get into immediately, however the Dharma teachings could be more relatable and applicable to the reader's life.
  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    Great general introduction to the religion as well as a general description of some other schools of buddhist thought. I especially appreciated the comparison between Mahayana and Therevada Buddhism.
  • Joy
    January 1, 1970
    I learned more about Zen Buddhism and Buddhist customs. It sounds complicated, though.
  • Pennyjelly
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent book for anyone interested in learning about Zen Buddhism.
  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    A broad overview that basically tells you what to expect to learn if you employ a teacher for zen buddhism. More of an informational guide than a how to.
  • Mark Terry
    January 1, 1970
    A good general introduction, but not much meat on the bones.
  • Jennifer Kyrnin
    January 1, 1970
    This was a Buddhist book that I really was able to get into. It was easy to read and accessible. It made Buddhism interesting and something I wanted to learn more about.
  • Holli B
    January 1, 1970
    my-books
  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    Very practical easy to read introduction with a focus on the practice of Zen Buddhism in the United States.
Write a review