November 2015 Book of the Month

Last week at the end of class a student handed me a slim book saying, “I think you might really like this. I keep it next to my bed and reread it whenever I have a chance.” Ah, sweet music to any teachers’ ears – a book that inspires in an age when the visual typically trumps the written word.

First published in 1957, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, offers the reader a collection of accessible, primary Zen stories. I have spent all week reading one short story a night and must admit I understand my students feeling. The Zen tradition is partly practical, partly meditative and is traditionally learned under the guidance of a master. This lovely little book offers newcomers to Zen philosophy an inspirational collection of stories that illuminate the meaning behind the Buddhist philosophy of Zen.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones includes 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries; The Gateless Gate, the famous thirteenth century collection of Zen koans; Ten Bulls, a twelfth century commentary on the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment; and Centering, a 4,000 year-old teaching from India that some consider to be the roots of Zen.

The great accomplishment of this book is that it brings spirituality into the realm of the everyday. The stories shared in the book use very simple language and relatable metaphors that cause the student of Zen to think about profound and powerful truths. Zen is often described as a spirit of peace, understanding, compassion and contentment. As short bedtime stories this book infuses just a bit of sweetness into a night of good sleep.

Thanks for the recommendation, Chris! It was a good one.

Molly Beauregard