Meanwhile, an announcement: For those in the South Bay area, the classical accordionist and friend of The Buddha Diaries John Torcello will be performing with the Peninsula Symphony on Sunday, February 17 at 7:00 pm in Shostakovich's "Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra," a collection of eight beautifully orchestrated and accessible concert and dance pieces. Click the link for further information.
And, noted: The first paperback publication of A Guide to Zen: Lessons from a Modern Master by Katsuki Sekida. Originally published in 2003, this is a distillation of Sekida's 1975 Zen Training, a classic work ranked alongside Suzuki Roshi's justly renowned Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Edited by the long-time Sekida student Marc Allen, the Guide is everything you need to know about Zen--in a nutshell.
I'm not a Zen man myself. I find the aesthetics infinitely appealing, but the practice itself does not call to me; sitting nose-to-nose with a blank wall strikes me as too reductive an experience, too pure for this one extremely fallible human being. I personally find vipassana to be more compassionate as a practice, kinder and gentler, even..., well, more Buddhist. But that's a matter of personal judgment and choice. More important, A Guide to Zen is a marvelous little handbook, rich in insight and practical tips for the determined sitter. From posture to breath to samadhi entry to "pure existence," it's a step by step, easy-to-use instruction manual that manages to find clarity even in some of the fairly impenetrable aspects of Zen thought. As the Sekida quotation featured on the back cover notes, Zen "is the hushed silence of the snow-clad Himalayas. Or it can be likened to the eternal silence of the fathomless depths of the sea." It's a matter of utterly inarguable beauty.