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36

 

BOOK REVIEWS

 

 

Introduction to Zen Buddhism, by DR. T. Z. Suzuki. $3.75.

 

This book is the latest in a series of volumes containing the recorded lectures of Dr. Suzuki, foremost authority on Zen Buddhism.

 

The doctrine of the `Buddha Heart,' more commonly known as Zen, grew up in China and Japan some fourteen centuries ago, through a school claiming to be the only one able to transmit the true essence of Buddhism directly from its Author, and not through documents or ritual.

 

In the esoteric Buddhist tradition, there are two main modes of initiation, the first, a gradual unfoldment of our spiritual faculties culminating in Illumination; the second, called "the abrupt method," may be given by the Master in the twinkling of an eye. This is what the Zen tradition calls Satori, or Illumination. It is the sudden end to a sort of organized fight between Master and disciple which can last for years. The Master uses a special method called 'Koan"—a series of well-prepared but paradoxical questions or actions, with which he tries to break through the limited consciousness of his disciple and provoke Satori. This mystical intuition cannot be understood through the obscurity of the Zen anecdotes ... Dr. Suzuki takes the precaution of insisting that the Koan exercises are unintelligible to the Western mind and should not be practiced without the help of an experienced teacher; yet he manages to convey the strange spell of its own which pervades Zen ... the full virtues of which can only be appreciated after Satori. Is this identical with God-Realization? Or is it comparable to the Baka which the pilgrim encounters on the various stages of the Path? For the Zen Buddhist there seems to be no half measure, no intermediary degrees between ordinary consciousness and Illumination. To go to this absolute, there are no two ways but only one, the total crushing of the mind, the mind of duality ... doesn 't this remind us of Baba's Man-O-Nash, annihilation of the mind?

 

The Zen Buddhist refuses any solace, any faith, any belief. He does not worship God, he does not expect any salvation, he does not even pretend to be spiritual. He only pays attention to the conversion of the ordinary human condition through Satori—even after Satori, he remains simple, ordinary, earthly. Yet we gather from Dr. Suzuki 's fascinating book that he, though no longer "with" us, is truly One with us.

 

—PHILIPPE DuPUIS

 

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