Theology & Religion

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Zen Buddhism

Beliefs & Practices

In the series Religious Beliefs & Practices

Merv Fowler recently retired as the Head of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wales, Newport. He has studied in the Middle East and published in the US, Canada, Germany, India and UK. An accomplished writer and storyteller, the author has written for the media and had his works broadcast by the BBC.

Places Zen firmly in its historical context as a child of Buddhism

Examines the problems facing the advent of Buddhism in China, as well as the contribution made by the Zen masters in Japan

Looks at Zen practice in daily life and “meditation” in both theory and practice

Questions popularly accepted opinions on koan practice and the master–pupil relationship

Informed by almost two decades of dialogue, research and teaching, this book refutes the mistaken premise that Zen Buddhism is more suited to people who lived all those years ago, or at least live all those miles away. Pivotal to this work is recognition that Buddhism is a mind culture. To appreciate that one is not in control of one’s own mind is alarming indeed, but it is our perceptions of real and imagined threats that generate our anxieties, not an objective appraisal of the situation.
… Beginning with the annotated “ox path” pictures, the gradual development of the wayward mind away from aimless wandering and towards Buddhahood is depicted and examined. Ever mindful of the legacy of India, the life and teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha are revisited as are the scriptures themselves.

At every point, this book presents Zen Buddhism, not as some esoteric mystery cult, accessible only to the eastern mind, but in an animated, meaningful manner that demonstrates its purpose and function in today’s world.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-902210-42-1
Paperback Price: £16.95 / $25
Release Date: August 2005
Page Extent / Format: 172 pp. / 216 x 138 mm
Illustrated: No


Preface and Acknowledgements


Part I Zen Beliefs
1 The Ox-herding Pictures

2 Zen Roots
The legacy of India
The life of the Buddha
The account of the Buddha's life in the Buddhacarita and other sources

3 Doctrines Germane to Zen
The dharma of the Buddha
The First Noble Truth
The five aggregates
The Second Noble Truth
Dependent Origination
The Third Noble Truth
The Fourth Noble Truth
The Pancha Sila
Sila, Samadhi, Panna

4 Zen and the Mahayana Sutras
Zen and Yoga

5 Buddhism Reaches China
The Zen Movement after Hui-neng
The Five Houses
The Sung Period

6 The Transition from China to Japan
The cultural influence of Rinzai Zen
Myoan Eisai
Enni Ben'en
Dogen Kigen
Zen after Dogen

Part II Zen Practice
7 Meditation
The theory
The practice
Soto Zen
Monks and monasteries

8 Koan Practice
9 The Master–Pupil Relationship

10 Holding the Mind

Further Reading

An excellent, concise introductory text for the study of Zen. It aims to convey what Zen is about to an audience that is unfamiliar with the tradition. Prior exposure to Buddhism is not required… The book is divided into two parts. The first is a doctrinal explication of Zen beliefs, presented within the context of the historical development of Zen. This approach clarifies the meaning of beliefs and also demonstrates the influence of events and personalities on the evolution of doctrine. The second part acquaints readers with specific Zen practices, such as particular meditation forms and koan practices. Fowler also includes a useful glossary. Highly recommended.

This is an extremely lucid and readable introduction to Zen, which serves as a good introduction to Buddhism in general. Merv Fowler has performed an excellent task in bringing together material on the history, scriptures, teachings and spiritual practices associated with Zen. The book is a first-class introduction for students as well as the general reader. The author tackles very competently and reliably the salient features of the Zen tradition. I thoroughly recommend it.
G. D. Chryssides, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, and author of Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements and Exploring New Religions

What a marvelous book! It invites the reader into the heart of Zen understanding and practice with well-chosen anecdotes, examples, questions and quotations. Exciting to read, it appeals to the reader's own experience with carefully constructed bridges to the teachings and practices of Zen. In providing a historical approach, Merv Fowler sets the necessary philosophical context needed to appreciate Zen at a deep level. The opening chapter of the ox-herding pictures immerses the reader in the riches of Zen right from the start.
John M. Koller, author of The Indian Way and Asian Philosophies

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