Ambivalent Zen: A Memoir

Lawrence Shainberg, Author
Lawrence Shainberg, Author Pantheon Books $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-44116-8
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 01/01/1996
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Shainberg's involvement with Zen Buddhism began at the age of 16 in 1951, when he met guru Alan Watts; three years later he took a trip to Indian sage Krishnamurti's spiritual center in Ojai, Calif. His interest in Asian wisdom was spurred by his father, a prosperous Memphis chain-store owner who turned away from traditional Judaism to Zen and Krishnamurti's teachings. Moving to New York's Greenwich Village, Shainberg, a novelist and nonfiction author, studied with Japanese Zen masters from the early 1970s on, practicing meditation, trying to overcome fears and ingrained habits to attain enlightenment. As this poignant memoir's title suggests, Zen discipline brought bliss, frustration, moments of absurdity as well as transcendence as he coped with writer's block, a crumbling marriage, unsatisfying psychoanalysis, karate lessons and a truncated career as a Zen monk-in-training. His luminous self-portrait makes us feel Zen as a lived experience. (Jan.)
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