Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction

Peter D. Hershock. Rowman & Littlefield, $35 (298p) ISBN 978-1-4422-1612-9
The history of Zen Buddhism is intricate, involving transmissions and exchanges of political, economic, and religious institutions among countries of South and East Asia. Hershock presents a succinct but immensely illuminating overview of Zen from two different viewpoints: its "public" or institutional history and its "personal" or practiced history. Through its public aspect, Hershock carefully traces the development of Zen as a religious institution entangled in the political and social history of Japan, revealing its rise and fall to the modern day through the Rinzai, Soto, and Obaku sects. Through its personal side, he analyzes how Zen has been practiced by laypeople, clergy, and the ruling classes throughout its history, emphasizing the transformative and emancipatory disciplines that morally determine how its adherents engage and change the world. He does not shy from the darker elements of Zen's history, such as how some Zen masters defended Japan's participation in WWII. By doing so, he exposes the unavoidable deep connections between religion and the political, social, and economic institutions with which it coexists. Hershock has written a powerful portrait of Zen Buddhism that has much to offer not only to the uninitiated but also to those familiar with the history and practice of this religion. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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FORMATS
Open Ebook - 290 pages - 978-1-4422-1614-3
Open Ebook - 291 pages - 978-1-306-51805-5
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