DON'T-KNOW MIND: The Spirit of Korean Zen

Richard Shrobe, Author, Kwang Wu, Author . Shambhala $14.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-59030-110-4

Shrobe, a therapist who heads a Korean Zen Buddhist center in New York, guides students lightly through the history of that branch of Zen. He cites major teachers and their teachings, including poems, other writings and kong-ans (koans, or logic-defying riddles), then comments on and interprets them. This sketch of lineage provides a grounding glimpse of a spiritual tradition that works by challenging practitioners about their attachment to whatever grounds them or makes them know with certainty. Zen is that most slippery body of teachings about human knowing, and Shrobe does a fine job of unpacking stories and words for meaning without getting lost in the conceptualization that Zen debunks. Because explanation through concepts can be misleading in Zen, he "explains" key Korean Zen teachings through examples and stories from past master practitioners rather than using abstract ideas. ("Not explaining, not understanding is the transcendence of ideas, concepts, words and speech.") As is often the case with Zen teachers, this book is a transcribed series of talks. Shrobe's words lack the lyrical quality that often graces the spare prose of such Zen masters as Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, but his language possesses the sharp-edged simple diction characteristic of Zen teaching. (" 'Still not far off'—that is called Zen faith.") The book is short, but will be particularly helpful for Korean Zen students deepening their practice. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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