When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen
Zen priest and poet Fischer (What Is Zen?
) collects thoughtful personal essays from over three decades of his Buddhist teachings and practice. First, he discusses harmonizing one’s relationships with oneself, others, the physical world, the spiritual world, and time. For instance, “Leaving Home, Staying Home” revisits the story of Siddhartha leaving his pregnant wife to achieve enlightenment, each sacrificing so the other can live a fulfilled life. In the section on the relationship between writing and thinking, the essay “Impermanence Is Buddha Nature” explains that impermanence is both loss and change, which can be refreshing and renewing. Regarding cultural encounters, “The Two Worlds” contrasts Japanese and Western interpretations of Buddhism: where “the sacred has been reduced to the ‘inner life,’ something private,” in the West, in Japan, a Buddhist sensibility includes “a vague and dark (if also beautiful and serene) sense of an alternate order of reality.” In the standout “Buddhism, Racism, and Jazz,” Fischer describes African American cultural influences in American Buddhism and explains how addressing the “great national wound of racism” requires Buddhists to pursue “political and social activism as a total life project.” These moving contemplations showcase the intricate workings of a wise mind. (May)