cover image Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go: Waking Up to Who You Are

Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go: Waking Up to Who You Are

Thich Nhat Hanh, . . Parallax, $14.95 (201pp) ISBN 978-1-888375-72-5

Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh usually presents teachings simply and often lyrically. This book, a translation and commentary on teachings of the Chinese master Linji, a founder of the Zen tradition, is not so simple and not very lyrical. But there's a good reason. Linji was one of those Zen masters who was given to paradox, shouting at students and employing cryptic behaviors and words. As Nhat Hanh helpfully notes, “Reading his words is like taking a very strong medicine.” So the contemporary Zen master is, comparatively, a more penetrable guide to his predecessor, as a commentator ought to be. The text calls on Nhat Hanh's scholarly abilities. He is more than a humble monk, and this side of him is much less familiar to his many readers. He is able to encapsulate Linji's philosophy in his characteristically memorable way: the enlightened person has “nothing to do, nowhere to go.” Also true to form, he offers easy breathing practices based on what Linji says. The book could be better organized; the text and commentaries are in separate chapters, necessitating a lot of flipping back and forth. This book is fresh and stimulating for advanced Zen practitioners. (Oct.)