Zen Ritual

Zen Ritual : Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice

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When books about Zen Buddhism began appearing in Western languages just over a half-century ago, there was no interest whatsoever in the role of ritual in Zen. Indeed, what attracted Western readers' interest was the Zen rejection of ritual. The famous 'Beat Zen' writers were delighted by the Zen emphasis on spontaneity as opposed to planned, repetitious action, and wrote inspirationally about the demythologized, anti-ritualized spirit of Zen. Quotes from the great Zen masters supported this understanding of Zen, and led to the fervor that fueled the opening of Zen centers throughout the West. Once Western practitioners in these centers began to practice Zen seriously, however, they discovered that zazen - Zen meditation - is a ritualized practice supported by centuries-old ritual practices of East Asia. Although initially in tension with the popular anti-ritual image of ancient Zen masters, interest in Zen ritual has increased along with awareness of its fundamental role in the spirit of Zen.
Eventually, Zen practitioners would form the idea of no-mind, or the open and awakened state of mind in which ingrained habits of thinking give way to more receptive, direct forms of experience. This notion provides a perspective from which ritual could gain enormous respect as a vehicle to spiritual awakening, and thus this volume seeks to emphasize the significance of ritual in Zen practice. Containing 9 articles by prominent scholars about a variety of topics, including Zen rituals kinhin and zazen, this volume covers rituals from the early Chan period to modern Japan. Each chapter covers key developments that occurred in the Linji/Rinzai and Caodon/ Soto schools of China and Japan, describing how Zen rituals mold the lives and characters of its practitioners, shaping them in accordance with the ideal of Zen awakening. This volume is a significant step towards placing these practices in a larger historical and analytical perspective.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 25.4mm | 430.91g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 10 b/w line illus.
  • 0195304683
  • 9780195304688
  • 1,083,215

Review quote

Ten excellent scholars contribute nine chapters (plus an introduction) that cover such aspects as women's rituals of 'actualizing empowerment,' meditation as a rite of enactment of original enlightenment (in Dogen's enigmatic formation), and dharma transmission...Highly recommended. * Choice * Zen Ritual is an excellent volume and should be of great interest to scholars of East Asian Buddhism, be useful in upper-level undergraduate courses, and may also challenge Western Zen practictioners to further refine and define their own traditions vis-a-vis Japanese Zen. Each essay has something interesting to contribute, and together they deomnstrate unequivocally that Zen, like all Buddhism, is inextricably associated with many kinds of ritual and that we cannot
hope to understand Zen without understanding its rituals. * Journal of Japanese Studies * This impressive collection of essays by prominent Zen scholars should dispel the popular notion of Zen as a religious experience independent of ritual and institutional structures. The writers explore a range of ritual activities in the tradition, including rituals to protect the emperor and the country, formulaic sermons, seated and walking meditation, empowerment and healing rituals conducted by nuns, and a dharma-transmission ceremony recently formulated for North
American Zen. This volume fills an important lacuna in Zen Studies, and it merits a close reading by anyone interested in ritual, Buddhism, or East Asian cultures. * Christopher Ives, author of Zen Awakening and Society * These essays are valuable because they reflect a crucial sea change in the contemporary study of religion: a shift away from the study of what religion says it is about (as explained in sacred texts) to what religion is actually about (as discovered in historical records and sociological observation). * Buddhadharma *
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About Dale S. Wright

Steven Heine is Professor of Religious Studies and History and Director of the Institute for Asian Studies at Florida International University. Dale S. Wright is David B. and Mary H. Gamble Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies at Occidental College. They are the coeditors of The Koan, Zen Canon, and Zen Classics.
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