Book Excerpts

Gurdjieff and The Two Rivers

George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was a mystic and a spiritual teacher of Armenian descent whose philosophy and insight are often quite difficult to initially grasp, but who nonetheless left a significant mark in 20th century western spirituality. Gurdjieff's chief hypothesis was that man lived in a perpetual state of 'sleep' and could only utilize his full… Continue reading Gurdjieff and The Two Rivers

Book Excerpts

Leo Tolstoy on the Crisis of Reason and Faith

"I understood that, however irrational and distorted might be the replies given by faith, they have this advantage, that they introduce into every answer a relation between the finite and the infinite, without which there can be no solution." So said Leo Tolstoy about his agonizing struggle with existence in the light of setting rationality up… Continue reading Leo Tolstoy on the Crisis of Reason and Faith

Book Excerpts

Materialism and the Monastic Life

Is it necessary to live in a monastery in order to pursue a spiritual path? How can we focus in our daily lives in the midst of a technological and cultural onslaught? These are the questions that Les Kaye, the abbot of Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center in Silicon Valley, puts to the reader in… Continue reading Materialism and the Monastic Life

Book Excerpts

Taisen Deshimaru on Becoming Truly Free

Taisen Deshimaru was a student of Kodo Sawaki who traveled to France to teach in the 1960s. In Paris he set up the headquarters of the Association Zen Internationale and roused a large following. In this excerpt from a book of his teachings compiled by his student Philippe Coupey called Zen and Karma. In it,… Continue reading Taisen Deshimaru on Becoming Truly Free

Book Excerpts

Not Their Kind of Prey – Thomas Merton

"Do you approach the study of Zen with the idea that there is something to be gained by it?" is the cautionary question posed by Thomas Merton in an author's note featured at the beginning of his book, Zen and the Birds of Appetite. The passage is a short and succinct warning, directed at readers and… Continue reading Not Their Kind of Prey – Thomas Merton

Book Excerpts, Chinese Texts

Those Who Seek the Way Must Enter it With the Suddenness of a Knife-Thrust

"If you would only rid yourselves of the concepts of ordinary and Enlightened, you would find that there is no other Buddha than the Buddha in your own Mind," wrote master Huang Po in 9th century China. As the master of Linji Yixuan, founder of the Rinzai school, Huang Po is in many ways considered… Continue reading Those Who Seek the Way Must Enter it With the Suddenness of a Knife-Thrust

Book Excerpts

Awakening is Not the End – it’s Just the First Step into the Stream

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry is Jack Kornfield's classic journey into modern spirituality and what is means to be a student of spirituality in the contemporary world. In the book, he uses first-hand accounts of various people's experiences of awakening, satori or kensho and goes into some detail about what these states actually feel like,… Continue reading Awakening is Not the End – it’s Just the First Step into the Stream

Book Excerpts, Christian Texts

Blinded by the Sun – St Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila was a 16th century Spanish mystic who experienced visions and raptures throughout her life and who emphasized the importance of continuing contemplative, intimate prayer. In this excerpt from her autobiography, she contrasts  material wealth with spiritual riches and uses the metaphor of the shining sun as the source that illuminates that… Continue reading Blinded by the Sun – St Teresa of Avila

Book Excerpts

We Only Have One Story – John Steinbeck on Virtue and Vice

East of Eden was John Steinbeck's epic novel written later on in his life that was based on the history of his family in the Salinas Valley in California. With frequent references to the Book of Genesis, the story addresses questions about the fundamentals of human nature, most notably the perpetual struggle within ourselves between… Continue reading We Only Have One Story – John Steinbeck on Virtue and Vice

Book Excerpts

The Most Penetrating Preachers: Herman Hesse’s Ode to Trees

This wonderful fragment of Hermann Hesse's writing comes from a book that's actually out of print and one of the hardest of the author's books to come by - Wandering: Notes and Sketches. The book itself follows the author's contemplations through nature and the insights that transpired. Here he talks about his reverence for trees,… Continue reading The Most Penetrating Preachers: Herman Hesse’s Ode to Trees