Book Excerpts, Texts

Nagarjuna’s Verses from the Center: When Buddhas Don’t Appear and Their Followers Are Gone

Nagarjuna was a 2nd century master often credited with establishing the Mahayana tradition. His landmark collection of 448 Verses from the Center are the first known Buddhist texts to be written in the author's voice and not as a repetition of Buddha's teaching. As presented by Stephen Batchelor in his book on Nagarjuna, this verse… Continue reading Nagarjuna’s Verses from the Center: When Buddhas Don’t Appear and Their Followers Are Gone

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Bhadda Kapilani and Mahakassapa: Going Forth Together

This story about Buddha's dharma heir Mahakassapa and his consort Bhadda Kapilani is taken from the book, The Hidden Lamp, a compendium of stories of awakened women through the centuries. It tells of how two people navigated their practice and love for one another at the same time, and how in cooling their passions they… Continue reading Bhadda Kapilani and Mahakassapa: Going Forth Together

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Natalie Goldberg: Be Submissive to Everything

Long Quiet Highway is writer Natalie Goldberg's account of her life's spiritual journey under the guidance of various teachers including Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Allen Ginsberg, and most significantly, Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Throughout the book, Goldberg draws numerous parallels between Zen and writing practice, and emphasizes the importance of a good teacher. In his list of… Continue reading Natalie Goldberg: Be Submissive to Everything

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No Attachment to Dust

101 Zen Stories is a compilation of stories about Zen teachers through the ages compiled by Nyogen Senzaki, a Rinzai monk who was one of the leading proponents of Rinzai Zen in the US in the 20th century. This particular story, number 77, charts the advice of Master Zengetsu to his students. Zengetsu, a Chinese… Continue reading No Attachment to Dust

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Jack Kerouac and the Rucksack Revolution

Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums, which was published in 1958, crystallizes a moment in West Coast history that came at the beginning of a spiritual awakening that preceded the hippie movement and occurred just as Buddhist philosophy was beginning to take root in the United States. The character Japhy Ryder is Kerouac's friend, poet and Gary… Continue reading Jack Kerouac and the Rucksack Revolution

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Taisen Deshimaru and the Doctrine of Emptiness

The concepts of form and emptiness - shiki and ku - as put forward in the Heart Sutra - the Hannya Shingyo - are among the most difficult ideas in Zen, especially for new students. Here, they are tackled by Taisen Deshimaru, the monk who travelled from Japan to Paris in the 1960s and eventually… Continue reading Taisen Deshimaru and the Doctrine of Emptiness

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Like the Skin of a Ripe Fruit

Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery is one of the most widely read books about a Zen tradition that documents the author's learning curve while studying the art of archery with his master. In this passage, he is reaching the peak of his frustration with the process and its inherent paradoxes, feeling that… Continue reading Like the Skin of a Ripe Fruit

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Sheila Heti – When Love Slips into the Death Drive

Sheila Heti's novel 'How Should a Person Be?' asks that candid and naive question with honesty, humor and sincerity. During the course of the book, she especially looks at love and all its difficulties, and in this passage she talks about the kind of obsessive sexual love that pushes us over cliffs and into the… Continue reading Sheila Heti – When Love Slips into the Death Drive

Book Excerpts

Alan Watts’ Pain and Time

Alan Watts was one of the foremost interpreters of Eastern philosophy in Europe and the United States in the mid 20th century. This extract from his book, 'The Wisdom of Insecurity' talks about our tendency to reject pain in the service of pleasure, and how in doing so we are ultimately shying from the full… Continue reading Alan Watts’ Pain and Time