Philosophy Book Reviews : Zen Flesh , Zen Bones , Edited by Paul Reps

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Paul Reps , Editor; Zen Flesh , Zen Bones : A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

(paperback, 211 pages)

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Paul Reps ; Zen Flesh , Zen Bones : A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

(Audio cassette tape)

          This book consists of 160 subtly moral-laden Zen stories, each only a few paragraphs long. This group of stories is actually the combination of three earlier works:

  • "101 Zen Stories"
    First published in English in 1939, a collection of stories about Zen teachers and their students, their actions and dialogues, in Japan and China, during a period covering five centuries.
  • " The Gateless Gate"
    A collection of 49 stories from 13th century China, about the practice of Zen using the koan method. Interpreted another way, the little stories themselves are the koans. It was first published in English in 1934.
  • "The 10 Bulls"
    A group of ten stories about "stages of awareness", written in 12th century China, first published in English in 1935. It is illustrated with wood-block drawings contributed by several famous Japanese artists.

          Following this group of stories is "Centering", a collection (16 pages in my edition) of quotations, epigrams, or other sorts of excerpts, from India, four thousand years ago, showing the beginning of Zen. First written in Sanscrit, this document was first published in English in 1955.

          These four documents are original, historical sources, modified only by translation.

          Finally, the book ends with a one-page text called "What is Zen ?"

          The work was compiled by Paul Reps, an American scholar of comparative religion, and Nyogen Senzaki, a Buddhist scholar born in Japan and later residing in the U.S.

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