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This book (together with 'Zen and the Art of Archery' and Takuan Soho's 'Unfettered Mind') are probably the sources of the misconception that Samurai were enthusiastic practitioners of Zen Buddhism! DT Suzuki was neither a Zen priest nor was he schooled in the martial arts of the Samurai. Samurai never embraced Zen to any great extent because Zen requires the one thing the samurai never had-TIME. Zen requires long, tedious periods of sitting meditation to be able to realise that suffering is a consequence of illusion. However, Samurai could be called upon to die at any instant and were also busily involved in many other time sapping activities for their Lords. Thus years of sitting meditation were simply out of the question and could not provided the samurai with the spiritual 'quick fix' they needed to face death with equanimity. Samurai mainly followed Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyo/Shingon) with its large pantheon of Buddhist deities which were called upon with what are essentially magic spells ('finger weaving' signs, mantras etc) in times of psychological upheaval. Further evidence for few Samurai being Zen Buddhist comes from the many teaching scrolls handed down within martial arts schools (many of which are translated into English now) from master to /master/pupil. Very few, if any, mention Zen but many do talk about, and have illustrations of, Shingon deities and the incantations required to gain their help, within them. If Zen was so important to the Samurai you'd think they'd mention it in their writings. So where does this place this (audio) book based upon the above? I think that's fairly obvious. Its a pandering to romantic Western ideas of Samurai meditating on mountain tops before facing their enemies but it is not a reflection of the true religion of the Samurai
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
D.T. Suzuki is an excellent author - not so much for his technical, literary abilities but for his personal, experiential knowledge of his subject: Zen.
Christopher Reeds performs articulately for the narration, with no complaints here.
This wonderful, concise volume focuses on the marriage of the Zen mind and the Samurai warrior class, discussing the intimate relationship between love and war, conflict and peace, immovable movement. Suzuki weaves into his narrative many wonderful and relevant stories, such as the Samurai who practised the Way of No Sword, as well as poems and letters and myths from Zen masters and Samurai lords.
As an aspiring martial artist, I appreciate the focus upon the paradox of Zen calm in the midst of combat, however, as all of life is a continuous struggle, the entirety of the volume relates ultimately to how we live our lives, no matter what profession we may have - for at bottom, a Zen mind is necessary not only for mastery of any art, but of life and death itself and for realizing our own intrinsic immortality.
Cons? I could only wish the other essays in the series (Zen & the love of Nature, etc) were included in this one volume instead of having been split apart.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
This book gives some insight into Zen Buddhism as practiced by the Samurai and why this religion was adopted by the Japanese warrior class. Whilst covering this, the book gave me new ideas and insights for my own meditation practice which Ive appreciated much. That said, if someone is new to meditation and seeking a "how to" book, this is probably not the one to go for as its not an intro to meditation; but if you already practice, you may appreciate the pointers that come from Suzuki's exploration of the Samurai way of Zen.
What do you think your next listen will be?
The 3 Pillars of Zen
What three words best describe Christopher Reed’s performance?
Could you see Zen and the Samurai being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
A documentary only. The stars - unknown Japanese performers.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful