Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Book - Living and Dying in Zazen

I recently finished reading a book called Living and Dying in Zazen – Five Zen Masters of Modern Japan by Arthur Braverman. I am not a Buddhist. I am not that familiar with Buddhism and just wanted to learn a little about it. I have also read a little about Pure Land Buddhism, particularly the Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land School.

This book is about the author who went to Japan to study Zen in the early 70’s practicing at a small temple called Antaiji in Kyoto. The five Zen teachers are Kodo Sawaki, Sodo Yokoyama, Kozan Kato, Motoko Ikebe and Kosho Uchiyama. The book talks a little about life at Antaiji which was an unusual Japanese temple in that it welcomed foreigners to practice and live there.

The book is an interesting read and gave some insight into Zen Buddhism and specifically zazen, the act of sitting in meditation. But what the book did the most was give the feeling wishing I could have met some of these Zen teachers, especially Uchiyama and Yokoyama. It is rare that I will read a book more than once but that is what I did with this book. After finishing the book I wanted to read about these individuals again and about their strong devotion particularly to zazen.

I won’t get into a full explanation of the book here but if you are at all interested in Zen Buddhism or just want to read about this aspect of Japan in the early 70s, then I highly recommend this book.


  1. Jon,
    Thanks for this article. I'm becoming increasingly interested in Zen. So, I'll definitely be picking this book up and reading it. I've also been recommended "The Way of Zen" by Alan Watts.

    The thing I like about Zen is (and please forgive my limited understanding) that it seems to be about unloading the 1 million things that are weighing on us right now and just being in the moment. I know when I stop thinking about work or future plans and just watch the birds in the garden or really feel the sun shining or the rain falling I feel much happier.

    Until reading this article I had never connected Japan and Zen (which shows how little I have thought about it). I must explore Zen in Japan!


  2. Thank you for the comment. Yes, Zen has a strong history in Japan. You might want to look into the Soto and Rinzai sects of Zen in Japan.

    I am not that knowledgeable about Zen and am looking for other interesting books to read on the subject.

    I have read several books about Shin Buddhism as well.