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Discover Zen

David Fontana's 2001 book Discover Zen: A Practical Guide to Personal Serenity is thin (although printed on heavy paper) and oddly illustrated. The prose often lacks poetry; many of the exercises are unæsthetic. Nonetheless, at times it shines. For instance, in the introduction ("What is Zen?") the author explains:

When asked "What is Zen?" a Zen master replied, "Your ordinary, everyday life." This is as good a place to start as any. Zen, like life, defies exact definition, but its essence is the experience, moment by moment, of our own existence—a natural, spontaneous encounter, unclouded by the suppositions and expectations that come between us and reality. It is, if you like, a paring down of life until we see it as it really is, free from our illusions; it is a mental divestment of ourselves until we recognize our own true nature. What, in fact, could be more ordinary?

Fontana ends his little book ("Conclusion") with:

No-one who studies Zen in any depth can help but be changed by it. Although firmly located within Buddhism, the Zen state of mind is a feature of all the great spiritual traditions, and we can profit from Zen without abandoning our preferred tradition. Essentially, Zen training provides us with a wise friend who is always with us—humorous, gentle and compassionate when we need humour, gentleness and compassion; stern and directive when we need sternness and direction. Zen asks us to see things as they really are, instead of living our lives in a kind of waking daydream, clouded by illusion about reality and our own nature.

^z - 2009-03-06

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