Zen and Self Improvement

The editor of Katsuki Sekida's 1975 book Zen Training, A. V. Grimstone, writes a fascinating yet puzzling introduction, full of comments on Zen-like experiences associated with epilepsy and psychedelic drugs. But he also comments about one "practical" aspect of Zen Buddhist practice, self-improvement:

... I believe we can find all the reasons we may need for practicing Zen by observing the results of doing so. I have in mind here the quality of the people themselves. I count myself fortunate to have met, in addition to the author of this book, a number of Japanese Zen masters. Without exception, they struck me as wholly admirable people. There was about them a serenity, a dignity, and a spontaneity that I have not encountered in other people. It was not the case that a rigid system of training had produced a uniform product, for the individuality of the person was always strikingly apparent. At its best—and it is, of course obvious that much of what now passes as Zen training is far from being that—the discipline of Zen seems to result in the shaping of enviably complete people. Their quality is manifest not only in their lives and their everyday actions, but in their products—their painting and calligraphy, their buildings and gardens, and so on.

... and later:

... Zen is not mysticism or something esoteric: it is a rational method of helping us to become better people. The territory we have to explore may seem strange at the outset, but Mr. Sekida draws us maps, sets up signposts, gives us instructions. He knows that each of us has to make the journey by himself; he knows that the going is difficult. He has given us more guidance about how to undertake the trip, and what sort of country we shall find ourselves in, than any previous writer. It seems to me that his book will stand as a great pioneering effort.

(cf. OptimistCreed (1999-04-16), ReadingsOnThinkingAndLiving (2001-10-01), SelfImprovement (2002-07-29), MyOb (2002-08-18), BeYourOwnCause (2006-02-04), Meditation by Eknath Easwaran (2010-10-14), ...) - ^z - 2011-11-19