The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment


The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment
The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment
by Authors: Phillip Kapleau Roshi
Released: 01 February, 1989
ISBN: 0385260938

Sales Rank: 9,632

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The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment > Customer Review #1:
Probably the only Zen book youll ever need.

I guess that most people getting interested in Zen without having a competent roshi within reach are facing the living hell of Zen books. At least that was the situation in my case. So, I was picking up all sorts of books on Zen from authors of unknown or doubtful competence. Some arent really worth the paper they are printed on. This process turned out to be quite time and money consuming without getting closer to the results one is expecting.
Even after reading books from known authorities like D.T. Suzuki I found out that my own progress was still slow, because many of these kind of books are pretty academic, barely touching the most important practice and heart of Zen--the practice of Zazen.
"The Three Pillars of Zen" is the first book in a fairly long line of Zen books I read that approaches Zen in a practical way that enables Westerners to get started with Zen right away, without having a teacher. Roshi Kapleau wrote a well structured and personal book, reporting from his own development under various Zen masters in Japan back in the 1950s. In the chapters of "The Three Pillars of Zen" Kapleau lets his own teachers speak. This approach gives a unique insight into Zen practice in Japan, the traps and pitfalls and how to avoid them. It also explains what Zazen and dokusan are all about as well as the important role of the koan, its proper use (and misuse).
This book really sets back the majority of Zen books I read so far by at least 2 stars ( rating). If Id be forced to pick only one book about Zen, this would be the one.

The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment > Customer Review #2:
Good Advice-Boring Read

I hate saying it, because Philip Kapleau is so full of the good teachings that helped Zen "take" here in the USA, but this book was very boring. I understand many of his students perhaps have written the reviews here and such, and that Roshi Kapleau is in fact, a very good teacher. As for being a good writer, he is not. That said, the words on each page are accurate and concise. It is the delivery that leaves much to be desired.

Let us keep in mind that when this book was published, the West didnt really know much about Zen. It was considered, largely, to be a "philosophy" that is to be understood academically. Every author writes for his or her audience, that is, any writer that wants to write another book does. This work reminds you of, though not entirely, the flavor that Daisetz Suzuki wrote with. The scholarly, intellectual route. Which, like I said, was necessary to pave way for the many teachings we would find later in the USA as a result. Roshi Kapleau paved the way for Zen, but as for this book, it simply is not "attractive" enough for many students of Zen today. If you want an entertaining read that provides insight, this is not really your book. If you are looking for insight, and dont care much one way or the other about the "entertainment" aspect-then this book is for you. All this said, I recommend the book. The oddest recommendation I have given to date.

The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment > Customer Review #3:

I first ran across this book a while back, when I was involved in Buddhism in a sort of academic way. The Three Pillars of Zen was on the reading list for one of my classes, and I ended up reading it the way I read most academic texts - with an eyes towards extracting pithy quotes and supporting ideas for an eventual paper. At the time, it made little impression on me, although I think I may have footnoted it a couple times in assorted papers.

Then, about two years ago, I began to rediscover Buddhism (and, in particular Zen) not as an field of intellectual study, but as a practice and a way of life. I began regularly sitting - first five minutes a day, then ten, then half an hour - and occasionally sitting zazen and attending dharma talks at one of our local Zen centers.

But I still didnt really have a good grounding in some of the fundamentals. Yes, I knew the basic dharma, but I felt that I was missing something.

Enter The Three Pillars of Zen. I dont know why I happened to grab it, but it proved to be exactly what I was looking for - a good introduction to the fundamentals of Zen, with a particular emphasis on practice. Reading this gave my sitting practice something to take root in, and has offered me continual inspiration.

Theres a lot here, and a lot to absorb, and I dont doubt that different parts of this book will speak to different people. For me, I found the depictions of assorted enlightenment experiences to be incredibly inspiring, but the real meat was in the collection of student-roshi interviews. I found every doubt, every question that Ive had about my practice repeated, in some cases word-for-word, in this section - which was a nice thing to encounter, as a relative neophyte who is, admittedly, plagued with doubts as to virtually everything.

I would neccessarily reccommend this to someone who knows nothing of Buddhism or of the dharma, but I would reccommend it as an excellent introduction to Zen and the practice of Zen. Its a book that I return to every day, and that I find a continual source of inspiration.

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