I am breaking my ango silence to bring you a review!
Somehow I got on the cool guy list and received an advance readers copy of this book...
Ha! Like I'm an advanced reader or something!
Oh, not what they meant... OK.
The introduction to this book is really inspiring. I am partial to "Rebel Zen"tm anyway so that is no revelation. I did cringe a bit at a slight stink of secular poly ticks I caught in there though.
The first chapter is about Layman P'ang. I think it gives a good overview of the guys character. I read a good book with a lot of stories attributed to him that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about him.
Chapter two is about that old shit stick Rinzai, and gives a wonderful social/historical setting for his life and times. The record of Rinzai ought to be read over and over by any zen wanabe. But don’t think that if you go around calling people shit sticks that you are free, your just another zen poser with a contrived act.
Chapter three is about Bassui, and I am really grateful for this chapter because I had not read much of him in the past. But it turns out he was ordained in the lineage of Dogen, had a tendency towards being a hermit, and eschewed scriptures and pomp & circumstance of monastic life and favored Zazen... I think I would like to read this guys record.
Chapter four covers Ikkyu, I thought I had heard enough about Ikkyu, but this book devotes quite a few pages to the man. I can say after reviewing it I give him a 70-80%.
Chapter five, Bankei, Another old master who's works I have not been intimate with and after reading a bit about him I see why. It is a shame. Bankei's death poem may be one of the best ever. That said, a teacher like Bankei may not be what we need today, although they way I see it he already has plenty of imitators.
Chapter six, the demon Hakuin. I can't seem to write the guys name with out putting "The Demon" in front of it.
But since a good friend told me I had a bit of a demon nature, I suppose he is in good company. Still, I pretty much detest how his heirs have perverted the Koan tradition... Oh well.
Chapters seven and eight were about a couple of 20th century masters Nyogen Senzaki and Nakagowa Soen and the chapters were a bit anti climactic. But the epilogue might be pleasing to some.
My overall impression of this book is that it gives an informative historical overview of some of the greats of Zen... Be they radicals or not. I am not sure if I go along with the premise that they were radicals at all personally, but maybe that is just me. I think they were just these guys, you know...
The good news is that this book is well written and a pretty quick read.
Which for me provided a nice break between the Lotus Sutra and Baizhang's Monastic Instructions.
Go ahead and click the greed button... Or even better click on those links and buy some of those books.... Especialy the Bassui one, then send it to me...