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This book has 1 recommendation

Amanda Palmer (Songwriter, author)

One of my absolute favorite books of all time, because it changed my life, is a book called Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. It's by Zen Master Seung Sahn, who was a Korean Zen monk. I read it when I was maybe 24, and it's a short book: just a series of letters that this really funny, very direct, very no-bullshit Korean monk wrote back and forth with his students in the 1970s. It was one of those, 'Oh, my God, I think I get it' books... I have given that book to probably 30 or 40 people, especially people who have told me that they are feeling kind of lost and/or depressed or directionless, or younger people who are at crazy crossroads in their life and need something to hang unto. If you like it, there is a companion book that was his second collection of letters, which was called Only Don't Know.

Amazon description

“Somebody comes into the Zen center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha statue, blows smoke in its face, and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?” This is a problem that Zen Master Seung Sahn is fond of posing to his American students who attend his Zen centers. Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a delightful, irreverent, and often hilariously funny living record of the dialogue between Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn and his American students. Consisting of dialogues, stories, formal Zen interviews, Dharma speeches, and letters using the Zen Master’s actual words in spontaneous, living interaction with his students, this book is a fresh presentation of the Zen teaching method of “instant dialogue” between Master and student which, through the use of astonishment and paradox, leads to an understanding of ultimate reality.

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Stephen Mitchell


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