Below is our recommended book selection, concentrating on the work of authors writing within our lineage. Purchase any of the following titles directly from our links, and the Zen Fellowship receives a portion of the sale to further its mission of providing Zen practice opportunities and instruction in its community.
Titles by Taisen Deshimaru
Autobiography of a Zen Monk (Pre-Order)
Zen and Karma
Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982) was a Japanese Zen Master, and the individual largely responsible for bringing Soto Zen to Europe. A legendary figure, widely acknowledged throughout the Zen world, he stands in the ranks of the great Zen teachers of modern times, including, Suzuki Roshi, Maezumi Roshi, and others. This second edition of his book The Voice of the Valley, first issued in 1979, contains the pure Deshimaru vintage-teaching. Uniquely, it is one of the few Zen books treating the subject of karma, a principle deeply entrenched in Hindu and some Buddhist traditions, but rarely taught within Zen.
Mushotoku Mind: The Heart of the Heart Sutra
Based on the translation by Ilsa Fatt and the edition by Reiryu Philippe Coupey, “Mushotoku mind" means an attitude of no profit, no gain. It is the core of master Taisen Deshimaru’s Zen. This respected teacher of Japanese Soto Zen moved from Japan in 1967 and brought this work to Paris, from where it was disseminated throughout the West. This book presents his commentary on the most renowned of Buddhist texts, the Heart Sutra, known in Japanese as Hannya Shingyo-a philosophical investigation on the futility of philosophical investigation. Deshimaru’s work fills a great gap in the interpretations of this seminal text in that he emphasizes “mind-emptiness" (ku) as the foundation of Zen practice, in contrast to the usual “mindfulness" focus of many other Zen approaches. This “emptiness" and “purpose of no purpose" is one of the most difficult ideas for Westerners to understand. Yet we know that our most cherished values are based on mushotoku mind when it comes, for example, to love. We value the unselfish love of family or country that is based not on what we can get from the relationship but on what we can give. We know, too, that these virtues are not accomplished directly through our will but indirectly through dropping our expectations. His lectures on this subject have been translated by Ilsa Fatt and edited by Reiryu Philippe Coupey of Deshimaru’s British and French groups; and here completely revised and reedited for an American audience by Reishin Richard Collins. This edition emphasizes Deshimaru’s chorus: Mushotoku mind is the key attitude characterizing the way of the Buddha, the way of the bodhisattva, the way of Zen and zazen, and the way of all sutras (teachings). Taisen Deshimaru (d. 1982) was the founder of the Association Zen Internationale, one of the largest influences on Zen in the West. He is author of: The Ring of the Way and The Zen Way to Martial Arts: A Japanese Master Reveals the Secrets of the Samurai. Richard Collins is a Zen teacher in the lineage of Taisen Deshimaru and Dean of Arts & Humanities at California State University, Bakersfield. A Book for Students of Zen Buddhism; Religion Scholars; Philosophy Students, and Readers of Taisen Deshimaru’s Books.
An enlightening account of a session held in France under the guidance of the renowned Japanese Zen Master, Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982). This book answers pressing questions and provides vital instruction and inspiration for both beginner or long-time Zen practitioners and those using meditation as part of their spiritual path.
The Zen Way to Martial Arts: A Japanese Master Reveals the Secrets of the Samurai
At last: a book on the martial arts from a true Zen master. Taisen Deshimaru was born in Japan of an old samurai family, and he recieved from the Great Master Kodo Sawaki the Transmission of Mind to Mind when Sawaki died. In 1967, Deshimaru-Roshi went to France and taught as a missionary general of the Sato Zen School until his death in 1982. In Europe he learned how to make Oriental concepts understandable to the Western mind. One of the results of that experience was this book: a series of lessons, question-and-answer sessions, and koans (riddles or anecdotes that point out general principles) that provide practical wisdom for all students of the martial arts--kendo, aikido, iai-do, jodo, or archery--as well as for the general reader interested in Zen.
Questions to a Zen Master: Practical and Spiritual Answers from the Great Japanese Master
“True religion,” the great Japanese teacher Taisen Deshimaru wrote, “is not esoteric or mystical, it is not an exercise in well-being or gymnastics. True religion is the highest Way, the absolute Way: zazen.”
Here, Deshimaru, the author of True Zen, offers practical suggestions for developing unitary mind-body consciousness through the principles of zazen (translated literally as "seated meditation"). Advice is given on posture, breathing, and concentration, and concepts such as karma and satori are clearly explained.
The Ring of the Way: Testament of a Zen Master
Discusses the teachings of Zen Buddhism and examines the nature of life and death. The last and perhaps most radical teachings of the late Zen master Taisen Deshimaru.
Titles by Richard Collins
No Fear Zen
No Fear Zen presents an approach to Zen practice that focuses on concentration and sitting (shikantaza) as a discipline that can be practiced in everyday life with the dedication of the samurai. And in a world that requires bravery and decisive action in addition to generosity and compassion, we can learn much from the now-extinct samurai in creating a new kind of warrior for peace in the twenty-first century.
While some practices focus on compassion and mindfulness as the goals of Zen practice, No Fear Zen contends that these are outcomes that occur naturally, spontaneously, and automatically from right practice without any goal or object whatsoever. In this way, No Fear Zen is the sequel to the author's edition of Deshimaru's Mushotoku Mind, which encouraged practice for one purpose only, the purpose of no purpose, the gain of no gain, the profit of no profit.
The brief Zen talks that constitute the core of the book continue the tradition of spontaneous oral teachings delivered by the teacher (or roshi) during zazen. The collection might remind some of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, since the talks can serve either as an introduction to those beginning practice or as a manual for those interested in a structured approach to Zen practice. The tone of the talks ranges from humorous and informal to penetrating and philosophical, with references to day-to-day issues we all face as well as to works of literature. For example, several essays instruct in how to sit, how to manage mind and emotions, while others roam into difficult arenas, like the author's experience in bringing zazen instruction to those incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. As a professor of arts and humanities, Dr. Collins uses great literature, like Shakespeare's Hamlet, to demonstrate his case for fearless action uncomplicated by over-thinking.
The collection ends with a sustained commentary on the twenty-one deathbed teachings of the samurai Miyamoto Musashi to his student Terao Magonojo. This provides a suitable conclusion to the work, which has focused on concentration and discipline for their own sake with the result of dispelling fear of death and fear of life. As the author's teacher, Robert Livingston, always said, coming to zazen was like climbing into your coffin, but after zazen there was "no fear."
Titles by Kodo Sawaki
To You: Zen Sayings of Kodo Sawaki
Kodo Sawaki Roshi [1880–1965] was commonly referred to as “Homeless Kodo” due to his nomadic lifestyle. In the tradition of Soto Zen, which emphasizes zazen (sitting meditation practice) above the use of texts and koans, he is one of the most influential teachers of the twentieth century. In this book, hundreds of pith sayings taken from his wide-ranging teachings have been carefully compiled and grouped according to subject by one of his closest students.
The reader is easily struck by Sawaki's sincerity, depth and directness. What comes across so immediately is his uncompromising dedication to zazen and his determination to transmit an authentic practice. This he does by pointing out, with biting accuracy, the many pitfalls we “ordinary humans” stumble into. His teaching is at the same time both completely faithful to the Buddhist ancestors and absolutely relevant to our many modern predicaments. Are you worried about your career? Fighting with your spouse? Concerned about money? Complaining about how busy you are? Homeless Kodo has a piece of advice for you.
Kodo Sawaki Roshi also has an appeal to those who are decidedly irreligious, in his irreverence and criticism of hollow traditions. He ruthlessly challenges political and societal conformity, consistently referring his readers back to the essence tenets of zen.
Very few of his works have been translated into European languages. Of all his books, perhaps it is this one, To You, (enthusiastically received in both French and German) which best captures his contribution to the tradition.
While Kodo Sawaki Roshi is still a lesser-known teacher in the West, some of his disciples, most notably Kosho Uchiyama Roshi (who collected these sayings) and Taisen Deshimaru Roshi both had many Western disciples, who in turn have brought the practice to literally hundreds of centers and thousands of practitioners in North America, South America and Europe.
This English-language version is a joint effort by a distinguished team of Zen practitioners and translators: Muho Noelke and Reiho Jesse Haasch. Muho previously translated the Japanese version into German, and is the first Westerner to hold the post as abbot of a major Japanese Zen monastery, Antaiji. There, Kodo Sawaki himself also served as the abbot from 1949 until his death in 1965.
Shobogenzo Book 1
Note from ZFB: This edition is the larger 7" x 10" version, which includes Nishijima's excellent notes as footnotes on the actual page to which they refer rather than as endnotes at the end of the chapter. This makes for a much more convenient and practical study. For this reason, we highly recommended this version for deep yet convenient study of the text. If you prefer a more compact book, see the 6 x 9 version.
This translation, supported by the Japan Foundation, makes a strong claim to be the definitive translation of the 95 chapter edition of Shobogenzo, the essential Japanese Buddhist text, written in the 13th century by Zen Master Dogen. The translation adheres closely to the original Japanese, with a clear style and extensive annotations. Book 1 presents translations of twenty-one chapters of Shobogenzo including Genjo-koan (The Realized Universe), Soku-shin-ze-butsu (Mind Here & Now is Buddha), Uji (Existence-Time), and Sansuigyo (The Sutra of Mountains & Water). Its several reference sections include a Chinese/English appendix of references to the Lotus Sutra, and an extensive Sanskrit glossary. 'At last I visited Zen Master Nyojo of Dai-byaku-ho mountain, and there I was able to complete the great task of a lifetime of practice. After that, at the beginning of the great Sung era of Shojo, I came home determined to spread the Dharma and to save living beings, it was as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders....I will leave this record to people who learn in practice and are easy in the truth, so that they can know the right Dharma of the Buddha's lineage. This may be a true mission.'
Shobogenzo Book 2
Shobogenzo Book 3
Shobogenzo Book 4
The Moon in a Dewdrop
Kazuaki Tanahashi, collaborating with several other Zen authorities, has produced sensitive and accurate translations of Dogen's most important texts. Moon in a Dewdrop contains the key essays of the great master, as well as extensive background materials that will help Western readers to approach this significant work. There is also a selection of Dogen's poetry, most of which has not appeared in English translation before.
Dogen's thought runs counter to conventional logic, employing paradoxical language and startling imagery. It illuminates such fundamental concerns as the nature of time, existence, life, death, the self, and what is beyond self.
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen's Shobo Genzo
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo, in Japanese) is a monumental work, considered to be one of the profoundest expressions of Zen wisdom ever put on paper, and also the most outstanding literary and philosophical work of Japan. It is a collection of essays by Eihei Dogen (1200–1253), founder of Zen’s Soto school.
Kazuaki Tanahashi and a team of translators that represent a Who’s Who of American Zen have produced a translation of the great work that combines accuracy with a deep understanding of Dogen’s voice and literary gifts. This edition includes a wealth of materials to aid understanding, including maps, lineage charts, a bibliography, and an exhaustive glossary of names and terms—and, as a bonus, the most renowned of all Dogen’s essays, “Recommending Zazen to All People.”
Don't Be a Jerk: And Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master
The Shobogenzo (The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye) is a revered eight-hundred-year-old Zen Buddhism classic written by the Japanese monk Eihei Dogen. Despite the timeless wisdom of his teachings, many consider the book difficult to understand and daunting to read. In Don’t Be a Jerk, Zen priest and bestselling author Brad Warner, through accessible paraphrasing and incisive commentary, applies Dogen’s teachings to modern times. While entertaining and sometimes irreverent, Warner is also an astute scholar who sees in Dogen very modern psychological concepts, as well as insights on such topics as feminism and reincarnation. Warner even shows that Dogen offered a “Middle Way” in the currently raging debate between science and religion. For curious readers worried that Dogen’s teachings are too philosophically opaque, Don’t Be a Jerk is hilarious, understandable, and wise.
Titles by Philippe Coupey
In the Belly of the Dragon
The Shinjinmei (written in the 6th century by the monk Sosan) is the first of Zen’s four fundamental texts. Thus, it is central to all Zen lineages and schools, and an essential source of study for all Zen practitioners.
Here, Philippe Coupey, a contemporary practicing monk for over 45 years, reflects on each of the 73 verses of this famous text. Despite its ancient roots, the Shinjinmei is still dynamic today, and Coupey’s commentaries are fresh and relevant to life in the 21st century. His remarks are not based on scholarly studies, as for some well-known translators, but on the understanding transmitted through a lineage of practice, teaching and commenting on the Shinjinmei by great teachers and masters of the traditions, including Coupey’s own teacher Taisen Deshimaru, who brought this practice to Europe in 1967.
Zen today is often coopted by the dominant marketing paradigm, with all types of products branded this way, and loses its potency when it devolves into yet another form of relaxation. Not so here. Thanks to Philippe Coupey’s frank style of speaking and writing, like his teacher Deshimaru before him, Coupey reflects a raw, unreserved approach more in keeping with the ancient masters. His commentaries are also more exhaustive and detailed than others published so far. People who are tired of self-development “Zen” books might find real answers (and questions) here.
The underlying message of the Shinjinmei is to avoid clinging to the extremes?left and right, good and bad, love and hate. The opening stanza reads: "Entering the Way is not difficult, But you must not love, or hate, or choose, or reject." This clinging leads to the separation of one thing from another and is therefore the origin of many of the big problems in society today.
The first half of this book (verses 1-31, originally published as volume one, with the same title, In the Belly of the Dragon) were the result of eight years of teaching lectures (kusen) during which Coupey made oral commentary on the text. The remainder of the book (verses 32-73) was created more recently as written essays. The style of these presentations is less formal, and more intimately represents the dynamic spirit of the author’s practice. The entire collected work vivifies the ancient Zen text for modern students of the Way and is a valuable resource for all those interested in Eastern thought and religion.
Zen: Simply Sitting: A Zen Monk's Commentary on the Fukanzazengi Universal Guide on the Correct Practice of Zazen
Long-time Zen teacher Philippe Coupey offers readers a fresh, sometimes irreverent, perspective of an ancient classic - the Fukanzazengi, a short basic text on how to practice zazen, written by the Master Dogen in 1227. The Fukanzazengi is highly venerated within the Zen tradition, and is systematically recited in Zen temples. Dogen's actual text is only three to four pages long, yet it has been a source of inspiration and guidance for both beginners and advanced students for centuries. What's new in Zen, Simply Sitting is that Dogen's text has been put into everyday English, and given a contemporary context by Philippe Coupey. Only a few other formal commentaries on this text are available today. Some are highly scholarly, and therefore too heavy for the average reader. Others lack the guts and immediacy of Coupey's approach to this timeless teaching. The commentaries contained here are based on the work of Coupey's own distinguished master Taisen Deshimaru.
Titles by Arthur Braverman
Living and Dying in Zazen: Five Zen Masters of Modern Japan
Living and Dying in Zazen combines the life stories and teaching of five teachers—Kodo Sawaki, Sodo Yokoyama, Kozan Kato, Motoko Ikebe, and Uchiyama—associated with Antaiji monastery and the story of Bravermen and other Western students coming to grips with Zen, Japanese culture, and themselves. The deification of Zen teachers by their followers has been a problematic issue in American Zen; this book provides a healthy antidote, presenting four men and one woman who have lived and died in Zen within the rich context of their personal lives and their culture, so that we can fully understand what makes a Zen master in Japan.
"Dharma Brothers Kodo and Tokujoo" is a historical novel based on the lives of two Japanese Zen Masters, Kodo Sawaki and Tokujoo Kozan Kato. It tells how these two friends, grew from ordinary boys, walking very different paths to become extraordinary men, and of the deep spiritual bond between them. It is also a story of Japan from 1880 to 1965, of two personal accounts of Zen journeys, and of a love and friendship.
The story follows the lives of these two Dharma brothers, set against a backdrop of the Japanese-Russian War of 1905, and the rise of fascism in Japan in the 1930s. Kodo was an orphan, brought up in a harsh environment, while Tokujoo as the son of a well-to-do businessman. They both spent years studying in the most stringent Zen monasteries and became life-long friends. Each struggled to find his way clear of the circumstances in which he had been reared. Each sought a way of life offering more meaning and truth, ultimately becoming a different exemplar of Zen and practice and living Buddhism.
The Grass Flute Zen Master: Sodo Yokoyama
What motivated Sodo–san to spend the last twenty years of his life in a “temple under the sky”— a corner of a public park where he taught passersby what it means to be forever young through the funky tunes he played on his grass flute?
In The Grass Flute Zen Master: Sodo Yokoyama, we are seeking not only a truer understanding of this well–loved monk, but of zazen, Zen meditation, itself. In his search for insights into Sodo Yokoyama’s life, Arthur Braverman skillfully weaves a tapestry from seemingly disparate threads—the brief taisho period into which Sodo–san was born and where individualism shone; his teachers, both ancient and contemporary practitioners of Zen Bhuddism; the monk’s love of baseball; and the similarities Braverman finds between Sodo–san and Walt Whitman, who both found the universal in nature.
Through conversations with Joko Shibata, Yokoyama’s sole disciple, and careful study of his teacher’s poetry, an intriguing tension between the personal and the universal is revealed.
The Grass Flute Zen Master is a meditative examination not of just one life, but of many. The lineage of teacher and protégé is traced back through generations, contemporaries are drawn up from unexpected places, and Braverman examines his own long journey in Zen Buddhism; confronting his own expectations and surprising disappointments (the monk lived in a boarding house and later took a cab to his park when he could no longer walk the whole way) and the understanding and acceptance that followed. “When you play the leaf,” Sodo–san once wrote, “you’ll usually be a little out of tune. That’s where its very charm lies . . .”
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
- 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries
- The Gateless Gate, the famous thirteenth-century collection of Zen koans
- Ten Bulls, a twelfth century commentary on the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment
- Centering, a 4,000 year-old teaching from India that some consider to be the roots of Zen.
A Flock of Fools
Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records
In a completely new translation, together with original commentaries, the well-known Zen teacher Katsuki Sekida brings to these works the same fresh and pragmatic approach that made his Zen Training so successful. The insights of a lifetime of Zen practice and his familiarity with both Eastern and Western ways of thinking make him an ideal interpreter of these texts.
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
In the thirty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind has become one of the great modern Zen classics, much beloved, much re-read, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen. Suzuki Roshi presents the basics—from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality—in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page. It's a book to come back to time and time again as an inspiration to practice.