The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea
Robert Buswell, a Buddhist scholar who spent five years as a Zen monk in Korea, draws on personal experience in this insightful account of day-to-day Zen monastic practice. Buswell's depiction of Zen reveals a religious tradition that differs radically from the stereotype prevalent in the West. Westerners exposed to Zen through English-language materials have been offered a picture of an iconoclastic religion that is bibliophobic, institutionally subversive, aesthetically sophisticated, devoted to manual labor, and intent solely on sudden enlightenment. Its most revered teachers are depicted as torching their sacred religious icons, bullying their students into enlightenment, rejecting the value of all the scriptures of Buddhism, and even denying the worth of Zen itself. In discussing the activities of the postulants, the meditation monks, the teachers and administrators, and the support monks of Song-gwang-sa, a major Korean Buddhist monastery, Buswell challenges much of this picture. In the "counterparadigm" of Zen offered in the daily lives of the monks, Zen's putative iconoclasts are replaced by resolute members of a community dedicated to a methodical regimen of spiritual training. Zen's apparent bibliophobia pales to reveal contemplatives learned in classical Chinese and often having extensive experience in Buddhist seminaries. And the brash challenge allegedly made to systematizations of religion, even to Zen itself, fades before monks with strong faith in the arduous way of life they have undertaken. The author's treatment lucidly relates contemporary Zen practice to the historical development of the tradition and to Korean history more generally, and his intimate, sympatheticportrayal of the life of modern Zen monks in Korea provides an innovative and provocative look at Zen from the inside.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - FrankJudeBoccio - LibraryThing
Another great work from Robert Buswell, and a great corrective to those who are under the romantic illusion of Zen training propagated by all those stories of wild and wooly zen masters. Read full review