The Essentials of Zen Buddhism, Selected from the writings of Daisetz T. Suzuki Edited with an Introduction, by Bernard Phillips (1962)
Daisetz Suzuki brings unparalleled insight to Zen Buddhism based on his personal experience and studies. His thoughts are available for the beginner as well as the knowledgeable and the experienced.
Given the narcistic leanings of the day I decided to revisit this presence of mind work. I purchased this book while living and working in Japan in the previous century and periodically have read through parts of it for a different perspective. Suzuki’s work retains a thought-provoking depth and comprehensiveness.
My evolving take: For myself Zen Buddhism is living in the present. The “mystification” of studying Zen disappears as we become more aware of the self and the other within this moment.
“Zen…most strongly and persistently insists on the inner spiritual experience.” As soon as you approach it’s meaning you have lost it. That is, when we try to identify it pragmatically we discover its elusive quality and nature.
To study Zen one realizes one doesn’t meditate. One clears one’s mind. There is no meditation on this idea or that concept or thing or person. In Zen there is no affirmation or denial of God. Zen Buddhism is a “freedom from all unnatural encumbrances.” Awareness arrives not in the spaces filled up around us but the spirit within us.
This is perhaps the most complete, accessible and useful work written on the subject of Zen Buddhism and one in which Suzuki offers numerous thoughtful examples of what he means while disclosing a given aspect or element of Zen.
This is a thick, vast reference tool that is not read in one sitting, rather it’s one that the reader may access over time for a better understanding and appreciation of the nature of Zen Buddhism and the downstream effects not only on Japanese culture but it’s global influence.