Synopses & Reviews
Since Zen Buddhism first captivated the attention of Western seekers the dominant discourse about this sect has been romantic, idealistic, and utopian. The essence of Zen has been described as ineffable, holistic, and promoting social harmony. In recent years, however, some scholars have begun to examine Zen through the lenses of historical and cultural criticism, producing a sharp challenge to the traditional view. These clashing viewpoints are now entrenched in two warring camps, and their exponents talk past each other with virtually no constructive interaction. In this book, Steven Heine argues that a constructive compromise is possible. He focuses on three principal areas of disagreement: (1) the role of language and discourse in a tradition that claims to be 'outside words and letters,' yet has produced a voluminous body of texts, (2) the function of rituals and objects of worship to gain world benefit in a tradition supposedly founded on unmediated experience attained in an iconoclastic and ascetic environment, (3) the impact of a tradition that espouses peace and harmony on social issues such as class and gender discrimination and on nationalism and imperialism in Japan. Avoiding the stagnant polarization that characterizes most encounters between Zen traditionalists and their critics, he suggests ways in which these two perspectives can complement each other in a more balanced and nuanced alternative position.
"As we enter the 21st century and western Zen Buddhism develops the roots and branches of its second and third generations, the time has come to reflect on what aspects of this ancient tradition we are importing. What are the Zen myths and realities we are disseminating throughout the West? Most importantly, does Zen address the moral and ethical issues unique to our time and place? Steven Heine is eminently qualified to crack open this Pandora's box and help us sort out the real from the apparent. With its critical reflection, deep investigation and outstanding scholarship, Zen Skin, Zen Marrow is a step in the process allowing Zen to take the shape of the container that holds it. This book belongs on the shelf of every Zen center in the West." --John Daido Loori, author of True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koans and Sitting with Koans
"This book provides a valuable and insightful effort to clarify the conflict between two competing streams of Zen scholarship: the Traditional Zen Narrative and Historical and Cultural Criticism. Steven Heine is among the world's leading scholars of Rinzai and Soto Zen, and this latest work will make an extremely valuable contribution to such fields as Zen/Chan studies, East Asian Buddhism, comparative mysticism, and other related areas." --Steve Odin, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa
"This book makes an extremely valuable contribution to Zen studies, general Buddhist studies, and comparative studies of mysticism. ...Highly recommended." --Choice
"For the scholarly community, Heine's work contributes to the possibility of healing within the field of Zen studies...Only a scholar of Heine's stature in the field could offer such an invitation." --Journal of Japanese Studies
About the Author
, Professor and Director of Asian Studies at Florida International University, is an authority on Japanese religion and society, especially the history of Zen Buddhism and its relation to culture in China and Japan. He has published over a dozen books, including Zen Classics
and Zen Ritual
, coedited with Dale S. Wright.