See our other Year in Review Guides: Theravada/Pali/Insight | Chan, Zen, Mahayana | Tibetan Buddhism
Chan, Zen, and Mahayana Buddhism in 2021
We are very happy to share with you a look back at our 2021 books for those who practice in the family of traditions including Chan, Zen, and Pure Land.
Jump to: Reader Guides | Books | Books for Kids | Forthcoming Books | Audiobooks
Reader Guides for Chan and Zen
2021 Books on Chan, Zen, and Pure Land
“As you embrace the suffering of life, the wonder shows up at the same time. They go together.”—Charlotte Joko Beck
In this collection of never-before published teachings by Charlotte Joko Beck, one of the most influential Western-born Zen teachers, she explores our “core beliefs”—the hidden, negative convictions we hold about ourselves that direct our thoughts and behavior and prevent us from experiencing life as it is. Wryly humorous and relatable, Beck uses powerfully clear language to show how our lives present us with daily opportunities to move from thinking to experiencing, from compulsivity to confidence, and from anguish to peace. Whether you are a Zen practitioner or a reader interested in exploring these teachings for the first time, Ordinary Wonder offers the depth and breadth of Beck’s remarkable experience in an accessible guide to practice amidst the struggles of daily life.
A fresh translation and commentary on a classic collection of 100 koans from thirteenth-century China.
The Record of Empty Hall was written by Xutang Zhiyu (1185–1269), an important figure in Chinese Rinzai Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism and in its transmission to Japan. Although previously little-known in the West, Xutang's work is on par with the other great koan collections of the era, such as The Blue Cliff Record and Book of Serenity.
Translated by Zen teacher Dosho Port from the original Chinese, The Record of Empty Hall opens new paths into the earthiness, humor, mystery, and multiplicity of meaning that are at the heart of koan inquiry. Inspired by the pithy, frank tone of Xutang's originals, Port also offers his own commentaries on the koans, helping readers to see the modern and relatable applications of these thirteenth-century encounter stories. Readers familiar with koans will recognize key figures, such as Bodhidharma, Nanquan, and Zhaozhou and will also be introduced to teaching icons not found in other koan collections. Through his commentaries, as well as a glossary of major figures and an appendix detailing the cases, Port not only opens up these remarkable koans but also illuminates their place in ancient Chinese, Japanese, and contemporary Zen practice.
Clear and clearer
with the moon the heart
what distant end I know not
A fresh translation of the classical Buddhist poetry of Saigyō, whose aesthetics of nature, love, and sorrow came to epitomize the Japanese poetic tradition.
Saigyō, the Buddhist name of Fujiwara no Norikiyo (1118–1190), is one of Japan’s most famous and beloved poets. He was a recluse monk who spent much of his life wandering and seeking after the Buddhist way. Combining his love of poetry with his spiritual evolution, he produced beautiful, lyrical lines infused with a Buddhist perception of the world.
Gazing at the Moon presents over one hundred of Saigyō’s tanka—traditional 31-syllable poems—newly rendered into English by renowned translator Meredith McKinney. This selection of poems conveys Saigyō’s story of Buddhist awakening, reclusion, seeking, enlightenment, and death, embodying the Japanese aesthetic ideal of mono no aware—to be moved by sorrow in witnessing the ephemeral world.
From beloved Zen teacher Norman Fischer, a collection of essays spanning a life of inquiry into Zen practice, relationship, cultural encounter, and spiritual creativity.
"Looking backwards at a life lived, walking forward into more life to live built on all that, trying not to be too much influenced by what's already been said and done, not to be held to a point of view or an identity previously expressed, trying to be surprised and undone and maybe even dismayed by what lies ahead."—Norman Fischer
Norman Fischer is a Zen priest, poet, and translator whose writings, teachings, and commitment to interfaith dialogue have supported and inspired Buddhist, Jewish, and other spiritual practitioners for decades. When You Greet Me I Bow spans the entirety of Norman Fischer's career and is the first collection of his writings on Buddhist philosophy and practice. Broken into four sections—the joy and catastrophe of relationship; thinking, writing, and emptiness; cultural encounters; and social engagement—this book allows us to see the fascinating development of the mind and interests of a gifted writer and profoundly committed practitioner.
“There’s so much to learn and so much to know. It’s good to keep moving forward. And yet whatever we have is, in a very profound way, absolutely complete and always enough.”—Kyogen Carlson
Kyogen Carlson (1948–2014) was a Soto Zen priest whose writings, teachings, and commitment to interfaith dialogue supported and inspired countless Buddhist, Christian, and other spiritual practitioners. Set to the rhythm of the seasons, You Are Still Here is the first published collection of Carlson’s dharma talks. It illuminates key elements of contemporary Zen practice, such as the experience of zazen meditation, the pitfalls and intimacies of the teacher-student relationship and of sangha life, the role of community in personal practice, and the importance of interfaith dialogue reaching across political lines. Carlson’s teachings also underscore his commitment to lay Buddhist practice and women’s lineages, both significant contributions to American Buddhism. The beautifully distilled talks have been carefully edited and introduced by Sallie Jiko Tisdale, a respected writer, teacher, and Dharma heir to Carlson. Her masterful presentation highlights the significance of these illuminating teachings, while preserving Carlson’s distinct style of authenticity, humor, and conviction on the Zen path.
The founder of the Soto school of Zen in Japan, Eihei Dogen (1200–1253) is one of the most influential Buddhist teachers of all time. Although Dogen’s writings have reached wide prominence among contemporary Buddhists and philosophers, there is much that remains enigmatic about his life and writings. In Dogen: Japan’s Original Zen Teacher, respected Dogen scholar and translator Steven Heine offers a nuanced portrait of the master’s historical context, life, and work, paying special attention to issues such as:
- The nature of the “great doubt” that motivated Dogen’s religious quest
- The sociopolitical turmoil of Kamakura Japan that led to dynamic innovations in medieval Japanese Buddhism
- The challenges and transformations Dogen experienced during his pivotal time in China
- Key inflection points and unresolved questions regarding Dogen’s teaching career in Japan
- Ongoing controversies in the scholarly interpretations of Dogen’s biography and teachings
Synthesizing a lifetime of research and reflection into an accessible narrative, this new addition to the Lives of the Masters series illuminates thought-provoking perspectives on Dogen’s character and teachings, as well as his relevance to contemporary practitioners.
In the fall of 629, Xuanzang (600–662), a twenty-nine-year-old Buddhist monk, left the capital of China to begin an epic pilgrimage across the country, through the deserts of Central Asia, and into India. His goal was to locate and study authentic Buddhist doctrine and practice, then bring the true teachings back to his homeland. Over the course of nearly seventeen years, he walked thousands of miles and visited hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and monuments. He studied with the leading teachers of his day and compiled a written account of his travels that remains a priceless record of premodern Indian history, religion, and culture. When Xuanzang finally returned to China in 645, he brought with him a treasure trove of new texts, relics, and icons. This transmission of Indian Buddhist teachings to China, made possible by Xuanzang’s unparalleled vision and erudition, was a landmark moment in the history of East Asian Buddhism.
As with many great pre-modern religious figures, the legends surrounding Xuanzang’s life have taken on lives of their own. His story has been retold, reshaped, and repurposed by generations of monastics and laypeople. In this comprehensive and engaging account, Benjamin Brose charts a course between the earliest, most reliable accounts of Xuanzang’s biography and the fantastic legends that later developed, such as those in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. Xuanzang remains one of the most consequential monks in the rich history of Buddhism in East Asia. This book is an indispensable introduction to his extraordinary life and enduring legacies.
With the release ofleading scholar Charls B. Jones' Pure Land: History, Tradition, and Practice we finally have an engaging, accessible, and surprising account of the traidtions or Pure Land Buddhism, which has more adherents than any other Buddhist tradition.
Until now, this these traditions have been poorly understood in the West. This is the case despite Pure Land teachings being well integrated throughout history with Chan and its Japanese counterpart Zen, as well as embedded in Tibetan Buddhist practice. Centered on faith, devotion, and prayer to Buddha Amitābha, Pure Land constitutes its own tradition that continues to grow in popularity throughout the world.
This concise introduction presents at last a complete and accessible guide to Pure Land thought and practice that will surprise and delight readers in its richness and scope. The author traces its history beginning from its development in India through China and Japan up to the present day. This overview goes on to cover the core principles of Pure Land centered on the belief that prayer and contemplation on Buddha Amitābha can lead to rebirth in a realm free from suffering that is ideal for progress on the path to enlightenment.
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
We published three works by or about Suzuki Roshi, all available as audiobooks.
The teachings of Shunryu Suzuki have served for innumerable people as the gateway to Zen practice and meditation. In Zen Is Right Now, devoted student and biographer David Chadwick sheds new light on Suzuki’s presence and teachings through selected quotes from his lectures and a variety of stories told by his students.
Complementary to another collection about Suzuki, Zen Is Right Here, this book offers a joyful bounty of anecdotes and insights, revealing a playful and deeply wise teacher who delighted in paradox and laughed often. Each of the stories and quotes presented here is an example of the versatile and timeless quality evident in Suzuki’s teaching, showing that the potential for attaining enlightenment exists right now, in this very moment.
Shunryu Suzuki’s extraordinary gift for presenting traditional Zen teachings using ordinary language is well known to the countless readers of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. In Zen Is Right Here, his teachings are brought to life through stories told by his students. These living encounters with Zen are poignant, direct, humorous, paradoxical, and enlightening—and their setting in real-life contexts makes them wonderfully accessible.
Like the Buddha himself, Shunryu Suzuki gave profound teachings that were skillfully expressed for each moment, person, and situation he encountered. He emphasized that while the essence of Buddhism is constant, the expression of that essence is always changing. Each of the stories presented here is an example of this versatile and timeless quality, showing that the potential for attaining enlightenment exists right here, at this very place.
Shunryu Suzuki, author of the perennial classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, is lovingly remembered as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the twentieth century—whose legacy is felt in every facet of American Zen. This monumental biography of Suzuki, written and read by his student David Chadwick, weaves together a rich tapestry of stories and memories of Suzuki’s students, family, and friends. In this updated and revised audiobook edition, Chadwick also offers rare excerpts from archived recordings of Suzuki’s teachings in the great Zen master's own voice.
Our natural awakening—or buddha-nature—is inherent within all of us and waiting to be realized. Buddha-nature has the qualities of both silence and illumination, and by working with silent illumination meditation you can find your own awakening. Distinguished Chan Buddhist teacher Guo Gu introduces you to the significance and methods of this practice through in-depth explanations and guided instructions. To help establish a foundation for realizing silent illumination, he has translated twenty-five teachings from the influential master Hongzhi Zhengjue into English, accompanied by his personal commentary. This book will be an indispensable resource for meditators interested in beginning or deepening their silent illumination practice.
An Important Reissue
The writings of the twelfth-century Chinese Zen master Ta Hui (Dahui) are as immediately accessible as those of any contemporary teacher, and this book, which introduced them to the English-speaking world in the 1970s, has become a modern classic—a regular feature of recommended reading lists for Zen centers across America, even though the book has become difficult to find. We are happy to make the book available again after more than a decade of scarcity.
J. C. Cleary's translation is as noteworthy for its elegant simplicity as for its accuracy. He has culled from the voluminous writings of Ta Hui Tsung Kao in the Chi Yeuh Lu this selection of letters, sermons, and lectures, some running no longer than a page, which cover a variety of subjects ranging from concern over the illness of a friend's son to the tending of an ox. Ta Hui addresses his remarks mainly to people in lay life and not to his fellow monks. Thus the emphasis throughout is on ways in which those immersed in worldly occupations can nevertheless learn Zen and achieve the liberation promised by the Buddha. These texts, available in English only in this translation, come as a revelation for their lucid thinking and startling wisdom. The translator's essay on Chan (Chinese Zen) Buddhism and his short biography of Ta Hui place the texts in their proper historical perspective.
Secularizing Buddhism: New Perspectives on a Dynamic Tradition is a very engaging and provocative essay collection that explores the opposing ideas that often define Buddhist communities—secular versus religious, modern versus traditional, Western versus Eastern—are unpacked and critically examined. While many cover topics that span all the Buddhist traditions, the two of most interest to East Asian Buddhists are:
- Charles Jones: Establishing the Pure Land in the Human Realm
- Roger Jackson: Avoiding Rebirth: Modern Buddhist Views on Past and Future Lives
Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom includes several contributions from Zen and Nichiren teachers and practitioners like:
- Gyozan Royce Andrew Johnson with Pamela Ayo Yetunde: From Butcher to Zen Priest - Radical Transformation through Bloodletting
- Kamilah Majied: On Being Lailah's Daughter - Blessons from Umieversity on Actualizing Enlightenment
The Woman Who Raised the Buddha: The Extraordinary Life of Mahaprajapati is first full biography of Mahaprajapati. Here, Wendy Garling presents her life story, with attention to her early years as sister, queen, matriarch, and mother, as well as her later years as a nun. Garling reveals just how exceptional Mahaprajapati’s role was as leader of the first generation of Buddhist women, helping the Buddha establish an equal community of lay and monastic women and men. Mother to the Buddha, mother to early Buddhist women, mother to the Buddhist faith, Mahaprajapati’s journey is finally presented as one interwoven with the founding of Buddhism.
In 2021 we published three wonderful books parents who want to expose their kids to the ideas, culture, and figures of Mahayana traditions. We hope these delight them!
Forthcoming in 2022
And we have even more from the Chan and Zen traditions coming out next year from the likes of Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Joan Sutherland, Joan Halifax, Christian Dillo, Peter Haskell, Rebecca Li, Thomas Cleary, Nancy Baker, Susan Moon, and many more. So make sure you sign up for our emails so you do not miss them! Here is a sneak peek at January's release which you can pre-order now and take advantage of the discount.
In The Shamanic Bones of Zen, celebrated author and Buddhist teacher Zenju Earthlyn Manuel undertakes a rich exploration of the connections between contemporary Zen practice and shamanic, or indigenous, spirituality. Drawing on her personal journey with the black church, with African, Caribbean, and Native American ceremonial practices, and with Nichiren and Zen Buddhism, she builds a compelling case for cultivating the shamanic, or magical, elements in Buddhism—many of which have been marginalized by colonialist and modernist forces in the religion. The book conveys guidance for readers interested in Zen practice including ritual, preparing sanctuaries, engaging in chanting practices, and deepening embodiment with ceremony.
Audiobooks on and by Suzuki Roshi