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Not Always So

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Contrary to Zen's principle of "nothing special," Brown (The Tassajara Bread Book; Tassajara Cooking) has indeed produced something very special: an edited collection of talks by beloved Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, who died in 1971. It is impossible to overestimate the sustained impact of Suzuki's 1970 classic, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, a world-renowned bestseller. Brown, ordained by Suzuki in 1971 after six years of study under him, has edited transcriptions that both read well on the page and capture the style, humor and solid grasp evident in the first volume. But this is no Zen Mind sequel, and will prove highly valuable to anyone, rank novice or zazen master. These 35 talks, delivered shortly before Suzuki's death from cancer, sparkle with simple freshness and familiarity: "Our tendency is to be interested in something that is growing in the garden, not in the bare soil itself. But if you want to have a good harvest, the most important thing is to make the soil rich and cultivate it well. The Buddha's teaching is not about the food itself but about how it is grown, and how to take care of it." Suzuki's messages are like deceptive pools of water, shimmering with surface possibilities that provoke stronger swimmers to aim for the depths. Suzuki, too, beckons us to the deeper reaches of learning, becoming "a wise, warm-hearted friend, [and] an unseen companion in the dark." Again we are blessed with more of his superb vision. (June) Forecast: With its built-in history and top-notch quality, this one can't miss. An excerpt has already run in Shambhala Sun, and advertising in Tricycle and other Buddhist and New Age publications will target the market for the book, which has a 35,000-copy print run. Brown will do some readings in California stores, as well as a 15-city National Public Radio campaign. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Indeed something very special . . . [Brown] has edited transcriptions of Suzuki's talks that both read well on the page and capture the style, humor and solid grasp evident in [Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind]. This will prove highly valuable to anyone, rank novice or Zen master."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Suzuki, who died in 1971, came to the United States in the late 1950s to teach the practice of Soto Zen, the Japanese school of Buddhism emphasizing sitting meditation. His introductory talks in the now classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind brought the teachings of this beloved first abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center to a generation of Americans hungry for more satisfying spiritual nourishment. Collected in Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness, Suzuki's lectures provided both the master's well-known, down-to-earth advice on practice and his difficult-to-locate insights into monastic life. In this latest collection, Brown, Suzuki's student and author of The Tassajara Bread Book, presents carefully edited transcripts of talks selected from the period shortly before the great teacher's death. Frequently enigmatic and always iconoclastic, the resulting brief essays will help readers deepen their practice. An essential purchase for most public and academic libraries. James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina Lib., Asheville Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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