Zen Skin, Zen Marrow: Will The Real Zen Buddhism Please Stand Up?

Hardcover | December 11, 2007

bySteven Heine

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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, wholistic, and promoting social harmony. In recent years, however, some scholars havebegun 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 andobjects 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 andimperialism 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.

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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, wholistic, and promoting social harmony. In recent years, however, some scholars havebegun to examine Zen through the lenses of histo...

Steven Heine, 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.

other books by Steven Heine

Japan Viewed from Interdisciplinary Perspectives: History and Prospects
Japan Viewed from Interdisciplinary Perspectives: Histo...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 6.18 × 9.29 × 0.98 inPublished:December 11, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195326776

ISBN - 13:9780195326772

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"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 workwill 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