BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Quite a find ...

I probably mentioned the Open Books box sale at some point, and here comes the first of the many books picked up there. For a long time I had avoided buying used books because I didn't like the sense that I had “obtained some dead person's property”, but over long spans of unemployment I “got over it”, to a large extent. This is very likely a book in that category, being a 1959 edition with a gift inscription (with a quote from Dag Hammarskjöld) up front from December of 1968 … forty-two years ago.

This copy of Zen Buddhism, An Introduction to Zen with Stories, Parables and Koan Riddles of the Zen Masters, Decorated with Figures from Old Chinese Ink-Paintings is in really remarkable condition, given its vintage (a 1959 hardcover), with just minor tearing to its dust jacket. It is a very attractive volume, nicely designed and laid out, but odd in having no author/editor attribution and very little publishing info (this was before the SBN code was introduced, let alone the ISBN), with most sources simply identifying this as being from Peter Pauper Press. I'd encountered books from them before, and they tended towards beautiful, uncluttered design, with straight-forward presentations, and this is no exception to that.

At 60 pages, Zen Buddhism is hardly an in-depth look at the subject, but is “a tasting menu” of many of the attributes of Zen, which could serve as a delightful introduction to somebody newly coming to the subject, or a very pleasant indulgence for those familiar with the literature. I've read many Zen books over the years, and this was certainly an enjoyable way to fill up a couple of bus rides!
Shuzan held up his staff and waved it before his monks.
“If you call this a staff,” he said, “you deny its eternal life.
If you do not call this a staff, you deny its present fact.
Tell me just what do you propose to call it?”
The selections here range from the very brief excerpts such as the above to a 7-page introductory essay, with various items, from multi-page transmission tales to famous Koans, in between. What comes through here is something of the essence of Zen, in a very attractive and non-doctrinal package.

Somewhat remarkably, a half a century past its publication, one can find numerous copies of Peter Pauper Press' Zen Buddhism in the used listings, at various prices and in assorted conditions. Unfortunately, lacking an ISBN or other identifier, it is somewhat hit-or-miss, with several nearly-identical entries (some with as many as 14 copies available) out there. I am happy to now have a copy of this (although wonder at its history), and I suspect that most of my readers would too, so if you're interested, it's worth some searching to find the right one for you.

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Tags: book review
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