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Sky Above, Great Wind

The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
Narrated by: Brian Nishii
Length: 2 hrs and 19 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Summary

Ryokan (1758-1831) is, along with Dogen and Hakuin, one of the three giants of Zen in Japan. But unlike his two renowned colleagues, Ryokan was a societal dropout, living mostly as a hermit and a beggar. He was never head of a monastery or temple. He liked playing with children. He had no dharma heir. Even so, people recognized the depth of his realization, and he was sought out by people of all walks of life for the teaching to be experienced in just being around him. His poetry and art were wildly popular even in his lifetime. He is now regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Edo Period, along with Basho, Buson, and Issa. He was also a master artist-calligrapher with a very distinctive style, due mostly to his unique and irrepressible spirit, but also because he was so poor he didn't usually have materials: His distinctive thin line was due to the fact that he often used twigs rather than the brushes he couldn't afford. He was said to practice his brushwork with his fingers in the air when he didn't have any paper. There are hilarious stories about how people tried to trick him into doing art for them, and about how he frustrated their attempts. As an old man, he fell in love with a young Zen nun who also became his student. His affection for her colors the mature poems of his late period. This collection contains more than 140 of Ryokan's poems, with selections of his art, and of the very funny anecdotes about him.

©2012 Kazuaki Tanahashi (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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    2 out of 5 stars

More a book for reading than listening to.

What disappointed you about Sky Above, Great Wind?

A goo dportion of the book was describing Ryokan's calligraphy. Clearly, the points made were lost when you cannot see the text in front of you. A bit like commentating on a kite flying competition over the radio. The voice artist did his best, but it was pretty tedious

What was most disappointing about Kazuaki Tanahashi’s story?

I was expecting lots of Ryokan's poetry. There was some, sure, but much of the book was about his calligraphy or a sketchy biography of his life.

What aspect of Brian Nishii’s performance might you have changed?

He did a good job with limited material

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

It was alright, but I was expecting more. Disappointment, I suppose, as I am such a fan of Ryokan's work.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Insightful and Concise Listen

When I seen this on sale for £1.50 I was unsure what to expect but now completing the listen, I'm happy with the insight I've received and the production quality.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Autumn

After 2 hrs and 19 mins I am amazed at how many leaves remain on the autumn trees.

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  • Susie
  • 03-03-15

The Great Fool

Ryokan, "The Great Fool," is, perhaps, the scruffiest of the great Zen Master poets. His writings, and in particular, Kazuaki Tanahashi's translation, convey the experiences of a breathing person, irreverent and humorous while holding deep sorrow, loneliness, and wisdom. He portrays a universe playing tricks on us all.

Brian Nishii is a fantastic narrator. He is clear, has a good sense of timing and his enthusiasm for the reading is evident.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 23-05-16

A Warm And Loving Portrait...

of the great zen master and his writings. Read it along with his wonderful poetry.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Troy
  • 11-08-15

Simple, Thoughtful

This 2 1/2 hour audiobook is bookended with an hour long biography of Zen Master Ryokan and 15 minutes of anecdotes. In between are his simple Zen "poems that are not poems." Ryokan was a Buddhist monk, a Shinto temple keeper, and by most accounts a very unkempt and dirty individual. You'd never know it by his poetry. This is the sort of thing that makes me wish I could experience it in its original form, understanding the original language, and admiring the original calligraphy. An audiobook just doesn't do it justice, but for those of us who aren't multilingual, it's acceptable enough to let us know just how much we might be missing.

6 people found this helpful

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  • taryn kj collins
  • 08-05-18

Lovely

Funny and insightful. Full of important, beautiful, and playful notions. I listen to it over and over♥️

2 people found this helpful

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  • Lord Kinbote
  • 13-08-17

Wonderful book

If you want Zen explained to you buy books by D.T. Suzuki. If you want to see it through the eyes of someone that lived it, this is the book

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ron
  • 25-02-18

I’m glad I bought this book

I will listen to it again. I would buy it again. Rich in imagery, thought, expression of one’s own life, a way of thinking, a way of life. Thank you for translating this book and to whomever recorded it.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Thom Thomas
  • 01-09-15

Wonderful

I do wish that there were more of a vocal cue when a poem began/ended.

2 people found this helpful

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  • judy
  • 04-06-15

Tenderly Beautiful

This is a fine way to be introduced to the thoughtful spiritually of Japanese culture.
Intelligently introduced by the narrator.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-07-20

good book

i like this book very much. i am expecting more audio books from this author

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • James Allen
  • 08-06-20

Ryokan

The stories of Ryokan's life and antics were interesting. He poems of nature and about life pithy.