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Summary

In this classic work of spiritual guidance, the founder of the Rochester Zen Center presents a comprehensive overview of Zen Buddhism. Exploring the three pillars of Zen - teaching, practice, and enlightenment - Roshi Philip Kapleau, the man who founded one of the oldest and most influential Zen centers in the United States, presents a personal account of his own experiences as a student and teacher, and in so doing gives listeners invaluable advice on how to develop their own practices. Revised and updated, this edition features a new afterword by Sensei Bodhin Kjolhede, who succeeded Kapleau as spiritual director of the Rochester Zen Center. A moving, eye-opening work, The Three Pillars of Zen is the definitive introduction to the history and discipline of Zen.

©2000 Roshi Philip Kapleau (P)2017 Tantor

Critic reviews

"For anyone seriously interested in Zen - this book will be invaluable." ( The Times Literary Supplement)

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What listeners say about The Three Pillars of Zen

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Best book on Zen...

I’ve practised Zen for a few years now and read several books on the subject. This is undoubtedly my favourite ‘how to’ guide to Zen. Much of the Zen literature can be cryptic and difficult to relate to for the Western beginner’s mind or as in the case of Alan Watt’s popular book on the subject; glaringly mistaken in its lackadaisical ‘anything goes’ interpretation of how to practice it. This book is clear, concise and detailed but it does not lose any of the flavour of the profound mystery that the practice of Zen opens the practitioner up to or the will and discipline which may be required. The choice of Sean Runnette as narrator could not be a better one. He is the voice of Zen after also narrating Alan Watt’s book but this time his words are actually true to the spirit and practice of the subject. I could not recommend this more for the beginner or the more experienced practitioner who like me has lost their may and may need reminding of the fundamentals of Zazen practice.

19 people found this helpful

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great book and wonderfully narrated by S. Runnette

Unforgettable stories, experiences and a guide for livinh. Quite moving. This book is a classic, but brought to life by the narrator, Sean Runnette.
Thanks

6 people found this helpful

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Required reading for the Zen aspirant or home Zen practitioner

Clear
Useful and applicable content
Well narrated and superbly written.

As timeless as its subject

1 person found this helpful

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Sincere

This book is both brilliantly written and read. I highly recommend it for all on a spiritual path.

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The Three Pillars of Zen

This book gives a very comprehensive account of the practice of Zen meditation. Obstacles that may arise with the practise of meditation are dealt with and ways to overcome them are explained. Even a complete newcomer to Zen meditation will benefit from listening to this book and earn valuable and salient insights into meditation. The narrator has a
A voice that lends itself to easy listening.

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Too long

This book contains everything you would ever want to know about Zen but it is so drawn out and repetitive. I am sure this information could be condensed into a quarter of the size. Also too much use of Japanese terminology which is only explained once. In an audio book you can not refer back to previous definitions so sometimes I had no idea what the author was talking about.

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Very disappointed

Hard work to listen too. Don’t waste your credit. Could have been 1 hour. Dreadful

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Not for beginners!

I’ve listened to quite a few books on Buddhism in the past and i have always enjoyed them, which led me to try The Three Pillars of Zen, but I couldn’t get into this book.

The author assumes that the listener/reader already has some intermediate understanding of Zen as he uses lots of unfamiliar words that he doesn’t explain the meaning of. This made the book difficult to understand, especially while listening to it as an audiobook as there is no index to check the word meanings like the book has. Aside from that the book doesn’t seem to be set out in a clear way, it jumps from one subject to another. I couldn’t get past chapter 5.

I’m sure this book would serve useful for someone with a background in Zen but for a beginner there are much better books that are more clear and concise.

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Disappointed

I found this too in depth with unnecessary detail. Also found the narrators voice dull.
Not an interesting listen !!

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Three Pillars of Zen

Outstanding !!!
Highly recommend to others interested in Zen and Zazen
Immensely helpful for my own development of Zen and Zazen.
Loved all the stories and how Zen masters have their own ways.
Very good narration by Sean Runnette !!!!!

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  • sherry
  • 25-10-18

Insightful....

I have read/listened to a fair amount of spiritually based books, from different practices, over the years......
this is by far the most comprehendible one so far on the understanding of zen.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Capaldi
  • 16-09-17

Guidebook on Zan Buddhism

Would you consider the audio edition of The Three Pillars of Zen to be better than the print version?

You can't compare the two because they are the same thing just in different formats. Personally I own both & the previous audible version. I much prefer the previous narrator Bodhin Kjolhede. Bodhin Kjolhede was a student of the author Roshi Kjolhede & his successor & has an authentic tone & was much more enjoyable to listen too.

What other book might you compare The Three Pillars of Zen to and why?

"Body & Mind Are One: A training In Mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hanh. Also "Peach Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh. Both of these books along with The Three Pillars of Zen both are essentially about Buddhist philosophy. Thich Nhat Hanh's books primarily focus on the practice of mindfulness While Three Pillars of Zen is mostly a how too on two traditions of Japanese Zen Buddhism which focus on sitting & walking silent meditation, History of Zen, the authors personall training in zen in Japan & his personal practice as roshi (teacher) & how he adapted his teaching for westerners with approval of his teachers while keeping true to the traditions. Roshi Philip Kapleu founded The Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, NY whis was the first Budhist Zen center in the U.S.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

The narrator was ok. Honestly I'm partial to the narrator of the previous audible version Bodhin Kjolhede. Bodhin Kjolhede was a student of the author Roshi Philip Kapleu & his successor & has an authentic tone & was much more enjoyable to listen too.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Three Pillars of Zen is mostly a how too on two traditions of Japanese Zen Buddhism which focus on sitting & walking silent meditation, History of Zen, the authors personall training in zen in Japan & his personal practice as roshi (teacher) & how he adapted his teaching for westerners with approval of his teachers while keeping true to the traditions. Roshi Philip Kapleu founded The Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, NY whis was the first Budhist Zen center in the U.S.

Any additional comments?

You can find more information on the author & the center he founded by googeling "The Rochester Zen Center"

19 people found this helpful

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  • S. C. Miller
  • 21-08-18

Enlightenment achieved

I have been slowly walking down the path not necessarily to enlightenment but to awareness. I was riding on a tractor at night on the farm spreading manure while listening to the audio version of this book. While listening to the koan “mu” I dissolved into the universe. Tears and joy alternated as I was one with the awareness. My lasting impact is like others with near death experiences where seeing my eternal me has freed me from the fear of death. Forever grateful for all those seen and unseen that guided me to this awareness.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Charles F Brown
  • 24-11-18

inspired my meditation practice

Having come to Zen from other disciplines, I found this book to be helpful in defining Zen from other kinds of meditation. Descriptions of retreat experiences inspired me to try one myself. Diary entries of those who became enlightened are very helpful in navigating my zazen sit experiences.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-05-18

10/10 would read again

If you're thinking about listening, please do.
It's a very comprehensive and insightful introduction? To zen

4 people found this helpful

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  • JeffRuLz
  • 30-03-19

Zen explained for the west. Classic Japanese Zen.

I have read many books on Buddhism with a special focus on the practice of Zen. There are many forms of Zen Buddhism depending what traditional beliefs were already in place in the place when Monks came they appreciate tradition so, practices were adjusted, but the same basic message was always the same. We are all Buddha. This book is a translation from one of the last classic Zen Masters in Japan after World war 2. He did a splendid job of explaining what the difference between meditation and Zazen is. and his teachings get deeper and he tells storys that westerners can relate to. My Sanga uses the teachings of this book as the guide for our practice.
The reader was wonderful. he went slow and his perfect pronounciation of the Japanese made it very easy to follow the different name references as well as the formal and informal traditions. I will look for more books read by this person.
The basic core training practices are introduced and explained rather well. A good job was done to stay on point even while in deep dissertation regarding an in depth topic.
this book is my favorite purchase of a digital book and I listen to it often.

3 people found this helpful

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  • SALVADOR G.
  • 05-03-19

there is no way you miss this jewel

Eye opener, i feel I know about Zen now, it delivers so much value. So rich in content, it is definitely an essential one. altogether beautiful and easy to get through, a pleasure to listen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-05-19

Confusing

Not an introductory book... Could not follow the narration. Not enough background information for base knowledge.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Donna Fairbanks
  • 09-02-21

Spiritually Materialistic Striving ~ Attention!

I like that it gave me a grasp a Japanese Perspective on the Monastic Approach to teaching Zen Buddhism. The students experience, helped to personalize the interaction with the teacher. However, I was very shocked at how little insight was gleaned from such a wordy text. And, I cannot but think of the warnings of Chögyam Trungpa about deep rooted materialism. I would recommend this book to someone only if they have a good foothold on Zen Already.

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  • András Lantos
  • 21-12-20

The most useful book about Zen I've read

The most interesting parts were the dokusan and personal kensho descriptions. The details of sesshin gave me the a sense of monotonity, which might be a general phenomenon in Zen in order to "ripen" the mind. This phenomenon might be the reason why books on Zen keep repeating the same ideas; this book is no exception, but I don't see this as a problem any more (it bothered me when I read Beginner's Mind). I think this book encourages the reader to start practicing without thinking too much about the details and excuses.