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Dropping Ashes on the Buddha
The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha  : The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn


 
‘Somebody comes into the Zen center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha statue, blows smoke in its face, and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?”

This is a problem which Zen Master Seung Sahn is fond of posing to his American students who attend his Zen centers. Like much of Zen literature which encourages flashes of instinctive understanding of the true way by showing the classical Zen Masters in interaction with their students, Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a record of a Zen Master’s way with his students. What makes this book different and unique, however, is that Master Seung Sahn is very much alive, that his students are young Americans, and that the dialogues set down here took place in the U.S. Thus, for the first time, the kong-an method may be seen applied within a thoroughly modern context, in place of the more familiar ancient Chinese setting customary in traditional literature.

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a delightful, irreverent, and often hilariously funny living record of the dialogue between Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn and his American students. Consisting of dialogues, stories, formal Zen interviews, Dharma speeches, and letters using the Zen Master’s actual words in spontaneous, living interaction with his students, this book is a fresh presentation of the Zen teaching method of “instant dialogue” between Master and student which, through the use of astonishment and paradox, leads to an understanding of ultimate reality.

Ven. Seung Sahn is the first Korean Zen Master to teach in the West. He attained enlightenment at the age of twenty-two. After five years in the army, he served as chairman of the committee to reform the Chogye order of Korean Buddhism and was abbot of five temples in Seoul. He spent nine years teaching in Japan, founding temples in Tokyo and Hong Kong. In 1972 he came to America with no money and no English, and supported himself for a few months by repairing washing machines in a Laundromat. He is now the director of growing Zen communities in Providence, Cambridge, New Haven, New York, and Los Angeles.

232 pages. Paperback.

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