20 July 2007
I'm not sure whether everything I've learned at the Hsi lai Short-term Monastic Retreat is specific to Buddhism in general or if some of it says more about Chinese Buddhism or even Chinese culture. The kind of Buddhism practiced at the Hsi Lai temple - a blend of Pure Land, Rinzai and Ch'an Buddhism - is one of the most widely practiced types of Buddhism in the world, while Zen Buddhism (the Japanese word for Ch'an) is far more well-known here in the United States, in part, because many of the very first Buddhist practitioners who came in the late 1800s and early twentieth century were from the Zen tradition and, in part, thanks to the 60s and writers like Alan Watts (The Way of Zen, etc), among many others. Maybe if I spend some time in Zen Buddhism, I'll understand more about what's central to Buddhism in general as opposed to Chinese Buddhism or Hsi Lai-specific practice.
Here are some of the key books Professor Chris Chapple from Loyola Marymount and others suggested that newbies to Buddhism read:
The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau
Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki
Buddhism by Huston Smith and Philip Novak
...and some of my favorites...
Zen Mind, Beginner Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
On Zen Practice: Body, Breath and Mind by Taizan Maezumi with Bernie Glassman
Appreciate Your Life: The Essence of Zen Practice by Taizan Maezumi Roshi