An Introduction to Zen Training: Sanzen Nyumon

An Introduction to Zen Training: Sanzen Nyumon


An Introduction to Zen Training is the first English language translation of Omori Sogen’s seminal Sanzen Nyumon, produced by Daihonzan Chozen-ji in 1996. FIRST EDITION HARDCOVER.

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From the inside cover:

Introduction to Zen Training is a translation of Sanzen Nyumon, a key text by one of the foremost Zen teachers of the twentieth century. Omori Sogen’s approach to Zen was unique, being very direct and physical as befitted a master of swordsmanship. He was able to illustrate his points by drawing upon the vigorous tradition of Zen and the martial arts that flourished during the samurai era, but his scholarship in both Chinese and Japanese Zen was no less informed, and he was able to bring alive many of the traditional teaching stories in a distinctive way.

This text was written to provide a solid introduction to the physical nature of training — discussing breath, pain, posture, drowsiness, state of mind and physiology — as well as the context in which Zen training takes on meaning. In the first two chapters he discusses the rational for zazen, the form of meditation that is the foundation of Zen training. Although seemingly a simple activity, zazen is not just ‘quiet sitting’, and it is valuable to see it so thoroughly defined as it is here. The next chapter provides solid instruction on how to to sit zazen, and how to adjust breathing, posture and state of mind.

This is just the starting point. Introduction to Zen Training is one of the few books to address many of the questions that naturally arise as training begins, ranging from how long one should sit at a time to how to maintain concentration when not sitting. The book ends with commentaries on two Zen texts that help to place all of the instruction in context. Hakuin, the renowned Zen master of eighteenth-century Japan, wrote the text Zazen Wasan — ‘A Song of Zen’ — to make zazen understandable in everyday terms to laymen of his time. Omori Sogen takes the same text and makes it meaningful to our era. He finishes by using the traditional Ten Ox-Herding Pictures to show the rigor and physicality of Zen training.