ENCOURAGING WORDS: Zen Buddhist Teachings for Western Students
Robert Aitken
Pantheon: New York, 1993.

231 pp., $23.00 (hardback).

Sam Hamill

ALTHOUGH the introduction of Zen Buddhism in Western culture begins with the appearance of Soyen Shaku at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, its influence really begins with the publication of D. T. Suzuki’s Essays in Zen Buddhism in London in 1927. About the same time as Suzuki:.. essays appeared, Nyogen Senzaki, the first Zen teacher to take up residence in the United States, began teaching meditation. And ever since that time, Westerners have struggled to adapt Zen Buddhist dharma teaching to Western cultural situations. As Robert Aitken points out in his introduction to Encouraging Words, we Westerners are often confronted with traditions, from the monastic male-dominated traditional teaching methods to the absence of any specific Buddhist moral code, that challenge our more egalitarian social order, including dealing with the particulars of feminism, family structure, and jobs, to say nothing of Buddhist experience in the realms of politics and economics.

Aitken notes that where Asian teachers rely on aspects of Confucianism for daily guidance in social affairs, we who are often ignorant of such practical philosophy

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