What Buddhist book has had a significant impact on your practice?

I don’t quite remember how Kosho Uchiyama Roshi’s treasure of a book, Opening the Hand of Thought, came to me. I had heard about Uchiyama Roshi, heard he was a plain rice roshi, someone who valued “just sitting,” shikantaza.

Uchiyama Roshi was the abbot of Antai-ji, a small practice center near Kyoto. I never met him, but his life, his perspective, his writings, and his direct way of practice met me like an old friend. On my first read of Opening the Hand of Thought, I felt that Roshi had captured my experience not only of zazen but also of life, with words that were transparent, rendering reality accessible. He was sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, and always wise. He also was unrelenting and encouraged unrelenting zazen. He made it clear that practice starts right where we are, and where we are year after year for ten, twenty, thirty years. Through him and this wonderful book, I came to see that zazen was not a passing fancy but all of life and full of life. So I folded my legs under me, set my spine straight, and just sat. No sauce, no gravy, just plain-rice sitting.

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