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12. Contemporary Scholarship

While our purpose in this Study Guide is to study Buddhism as practitioners, not scholars, our practice is much informed by contemporary scholarship. We have been reading, and in conversation, for years, with a number of America’s most important Buddhist scholars, most of whom have a significant relationship to practice.

Contemporary scholarship tends to focus on historical or social issues, that is, what actually has happened and does happen in religious life, rather than what scriptures or sermons say ought to happen. Such an attitude is often a challenge to religious groups, who tend to see it as debunking or disrespectful.

But for Everyday Zen, dedicated to the Zen practice we can do, rather than the Zen practice we should or could do, or imagine people did in an idealized past, this contemporary approach is refreshing and empowering. The books below are distinctly academic, and may not be to the taste of everyone. Many more could have been included, but these are books that have been important for us so far.

Study Guide

Please note: we are currently the process of editing and properly categorizing our teachings library. The teachings will become available here in the study guide as soon as they’re ready, please check back soon.

1. The Rhetoric of Immediacy

By Bernard Faure | 1994 | Princeton University Press | ISBN 0691029636

The first and most important among Faure’s many works that completely re-conceive Zen history. Brilliant, erudite, witty, and well schooled in French de-constructionism, Faure’s books are a treat if you have a taste for them.

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2. Feminism and Religion

By Rita M. Gross | 1996 | Beacon Press | ISBN 0807067857

Rita Gross’s reflections on the importance of a feminist approach to religious study and practice.

3. The Koan | Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism

By Dale S. Wright, Steven Heine | 2000 | Oxford University Press | ISBN 0195117484

Another collection of scholarly essays about the origins and uses of the koan literature in Zen history.

4. Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism

By Dale S. Wright | 2000 | Cambridge University Press | ISBN 0521789842

A wonderful though dense book contextualizing Zen thought in contemporary terms.

5. Buddhism After Patriarchy | A feminist history, analysis, and reconstruction of Buddhism

By Paula Arai | 1999 | Oxford University Press | ISBN 019512393X

A remarkable study of Soto Zen Buddhist nuns, based on both historical evidence and ethnographic data. Paula Arai shows that nuns were central agents in the foundation of Buddhism in Japan in the sixth century, have been active participants in the Soto Zen sect, and continue to contribute to the advancement of the sect to the present day.

6. Soto Zen in Medieval Japan

By William M. Bodiford | 1993 | University of Hawaii Press | ISBN 0824814827

An exhaustive and eye-opening history.

7. Double Exposure | Cutting Across Buddhist and Western Discourses (Cultural Memory in the Present)

By Bernard Faure | 2003 | Stanford University Press | ISBN 0804743487

Bernard’s brilliant discussion of comparative philosophy East and West.

8. Seeing Through Zen | Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism

By John R. MacRae | 2004 | University of California Press | ISBN 0520237986

The pun of the title is a clue to the spirit of this informed and informative book.

9. Zen Ritual

By Dale S. Wright, Steven Heine | 2007 | Oxford University Press | ISBN 0195304683

This collection of scholarly essays discusses Zen ritual throughout history from a variety of standpoints. Not necessary to read to appreciate the audio files.

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10. Did Dogen Go to China? | What He Wrote and When He Wrote It

By Steven Heine | 2006 | Oxford University Press | ISBN 0195305922

More detail than you ever wanted to know about Dogen’’s career.

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Norman has a conversation with David Hinton, an American poet and translator who specializes in Chinese literature on bringing the true meaning of the Chinese teachings into everyday terms and
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