Zen Questions - Praise

Zazen, Dogen, and the Spirit of Creative Inquiry

Zen Questions is a series of lucid, held-open investigations into something very simple, but also subtle and complex: the fundamental question of how we inhabit this particular moment of human awareness, in this very body and mind, in this very world. The Zen awareness presented here reaches in many directions—Leighton shows how the understandings of Zen teachers over thirteen hundred years glimmer also in a line by Bob Dylan, a phrase from a poem by Wallace Stevens. Sometimes scholarly and historical, sometimes engaged with the most contemporary of our shared societal dilemmas, Zen Questions equally introduces and expands our American understanding of Buddhist teachings, and of the many possibilities in navigating our own lives.”—Jane Hirshfield

“This is a wise and inspiring book that opens the door to the present through the timeless practice and process that we call ‘Zen.’ It is also a brave book, bringing the fierce spirit of Zen into the questions that all of us face on our planet today.”—Roshi Joan Halifax, author of Being with Dying

“How can I be a full human being? This book comes as a welcome reminder that my very questions, my shortcomings and my bad habits, are part and parcel of my practice. Taigen Leighton is full of compassion for the reader, whether a beginning or experienced practitioner: It’s okay for you to be the person you are. It’s okay for me to be the person I am. My own questioning is my completeness. I become whole simply by asking: What does it mean to be a human being? Be the question. Leighton is not only a compassionate teacher of zazen practice; he is a scholar and translator of Eihei Dogen, a passionate student of the dharma of Dylan—that’s Bob Dylan!—and an outspoken worker for social and environmental justice. Leighton takes care of the teachings of the past, through his scholarship and translation of Eihei Dogen; he takes care of the beings of the present, through teaching simple zazen practice and through honoring contemporary poets like Bob Dylan and Mary Oliver; and he takes care of the beings of the future by asking us to bring loving attention to the needs of our burning planet. Giant thanks for this book that brings me the simplicity of zazen, the dharma of Dogen and Dylan—that’s Bob Dylan!—and a sense of deep engagement with the struggle for social and environmental justice—all woven together in Taigen Leighton’s big-hearted expression.”—Susan Moon, author of Not Turning Away: The Practice of Engaged Buddhism

“Zen teacher and leading Dogen translator Taigen Dan Leighton offers his readers an impressive array of insights into Soto Zen meditation practice. Those who are fortunate enough to pick up this book will also relish his explorations of Zen ideas in several renowned poets and his Buddhist angle on consumerism, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, climate crisis, and “enlightened patriotism.”—Christopher Ives, author of Imperial-Way Zen

“Taigen Dan Leighton’s clear, accurate, and eminently useful book will save any serious Zen practitioner, or even a curious novice, years of wasted error, wrong turns, and plain old delusion. He knows what he’s talking about, and more than most, puts his Zen practice into his daily life. He's the real deal. I say this not simply as a fellow priest, friend, and long-time student of Zen, but as an admirer.”—Peter Coyote (HoSho JiShi, ordination name), actor and author.

“Taigen Dan Leighton has been writing with clarity and depth about Dogen for a long time by now. But this is the first time he’s included his own wide-ranging perspectives on dharma, society, and Bob Dylan to boot. These delightful essays take us another step down the long lonesome road toward naturalizing dharma into our own cultural matrix.”—Zoketsu Norman Fischer, author of Sailing Home

“Taigen Leighton is one of the West’s most important Zen scholar-priests and one our foremost exponents of bringing the insights we find on the pillow out into the world. In Zen Questions he reveals breadth of his mind and the depth of his heart. This book contains some enormously important reflections on the nature of shikantaza, the Zen practice of just sitting, through a close reflection on the great master Dogen Zenji as well as the Sufi poet Rumi, Bob Dylan, Mary Oliver and the American Zen original Gary Snyder. And then, perhaps even more importantly, Leighton offers a number of reflections and pointers for finding our way amid the messiness of life. This is an incredibly valuable book, useful for anyone who wishes to integrate their heart-work with work in the world.”—James Ishmael Ford, author of Zen Master WHO? co-editor of The Book of Mu

“Taigen Dan Leighton has done his homework, digs deep, and comes up with treasure.”—David Chadwick, author of Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

“Zen Questions does not have the answers—which is just as it should be because it captures the very process of constructive questioning at its best. Yet in a deeper sense, this book does have answers, as thoughtful readers may discover and match their questions to this brilliant text.”—Steven Heine, author of Did Dogen Go to China

“Unique and scintillating. I highly recommend this book to anyone who cherishes the illumination of wisdom both ancient and modern.”—Lewis Richmond, author of Work as a Spiritual Practice