EAT SLEEP SIT: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple, by Kaoru Nonomura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Kodansha International, 2008, 324 pp., ¥2,600 (cloth)

Here is an unusually fine translation of a most unusual best-seller: the 1996 "Ku Neru Suwaru: Eiheiji Shugyoki," Kaoru Nonomura's account of the rigors and rewards of hard Zen training.

We sometimes have the odd idea that Zen means simply sitting around until satori happens. This we especially owe to the "Dharma Bums" mavens and their general innocence, but also to the more general ignorance that believes Buddhism is mere piety.

It is much more, as novice Nonomura discovered when he joined the beginners at Eiheiji, one of the most rigorous temples in Japan and head temple of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism.