Perhaps owing to the calamitous pandemic years, a wealth of books extolling the benefits of Zen meditation has appeared on the market recently. “Master Dogen’s Zazen Meditation Handbook” is one such book, but what makes it unique is that it’s likely the very first of this genre. It was written in 1231 by Eihei Dogen, the founder of Soto, the largest of Japan’s Zen Buddhist sects. Soto emphasizes meditation as a means to gradual enlightenment.

Published by Tuttle, the book consists of a translation of Dogen’s seminal “Bendowa” (“On the Endeavor of the Way”), believed by many to be the first chapter of Dogen’s masterwork “Shohogenzo” (“Treasure of the True Dharma Eye”). Though “Bendowa” is barely 25 pages long, the bulk of which is taken up by a lively question-and-answer section between Dogen and a novice monk, it clearly lays out the importance of zazen, or seated meditation, as a way of finding enlightenment. This version of “Bendowa” is translated by Zen priests Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Daniel Leighton. They also contribute the introduction and foreword, respectively.

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