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Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics

Product no.: 978-1621389736
Tutor of English to the Crown Prince (later Emperor Hirohito) of Japan, Reginald Horace Blyth (1898-1964) believed almost anything could be interpreted as an example of Zen, including the Western literary canon.

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Publisher's Synopsis
Professor Blyth, who taught in Japan before and during the war, and then went on to become a leading roshi of Zen teachings, demonstrates brilliantly how the true spirit of Zen Buddhism infuses the great literatures of both East and West.

In presenting his thesis that "all that is good in European literature and culture is simply and solely that which is in accordance with the Spirit of Zen," the author quotes extensively from Chinese and Japanese classics, from the whole range of English literature, and from German, French, Italian, and Spanish works.

"I suppose I read the book ten or eleven times straight through. As soon as I finished it, I would start it again. I had it almost memorized and could turn immediately to any particular passage. It was my 'first book,' the way Walden was the 'first book' for some of my friends, the way The Kingdom of God Is Within You was the 'first book' for Gandhi. Now when I look at it, even the type looks different, far smaller in size, and the references to Zen seem less profound. But it set my life on the course I still maintain, and I trace my orientation to culture - to literature, rhetoric, art, and music - to that single book."      ~Roshi Robert Aitken

"Reginald Horace Blyth was a London-born professor of English who began writing about Zen Buddhism while imprisoned in Japan as an enemy alien during World War II. By the time of his death in 1964, he had written more than 20 volumes on Japanese Zen, English literature and the deep relationships he found between them.

Blyth's books are free of the dry pedantry that has hobbled so many well-meaning French and English studies of Zen, free too of the breathless mystery-mongering that has bloated American Zen. Blyth's reading was broad, his literary tastes as exquisite as they were nondoctrinaire. A sound literary critic, he was much else besides - an essayist, philosopher, poet and translator of poetry whose sensibility took root in two famously disparate cultures."        ~The New York Times

"Zen is the most precious possession of Asia. With its beginnings in India, development in China, and final practical application in Japan, it is today the strongest power in the world. It is a world-power, for in so far as men live at all, they live by Zen.

Wherever there is a poetical action, a religious aspiration, a heroic thought, a union of the nature within a man and the Nature without, there is Zen. Speaking generally, in world culture we find Zen most clearly and significantly in the following: in the ancient worthies of Chinese Zen, for instance, Enô and Unmon; in the practical men of affairs of Japan, Hôjô Tokimune, for example, and in the poet Bashô; in Christ; in Eckehart, and in the music of Bach; in Shakespeare and Wordsworth. Zen in English Literature embraces the literature of Zen in Chinese and Japanese, the Chinese and Japanese Classics, and the whole extent of English Literature, with numerous quotations from German, French, Italian and Spanish Literatures.

Don Quixote has a chapter all to himself; he is for the first time, I believe, satisfactorily explained. He is the purest example, in the whole of world literature, of the man who lives by Zen; but Sancho Panza also is not so far from the Kingdom of Heaven as perhaps even his author supposed."

Many contemporary Western writers of haiku were introduced to the genre through Reginald Horace Blyth's works, including the San Francisco and Beat Generation writers: Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsberg, as well as J.D. Salinger, and American author James W. Hackett. After the War, his works renewed interest in the writing of haiku in English.

Author Blyth, R.H.
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 482 pp.
Publisher Angelico Press 2016
Browse these categories as well: Koans, Poems and Sutras, Eastern Buddhism and Zen Masters, Western Buddhism, Inspirational Poetry, Prose and Sacred Art, Syncretism and the Perennial Philosophy, Noteworthy Releases 2016

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