Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction

by Peter D. Hershock

Critical Issues in World and International History

Publisher: Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield
Available From: Rowman & Littlefield
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4422-1612-9
Binding: cloth
Pages: 290


Among Buddhist traditions, Zen has been remarkably successful in garnering and sustaining interest outside the Buddhist homelands of Asia, and "zen" is now part of the global cultural lexicon. This deeply informed book explores the history of this enduring Japanese tradition--from its beginnings as a form of Buddhist thought and practice imported from China to its reinvention in medieval Japan as a force for religious, political, and cultural change to its role in Japan's embrace of modernity. Going deeper, it also explores Zen through the experiences and teachings of key individuals who shaped Zen as a tradition committed to the embodiment of enlightenment by all. By bringing together Zen's institutional and personal dimensions, Peter D. Hershock offers readers a nuanced yet accessible introduction to Zen as well as distinctive insights into issues that remain relevant today, including the creative tensions between globalization and localization, the interplay of politics and religion, and the possibilities for integrating social transformation with personal liberation.

Including an introduction to the basic teachings and practices of Buddhism and an account of their spread across Asia, "Public Zen, Personal Zen" deftly blends historical detail with the felt experiences of Zen practitioners grappling with the meaning of human suffering, personal freedom, and the integration of social and spiritual progress.

© Rowman & Littlefield


Details and ordering information at Rowman & Littlefield.

1. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha from India to China
2. The Japanese Transformation of Buddhism
3. From Chinese Chan to Japanese Zen
4. Rinzai Zen
5. Sōtō Zen
6. Ōbaku Zen
7. Zen in a Modernizing Japan
8. Practicing Zen
9. Zen Exemplars: Dōgen, Ikkyū, Hakuin, and Ryōkan
10. Zen Here and Now


"Books on Zen Buddhism generally aim to accomplish one of two goals: either to be a scholarly, historical study of the development of the tradition or a pragmatic study that explains the ramifications of the Zen life for value questions we face today. Rarely does a book accomplish both goals, but this one does. Readers will be indebted to Peter Hershock for his care in treating the tradition in a balanced, scholarly manner while going beyond that scholarship to explain why Zen maintains its importance for engaging the personal and global problems of our times. A masterwork both informative and enlightening."

Thomas P. Kasulis, Ohio State University


"This superb book is a welcome follow-up to the author's Chan Buddhism and an enriching complement to Thomas Kasulis's Zen Action, Zen Person. Of special value here are the connections drawn between the history of Zen and its contemporary developments, as well as between personal and social practices and ideas. As in his previous writings, what gives Peter Hershock's comprehensive understanding of the Buddhist tradition an especially keen edge is his ongoing experiential engagement with the practice of meditation and his emphasis on engaged activity in the actual world."."

Graham Parkes, University College Cork


"In this illuminating narrative of Chan/Zen history, Peter Hershock provides an exemplary balance, which is frequently missing, by bridging the gap between the 'outsider/objective' and 'insider/subjective' approaches to Zen tradition. This is not an easy line to navigate, and one that most scholars fear to tread. Hershock succeeds admirably, thus showing that there is room within scholarship for an integrated or holistic approach to religious ideas. While there are a number of good introductory works on Japanese religions and a few on Japanese Buddhism, there are surprisingly few texts dealing exclusively with Chan/Zen as a whole and precisely none that deal with both the historical/social and doctrinal/practice elements of this complex tradition. This book fills an important niche."."

James Mark Shields, Bucknell University