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Publisher's Summary

What do you think of when you hear the word Zen? Many Westerners may associate Zen with the counterculture of the 1960s and '70s, while others may associate it with today’s hipster culture. Many use the word to simply mean laid-back and relaxed. 

But what does Zen really mean? Zen is a school of Buddhism and a rigorous spiritual discipline. To understand what Zen is really about, it is vital not only to study its profound philosophical teachings, but also to engage in the practice of Zen. The word Zen means meditation, and Zen meditation is a practice of “clearing the heart-mind”. For Zen, an open mind entails an open heart, and this open heart-mind is the source of both creativity and compassion. 

Professor Bret W. Davis, professor of philosophy and the T. J. Higgins, SJ, chair in philosophy at Loyola University Maryland, has created a highly accessible introduction to the philosophical concept of Zen with Real Zen for Real Life. Bringing the academic purview of a philosophy professor, the view of an academic scholar, and the spiritual experience of a practitioner and teacher of Zen, this course reflects the push and pull between Eastern and Western traditions and cultures with the goal of making the study and practice of Zen more accessible and engaging to all viewers.

Over the course of 24 lessons, including the eight meditation checkups within lessons, you will learn both what Zen has traditionally meant for East Asians and what it can mean for contemporary Westerners. Prepare to be challenged as Professor Davis asks you to set aside your preconceptions in order to open yourselves to what Zen masters who lived in the past and in distant lands have to teach you. You will especially need to be open to the possibility that Zen may be able to teach you about yourself. This course aims to challenge and inspire you, both intellectually and personally. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 The Great Courses (P)2020 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about Real Zen for Real Life

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The trick: just sit down and be quiet. Trust me.

I started this lecture to help deepen my understanding of Zen for character research for a silly project I was working on, then something happened: Zen didn't seem so unapproachable and perplexing. This lecture is earnest in its demystification of Zen as some far away ancient thing from an exotic land. Prof. Davis does a wonderful job explaining how begin a practice and demonstrating the functionality of Zen 21st century life. In the information age of 24 hour news cycles, disinformation, vitriol, confusion and suffering: Zen is more applicable now more than ever. I'm an avid listener of The Great Courses, but this one literally changed my life.

40 people found this helpful

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Interesting but Focus is Also Christianity

I was enjoying the course but he spends way too much time comparing and contrasting Buddhism with Christianity. Why not compare it with other religions? Or why compare with other religions at all? Once or twice would make sense but Christian doctrine permeates this course.

31 people found this helpful

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Excellent teacher and material

This is a "don't miss" for those interested in the topic, Dr. Davis is an internationally known scholar and practitioner of Zen who nonetheless makes the material very accessible and enjoyable. He is clear, personal, and humorous, even while presenting the history, philosophy, and practice of Zen on a very high level. I am learning so much from the course, and being inspired in my own practice. Instead of only talking about Zen concepts and figures, he also teaches how to meditate effectively ("Zen" literally means meditation) so that one can have personal experience and insights. Highly recommended!

Contents:
1 What Is Zen? Recovering the Beginner’s Mind

2 The Zen Way to Know and Forget Thyself

3 Zen Meditation: Clearing the Heart-Mind

4 How to Practice Zen Meditation

5 The Middle Way of Knowing What Suffices

Meditation Checkup: The Middle Way of Meditation

6 Embracing the Impermanence of Life

7 The True Self Is Egoless

Meditation Checkup: Lead with the Body and Physical Stillness

8 Loving Others as Yourself

9 Taking Turns as the Center of the Universe

Meditation Checkup: From Mindless Reacting to Mindful Responding

10 Who or What Is the Buddha?

11 Mind Is Buddha: If You Meet Him, Kill Him!

Meditation Checkup: Dealing with Unavoidable Pain

12 Dying to Live: Buddhism and Christianity

13 Zen beyond Mysticism: Everyday Even Mind

14 Engaged Zen: From Inner to Outer Peace

Meditation Checkup: Dealing with Distractions

15 The Dharma of Karma: We Reap What We Sow

16 Zen Morality: Follow and Then Forget Rules

17 The Zone of Zen: The Freedom of No-Mind

18 Zen Lessons from Nature: The Giving Leaves

Meditation Checkup: Three Ways of Breathing In and Out

19 Zen Art: Cultivating Naturalness

20 Zen and Words: Between Silence and Speech

Meditation Checkup: Chanting as a Meditative Practice

21 Zen and Philosophy: The Kyoto School

22 Just Sitting and Working with Koans

Meditation Checkup: Walking Meditation

23 Death and Rebirth: Or, Nirvana Here and Now

24 Reviewing the Path of Zen: The Oxherding Pictures

Finding a Zen Community

27 people found this helpful

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Great Course

I have studied Buddhism for a number of years and taught several courses on the subject. I found Professor Davis'
presentation of Zen both clarifying and illuminating. His discussion of The Ten Ox-Herding Pictures was one of the best I have come across. I also appreciated his down-to-earth style of presentation.

William Garlington
Extended Education
California State University Channel Islands

5 people found this helpful

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Great!

This course is Excellent. This is a perfect companion course to the other TGC classes on Buddhism.

5 people found this helpful

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Highly recommend

I knew nothing about Zen so this lecture series was perfect. Clear, insightful and well organised in presentation of information. BUT also friendly and entertaining in performance. So rich with explanation, I will be listening to this series many times for years to come. Thank you Professor Davis, you have deepened by understanding and I have made some behavioural changes as a result :)

4 people found this helpful

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An Enlightening Lecture

this audiobook surprised me with it's incredible content and the knowledge of the presenter. if you are looking to understand Zen Buddhism, or Buddhism in general, 5h8s is an amazing way to do it, and even better then the Buddhism for Dummies book (which is amazing too).

if you are coming from a Christian perspective, this is a great audiobook for you, as the presenter intertwines the two to help you understand the many similarities between them.

if you want to know more, get this audiobook... you won't be dissatisfied

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balanced bias and beautiful insight

The book helped me understand old issues I've had with Christianity and opened my eyes to a myriad of things I'd like to continue investigating within zen. so glad it exists and that I've been able to find it.

2 people found this helpful

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Hard topics made easy

There are many difficult topics in buddhism. Unless we struggle with it before, we would not appreciate the way it is clarified by the writer

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What an insightful look into the life of a Zen

This has become one of my all time favorites and I will continue to refer back to it as I practice. I enjoyed trying to guess who some of the stories were from...Thank you for hard work.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-08-21

Great. With some noticeable BUTS.

This lecturer is obviously not a fool: he is a tried and tested philosopher, he wrote books about Heidegger, and his personal story is interesting, basically a Western philosopher who lived in Japan to learn Easter philosophy first hand. Hats off.

However, I feel that sometimes he washes down philosophy with platitudes such as "we are all interconnected ". I don't believe that for one second, and now more than ever before I am convinced that "in the end, each of us must stand alone.", as Schopenhauer wrote.

Also, elsewhere he takes the most extravagant leap by stating that "nihilism is a mistaken view" (don't remember exact words, but it was a similar statement). Well, I wish I could agree! Unless people can be resurrected and I am missing something, and unless I am delusional, which I am not, there is indeed nothing. Yes there's something now, but it will be gone soon, one must read Marcus Aurelius multiple times to understand that (I recommend the Oxford Classics edition).

I am no Buddhism expert as the lecturer is, but I have dabbled with it when I trained briefly in martial arts. The notion that "we are interconnected" is alien to me. If by that we mean that when I go to the supermarket someone roasted some chicken legs that I then buy, well, duh.

But interconnection has never truly existed between people. Maybe the lecturer means people SHOULD be interconnected. Anyways, these are but fantasies. All I can do is try to strengthen my own mind and stare at this desert around me.

Frankly, I don't care anymore. Complete isolation doesn't scare me, and I am glad of this. As Schopenhauer wrote: "Your ability to be alone is directly proportional to whether you have a rich inner life, or a poor one. Most people are like children: they cannot bear to be left alone. But anyone who has any inner worth will gladly do without other people.". and "Great minds are like eagles: they are found only on the highest peaks of solitude.". Isn't that true? Of course it is. Why else the Buddha himself, the Musashis, the Tsunetomos, and others like them, meditated alone in a cave or under a tree? Even many Wester philosophers have been loners. Schopenhauer explains all this clearly in his brilliant "Parerga" especially in the "Wisdom of Life" and the amazing "Counsels and Maxims" sections.

I feel that the lecturer is washing down the truth. Undoubtedly, he is doing this as a sincere effort to ease the existential pain of people, but it is a bit like telling children about Santa. I see this tendency with all the best thinkers today: they are all too afraid to state the truth. Though I am sure in their heart they know it. Still, I try not to look for perfection, but for uselfuness, and even though there's several things that do not convince me at all as to what Zen is claimed to be, I fully recommend the course to anyone. Even to myself.

2 people found this helpful

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  • The world's greatest idiot
  • 12-15-20

Fantastic course...highly practical.

This is a cracker, super easy to listen to and highly pragmatic. A joy for the beginner and the seasoned Zen student.

2 people found this helpful