OzZen Study Guide

OzZen is affiliated with the Ordinary Mind Zen School (OMZS), established by Charlotte Joko Beck and her dharma successors in 1995.  OzZen is dedicated to maintaining the spirit of Joko Beck’s teaching and Barry Magid’s vision of a psychologically minded Zen practice, adapted to the needs of Australian students practicing in the context of their everyday lives.

Barry Magid has been at the forefront of integrating Zen and Psychotherapy, what Ken Wilbur calls the “fourth turning” of the dharma wheel: growing up and waking up. OzZen is also committed to Barry Magid’s vision that the Dharma can be fully practiced, realized, and transmitted amid lay life.  OzZen is dedicated to valuing and appreciating this life, and for our practice to be contribute to the cultivation of a compassionate Australian culture, to create the requisite conditions for all people to experience happiness and peace in this time and place.

The OzZen Study Guide is designed to encourage students of the universal way to familiarise themselves with all the different forms of Zen Buddhism as well as how Zen Buddhism fits into the larger family of Buddhism, including contemporary dialogues with Advaita Vedanta and Western philosophy, science and psychotherapy.

It is designed for students to follow their own interests and curiosity to explore this wonderful world of dharma studies. The OzZen study guide includes references to books and articles, with brief introductions, along with selected talks (recorded and transcribed) by Andrew Tootell, guest teachers and senior students on various topics.

We would also like you to send in suggested readings that you found helpful to be included in the study guide. If you would like to discuss the study guide with Andrew, please book a private interview (available every second Tuesday morning) on the OzZen website. Andrew is happy to co-design a study plan with you in accordance with your interests.

1. Joko Beck and the Ordinary Mind Zen School

Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011) practiced with Japanese teachers Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, and later Yatsutani Roshi and Soen Roshi at the Los Angeles Zen Center. In 1983, she was designated Maezumi’s third dharma heir and then taught at the Zen Center of San Diego. She founded the Ordinary Mind Zen School. This book is based on edited informal talks from the Zen centre. The teaching approach in Everyday Zen departs from a monastic tradition removed from the everyday world.

Charlotte Joko Beck expands on the teaching presented in Everyday Zen: Love and Work, providing additional material on Zen practice in daily life. It presents a down to earth approach to Zen, particularly helpful for western students and non-monastic practitioners living in the everyday messy world.

Brenda Beck Hess, Charlotte Joko Beck’s daughter, compiled and edited the material for this book. It is based on previously unpublished teachings that explore our “core beliefs”—the hidden, negative convictions we hold about ourselves that direct our thoughts and behaviour and prevent us from experiencing life as it is.

Elihu Genmyo Smith is a dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck and a co-founder of the Ordinary Mind Zen School. His commentary on a range of Zen koans and teachings is presented in five sections: 1) Practice, 2) Impermanence, 3) Nonself, 4) On Being Transparency, and 5) Jukai, Three Treasures, Three Precepts.

2. Precepts and Ordination

Dianne Eshin Rizzetto presents and discusses the nine Buddhist precepts used as part of Zen training in ethical behaviour. The Zen precepts are presented as tools to develop a keen awareness of the motivations behind every aspect of our behaviour—to “wake up to what we do”—from moment to moment. Dianne was a student of the late Charlotte Joko Beck, founder of the Ordinary Mind Zen school.

Reb Anderson goes beyond the conventional interpretation of ethical precepts to the ultimate meaning that informs them. Anderson goes to the heart of situations, where moral judgments are not easy and where we do not have all the answers.

3. Ritual and Liturgy

Shohaku Okumura translates the collection of writings – chants, verses, poems, sutras and dedications of merit – from the Soto Zen tradition. Includes the Four Bodhisattva Vows and the Heart Sutra.

This book provides a concise introduction to Zen chants. Kaz Tanahashi begins with an introduction to where the texts come from, how they were practiced historically,and how they got transmitted to the Western Zen world. He then presents his own translations of thirty-five chants commonly used in Zen centers, with analysis of their meanings.

4. Pali Buddhism

Stephen Batchelor is committed to a secularized version of the Buddha’s teachings. Based on the author’s practice in the Tibetan, Zen, and Theravada traditions, the book attempts to set the record straight about who the Buddha was and what he was trying to teach. Batchelor depicts the Buddha as a pragmatic ethicist rather than a dogmatic metaphysician. He envisions Buddhism as a constantly evolving culture of awakening whose long survival is due to its capacity to reinvent itself and interact creatively with each society it encounters.

Miri Albahari draws on literature from Western philosophy, neuroscience and Buddhism. The author argues that there is no self. The self – as unified owner and thinker of thoughts – is an illusion created by two tiers. A tier of naturally unified consciousness (notably absent in standard bundle-theory accounts) merges with a tier of desire-driven thoughts and emotions to yield the impression of a self. So while the self, if real, would think up the thoughts, the thoughts, in reality, think up the self.

5. Mahayana and Tantric Teachings

a. Diamond Sutra

Red Pine is a translator and Buddhist scholar who is an expert on the Diamond Sutra. His translation is based on commentaries in both Chinese and Sanskrit. Along with the Heart Sutra, which monks recite all over the world, the Diamond Sutra is said to contain answers to all questions of delusion and dualism. This is the Buddhist teaching on the “perfection of wisdom” and the diamond of its title is said to cut through everything on its way to enlightenment.

b. Heart Sutra

Karl Brunnhölzl guides practitioners through the Heart Sutra, one of Buddhism’s most famous texts. He believes the sutra is a sweeping attack on everything we hold most dear: our troubles, the world as we know it, even the teachings of the Buddha himself. Overcoming fear, the Buddha teaches, is not to be accomplished by shutting down or building walls around oneself, but instead by opening up to understand the illusory nature of everything we fear—including ourselves.

The short text of The Heart Sutra is one of the most wide-reaching influences of any text in Mahayana Buddhism. Its full title is Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra, “The Sutra of the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom”. For this translation into English, Red Pine, has utilized various Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the text.

c. Madhyamaka (Middle Way)

The Buddhist saint Nagarjuna, lived in South India in approximately the second century CE. He is considered the most important Mahayana Buddhist philosopher. His greatest philosophical work, the Mulamadhyamikakarika, is studied in all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea.

d. Yogacara

Reb Anderson introduces the Samdhinirmocana Sutra. The main purpose behind this enigmatic sutra is to reconcile the apparent contradictions between the original teachings of the historical Buddha and the later teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. Anderson reflects on the metaphysical questions proposed-the nature of ultimate reality, the structure of human consciousness, the characteristics of phenomena, the stages of meditation, and the essential qualities of a buddha.

In fourth-century India one of the great geniuses of Buddhism, Vasubandhu, sought to reconcile the diverse ideas and forms of Buddhism practiced at the time and demonstrate how they could be effectively integrated into a single system. This was the Yogacara movement, and it continues to have great influence in modern Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. Ben Connelly guides the reader through the intricacies of Yogacara and the richness of the “Thirty Verses.”

Red Pine translates the Lankavatara Sutra. Zen’s First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, gave a copy of this text to his successor, Hui-k’o. Passed down from teacher to student ever since, this is considered to be the only Zen sutra actually spoken by the Buddha. Although it covers all the major teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, it contains only two teachings: that everything we perceive as being real is nothing but the perceptions of our own mind and that the knowledge of this is something that must be realized and experienced for oneself and cannot be expressed in words.

e. Buddha-Nature Teachings

The Buddhist Self is a methodical examination of Indian teaching about the tathāgatagarbha (otherwise known as “Buddha-nature”) and the extent to which different Buddhist texts and authors articulated this in terms of the self. Jones argues that the trajectory of Buddha-nature thought in India is also the history and legacy of a Buddhist account of what deserves to be called the self: an innovative attempt to equip Mahāyāna Buddhism with an affirmative response to wider Indian interest in the discovery of something precious or even divine in one’s own constitution.

f. Mahamudra

Peter Alan Roberts translates for Tibetan lamas. The Mind of Mahamudra highlights mahamudra, the central meditation practice of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The six texts range in date from the twelfth to the seventeenth century and include authors such as Lama Shang and the Third Karmapa. Mahamudra is  a simple, direct method for looking beyond our thoughts to the very nature of conscious experience.

g. Dzogchen

Tsoknyi Rinpoche is a renowned teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, trained outside of Tibet. He is well versed in both the practical and philosophical disciplines of Tibetan Buddhism. Fearless Simplicity is about training in the awakened state of mind, the atmosphere within which all difficulties naturally dissolve. Confidence and being in harmony with every situation is the basis for true compassion and intelligence

6. History of Zen Buddhism

A comprehensive guide to the history of Zen Buddhism, including important figures, schools, foundational texts, practices, and politics. It includes commentary on Bodhidharma sitting in meditation in a cave, intense Dharma combat of the Tang and Song Dynasties; Zen nuns and laypeople holding their own against patriarchal lineages; the appearance of new masters in the Zen schools of Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and later the Western world.

Buddhist scholar Sam van Schaik explores the history and essence of Zen, based on a new translation of one of the earliest surviving collections of teachings by Zen masters. These teachings, titled The Masters and Students of the Lanka, were discovered in a sealed cave on the old Silk Road, in modern Gansu, China, in the early twentieth century.

7. Chan Buddhism (Chinese Ancestors)

American Chan teacher Guo Gu provides a translation and concise commentary on one of Bodhidharma’s most important texts – Two Entries and Four Practices, which explores the story behind Bodhidharma’s journey through China and his revolutionary teachings.

Guo Gu provides a translation of the classic text Gateless Barrier, originally compiled by Chan master Wumen Huikai (1183-1260), along with English commentary.

Guo Gu introduces the practice of silent illumination through in-depth explanations and guided instructions. The foundation of the book is a translation of twenty-five teachings from the influential master Hongzhi Zhengjue into English, accompanied by his personal commentary.

David Hinton discusses Zen with reference to Chinese philosophy and culture. In its original form Chan was greatly influenced by the philosophy of Taoism and the art, poetry and concepts prevalent in Chinese culture as Chan evolved from its Indian origins. Hinton translates key Zen texts and koans to provide a unique perspective on Zen concepts and practices.

David Hinton translates the famous koan collection No-gate Gateway: Wu-Men Kuan (Chinese), Mumonkan (Japanese). Hinton places the work within the philosophical framework of China, providing new insights into the koans developed in the Chan tradition. At the time poetry, calligraphy and painting were broadly considered part of Chan practice and teaching. The author of Wu-Men Kuan was Wu-Mem Kai (1138 to 1260 CE, Sung Dynasty), also known as No-Gate Prajna-Clear.

The Platform Sutra is central to Zen (Ch’an)  It is often linked with The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra to form a trio of texts. The Platform Sutra presents the life and work of Hui-neng, the controversial sixth patriarch of Zen, and his understanding of the fundamentals of a spiritual and practical life.

Daniel Leighton places Hongzhi’s work in its historical context, as well as providing lineage charts and other information about the Chinese influence on Japanese Soto Zen. First to articulate the meditation method known to contemporary Zen practitioners as shikantaza (“just sitting”) Chinese Zen master Hongzhi is one of the most influential poets in Zen literature.

The Platform Sutra occupies a central place in Zen (Ch’an) Buddhism. It is often linked with The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra to form a trio of texts. However, unlike the other sutras, which transcribe the teachings of the Buddha himself, The Platform Sutra presents the life and work of Hui-neng, the controversial sixth patriarch of Zen, and his understanding of the fundamentals of a spiritual and practical life. Hui-neng’s instruction continues to influence the Rinzai and Soto schools of contemporary Zen.

8. Dogen and the Soto School

Thomas Cleary’s work consists of selections from the thirteenth century writings of Dogen Zenji’s two masterworks, Shobogenzo (Treasury of Eyes of True Teaching) and Eihei Koruko (Universal Book of Eternal Peace). Considered an important English translation of this major Japanese contribution to Zen Buddhism.

Thomas Cleary translates Dogen Zenji Goroku, a popular collection of sayings and writings of the famous thirteenth century Zen master Dogen,  the founder of the Soto sect of Zen in Japan. The translation includes traditional commentaries elucidating the experiential meaning of the Zen language Dogen uses in his talks and writings.

Shohaku Okamura provides in depth commentary and analysis on an important part of Shobogenzo – the first chapter which introduces Dogen’s philosophy and approach to bodhisattva practice. Excerpt from Shobogenzo: To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be verified by all things. To be verified by all things is to let the body and mind of the self and the body and mind of others drop off. There is a trace of realization that cannot be grasped. We endlessly express this ungraspable trace of realization.

Commentary and analysis on Sansuikyo (Mountain and Waters Sutra). Contributions by Carl Bielefeldt, Gary Snyder and Issho Fujita. This sutra is a poetic work by Dogen Zenji. It addresses the true dharma eye that sees the Buddhas body in everything, even negative things. Dogen asks how we can have such eyes and ears.

Brad Warner is an American Zen teacher probably best known for his first book Hardcore Zen. A fan of punk rock and Japanese monster movies, he was a student of the Japanese Zen priest and teacher Gudo Wafu Nishijima (1919-2014), a modern translator of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Brad Warner provides a commentary on Dogen’s Shobogenzo – Treasury of the Right (True) Dharma Eye in plain English.  

Kazuaki Tanahashi, collaborating with several other Zen authorities, has produced translations of Dogen’s most important texts. Moon in a Dewdrop contains the key essays of the great master, as well as extensive background materials. There is also a selection of Dogen’s poetry, most of which had not appeared in English translation before.

Enlightenment Unfolds is a sequel to Kaz Tanahashi’s previous collection, Moon in a Dewdrop. Enlightenment Unfolds presents more of the writings of Dogen Zenji, focusing on essays from his great life work, Treasury of the True Dharma Eye , as well as poems, talks, and correspondence, much of which appeared in English for the first time.

John Daido Loori edits this volume on Shikantaza or “just sitting”, one of the simplest, most subtle forms of meditation, and one of the most easily misunderstood. Writings from the Buddha himself to Bodhidharma and Dogen, and many of modern Zen Buddhism’s most influential masters, are included.

Kosho Uchiyama was a student of Kodo Sawaki. This work focuses on the importance of sitting meditation (zazen) and talks about important points of Zen philosophy such as emptiness and the Four Seals. Opening the hand of thought refers to letting go of conceptions of reality right now by letting go of the accidental things that arise in our minds.

Arthur Braverman has compiled an anthology of Kodo Sawaki’s writings and sayings gathered from throughout his lifetime. One of a few collections of Sawaki’s teachings published in English, his life and work bracket an intriguing and influential period of modern Zen practice in Japan and America.

An English translation by Daruma Scott Mangis, a student of Jinen Nagai Roshi, of a text called The Essence of Zen by Gien Inoue Roshi, who was Jinen’s teacher.  Jinen always told Daruma that the only book he needed to read about Zen was The Essence of Zen by Gien Roshi. 

9. Koans

Robert Aitken (1917-2010, Diamond Sangha, Honolulu) translated and provided commentary on the koan series Gateless Barrier or Wú-mén Kuān (Mumonkan). This is a fundamental koan collection in the literature of Zen. The collection was gathered by Wu-Men a thirteenth century Chan master of the Lin-Chi (Jap. Rinzai) school. It is composed of 48 cases, each accompanied by a brief comment and poem by Wu-men. Includes classic koans such as Chao-chou’s Dog and Yu-men’s Dried Shitstick.

Thomas Cleary presents a translation of the Blue Cliff Record, the Pi Yen Lu collection of one hundred koans, accompanied by commentaries and appreciative verses. Originally compiled in the twelfth Century.

Thomas Yuho Kirchner is a Zen monk and translator. The work is  translation of the Shumon Kattoshu, the only major koan text to have been compiled in Japan rather than China. First printed in 1689 but original author(s) unknown. The collection includes most of the contemporary Rinzai koan collection. Unlike the Gateless Barrier and Blue Cliff Record, the koans in this work are presented bare, with no introductions, commentaries or verses. Contains 227 cases with notes. Includes a comprehensive biography of each koans author.

Thomas Cleary translates the Book of Serenity into English. The source is a translation of Shoyo Roku, a collection of one hundred Zen koans with commentaries that stands as a companion to the other great Chinese koan collection, the Blue Cliff Record (Pi Yen Lu). A classic of Chan (Chinese Zen) Buddhism.

Thomas Cleary’s translation of the classic Denkoroku. Attributed to the thirteenth-century Zen Master Keizan (1268–1325), Transmission of Light (along with The Blue Cliff Record and The Gateless Barrier ) is one of three essential koan texts used by Zen students. Techniques for reaching the enlightening experience of satori are revealed through fifty-three short tales about the awakenings of successive generations of masters, beginning with the twelfth-century Zen master Ejo, dharma heir to Dogen.

In The Gateless Gate, a modern Zen Buddhist master comments on the Mumonkan, one of Zen’s greatest collections of teaching stories. This translation was compiled with the Western reader in mind and includes Koan Yamada’s comments on each case. Yamada played a seminal role in bringing Zen Buddhism to the West from Japan, going on to be the head of the Sanbo Kyodan Zen Community.

10. Buddhism and Zen in the West

Joseph Goldstein’s source teaching for this book is the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha’s legendary discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness that became the basis for the many types of Vipassana (or insight meditation) practiced today.

McMahan documents a lineage of Buddhist modernism, including scientific reformulations of Buddhist concepts of causality, interdependence, and meditation. It also draws on Romantic and Transcendentalist conceptions of cosmology. Additionally, Buddhism is presented as a kind of psychology or interior science, drawing both upon analytic psychology and current trends in neurobiology. In its novel approaches to meditation and mindfulness, as well as political activism, it draws heavily from western individualism, distinctively modern modes of world-affirmation, liberal political sensibilities, and modernist literary sources.

11. Buddhism, Avaita Vedanta and Western Philosophy

The purpose of Rupert Spira’s book is to look clearly and simply at the nature of experience, without any attempt to change it. A series of contemplations lead us gently but directly to see that our essential nature is neither a body nor a mind.

The Essence of Meditation Series presents meditations on the essential, non-dual understanding that lies at the heart of all the great religious and spiritual traditions, compiled from contemplations led by Rupert Spira at his meetings and retreats.

Leesa Davis explores the relationship between the philosophical underpinnings of Advaita Vedanta, Zen Buddhism and the experiential journey of spiritual practitioners. Taking the perspective of the questioning student, the author highlights the experiential deconstructive processes that are ignited when students’ “everyday” dualistic thought structures are challenged by the non-dual nature of these teachings and practices. Although Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism are ontologically different, this unique study shows that in the dynamics of the practice situation they are phenomenologically similar.

The chapters in this collection investigate the linked issues of egological vs nonegological accounts of consciousness and the reflexivity of consciousness from the diverse perspectives of phenomenology, analytic philosophy, the Buddhist philosophical tradition, and the Indian school of Advaita Vedânta.

Dan Zahavi argues that the notion of self is crucial for a proper understanding of consciousness. He investigates the interrelationships of experience, self-awareness, and selfhood, proposing that none of these three notions can be understood in isolation. Any investigation of the self, Zahavi argues, must take the first-person perspective seriously and focus on the experiential givenness of the self. Subjectivity and Selfhood explores a number of phenomenological analyses pertaining to the nature of consciousness, self, and self-experience in light of contemporary discussions in consciousness research.

Miri Albahari draws on literature from Western philosophy, neuroscience and Buddhism. The author argues that there is no self. The self – as unified owner and thinker of thoughts – is an illusion created by two tiers. A tier of naturally unified consciousness (notably absent in standard bundle-theory accounts) merges with a tier of desire-driven thoughts and emotions to yield the impression of a self. So while the self, if real, would think up the thoughts, the thoughts, in reality, think up the self.

Peter Fenner created the Radiant Mind practice to help you break through the obstacles that are often challenging for practitioners in our culture. Drawing upon his background in both Eastern spirituality and Western psychology, Fenner presents a precise, step-by-step approach to non-dual practice.

12. Zen and Psychotherapy

Barry Magid was a student of and is a dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck, and is a founding teacher of the Ordinary Mind Zen school. He is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst based in New York City. In this book Zen practice is informed by a psychoanalytical perspective from within self psychology and inter-subjectivity. The book addresses Buddhist concepts such as oneness, emptiness and enlightenment.

Barry Magid explores Zen koans and uses his knowledge of psychology to look at many issues that arise in Zen practice and everyday life, particularly the dualism that is often unconscious and creates problems.

This book develops acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a revolutionary and exciting new direction in psychotherapy, into step-by-step exercises readers can use to get relief from emotional pain. Written by ACT’s founding theorist, the book offers a self-help program proven to be effective for coping with a range of problems, from anxiety to depression, eating disorders to poor self-esteem.

13. Zen and the Arts

Awakened Cosmos by David Hinton is a collection of translations of the poetry of Tu FU (712 – 770 CE) with explanations and interpretation.  Tu Fu is widely considered to be China’s greatest poet.  He was born and lived until middle age under the T’ang Dynasty. When he was 43 a civil war broke out, started by the An Lushan rebellion, and this was to dominate his experience for the rest of his life.

14. Zen and Indigenous Cultures

In The Shamanic Bones of Zen, Buddhist teacher Zenju Earthlyn Manuel undertakes a rich exploration of the connections between contemporary Zen practice and shamanic, or indigenous, spirituality. Drawing on her personal journey with the Black church, with African, Caribbean, and Native American ceremonial practices, and with Nichiren and Zen Buddhism, she builds a compelling case for cultivating the shamanic, or magical, elements in Buddhism – many of which have been marginalized by colonialist and modernist forces in the religion. The book conveys guidance for listeners interested in Zen practice including ritual, preparing sanctuaries, engaging in chanting practices, and deepening embodiment with ceremony.

15. Socially Engaged Buddhism

Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft edit this anthology of Buddhist writings that provide a philosophical and spiritual basis for a Buddhist point of view on ecology and the environment. It includes traditional Buddhist teachings and modern examples of environmental activism and social engagement. Authors include the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Gary Snyder and Joanna Macy.

David Loy writes at the intersection between Buddhism and ecology/climate crisis. He looks at how Buddhist teachings can inform solving the complex ecological and social problems we now face as humans and the potential roles for Buddhist practitioners.

Susan Murphy is an Australian Rinzai Zen teacher linked the Pacific Zen Institute in the USA. The work focuses on socially engaged Buddhism and considers issues such as climate change. An excerpt from the introduction: “The crisis facing us all right now is a tremendous koan set for us by the earth, speaking to us plainly but in words we cannot yet fully comprehend, caught as we are in the frame of the past that cannot conceive of this emergency. To respond we need to free ourselves from a too narrow sense of self and an unquestioned assumption or self-entitled priority as a species.”

16. Indian Buddhist Philosophy: Progressive Stages of Insight into Emptiness

1: Philosophy as practice

Session notes (pdf)

2: The empty self part one

Session notes (pdf)
Anatta Lakkhaṇa Sutta (pdf)

3: The empty self part two

Session notes (pdf)

4: Everything is Empty of Inherent Existence

Session notes (pdf)

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