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Reviewed by Carmen Tenorio for Readers' Favorite
In her well-researched book Zen Rohatsu, author Nora D’Ecclesis uses the historical approach and develops a hermeneutic work on Zen Buddhism that's simple enough for a beginner but is also deep enough for the seasoned practitioner. It's based on important and significant figures, events, teachings, practices, traditions, and concepts that served as the foundation that built up the universe of Buddhism as it evolved and established itself as one of the world's largest religions and philosophical traditions. She begins by leading the reader through a guided visualization of Zen Meditation or Zazen, before providing background information on Rohatsu and explaining why it is observed on December 8th. She then discusses the founder, Gautama Buddha, and his extremely intriguing life. She also speaks of the most important and influential figures who followed him, how the religion diversified into various schools of thought after Buddha's passing, and the key elements of each branch. The book also has a chapter on Haiku poetry, which is a creative writing discipline that best represents Buddhism because of its ability to be poignant and to evoke a wide range of emotions and thoughts that can lead to a larger feeling or idea, despite the required brevity. The book's last chapters speak about mindfulness and spirituality, Zen Meditation practices, and a short discourse on her own religious experience and journey as a follower and practitioner of the Zazen.
Even though the book has a simple cover that depicts the austere beauty of a Zen Garden, its content and substance go way beyond being simply informative. Nora D’Ecclesis subtly touches on pertinent topics by using significant facts, dates and events, and observations. For example, by bringing up the point that the predecessor of Tibetan Buddhism was a woman, she ultimately tells us that enlightenment transcends gender. And with her eloquent discussion about the "Unborn Mind", she is able to clearly explain how our prejudices are a result of learned delusions that polluted our originally unbiased and unattached disposition at birth. Her historical approach helps the reader realize that teachings on compassion for animals have been in existence even before 227 BC. Without much use of high-sounding or flowery language, D’Ecclesis effectively explains Buddhism's profound and important principles and values. Her book addresses a belief system and a way of life that remains necessary and relevant. This book also serves as an exposition of timeless and adaptable universal truths that teach us to follow a trusted pathway to peace in the midst of a very chaotic and destructive modern-day rat race. Zen Rohatsu is brilliant and delightful and is definitely a treasure trove of useful facts and insights to learn from and reflect on. I'm quite grateful that I had the opportunity to read this amazing book. Highly recommended.