An Invaluable Resource on a Major Stream of Buddhist Thought, Experience, and Practice

The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment by Philip Kapleau

4/5

This is a book that, I think, people will come to having already cultivated a degree of awareness of some of the forms of Buddhism, and of their philosophies and approaches to practice. They may currently be developing their own practices and have even attended some sesshins.

Maybe they’re experiencing some dissatisfaction with aspects of this present practice and are looking for guidance in order to improve its course and correct their path. Maybe, in the absence of access to sesshins, other practitioners, or a teacher, they are looking for an alternative, substitute support system. Maybe they want to compare their practice with the form of Zen detailed here – to adapt or see if there is anything worth cherry-picking, adopting, and incorporating, which may make it more satisfying and rewarding.

If it is approached in this way, with a discerning mind formed of experience and direct knowledge, there is a lot that can be got, and maybe dismissed (until a later date?), from this book.

As many of us will approach this text within our own frames of experience and knowledge, it is up to the individual reader to distinguish between the good and the bad, the correct and the incorrect. Suffice to say that I did find much here to assist me in my own practice, both to correct and affirm certain aspects of it, and to complement my experience. And while there are aspects here that don’t speak to me at my present level of progress, who knows how this may be reframed as experience continues to evolve? Subsequently, I do consider this book an invaluable resource to have and to have had recourse to.

Whether you adopt or dismiss, there is a lot of well presented insight here from convincing sources, which a mind already on some kind of Buddhist or mindfulness path will find very rewarding and will get a lot from. It is easy to see why this book has been so popular for so long and why it is considered a classic in many circles. And while I feel, due to it being more of a text for people already on the path, it is not as transformative, life-changing, or revelatory as maybe other Buddhist or philosophic works, it still comes highly recommended from me.