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Blowing Zen: Finding An Authentic Life Paperback – Jan 14 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: H J KRAMER PUBLISHING; 19.32 edition (Jan. 14 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0915811855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0915811854
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,288,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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How does an electrical engineer from London find himself playing the flute on a hillside in Japan? Ray Brooks had had a piece of the good life, after all--high salary, late-night parties, fast cars. But in his late 20s, he did some soul searching, only to find that, spiritually speaking, the lights were on but no one was home. Some radical changes took him to Japan and a chance encounter with a master player of the shakuhachi, the Japanese vertical flute. He took it up and simultaneously absorbed the single-minded Zen discipline that seemed to imbue all facets of Japanese life. Brooks tells the story of his life in Japan, of his journey up the hill of gambatte (perseverance), and of his experiences in Japanese culture, such as his chat with a marathon monk and his not-quite-voluntary performance for members of the Japanese mafia. The title Blowing Zen refers to Zen monks who used flute playing as their meditative practice. One wishes more could have been made of this in Brook's memoir, of his own relationship to Zen and how exactly his life has become authentic. But perhaps this is too much to ask when the ineffability of music is coupled with the ineffability of Zen. --Brian Bruya

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 12 2001
Format: Paperback
Blowing zen was a one sitting read. Whether your a muscian or on a spiritual journey there is something for you in this book. Brooks' doesn't ram zen down your throat. Its not about zen and, it is. Life just unfolds with every situation Brooks finds himself in. Every chapter gives the reader something different and they all blend into one whole. This book may sound like a yawn but it has many suprises. Brooks even gets abducted by the mafia (yakusa). Well worth looking into. I also purchased Brooks' Hollow bell cd and although it took a couple of plays, it has turned into a very special recording which gives meaning to the book. I would have liked to have had the cd while reading the book.
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Format: Paperback
This is Ray Brooks's personal story of discovering something he could devote himself to and find happiness with. It is good as a personal story, mostly for its many anecdotes of what living in Japan is really like for a gaijin (outsider/foreigner). The idealized notions of politeness, honor, and artistry are held up against the backdrop of traditional ways being taken over by shallowness, laziness, and tackiness. Thankfully, Mr Brooks seemed to have few problems with racism against Europeans when finding shakuhachi teachers, something my preconceptions of the Japanese led me to expect.
However, the book lacks all but a few comments on shakuhachi playing, and this is the reason I did not give it a higher score. I was hoping for more description of proper technique, the experience and process of learning, how it relates to Zen, and a bit of the "soul" of the art. These were almost completely lacking -- no more than a total of a few paragraphs in the entire book.
I also found it consistently surprising that Mr Brooks did not learn better Japanese after being in Japan for several years, or, at least, that's the impression his book gives! How much did he miss because he did not give more emphasis to learning his host country's language???
An easy-reading personal story, especially recommended for potential exchange students and others considering extended stays in Japan.
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Format: Paperback
This is the friendly and very readable story of an Englishman in Japan who discovers the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and manages for five years or so to get lessons from some top Japanese masters. The "Blowing Zen" (suizen) of the title is a form of flute playing used as a means to Zen enlightenment particularly by the komuso (wandering monks) of the now defunct Fuke sect. Brooks progressed with great rapidity and now instructs and concertizes professionally. He describes the progress of his interest, lessons and practice, his teachers and a wide cast of memorable characters, his adventures and observations on Japan and its people. He does so with perception, clarity, humor and engrossing writing. You will want to finish this in a sitting. He doesn't go into detail on the philosophy of Zen or how shakuhachi playing is supposed to lead to enlightenment, nor even much on the "finding the authentic life" of the title. More importantly he writes, deliberately or not, in the manner and frame of mind of a person who has come by his practice to some Zen insight, peace, centeredness and authenticity. No sermons are preached, no instructions given, you may imitate his example with the shakuhachi or in your own way or you can just read the book as the enjoyable adventures of a young man in a foreign place.
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Format: Paperback
This was a neat book, easy to read, very entertaining, and occasionally deep. It doesn't have too much to do with Zen, though. The author talks about suizen, which means "Blowing Zen," and is the link between shakuhachi and Zen. But Brooks doesn't tell much about further meditation or how shakuhachi helped calm his mind. There was a link missing between his desire to change out of a boring, clone-like life and into an authentic one, and how playing shakuhachi helped him do that. It sounds to me that his wife, Diane, probably did more to lift him out of his inauthentic lifestyle.
But there are moments of great beauty. One is on page 225 (of the paperback edition) where he is trying to convince Ozawa-san to do something about his existential angst. Here are the 4 sentences that leapt out at me: "If you are [getting some peculiar pleasure or some reward out of this destructive way you're living], you probably won't stop. You'll talk about change, make it into a hobby. You may even try to find someone to hep you, but deep down you won't change if you're not really serious. Seriousness is its own change."
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By A Customer on Feb. 19 2000
Format: Paperback
A couple of days ago a friend recommended that I read "Blowing Zen", a new book written by author, Ray Brooks. I visited my local bookstore, picked up a copy, returned home and (much to my surprise) consumed the book in one sitting
"Blowing Zen" tells the story of one man's decision to leave behind his comfortable existence in London and to plunge, head first, into a radically different lifestyle in Japan. "Blowing Zen" flows wonderfully, almost like a stream of consciousness and yet, at the same time, is very straightforward in its message. Fortunately Brooks, unlike many other travel writers, avoids the temptation of navel gazing as he relates his encounters and experiences. The book is at turns: funny, touching, educative, thought provoking and inspirational.
Initially, I would be tempted to categorize "Blowing Zen" as a travel account, but would not be surprised to find it located in other sections of a bookstore (i.e. autobiography, spirituality, music, religion, or self help). It is said that the best authors write as if they are communicating with a close friend and I truly felt that with "Blowing Zen." I was thrilled to be both entertained and inspired in one siting. I am eagerly awaiting Brook's next book and kudos to the author for peaking my curiosity on a myriad of different topics.
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