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A Heart Blown Open: The Life & Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi Paperback – Feb 1 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Divine Arts (Feb. 1 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611250080
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611250084
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 28.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #570,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


ForeWord Review
"Kelly came back to the question again and again: what did it mean to be an American Zen Roshi nearing the twenty-first century?"
If Denis Kelly's life was made into a novel, no one would believe it, so the truth, told here as accurately as possible by author and fellow Zen Buddhist Keith Martin-Smith, must suffice: Kelly crossed every inner river, climbed every emotional mountain, slayed every psychological dragon, to arrive at a place of peacefulness.
Most of us imagine that a spiritual master would be a person of high moral integrity, likely celibate, and definitely vegetarian, someone who speaks in terse mysterious phrases and smiles a lot. Someone rather like the Dalai Lama, whom Kelly has met. Kelly had a habit, begun in grade school, of telling people in authority that what they said was "bull--" and he didn't spare the Dalai Lama that assessment. The assertion generally resulted in shock and expulsion, but not in the case of the Dalai Lama, who just smiled and told Kelly that his spiritual insight wasn't deep enough yet. Oddly, it was his tendency to blow up at authority that led to Kelly's heart being blown open, and to his becoming a spiritual master himself.
Kelly grew up with an abusive alcoholic father who savagely beat his sons while his mother turned a blind eye. This gave the boy a hatred of men in authority and a mistrust of all women that took him years to overcome. The only saving grace in his youth was a memory from infancy, of finding solace in a "sense of pervasive peace ... a silence out of which everything arose." Because of that fleeting but seemingly endless moment, despite all the self-ruining experiences Kelly had to go through, he was drawn to meditation and to Buddhism.
Along the way to becoming a Zen adept, he was a wealthy drug dealer, a founding member of the California "family" that in the 1970s

About the Author

Keith Martin-Smith is a freelance writer in Boulder, CO, where he teaches Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, Buddhism, and writing.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after watching my husband read it, and hearing him say, "this is such a good book" every five minutes. When I got my hands on it I devoured it in a day and a half. It was the best book I have read for a long time - gripping me with each page turn. The book put words to spiritual and emotional concepts that rung true in my own life, it inspired me to be better, and it entertained me with all the amazing life stories, and Jun Po's infectious and likable personality. Keith is a gifted writer. And Kelly? Can't put words to him!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 48 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest spiritual biographies of our generation June 4 2016
By Marc Beneteau - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think of this book as the greatest spiritual biography of our generation, and I put Keith Martin Smith (previously unknown) in the ranks of the top living American biographers / memoirists. The others include Elizabeth Gilbert ("Eat Pray Love" and "Last American Man"), Neil Strauss ("The Game" and "The Truth") and Jon Krakauer ("Into the Wild" and many others -- they are all good). Unlike some of the others, however (I think of both Gilbert and Strauss as 20% fiction or at least embellished), this book is 100% truthful as a matter of principle. Such a book must not have been easy to write, and I give Keith Martin Smith kudos both for attempting it (he financed the book by selling his house) and for succeeding so brilliantly.
While few of us would choose to live life with the intensity of a Junpo Roshi / Dennis Kelly, or be as motivated as he was to exorcise his demons and from there attempt to make a real difference in the world, I believe his story is the story of our age, it is the story of all of us trying to make sense and find fulfillment in the insane world we live in. To my mind this is the value of the story. And yet the story can be read as a novel. From child of a dysfunctional family, to family man, to drug czar, to fugitive from the law, to convict, to multiple "deaths" (a climbing accident that broke half the bones in his body, cancer, and bankruptcy), to successor in a major Japanese Zen lineage, to New Age / integral guru welcome into Ken Wilber's living room, Junpo both personafies and exagerates the existential struggles of our time. Even if we can't understand why he did the things he did (I personally feel the man has some kind of death-wish), he lived a life of epic proportions. The story is bound to entertain and inspire, and Keith Martin Smith has produced nothing less than a masterpiece.
Final note: there are some comments in these reviews about the legitimacy of Junpo's lineage, due to abuse allegations around his teacher, Eido Roshi. As far as I know Junpo's "Mondo Zen" movement has no ties to Eido Roshi or any other Zen lineage, it's his own creation as Junpo left to do his own thing. This includes work with the highly respected Mankind Project, which I have experienced first hand. See Kaith Martin's Smith other book about Junpo which gives some information about the Mondo Zen approach through interviews with Junpo. See also very interesting and free interviews from Tripp Lanier that are available online.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One jaw-dropping awakening miracle after the next Aug. 9 2016
By Robert MacNaughton - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For anyone on the path of seeking deeper understanding and don't want to leave any stones unturned, learn from one who's been just about everywhere. JunPo Roshi's incredible story is one jaw-dropping awakening miracle after the next.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Cost of Transformation Feb. 8 2012
By Thomas Carroll - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must start by explaining that I've known the central character in this story for 38 years. I found myself riveted by his presence the first night I met him at "Johnny's" house when I was a mere twenty years old. He continues to guide and challenge me and all who know him these many years later.

Readers should judge the value of my remarks with the knowledge that I will do my friend the courtesy of writing nothing here that is less than an honest appraisal of both the story and the quality of the story telling. That said, it pleases me to say that I found this to be an excellent story written near perfectly.

From the beginning pages readers are reminded of the rigidity that was the American experience in the nineteen fifties and sixty's. A man holding the intuition that real freedom was not to be had without a fight - was in for a fight. And so the story of Denis Kelly begins.

The majority of us didn't get to Woodstock or live the street scene that was The Haight in San Fransisco, 1967. But these and other highlights are our heritage as members of the Boomer generation just as much as "Abraham, Martin and John", Vietnam and Watergate.

However, in "A Heart Blown Open" we ride with an insider. We see a man - who for reasons that cannot be easily explained - a guy who was at the right place at the right time with the right mix of the "mean streets," savoir faire and nascent transcendental intuition, such that he begins to look like more than just a clever opportunist - more like a gift we gave ourselves - Conscious Creativity knowing just what it would take to push the American experience off it's static pedestal, tipping it back into the crucible of transformation.

I give this book four, instead of five stars because the dialogue is at times written in a way that made it less than transparent - occasionally, I lost the story because of the words. This said, I think that overall, Keith Martin-Smith, (who I do not know), has done a great job as a writer and entrepreneur - moving this book from it's initial inspiration all the way to the hands of readers like myself. Not an easy job. Thank you Keith!

JunPo Denis Kelly is the most dangerous man I've ever known. And this, because he is free - unbounded by cultural conditioning. At the same time this is a man who embodies unselfish love and integrity such that I would not hesitate to place my money or my loved ones in his hands.

The value, the purpose of including words like these in a book review is to indicate for potential readers, the quality of the teaching that radiates from the book - from it's beginning pages where we see echoes of our own experience and our worst nightmares - to the end where like a well composed sonata, all melodic, in this case, plot and thematic tensions are resolved with credibility and satisfaction.

I knew Frank - Denis Kelly, the wild man. Now I know JunPo Roshi - Denis, the wiser man. I love them both. Readers will be introduced to a friend they have been waiting to meet as they turn the pages or even find themselves drawn to sit Sesshin at one of his retreats. Either way, all receive an introduction to the man and 21st Century Zen - the Mondo Process JunPo has molded with deep respect for tradition and realism.

If you are "spiritually inclined," read this book and you may find yourself inspired to actually Awaken! If you simply want to read a Really Great Story - read this book! And you too, may find yourself inspired... to Awaken.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Read. Inspired to have a book group around this book. Feb. 7 2012
By M. Lam - Published on
Format: Paperback
I got this book knowing the quality of Keith Martin Smith's writing and of his intimate relationship with his teacher, JunPo. What surprised me and delighted me about reading the book was how authentic and transparent he was about the process of his teacher's awakening. Not one to gloss over the difficult and shameful moments, but using them as fuel to awaken, JunPo allows his biography to be a tool for the readers' ability to awake. I am inspired to practice more meditation after reading this book because of how clearly it showed the transitions of consciousness from a conventional viewpoint to a post-conventional viewpoint, and finally to an integral viewpoint. With out using the weight of the integral theory, Keith Martin Smith tells a lucid story about the growth and evolution of consciousness itself through the wildly entertaining ride of his teacher.
To be transported into the world of JunPo's wild life was pure pleasure but to have the added effect of using its transparency to map my own being was invaluable.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating biography Jan. 30 2012
By Steve - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having sat a sesshin (long retreat) with Jun Po and met him a few times in between, I was eager to read this biography.

It arrived on Friday afternoon and I had it finished on Sunday afternoon. Yes, that good. Denis Kelly's life is simply fascinating. Nothing more to say than just that. What else do you need? -- drugs, partying, sex, violence, more sex, wealth, money, travel to exotic places, cancer, catastrophe, heartache, and a long but engaging spiritual awakening.

It's like "Eat, Pray, Love" for dudes, only far more interesting and better written.