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Grassroots Zen offers a study of how one Zen group returned to an ancient Chinese tradition of community meditation practice without a leader or hierarchy. It outlines an authentic, ‘grassroots’ approach, urging people from all walks of life to come together in meditation and the study of dharma. Married university professors Manfred Steger and Perle Besserman (aka Perle Epstein) (The Shambhala Guide to Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism) studied first under the cultural weight of Japanese Zen, then with the light-footed lay master Robert Aitken. As Westerners, they found the freedom from tradition liberating.
In this book, we’ll be exploring the issues confronting today’s Grassroots Zen practitioners. Taking a “hands-on” approach, we’ll show how the social, professional, and psychological concerns of ordinary people can provide opportunities for spiritual awakening. Using the metaphor of a “grassy field” for today’s Western “egalitarian community of socially mobile members who place less emphasis on transmission and hierarchy than on individual responsibility, we will focus on the interplay between the “field” (the Zen community), the single “grass root” (the individual practitioner), and the dimensions of “time, space, motion, and aspiration” (the world)…
The present moment is the root of it all. Sad or happy, moving or at rest, the moment provides endless opportunities for cultivating awareness. Each root in our grassy field, each moment, is filled with all the nutrients we need. Going to the root, becoming one with the moment, we discover that life is perfect as it is. We are, at last, at home in the world.
“Future generations may come to see the publication of Grassroots Zen as a pivotal in the emergence of a uniquely American Zen.” —Rami Shapiro, Minyan: Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity
“Steger and Besserman offer something quite different, and quite welcome... a Zen that comes to terms with, and ultimately transcends, the hierarchical, sexist, otherworldly, and pseudo-militaristic overtones of the Zen tradition.” —Library Journal