What is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?
This famous paradoxical riddle is one of the many legendary historical zen references in Alan Spence’s biography of the illustrious Zen Master, Hakuin. These riddles, or koans, are used to illustrate the limitation of logical reasoning, and in turn trigger enlightenment when one meditates on them with sincerity, and intensity. Hakuin taught that every life experience was a koan of some form. This story of his life is inextricably woven into an exposition of zen art and poetry, portrayed against the backdrop of the enchanting Mount Fuji, and the bustling activity of the Tokaido, the famed walkway between Tokyo and Kyoto.
The book begins with Hakuin as a scared, spiritually thirsty child struggling with a terror of hellfire and brimstone. Encouraged by his devoted mother he chooses a zen path despite his father’s objections.
His journey meanders through the many struggles of his seeking years as an earnest young monk, eventually arriving at his colorful twilight as the world’s most renowned and influencial zen instructor.
Alan Spence skillfully blends the man, the time and the teachings into a breathtaking zen tapestry. For those interested in learning more about the practice of zen this well-researched book provides a multi-faced exposure in the form of Hakuin’s many teachers, experiences, zen poetry and artwork. Lovers of Japanese aesthetic and history will feel as if they have just taken a stroll down the Tokaido.
Cast aside your hazy robe
And show me your snowy skin.