ISBN 978-0-924304-64-4. 98 pages. Paperback.
Zen Past and Present provides readers with a concise but comprehensive survey of the history of Zen Buddhism. Because it examines Zen from historical, religious, literary, artistic, and political standpoints, it is an ideal supplemental text for a wide variety of disciplines. Zen Past and Present covers the evolution of Zen thought and practice from the foundations of Buddhism in ancient India up to the most recent interpretations of Zen in the contemporary postmodern world. Students should find this booklet readable, entertaining, and thought-provoking. It is a perfect addition to any Asian studies reading list.
“This booklet of less than eighty pages is miraculously a comprehensive coverage of key aspects of Zen Buddhism from its origin in India to Japan and the West. Nothing crucial for the understanding and appreciation of Zen tradition is omitted, including history, doctrine and practice, and texts and figures. Eric Cunningham even finds space to highlight the impact of indigenous culture on the development of Zen as an East Asian form of Buddhism that in turn was accepted into the Western culture. Zen Past and Present will serve as a useful launching pad to inform students and readers and to stimulate further readings and discussions on contextual factors and scholarships.”
Senior Lecturer of East Asian Religions
University of Washington
“The golden carp is out of the net! This clear and confidently written overview of the development and dissemination of a key element of the Buddha’s practice—meditation leading to self-knowledge and insight—is a welcome contribution. While not shying away from the paradox and play of Zen, including its often controversial worldly involvement, Professor Cunningham avoids attachment to numbing pedantry, and thoughtfully presents highlights of the understandings and explanations of Zen as they arose in varied historical and cultural contexts. We are offered a multi-colored string, continuous but not identical, and come to appreciate Zen as a trajectory of appropriation, shaping, imprinting, legacy, and ongoing transmission. Share the coolness!”
Andrew Edmund Goble
Departments of History and of Religious Studies
University of Oregon