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Dropping Ashes on the Buddha

The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn

by Seung Sahn

The classic guide for Zen students pursuing the true way.

“Somebody comes into the Zen center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha-statue, blows smoke in its face and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?” This is a problem that Zen Master Seung Sahn was fond of posing to his American students who attended his Zen centers.

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a delightful, irreverent, and often hilariously funny living record of the dialogue between Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn and his American students. Consisting of dialogues, stories, formal Zen interviews, Dharma speeches, and letters using the Zen Master’s actual words in spontaneous, living interaction, this book is a fresh presentation of the Zen teaching method of “instant dialogue” between Master and student which, through the use of astonishment and paradox, leads to an understanding of ultimate reality.

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Recommendations: 1

Categories: Philosophy

Reading time: 45 hours


Amanda Palmer
Singer, Songwriter, Musician and Performance Artist

I remember lying on the beach, this shitty beach outside Adelaide, where I was at the fringe, and reading this book, and just looking around and going, “Oh, wait. I get it. Do these people get it?”

There are few moments in your life where things actually really just seismically change and all of a sudden you’re a different person. It wasn’t like I got hit with a ton of bricks because I read one sentence, but the book did do a number on me. Then I was actually really fortunate. I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story. I got to actually grab all the lessons from this book, which were basically just the lessons of Zen Buddhism, non-attachment, being able to just sit with what is, the ability to not freak out, and to just watch life pass.