When Roshi Philip Kapleau returned to the United States in 1966, after thirteen years of training in Japan with two of the country's greatest masters of Zen, he "did not come home empty-handed -- he brought us a living word of Zen," Kenneth Kraft has said. The first Westerner fully and naturally at home with Zen, Roshi Kapleau has made it his life's work to translate Zen Buddhism into an American idiom, to take Zen's essence and plant it in American soil. Four decades later, the seeds of Zen that Roshi Kapleau planted have blossomed. Zen flourishes and Roshi Kapleau continues to help people find enlightenment and fulfillment within, not outside, their daily lives. "True awakening," Roshi Kapleau has said, "is not a 'high' that keeps one in the clouds of an abstract oneness, but a realization that brings one solidly down to earth into the world of toil and struggle."
Kapleau has written a number of books in his lifetime, The Three Pillars of Zen the most well known among them, but the heart of his work, his teachings to his students, has never before been made available. Awakening to Zen extracts the vital threads of Roshi Kapleau's teachings and braids them into a strong yet supple cord that readers may follow toward a deeper understanding of the enlightened life. Roshi Kapleau's warm, sometimes humorous but always grounded lessons touch on every aspect of daily reality; they capture his power, too, to transform the lives of not just practicing Buddhists, but all people who seek to experience in a more authentic way the bond they share with the world around them. One way or another, Roshi Kapleau has spent the past forty-three years of his life helping make Zen practice and its fruits accessible to anyone of sincere intent. Awakening to Zen offers a crucial and never-before-published aspect of his life's work.
About the Author
In 1953, recognizing the urgency of spiritual questions in his life, Philip Kapleau quit his successful career in court reporting at the age of forty-two sold his belongings, and bought a one-way ticket from Connecticut to Japan. He intended to pursue Zen practice at a Buddhist monastery, and attain enlightenment. A few years earlier he had been sent to Tokyo as a court reporter for the War Crimes Tribunal of Japan, and there had met the eminent Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki. Kapleau's participation in the Tokyo Tribunal, and his earlier post as chief court reporter at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, had left him with penetrating questions about cruelty and suffering.
For thirteen years Kapleau remained in Japan while he trained under two distinguished masters of Zen Buddhism, the late Harada Roshi and his successor, the late Yasutani Roshi.
Kapleau returned from Japan to the United States in 1965 and the following year founded the Zen Center of Rochester, New York. Since its founding in 1966, the Zen Center has attracted students from all parts of the world. The teachings and influence of Roshi Kapleau have now expanded into many other affiliated centers and groups in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and other countries in Europe.
The Three Pillars of Zen, Kapleau's first book, has been the bible of several generations of American Zen practitioners. A classic now, it has been translated into twelve other languages, including Polish and Chinese. Three additional books followed: To Cherish All Life: A Buddhist Case for Becoming Vegetarian; Zen: Merging of East and West; and The Zen Art of Living and Dying.
Now in his eighties, Roshi Kapleau resides in south Florida.