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Notes On the Zen Life

by Barry Graham


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"You might as well take your socks off...because they'll be knocked off anyway by the writing of Dogo Barry Graham. Little diamonds of Zen blasted into your mushy brain to pry your eyelids open." 
—Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 

We live with so much pain and sadness, so much uncertainty and fear—but, if we understand the truth about reality, it doesn’t have to be a problem. Zen practice isn’t about improving yourself, or otherwise changing yourself—or, least of all, finding yourself. It’s about no longer identifying with the self, the personality, your story of who you think you are. It’s about stripping such delusions away, meeting life as it is without adding anything extra, and awakening to your enlightened nature. And that’s what this short book—with some chapters only a couple sentences long—does.

Although Zen has been described as “a special transmission outside the scriptures, and not dependent on words,” it has produced more written words than any other Buddhist tradition, more than most people can hope to read in a lifetime. The Buddha Dharma has been buried under words, ideas, beliefs and dogma. This book is an antidote.

In these notes, personal stories, and answers to Zen students’ questions, Zen master Dogo Barry Graham shatters myths about mindfulness and self-discovery, and gets to the essence of the enlightened life. He discusses love and sex, attachment and freedom, with references ranging through Moby-Dick, Stephen King’s horror novel Pet Sematary, Albert Camus, Descartes, Anais Nin and the TV series The Wire. He warns against the worship of teachers that has led to so much exploitation and scandal in modern Zen centers, and shows that your place of meditation is wherever you find yourself, whether cloistered in a temple or commuting to work on a city bus. Your enlightenment, your Buddha-nature, is a practical matter, to be addressed and resolved here and now.

“A white trash Buddhist monk…an uncompromising vision, but also full of tenderness and compassion, that makes him one of the most touching and interesting authors of his generation.” —Premiere

Publication Details

River and Stone Press
Publication Date:


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Barry Graham (Author)

Dogo Graham is a Scottish writer and Zen Buddhist monk. After 22 years in the U.S.A., he returned to his native Maryhill, Glasgow, in 2017.He is also a novelist, poet and essayist, as Barry Graham.Readers are welcome to email him with questions ab...

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