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Zen Master Raven: Sayings and Doings of a Wise Bird


These translations and transformations of Buddhist literature continue today, perhaps nowhere more vigorously than in the encounter between Buddhism and the West. Robert Aitken, the retired founder of the Diamond Sangha in Honolulu, has written extensively on the historical legacy of Zen Buddhism and its application in contemporary Western culture. Rather than a work of apologetics, or the self-help literature that dominates so much of non-academic writing on Zen, his Zen Master Raven: Sayings and Doings of a Wise Bird represents a continuation of earlier genres of Buddhist narrative, one that depends on a subtle and sophisticated use of the imagery of nature and the animal kingdom. At the same time, however, Zen Master Raven is also a transformation of those genres, incorporating the imagery and concerns of modern Western culture even as it works to find a place for Buddhist practice within it.

In a style that draws on traditional Zen koan narratives, Zen Master Raven relates a series of brief--and frequently puzzling--conversations between masters and their students. Read in order, these episodes trace the career of Master Raven, his studies under Master Brown Bear, and his foundation of a small but vital Zen community. As leader of this community, he provides guidance to an array of different creatures as they struggle along the Buddhist Path, responding to their questions on doctrine, ritual, ethics, and metaphysics. In the final episodes, Raven retires from his role as teacher, leaving the community in the capable hands of his disciple, Master Porcupine.


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In Zen Master Raven, Robert Aitken, one of America s best known and most respected Zen masters, presents an introduction to Zen Buddhist teaching through over 100 lessons told through the stories and voices of animals.