Rocks, photo by Keoni CabralZen: Simply Sitting, by Philippe CoupeyZen: Simply Sitting: A Zen monk’s commentary on the Fukanzazengi (Universal Guide on the Correct Practice of Zazen) by Master Dogen, by Philippe Coupey
Forward by Lee Lozowick, Translator’s preface by Marc Shaver
Hohm, Press, 1890772615, 114 pp. (incl. notes, glossary and index), 2006

Zen: Simply Sitting is a book in two parts. The first is the text of the Fukanzazengi , written by Master Dogen (1200-1253) in 1227, and later revised into its final form in 1242-1243. It is the final version, the Rufubon, which is reproduced here. As we learn, fukan means “recommended for the people”, meaning that the text is intended for laypeople, not only monks and priest.

The Fukanzazengi is extremely brief, only a few pages long, and it deals with the practice of zazen, seated meditation. Master Dogen describes the correct posture and attitude one should maintain while sitting. His prose is sparse and direct, with clear guidelines on how it should be done.

The second part consists of commentary written by Philippe Coupey. Coupey explains the allusions made in Master Dogen’s text, sharing the stories of Jinshu and Eno, among others.  He also provides context for the history of Soto Zen, and its lineage, particularly as it relates to the Japanese Soto Zen Master Taisen Deshimaru, without overburdening the reader.

Coupey goes deeper into zazen, what the practice means, what it can lead to, and the importance of letting go. To just sit, without a goal in mind. He’s able to place the practice within a larger narrative, sharing stories and poetry as they relate to his themes from various traditions.

When a new term is introduced, its meaning is always explained, and a glossary can be found at the end, further clarifying many of the Japanese terms that are used throughout the book.

Overall, this is a wonderfully accessible commentary on the Fukanzazengi and an excellent guide to beginning one’s practice.

Image credit: Keoni Cabral