Zen koans are stories of exchanges between Zen masters and their disciples at the moment of enlightenment or near-enlightenment. These stories have long fascinated Western readers because of their wisdom, humor, and enigmatic quality. Drawing on over 30 years of practice and teaching, Richard Shrobe (himself a recognized Zen Master) has selected 22 cases from The Blue Cliff Record and Wu-men-kuan that he finds deeply meaningful and helpful for meditation practice. In Elegant Failure, he provides a wealth of background information and personal anecdotes for each koan that help to illuminate its meaning without detracting from its paradoxical nature. As Shrobe reminds us, “The main core of Zen teaching is the bare bones of what is there. In a certain sense, embellishing a story takes away from the central teaching: Don’t embellish anything, just be with it as it is.”
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