Yesterday I finished reading Zen Rohatsu by Nora D’Ecclesis. Below is a bit about the book and my thoughts after reading it.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in return for providing an honest review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission through any purchases through links below, at no extra cost to you.
About the book Zen Rohatsu
Can ancient habits help with coping with modern stressors? Author Nora D’Ecclesis sets out to answer this question by tracing back to the time of Buddha, who sought enlightenment under the sacred fig tree. And with this historical perspective on how the Buddhist concept of enlightenment originated, D’Ecclesis provides an in-depth look at the origins of meditation, its rituals, and how mindful living can bring about transformation.
Rohatsu is a special day around the world each year for spiritual practice, occurring on December 8th. It marks the anniversary of when Siddhartha Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment.
As for the “Zen” part of the title, zen is a branch of Buddhism. It has developed significantly since Buddha’s passing.
The book draws on the author’s research, including a list of resources at the end. It is a short read at 101 pages for the softcover. Zen Rohatsu is also available on Kindle and as a hardcover.
My thoughts on Zen Rohatsu by Nora D’Ecclesis
I read through the softcover version of this book fairly quickly; it is significantly shorter than many books I’ve read lately. I found it to be written in easy-to-understand language. The straightforward writing style was appreciated as I had little knowledge of Buddhism when I first opened Zen Rohatsu.
By the end of the read, I felt I had a reasonable knowledge of the history of Buddhism. It is a good read for a beginner like myself who has little background on Buddha and other masters who followed him. Obviously, with the book’s short length, details are kept to a minimum, and instead there is more of an overview of Zen Rohatsu. So, those who are looking to expand their knowledge may want to choose a more in-depth read instead, in my opinion.
The book seeks to answer the question of why do we meditate and how it might be helpful. Examples of meditation are included in the book, and there is a discussion on how to use mala beads.
Author D’Ecclesis takes us through the life of the man called Buddha, starting with his parents and his birth. I was particularly taken by the descriptions of his journey to enlightenment. His teachings are also outlined, including The Eightfold Path.
Another key figure in Buddhist history was Bodhidharma, who is called the Father of Zen, and his teachings are discussed too. Also important was Ashoka, the King of India, who was devoted to spreading Buddhism to other countries. These are only some of the figures discussed in the book.
More reflections while reading
When I read about Zen Master Bankei in the book, I took particular interest in the concept of The Unborn Mind. It means that we are born in what D’Ecclesis calls “a state of Buddhahood” but anxieties take us away from the unborn mind. According to this concept, releasing bad habits and thoughts is possible by taking a step back and detaching ourselves from the emotions for a better view.
As an anxious person myself, I thought about how I might have clearer thinking by taking this approach. Perhaps I get too caught up in myself sometimes to have a good read on the moment.
I also noted how Bankei viewed women as having as much potential for Buddha Mind, which was radical at the time. Yes, you know I’m all for equality, so this one was good to hear.
Learning about the Japanese Tea Ceremony (Chado) was also interesting. I’ve long been a tea lover, ever since I was a young adult drinking from teacups with my grandma. Knowing that tea holds a special place in Zen, just as it holds a special spot in my life, is comforting.
I do wish, though, that the book was a bit longer so that I could read more about the author’s experiences with Zen Rohatsu, rather than it being mainly objective in the tone of voice. Only the last three pages of the book are devoted to her personal journey.
I would have liked to have read about her thoughts as she researched the history, how she came to practice, and what she has learned through meditation over the years. But the main positive here is that I did learn a lot by reading Zen Rohatsu, as described above.
As a poet, too, I was taken by the chapter about the origins of haiku. I did not realize that many early haiku writers were part of the Zen Buddhists. For those who read or write haikus today, the section of the book on this art form is very educational.
I give Zen Rohatsu, written by Nora D’Ecclesis, 4 out of 5 stars.
What are you reading today? Are you familiar with the Buddhist figures and concepts mentioned above?
Top photo: My copy of Zen Rohatsu on my desk.