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Introduction to Zen Koans


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About the Author

James Ishmael Ford, Roshi has been a Zen practitioner for nearly fifty years. He is both ordained as a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and as a koan teacher in the Harada Yasutani tradition. He served on the membership committee of the American Zen Teachers Association for ten years, and a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Soto Zen Buddhist Assocition. James is the senior member of the guiding teachers council of the Boundless Way Zen network, and resident priest and teacher at the Blue Cliff Zen Sangha in Long Beach, and Costa Mesa, California.

He is also an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. He is minister-emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, in Rhode Island. And is currently affiliated as a community minister with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, in California. He is the author or editor of five books, mostly addressing aspects of Zen history and practice, as well as articles for Buddhadharma, Lion's Roar, Tricycle, and the Unitarian Universalist World. He blogs as Monkey Mind, which is hosted by the religion portal Patheos. He lives with his spouse Jan Seymour-Ford in Long Beach, California.


"Introduction to Zen Koans is an intimate invitation into a beloved Zen teacher's loving family and his boundless love of practice. The book is an expression of intimacy itself. What a delight!"--Koshin Paley Ellison, editor of Awake at the Bedside and Guiding Teacher of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care
"A natural story-teller, Ford speaks from the intimacy so necessary in Zen practice. He weaves into these accounts his own poetic sensibility, and generously quotes the comments and insights of many of his peers. His simple, clear instructions for how to sit lead organically to the explanation-defying essence of Zen, which is embodied in the language of koans--and the reader is encouraged to awaken to and actualize this ordinary yet extraordinary Mind." --Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat, Abbot of Zen Center of Syracuse, editor of Eloquent Silence
"This excellent introduction is flavored with the wisdom and love of a seasoned Zen practitioner who has spent a lifetime investigating and activating the depth and breadth of who we truly are. Capturing the voices of the Ancestors to contemporary Zen teachers, Roshi James Ford invites us into the intimacy of our very own lives through the way of the Zen Buddhist koan. He deftly captures both the broad landscape of Zen training and the subtle confounding intricacies one is likely to encounter."--Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbot of ZCLA, co-editor of On Zen Practice

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