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Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Life and Letters of an Irish Zen Saint Kindle Edition
"A beautiful book which presents Maura's diaries and journals during her time in Japan. It is a wonderful tribute to Maura. I felt a bond with Maura reading the book, and wrote the song, 'Soshin'."--Musician Luka Bloom
"Many have gone to the East in search of enlightenment but none has told the story as vividly and honestly as Maura O'Halloran. Her tragic death was a great loss but she has left us the legacy of this marvelous book."--Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-chief of Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
- ASIN : B00B6U13PY
- Publisher : Wisdom Publications; Illustrated edition (8 February 2013)
- Language : English
- File size : 4203 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 352 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 545,755 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The book is presented as a collection of letters to family and friends and also a daily journal Maura wrote while attending a Zen temple in Japan in the early 1980's. She has a natural, colourful way of writing that only becomes difficult to read when you get through 50-60 pages in one go; it's like reading 60 letters to you at once - a little hard going. However, Maura really shines through and it is this 'character' that makes it all worthwhile.
Maura was a very determined young lady and totally committed to what she believed in. She was driven to get to the heart of whatever she did and I think this endeared her to the Japanese people who knew her. Not only did she stand out because she was female and white but because of her untiring commitment. The Master Go Roshi often singled her out to other monks and lay folk as an example of how to practise which clearly embarrassed yet pleased Maura.
What this book does in a huge way is to illustrate how far we can go to commit to a spiritual practice and I think in that alone we have much to thank her for. Maura seems deeply compassionate and there are many examples of putting others first. She questions feelings of anger and resentment that arise when she has to work double-hard because other monks can't be bothered to help. If anything this book shows how unenlightened all (with the possible exception of Go-Roshi) the monks were, if anything, it is the people in the surrounding villages who give up food and money and time who are the true saints here.
So why do I feel the publisher has let Maura down? On the cover it describes someone who is enlightened and an Irish Zen saint and because of this we approach the book with certain expectations and they are not met. The only evidence in her writing is that she was not awakened. For sure, she had 'enlightening' experiences and understood intellectually many of the deeper teachings yet if awakening did occur it did so after the last journal. Yet, she received an authorised certificate of "Enlightenment Achieved". I hope she was enlightened but it shouldn't matter to the enjoyment you will get from reading this book. If though you are buying this book to read about the awakening experience you will not find it here. On completing the book you will see there is a letter from Tetsugyu Ban, a monk who is mentioned throughout where he states that through much effort Maura "solved all the 3,000 Koans (Zen riddles)". If you are a practitioner of Zen and having read the book you will find that statement bewildering for it can only mean one of two things:
1) Either Maura awakened and suddenly realised what all the Koans meant (which on the evidence of the book nobody, with the possible exception of Go-Roshi even knows what Awakening is)
2) She worked through each one (which she describes in the book) and intellectually solves them. If you know anything of Zen you will know that Koans are riddles that can not be understood by thinking and working them out - their very purpose is so the intellectual mind gives up - then we reach the still place of calm that is our true nature. Koans do not have a right or wrong answer, they are simply a tool to tire the thinking mind so it might stop and give us some peace for a moment.
Maura's life and determination struck a chord with the Japanese and on reflection much of this may have been due to a frustration that native folk were not as committed to the practice as she. She symbolised the commitment and compassion of what you would hope of a nun. Sadly, it is the interest of TV and Radio that singles her out as being different. It is the statue of her (that even she seems to allude to) that makes us think of her as a saint but in truth it is more likely to be as recognition of her determination and to inspire other novice monks and nuns.
On reading this book we don't find a saint or an enlightened person; what we do find is a loving, caring, beautiful example of a human being whose determination and commitment should be a beacon to all of us and particularly those of us who struggle to make a monthly or weekly practice! Her story reflects our own inner grace. She proves that through simple effort spiritual experiences can be known. It won't change your life and won't answer any spiritual questions you may have but it will highlight that you are not on your own on this wonderful journey.