As Zen takes root in the west, new forms arise. For centuries Zen masters have tested their students with “koans” and “capping phrases.” A koan is a spiritual paradox that must be solved intuitively. A capping phrase is a trenchant comment. Both are meditative practices that reveal deeper truths about the self and, ideally, lead to enlightenment.
In Zen Traces, Buddhist scholar Kenneth Kraft plays off these practices in a new idiom. He selects passages from four sources: traditional Zen, present-day Zen, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. When a koan-like story about a contemporary Zen teacher is paired with a pithy comment by Mark Twain, something fresh emerges.
“In this lovely book, Ken Kraft provides a unique opening for American Buddhism and American wisdom in general. The reader will come to fresh and spacious new insights and enjoyments . . . Cheers for Zen in America and a deep bow to Ken Kraft!”—Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D., author of The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Discovery
“I highly recommend this delightful book of East-West wisdom—full of surprise, insight, wit, and piercing beauty.”—Katy Butler, author of Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death
Kenneth Kraft, professor emeritus of religious studies at Lehigh University, is a scholar of Japanese Zen and socially engaged Buddhism. He is the author and editor of six books, including Eloquent Zen, Zen: Tradition and Transition, and Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism. Kraft holds a Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from Princeton University, an M.A. in Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. from Harvard University.