Asian studies in Lithuania
Original language: Korean
Translated from: English
Authors: Seung Sahn
Translated by: Vitkūnas, Jonas
Full translated source bibliographical description:

Zen Master Seung Sahn. The Compass of Zen. Shambhala, 1997

ISBN: 10-9955-9711-6-9
Published in: Kaunas
Published on: 2006
Publisher: Kopa

„The Compass of Zen“ is a book about principal teachings and traditions of the Buddhist religion, written by one of the most famous Zen masters nowadays – Master Seung Sahn. In this book, Master writes about the most important branches of Buddhism, their differences, and tries to help even the most oblivious readers to understand and develop an interest in this unique religion.

„First you have to be enlightened, then you can teach all the other beings“, – so it is written in the very first chapter of this book. These words represent the main goal and point of the whole Buddhism religion. Master Seung Sahn firstly sequentially and clearly explains Buddhism as one, joint teaching, and talks about its goals and main point. Only then, having explained it as one religion, Master starts to divide it into three branches – Hinayana, Mahayana and Zen Buddhism. Every single one of these branches gets a part in the book, where Master talks about the branch’s particular teachings and main differences from the other two. Explaining everything like that, Master helps the reader to understand each branch’s point and uniqueness.

As far as the style of writing is concerned, the way Master Seung Sahn writes is simple, easily understandable and fun. Master does not try to write academically and complicatedly– he much rather explains Buddhism honestly and understandably, quite often through jokes and funny stories from his own experience, or the history of Buddhism. Furthermore, while talking about the mindset of a Buddhist, Master tries to imaginatively convince the reader of the benefits and meaningfulness of this religion. But, on the other hand, he never tells the reader that he must believe in Buddhism – on the opposite, Master always emphasizes the freedom of picking your own way, and believing in what the person himself wants to believe. So, even non-Buddhist readers will be able to read and enjoy the book without feeling uncomfortable, and the Buddhist readers will also be able to find more interesting, deep contemplations of the Master himself.

„The Compass of Zen“will be interesting and useful to anyone, who is interested in Buddhism, or just wants to get to know the traditions and teachings of this religion better. And Master Seung Sahn‘s honesty, simplicity and fun way of writing will pull the reader into the unique, unknown, yet interesting world of Buddhism.

Master Seung Sahn was a Zen Buddhist and a monk, who was born in 1927 in the occupied Korea (now called North Korea). Having been put in a prison for opposing the Japanese occupation in Korea, and later having studied Western philosophy in the university of Dongguk, Master became a Zen monk when he read the „Diamond sutra“, in which, according to him, he found the kernel of Buddhism. Since then, Master started to live according to Zen‘s teachings, and put efforts into spreading this religion to the whole world. Master Seung Sahn died in 2004, in Seoul, South Korea.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU