Singing and Dancing Are the Voice of the Law: A Commentary on Hakuin’s “Song of Zazen”

Monkfish. Nov. 2022. 220p. ISBN 9781948626781. $18. REL
Lahn (senior priest, Minnesota Zen Ctr.) presents a highly readable and wide-angle view of the practice of zazen, or seated Zen meditation. He utilizes the poem “Song of Zazen,” written by the influential 18th-century Japanese Zen priest Hakuin, as a framework for exploring meditation and its ability to foster interconnectedness and awareness. Lahn provides historical context for the poem and links its themes and ideas to today’s world, noting that developing compassion and seeking wisdom are timeless practices. Meditation, the author explains, teaches practitioners to pay attention to their mind in order to choose what to do with feelings and emotions. The poem deeply resonates with Lahn on a personal level, and he openly shares his own spiritual journey along with his sense of humor. He skillfully distills complex philosophies into succinct explanations, which will appeal to both novices and those well-versed in Zen teachings.

CORRECTION: The original review misspelled Zazen in the title. We regret the error.

VERDICT Engaging and profound, Lahn’s insights will be much welcomed by readers looking to deepen their meditation practice. Although grounded in Zen Buddhist philosophy, the essence of his teachings will resonate with people of a variety of backgrounds.
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