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The Afterword, written by Bodhin Kjolhede, of Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen provides a compelling discussion about Zen Buddhism’s impact on modern western society. Kjolhede is the current Abbot of the Rochester Zen Center which was founded by Philip Kapleau in 1966.

Kjolhede begins his essay noting Kapleau’s surprise at the rapidly growing popularity of Zen practice in America. “When Philip Kapleau returned to the United States in 1966 after thirteen years of Zen training in Japan, he became one of only a few Zen teachers living in North America. He had no idea that in his lifetime so many Americans would take up the practice of Zen…. He could not have foreseen the explosion of interest in Zen Buddhism since then, or that his own book would be a major detonator of that explosion.”

Kjolhede explores the profound impact that occurs when Zen penetrates western culture… “What happens when an ancient, non-theistic, contemplative religion rooted in agrarian Asian culture is transplanted to highly mobile, urban Western countries dominated by consumer culture? Many of us are watching, as wide-eyed as Bodhidharma, to find out. We are involved in a colossal shift, unprecedented in either Buddhism or the West, and while the cultural forces in motion are largely beyond our control, we need to be as watchful as possible.” Kjolhede’s comprehensive Afterword explores this shift.

The Afterword to the Three Pillars of Zen is from the Rochester Zen Center’s website.


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