Zen priest, teacher, poet and former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. Wow, no wonder I read this simple yet profound book with the sense of being in the presence of a great and wise master. Author Norman Fischer makes the reader feel like a personal student on the road to discovery, guided by a caring teacher, in Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up.
Using the principles of Zen, this lovely and compassionate book serves as a guide to those who wish to mature in spirit even as the world around them thwarts their progress towards self-knowledge and self-control. Using insights from Buddhism, Jewish traditions, and most specifically the practice of Zen, which often is as confusing as life itself, Fischer challenges us to become truly mature individuals living fully integrated lives and offers us the raw materials and encouragement needed to make that leap.
First, we learn the basic characteristics of a mature person, one who has the inner abilities to successfully navigate the rocky roads of life with qualities of awareness, compassion, responsibility, humility and even a good sense of humor. The author shows through personal examples and anecdotes, as well as the wisdom of Zen tradition, how we can come to “take our place” in life and become better human beings. There are chapters covering the importance of vows, keeping strong commitments to ourselves and others, using the power of listening to find deeper connection to those around us, meditation as a road to self-awareness, and of the basic rules of conduct of Buddhism, ten of which sound very much like the Ten Commandments of Mosaic law.
This book is told with a personal warmth that literally leaps off the page, and really draws the reader into the material, even the utterly mind-twitching Zen sayings that still make my head hurt, yet intuitively make so much sense. The stories of Fischer’s work with young men striving to learn the Buddhist way are also fascinating. Throughout this book, I felt as though I were sitting across from a Zen Master, receiving priceless instruction over a hot cup of tea.
No matter what spiritual or religious path you are on, or are thinking of embarking on, Taking Our Places is a gem of wisdom, enlightenment, compassion and guidance that can only serve to make that path easier to follow. Although I do not consider myself a Buddhist, there is not one idea or concept I disagree with in this profoundly moving book, proving that true wisdom surpasses all labels, boundaries and limitations.