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Lions Roar : July 2013
BY ANDREA MILLER Books in Brief ZEN CONFIDENTIAL Confessions of a Wayward Monk By Shozan Jack Haubner Shambhala Publications 2013; 240 pp., $14.95 (paper) If you want to hold on to your misty-eyed notions about the peace and purity of monastic life, don’t read this book. But defi- nitely read it if you want gritty truth steeped in wicked irony and really grotesque potty humor. “Shozan Jack Haubner” is the nom de plume of a Buddhist monk living at a monastery in California, and in Zen Confidential he unpacks his spiritual journey. Readers of the Shambhala Sun will already be familiar with some of his misadventures, including all-time side-splitter and cringe-inducer “The Shitty Monk.” Haubner is the son of conservative Catholics—his father manufactured gun barrels— but he grew up to ditch Jesus, major in philosophy, and pursue a career in stand-up comedy. In one of my favorite essays in the collection, he explores what he calls “the abortion koan.” Doubt- ing the accuracy of a pregnancy test, the monk-to-be insists that his snarly girlfriend pee on a second wand. When she holds the results up to the light, he knows one thing with absolute cer- tainty: He will never have sex again. “As always,” he writes, “the only thing I was really wrong about that evening was that of which I was most convinced.” WALKING THE WAY 81 Zen Encounters with the Tao Te Ching By Robert Rosenbaum Wisdom Publications 2013; 384 pp., $17.95 (paper) Taoism and Zen go back a long way together. In the fourth and fifth centuries, when Buddhism was taking root in China, Indian scholars struggled to explain Buddhist concepts in Chi- nese and found the best way to do it was by using Taoist terms. Linguistically joined at the hip, the traditions influenced each other, and in the sixth century Taoism significantly contributed to the emergence of Chan, later called Zen by the Japanese. In Walking the Way, Robert Rosenbaum offers original Zen-infused commentary on the eighty-one poems of the Tao Te Ching, as well as engaging personal anecdotes to illuminate them. Rosen- baum is a senior teacher of dayan qigong in the lineage of Yang Meijun and received lay entrustment in Zen from Sojun Mel Weitsman of Berkeley Zen Center. He’s also a neuropsycholo- gist, psychotherapist, and behavioral medicine specialist and the author of Zen and the Heart of Psychotherapy. HOUSE UNDER THE MOON By Michael Sowder Truman State University Press 2012; 85 pp., $15.95 (paper) House Under the Moon is a collection of Michael Sowder’s poems about spirituality, meditation, and fatherhood. Sowder is the founder of the Amrita Sangha for Integral Spirituality, an organization dedicated to exploring and teaching the practices of the world’s wisdom traditions, so it’s unsurprising that his poems borrow from various religions, including Buddhism. In his poem “Hiking at Oselong, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Andalucia,” Sowder writes: “Buddha left his family, like Mirabai, Indira Devi, Peter, and Paul. I followed that call once, crushing hearts like soda cans, but then came home.” Pages later, we find “The Fourth Noble Truth,” in which Sowder describes his one- year-old son running off with a map he’d snatched from a car. The poet concludes: “Clutching your booty too tightly—map of Mt. Naomi, veined as any heart—you had no hands to spare, and your face met the cement... It takes time, my son, to learn to break a fall by letting go of what you want.” SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 79