The Saga of Zen History
& the Power of Legend

John C. Maraldo

Chisokudō Publications. viii+348 pages

This engaging book challenges both uncritical devotees and critical historians of Zen for the ways they have misplaced truths in the tradition known by that name. It first shows how current Chan/Zen scholarship itself is a practice that echoes the legendary verse about Zen as a “separate transmission outside the scriptures, not relying on written words,” and then it develops the category of legend as an alternative to both history and myth, fact and fabrication. The author not only analyzes the different meanings of “transmission”; he also clarifies what historically was dependent upon the transmissions. He suggests new approaches to the study of Zen rituals and relics as well as Zen texts, while also recalling an essential sense of Zen that eludes texts. The Saga of Zen History is a paradigm-changing work, one that that makes critical scholarship more responsive to self-examination and one that is also accessible to general readers.

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