March 19, 2012
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The following Tricycle Talk, divided into two sections, is with Sensei Janet Jiryu Abels, author of the new book, Making Zen Your Own: Giving Life to Twelve Key Golden Age Ancestors, published in January by Wisdom. It's available from Wisdom or Amazon.
The book is a rich and engaging history of a dozen Zen masters who will be known to students of Zen who have studied koans. But if you've ever wondered who these masters were—how they fit together and what the times they lived through were like—then this book is for you. The koans as they appear in the classic texts disregard chronology, which can be disorienting for the historically minded. Abels retells their stories in chronological order, and the teachers come alive in portraits illuminated by anecdotes and historical nuggets from a wide range of sources. The book contains exposition on the koans themselves as well.
Founder of Still Mind Zendo in New York City, Janet Abels has been a teacher in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and the White Plum Asanga since 2000, when she became a dharma successor to Roshi Robert Jinsen Kennedy. She spoke to Tricycle by phone in early March.