Reginald Horace Blyth (1898 - 1964) was one of the foremost interpreters of Zen in the West. He was a close friend and collaborator with Zen master D. T. Suzuki. This Englishman went to Japan in 1940 to continue his study of Zen and was interned as an enemy alien during World War II. Afterwards, he was appointed tutor to the Japanese Crown Prince. His most famous work is the five volume Zen and Zen Classics, published in the 1960s. Frederick Franck, the artist and spiritual seeker, has assembled this wonderful crosscut of Blyth's writings. In his introduction, he characterizes the Englishman as a free spirit with a sense of humor, a Master who has the eye that never sleeps, a Westerner who never discarded his Christian roots, a persistent analyzer of That Which Matters, a visionary, and a poet.
In 14 chapters, we are treated to a smorgasbord of his writings. Blyth models the spiritual practices of hospitality and openness. Our favorite chapters include What Is Zen? The Way: Zen, Sin and Death; and The Great Masters. While you are sampling these delights, keep in mind the following vignette in the chapter on Enlightenment: "Kankei said, 'When I was with Rinzai I got a ladleful, and when I was with Massan a ladleful.' He added, 'It is all open and unhidden in the ten directions, not a gate on the four sides, completely clear, without any attachment to anything at all, no place to take hold of.' " Blyth adds: "This is one of the best definitions of Zen. We get a ladleful of it here and there according to our (accidental) innate abilities, and our (accidental) opportunities. But what the ladle is full of we cannot put into other words. It is just a ladleful of Zen."
Come to this astonishing collection of insights, stories, poems, and anecdotes with an open mind and heart, and you will walk away with many ladlefuls of Zen!