A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas
A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas

A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas

Regular price $32.95

A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas, by Rafe Martin

ISBN  978-1-896559-99-5 / 198 pages, 5.83 x 8.27 / October 2023

Also available as an ebook from your favorite online bookseller! ISBN 9781998248025

Drawing on his knowledge of myth, legend, Zen koans, pop culture, and Buddhist folklore, and speaking from a foundation of more than 50 years of formal Zen practice, and over 10 years as an authorized Zen teacher, in this companion volume to A Zen Life of Buddha, (Sumeru 2022), award-winning author Roshi Rafe Jnan Martin looks at the nature and role of bodhisattvas, the wise and compassionate beings at the heart of Zen.

Along the way he explores such questions as: What are Bodhisattvas? Are Bodhisattvas real? How do they function? How are they different from Buddhas and from The Buddha? What’s the connection between Bodhisattvas and Zen practice? More importantly, what’s their connection with our own daily lives?


Foreword and Thanks
Section I: Bodhisattvas
1 The Way of Growing-up Beings
2 Manjusri, Bodhisattva of Wisdom: Patron of the Zen Sitting Hall
3 Meeting Manjusri, Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Face-to-Face
4 Manjusri Fails: A Woman Comes Out of Meditation
5 The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion: Kannon, Kanjizai, Kwan-Yin, Avalokitesvara
6 Hands and Eyes of the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion
7 Maitreya Bodhisattva and the Dream Within a Dream: Yang-shan’s Sermon from the Third Seat
8 The Bodhisattva Samantabhadra: A Buddhist Folktale
Section 2: THE Bodhisattva
Introduction: The Buddha as The Bodhisattva
9 Why Be Born Human? The Bodhisattva Makes a Mistake
10 Bodhisattvas We Live Among: Plants, Trees, and Aspiration
11 The Bodhisattva Saves the Realm—as the Consciousness of a Tree
Section 3: The Way of the Ordinary Bodhisattva
12 A Pillar of Zen: Memorial for Roshi Philip Kapleau
13 On Zen and Failure
14 Painting of A Rice Cake: Creative Imagination and the Way of the Bodhisattva
Zen Chants


"Charmingly written. Reflecting on both traditional Bodhisattvas (such as Kannon) and non-traditional Bodhisattvas (like Bob Dylan or a couple of used car salesmen), Rafe challenges us to recognize the Bodhisattvas in our lives and our call to function as Bodhisattvas in the lives of others. A delight to read." Rick McDaniel, author of Zen Conversations and Further Zen Conversations

"With stories, and exposition, and more stories, Rafe Martin guides us into the Bodhisattva way. He brings ancient dreams into our moment and our actual lives. I found myself pulled and invited into a place where the ancient worthies were revealed as my constant companions, and their stories the stories of my heart. This is a wonderful book and a worthy companion to A Zen Life of Buddha. It's a very, very good book, everyone! Buy a copy." James Ishmael Ford Roshi, author of Introduction to Zen Koans: Learning the Language of Dragons

"An essential companion book to A Zen Life of Buddha, Rafe Martin’s A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas fills a crucial gap in Buddhist teachings. Beginning with the traditionally known bodhisattvas: Manjusri, Kannon, Samantabhadra, and Maitreya, he brings them down to earth, showing that each of us is a bodhisattva seedling, with the potential, along with rocks, trees, and all beings, to embody the attributes of those great bodhisattvas. What is the  point? That the work of each of us ultimately is to mature into manifesting increasingly the compassion, wisdom, enlightened activity, and concern for all beings expressed by those classic bodhisattvas—and that we can do it. He doesn’t stop there, but shows us how to enable that ongoing transformation. Rafe, a gifted Zen teacher, offers us this gem. It belongs, along with A Zen Life of Buddha, in everyone’s library, to be read and inspired by over and over again!" Mitra Bishop, Roshi, author of Deepening Zen: the Long Maturation

"With consummate skill, Rafe Martin makes the extraordinary ordinary, bringing the most unfathomably exalted beings into an everyday life of wisdom and compassion. Through gentle, humorous, and wise stories we are drawn into otherworldly realms that are also right here and now. In doing so, we absorb the profound teachings of the Dharma. A beautiful book that goes hand-in-hand with A Zen Life of Buddha." Sunyana Graef Roshi, founding teacher and Abbot, Vermont Zen Center

"With contemporary language and deep experience Roshi Martin brings to life The Bodhisattva Vow, as it relates to present day practitioners of Buddhism. The cross fertilization of West and East is brought to fruition in this pithy book which will, no doubt serve as a reference for Zen teachers and students alike." Taigen Henderson Roshi, Abbot, Zen Centre of Toronto

"Rafe Martin illuminates the contexts and wisdom of old Buddhist stories in his new and wonderful book about Bodhisattvas. Navigating the journey between myth and ordinary reality, he brings iconic figures like the Bodhisattvas Manjusri and Samantabhadra to life in the here and now. His offering of their wisdom and maturity to the workings of our own ordinary lives is a true gift." Katherine Ratliffe, Zen teacher and Dharma Guide, Honolulu Diamond Sangha

"This book is a wonderful exploration of the powerful bodhisattva archetypes that can serve as templates and inspiration for our own practice.  Rafe Martin has crafted an important book that is both profound and engrossingly readable." Berry Crawford, Simplicity Zen

"Rafe Martin's writing is wonderful—marvelously clear and expressive. As a professional story-teller as well as an author, his prose has an open oral quality that reads beautifully. A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas continues the trajectory begun with A Zen Life of Buddha, but whereas the earlier book is purposely one-pointed and spare, its sequel is richer and more expansive. In addition to chapters (typically koan commentaries) on the Bodhisattvas Manjusri, Kannon (Avalokitesvara), Maitreya, and Samantabhadra, Rafe includes chapters based on the Jataka tales (earlier lives of the Buddha), as well as on such topics as Zen and failure, and Zen and the creative imagination. In addition, the book includes his memorial essay on Kapleau Roshi, which has previously led a sort of samizdat existence in magazines and on the web. For me, most important of all is Rafe's emphasis on enlightenment as intimacy. This clear emphasis seems to me both unusual and important. I recommend this book unreservedly." Stephen Slottow, author of The Americanization of Zen Chanting

"This lovely book by Rafe Martin is a guide to the pantheon of bodhisattvas, those great beings who are dedicated to the liberation of all beings and who tirelessly work among us to awaken our own wisdom and compassion. Using the power of koans, mythology, and personal stories, Rafe shows how bodhisattvas are in fact you and me when we're not so entangled in greed, hatred, and ignorance. The wisdom and compassion of the bodhisattvas is our own wisdom and compassion. With Martin as our guide, you'll see how the path of Zen allows us to find and manifest, in ever more subtle and unselfconscious ways, the thousand helping hands of Avalokitesvara, which, as Martin puts it, 'are already your own'." Hoag Holmgren, author of No Better Place: A New Zen Primer

"Rafe Martin’s A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas, the companion volume to his A Zen Life of Buddha, is a wonderful book which I highly recommend. In it he looks at the nature of the Buddhas Vow, and the nature and role of bodhisattvas themselves, the greatly wise and compassionate beings at the intimate core of daily Zen practice." Jay Rinsen Weik Roshi, Abbot, Zen Temple of Toledo.

"As an old dharma enthusiast, who was first inspired by Roshi Kapleau more than half a century ago, my heart and mind were touched and cheered by A Zen Life of Bodhisattvas.  I immediately ordered 10 copies for our residents here at Great Vow Zen Monastery to read." Hogen Bays Roshi, Co-Abbot Great Vow Zen Monastery


Rafe Jnan Martin, founding teacher of Endless Path Zendo, Rochester, New York, is a lay Zen teacher in the Harada-Yasutani koan line. A personal disciple of Roshi Philip Kapleau (Three Pillars of Zen) and the editor of Roshi Kapleau’s final books, he also trained with Robert Aitken Roshi (Diamond Sangha) and, later, with Danan Henry Roshi, founder of the Zen Center of Denver, both a Kapleau lineage teacher and a Diamond Sangha Dharma Master. In 2009 Rafe received full lay ordination, in 2011 authorization to teach, and in 2016 Dharma Transmission as an independent Zen teacher.

Rafe is also an award-winning author of more than twenty books and an internationally known storyteller whose work has been cited in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, and USA Today. He is a recipient of the prestigious Empire State Award for the body of his work. His most recent books are Before Buddha Was Buddha: Learning from the Jataka Tales, (Wisdom Publications, 2017), The Buddha’s Birth (Merlinwood Books, 2022) A Zen Life of Buddha (Sumeru 2022), and The Brave Little Parrot (Wisdom, 2023). He has spoken at Zen and Dharma Centers around the US and Canada, and his writings have appeared in Buddhadharma, Tricycle, Lion’s Roar, The Sun, Parabola, Zen Bow, Inquiring Mind, as well as other noted publications.

www.endlesspathzendo.org and www.rafemartin.com.

This book is a companion volume to A Zen Life of Buddha. Click on that title for more information about that book.

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