A Zen Life of Buddha
A Zen Life of Buddha, by Rafe Martin
ISBN 978-1-896559-89-6 / 80 pages, 5.83 x 8.27 / October 2022
Zen Buddhism begins with the Buddha’s enlightenment. While the word, “enlightenment” suggests there is something you get and that once have it you are “enlightened,” “intimacy” comes closer to the truth. We gain nothing. Rather, through attention to counting the breath, experiencing the breath, or putting our attention into a koan, we become of less interest to ourselves and, in this losing is finding. The world steps in — trees, mountains, bugs, rivers, people — and we rediscover our original, undiminished intimacy with all things. No longer strangers to this Earth, to others, or to ourselves, such intimacy has healing power. This is to live our own Zen life of Buddha.
Drawing on ancient myth, on Zen koans, on stories, and on his own over fifty years of formal Zen practice and more than ten years of active Zen teaching, Roshi Rafe Martin reveals the life of the Buddha as our own actual life. Using his skills as an award-winning author and storyteller, he organizes the life of the Buddha into five archetypal chapters – Birth, Leaving Home, Enlightenment, Teaching, and Death and reveals how, at every point, the historic/legendary/mythic life of the Buddha is our own lived life. The end result is transformative, helping us to potentially live each day more consciously, skillfully, and gratefully – whatever comes.
Praise for A Zen Life of Buddha
“Should be required reading for all Zen students. Rich in the insight and detail that can only emerge from years of dedicated Zen practice and teaching.” Sunyana Graef Roshi, Dharma Heir of Roshi Philip Kapleau and Abbot of Vermont Zen Center
“I love this book, so deeply important for beginners and experienced practitioners alike!” Taigen Henderson Roshi, Abbot of the Toronto Zen Centre
“It rescues the Buddha from the prison of unapproachable myth, revealing him to be utterly human, utterly you, utterly me. Short and eminently readable, it is the fruit of Martin Roshi’s half-century deep dive into Zen practice and teaching.” Hoag Holmgren, author of No Better Place: A New Zen Primer
“Wonder of wonders, Rafe Martin once again brings ancient story to life and reveals the Buddha not as a distant archetype and legend but as you and me, intimately practicing together in this very moment for the benefit of all beings. Rafe’s thoroughly lived Zen life shines with wisdom and love of the dharma as he invites us to walk with him in the Buddha's footsteps, to touch and entrust ourselves to the ground of living earth, and to awaken to who we already are in this impermanent and precious human body and life. The bodhisattva path of compassion and goodness is illumined right in the midst of the fire and with Rafe's humble and steady guidance we begin to see and know everywhere as home. Don’t miss this treasure.” Chris Fortin, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage; priest and teacher Everyday Zen Foundation and Dharma Heart Zen
"What a marvellous and needed offering! Roshi Rafe Martin brings to life, from a Zen practitioner’s perspective, the Buddha's life as way of helping us to deepen and compassionately offer our own daily life as a life of Buddha.” Sensei Ron Hogen Green, Dharma Successor to Shugen Roshi, Zen Mountain Monastery/Mountains and River Order
"Rafe Martin, Roshi, is a longtime Zen practitioner and experienced Zen teacher. So when he shares in this groundbreaking book the reality that Siddhartha Gautama, known as The Buddha, was no different from us despite the fact that he lived more than two millennia ago it’s a startling realization for most Zen students, who commonly place the Buddha “above” the rest of us. Here, Rafe brings him right down to earth, walking hand in hand with each of us." Mitra Bishop, Roshi, Abbot, Mountain Gate
"Zen Teacher Rafe Martin begins his wise book by reflecting on Enlightenment as Intimate Connection. He then shares Zen intimacy with us. Reading his book is like having a sage whisper life's truths directly into your ear, pointing out the nature of the awakened life. Our community will use this as a bookclub text. It’s breadth of succinctly distilled, accessible wisdom makes it deeply useful to every type of genuine spiritual practitioner." Hogen Bays Roshi, Co-Abbot, Great Vow Zen Monastery
"Purely, simply beautiful. Clear and resonant. I could hear almost hear the author telling of the rose apple tree in the tale of the Buddha's enlightenment. That moment is so good. Throughout, no unnecessary elaboration, just: here’s the story of the Buddha’s life and how it relates to Zen practice. Pitch perfect. Moving and inspiring." Donna Thomson, Co-Founder, SourcePoint Therapy, author of SourcePoint Therapy: Exploring the Blueprint of Health and, Not Poems: Moments of Awareness
"Roshi Rafe’s warm and wise book revolves around a simple premise: that the story of the life of the historical Buddha was really a Zen life. In that way Buddha is demystified and made into a role model that we can relate to, sit with and embody if we want to. Roshi Rafe has put a lifetime of his own energetic practice and enjoyable teaching style into this slim volume." Musho Rodney Greenblat, leader of the Catskill Zen Circle, author of Dharma Delight: A Visionary Post Pop Comic Guide to Buddhism and Zen
About the Author
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 lay ordination and, in 2016, inka, or formal certification of his successful completion of the Diamond Sangha koan curriculum, as well as Dharma transmission, or authorization to teach 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) and The Brave Little Parrot (Wisdom, 2023). He has spoken at Zen and Dharma Centers around the US and in Canada, and his writings have appeared in Buddhadharma, Tricycle, Lion’s Roar, The Sun, Parabola, Zen Bow, Enquiring Mind, and other noted publications. www.endlesspathzendo.org and www.rafemartin.com.