Zen Conversations
Zen Conversations
Zen Conversations
Zen Conversations

Zen Conversations

Regular price $34.95

ISBN 978-1-896559-74-2 / 186 pages, 6.14 x 9.21 in

Publication date: June 21, 2021

In this book of interviews, 42 North American Zen teachers discuss their work.


  • Discovering Zen
  • The Function of Zen
  • Zen Practice
  • Adapting Zen to the West
  • Compassionate Action
  • Ecodharma


Geoffrey Shugen Arnold / Chimyo Atkinson / Mitra Bishop / Melissa Myozen Blacker / Domyo Burk / Shinge Chayat / Wayne Coger / Mike Fieleke / Diane Fitzgerald / Koun Franz / Patrick Gallagher / Genru Gauntt / Bernie Glassman / Sunyana Graef / Ruben Habito / Taigen Henderson / Robert Kennedy / Bodhin Kjolhede / Rebecca Li / Albert Low / David Loy / Elaine MacInnes / Genjo Marinello / Myokyo McLean / Seiho Morris / John Negru / Dang Nghiem / Rinzan Pechovnik / Phap Vu / Dosho Port / Yoshin Radin / Bobbie Rhodes / David Dae An Rynick / Hozan Alan Senauke / Henry Shukman / Shodo Spring / Joan Sutherland / John Tarrant / Robert Waldinger / Rinsen Weik / Zen Mountain Monastery / Tetsugan Zummach

    Richard Bryan McDaniel, a long-time Zen practitioner, was raised in Indiana and, in 1967, moved to Canada where he taught at the University of New Brunswick and Saint Thomas University before starting a career in International Development and Fair Trade. He is the creator of the Canadian YMCA Peace Medallion. Rick is the bestselling author of seven books on the history of Zen Buddhism in North America, Japan and China.

    Is it a good book? We asked the experts...

    Mitra Bishop – Mountain Gate-Sanmonji (Ojo Sarco, New Mexico)

    In this first of its kind exploration, Rick, through his conversations with contemporary North American teachers in Rinzai and Soto Zen, Soen, Chan, and Vietnamese Buddhist lineages (as well as Tony Packer’s Zen-derived practice), offers us in-depth views into these evolving forms of Buddhist teaching and practice in the West. A must-read for anyone curious or contemplating Western meditation practice!

    Wayne Coger – Springwater Center (Springwater, New York)

    The Zen Conversations, Rick speaks not only to those involved or interested in Zen and meditation, but to anyone curious about exploring, firsthand, our human condition – and our human capacity to live in presence, love and openness. In these conversations, we are invited to dialogue with women and men who have devoted themselves to an extraordinary task: exploring the possibility of discovering – and living in – the light of our shared true nature.

    Mike Fieleke – Morning Star Zen Sangha (Newton, Massachusetts)

    Rick McDaniel's Zen Conversations is a vivid portrayal of American Zen monasteries, temples and practice centers, their history, and the people who practice within their walls. In intimate interviews, Zen teachers and students confide in Rick, sharing personal stories of heartbreak and practice, pointers toward kensho, and thoughts about how awakening might inform engagement in this suffering world. The interviews weave together seamlessly in an ever-deepening and widening exploration of what draws people to Zen, what they actually discover, and why it matters.

    Diane Fitzgerald – Zen DownEast (Pembroke, Maine)

    In Zen Conversations, we become Rick McDaniel’s silent companion as he carries on the ancient tradition of pilgrimage, visiting Zen teachers near and far, from the well-known early pioneers of Zen in America to the lesser-known contemporary teachers in our midst.  Rick’s skillful interviewing elicits a candor and refreshing informality from his subjects as they respond to his probing yet sincere questions: Can one practice Zen without being Buddhist? Is Zen Buddhism a religion? What is awakening? Is it important? How does the Dharma influence what we do in the world? Rick models for us the practice of “don’t-know mind,” dropping his preferences and learning from all with a genuine curiosity that draws us into his exploration. While there are the expected common threads among the teachers interviewed, the differences are striking, inviting the reader to reflect on and clarify her own views. Zen Conversations offers gems from teachers whom we might not otherwise encounter that reflect the light of their experience, allowing the reader to turn and turn in her heart-mind the infinite facets of these Mani Jewels in the vast web of Indra’s net that connects us all.

    James Ford – Empty Moon Zen (Long Beach, California)

    Zen is a living tradition. It brings timeless wisdom into the activity of our actual lives. The tradition is mutable, meeting, challenging, and itself changing to meet the needs of time and place. Rick McDaniel brings together a range of contemporary Zen teachers, each pointing us to the wise heart as it takes root in our Western culture. A wonderful book.

    Patrick Gallagher – Oak Tree in the Garden (Toronto, Ontario)

    Reading Zen Conversations is like looking with pleasure through a family photo album – page after page of North American Zen gardeners busily tending the many varieties of Zen flowers blooming in fertile Western soil. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Ruben L. F. Habito – Maria-Kannon Zen Center (Dallas, Texas)

    This volume is an enjoyable read indeed, as the author takes us through his visits and casual conversations with the guiding teachers who are shaping the landscape of Zen in North America in the twenty-first century.

    Genjo Marinello - Dai Bai Zen Cho Bo Zen Ji (Seattle, Washington)

    Rick McDaniel’s new offering, Zen Conversations, dives in to the core of Zen practice as it has evolved in the West. In over 40 interviews with contemporary Zen teachers, this book examines what brings people to practice, how to practice, models of training and the ways to bring practice out of the meditation hall and into social engagement and environmentalism. A must read for anyone wanting to explore how the path of Zen can be relevant in today’s world.

    Rinzan Pechovnik – No-Rank Zendo (Portland, Oregon)

    This collection of remarkable conversations is an invaluable addition to Rick’s already impressive collection of Zen books. Far from being a fixed system of belief or fixed form of practice, Zen has always been a matter of dialogue: a call and response between master and student, ordinary and sublime, circumstance and action. Rick’s dialogues with modern American Zen teachers provides a wonderful exploration of the myriad ways in which Zen life blossoms. Reading it is an inspiration in itself.

    Dosho Port – Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training

    In Zen Conversations, Rick McDaniel captures the voice of American Zen. It comes through as if there were one voice whispering through all the many voices chronicled here and through all the various views about practice and awakening. Rick’s extraordinary interviewing skills stand out through these many Zen teachers. He himself is almost absent, while his subjects shine through on page after page. A delightful read.

    Henry Shukman – Mountain Cloud Zen Center (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

    Rick McDaniel's fascinating journey tracking Zen/Chan from early iterations in Asia to 21st America is not just a great opus, developed over several volumes, it's also one of the liveliest presentations of Zen around.  This latest collection of conversations offers some of the clearest expositions of Zen teaching, with teachers speaking off the cuff and directly to the practice. A scintillating snapshot of Zen today, and a trove of deep wisdom. 

    Robert Waldinger – Henry David Thoreau Zen Sangha (Newton, Massachusetts)

    Zen Conversations is a gentle, plain-spoken guide for anyone wishing to understand how this life-altering spiritual practice shows up in the West at this moment in time. Rick McDaniel weaves the voices of many different teachers into a tapestry that delights and surprises, affirming the truth of what we learn on the cushion.  It’s accessible to those who are new to Zen, and it holds treasures for senior practitioners eager to share the experiences of others on the Path.

    Rinsen Weik – Buddhist Temple of Toledo (Ohio)

    In the insightful Zen Conversations, Rick McDaniel has skillfully curated a series of important conversations with some of the most influential Western Zen teachers of the early 21st century.  With Rick as our sherpa, we find clear and unguarded expressions of varied experiences of authentic Zen teaching and practice, and like the many great Jazz recordings of the 20th century we can delight in the diversity of many approaches and still recognize that they clearly all know how to swing.  Enjoy! 

    Gerry Shishin Wick - Great Mountain Zen Center at Maitreya Abbey (Berthoud, Colorado)

    Rick McDaniel’s new book Zen Conversations is like sitting down to a big banquet with your Zen friends, new and old, and sampling their wide range of fare. I learned new details about Zen teachers I have known for decades and got acquainted with a number of excellent teachers whom I had not preciously met. Their histories and insights about Zen past, present and future left me hungry for more even though I had eaten my fill. Rick has offered us a wonderful meal which will tantalize your taste buds and pique your interest in exploring Zen, its teachers and its teachings.


    Also available as a two-book set with Further Zen Conversations.

    Study guide available for download here: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2503/2728/files/Zen_Convos_Reader_s_Study_Guide.pdf?v=1683462779

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