John Daido Loori Roshi is the spiritual leader and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York. He is a dharma heir of Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, and has received transmission in both the Rinza and Soto lines of Zen Buddhism. The author of numerous works including The Zen of Creativity and Riding the Ox Home, Loori is also the founder and director of the Mountains and Rivers Order, an organization of Zen Buddhist temples, practice centers, and sitting groups in the United States and abroad.

Eihei Dogen, one of the most famous thinkers in Zen Buddhism and founder of the Japanese Soto school, spent four years studying in China and returned home with a collection of 300 koans which were first published in 1776. In this astonishing resource, John Daido Loori Roshi has provided commentary and verses on each koan. The translation is by Kazuaki Tanahashi. The book also contains a glossary of Zen names and terms, a Zen lineage chart, and a bibliography showing the original sources of each koan.

These koans yank us away from our preconceptions and fixed ideas, forcing us to see what is real. They perplex us and exhaust reason. Koans force us back to our own experience or, as Loori puts in, "When your life is not free of fixed positions, you drown in a sea of poison. Following after another's words and mimicking others' actions is the practice of monkeys and parrots. As a Zen practitioner you should be able to show some fresh provisions of your own."

To read an example of one koan along with commentary and verses by Loori, check out the excerpt. Here are some of the things that seeped through to us after we read through these koans: It is time to stop looking so hard; generations of Zen practitioners have all stumbled in the same places; seeing past our agendas is a beginning; understanding things completely is a fantasy; separation leads to confrontation; we want the whole thing laid out for us; we are always going to have to wade through contradictions. Let's give Loori the last word:

"There is no place to search for the truth —
though it's right beneath your feet, it can't be found.
Look at springtime — when the snow has melted,
the scars of the landscape are no longer hidden."