Graham Parkes, a professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii, has translated this work by Francois Berthier, a French art historian. The focus is upon the Garden of the Temple of Ryoanji in Kyoto. The beauty and mystery of this dry landscape garden consisting of 15 rocks in five groups on a bed of gravel has intrigued and enchanted visitors for five centuries.

Berthier ponders this world-famous site and sees in it the simplicity and austerity of the Zen way. He reveals the roles of China, the ancient religion of Shinto, and Taoism on the unfolding of the Japanese dry landscape garden. He then shares some of the ways this abstract tableau has been read: as a three-dimensional miniature of a landscape scene, as a tigress helping its progeny across the water, or as mountain-islands inhabited by the immortal hermits.

In his complementary essay, Graham Parkes traces the language of stones as deciphered by Martin Buber, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Friedrich Nietzsche, and others. Like a character in Shakespeare's As You Like It, they all see "sermons in stones." Parkes believes that the Garden of the Temple of Ryoanji is a Zen master that can teach us all about the suchness of things, impermanence, and emptiness. Reading Zen in the Rocks could well be the best one ever written on landscape gardens.