Tim Burkett is the Guiding Teacher of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also a licensed psychologist and director of a large mental health agency. He was a student of Shunyru Suzuki Roshi and later of Dainin Katagiri Roshi, whose lineage he is a dharma heir.

One of our favorite books about Buddhist wisdom is David Chadwick's Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, and now we have another gem about that legendary Zen master's teachings. This book focuses on the non-holiness of the Zen path. Burkett has gathered together an amazing assortment of stories, koans, poems, and memories of Shunryu Suzuki that are both enlightening and a pleasure to read.

Suzuki was the first Japanese Zen teacher to establish a center in the West, and Burkett became one of his earliest American disciples when he was only 20 years old. Nothing Holy About It is divided into sections on commitment, dealing with one's rough edges; cultivating equanimity and compassion, staying on track, and embracing the world. Among the key teachings are emphasized in the book are:

• Even though we can all use a little self-improvement, we are basically good.

• Since we are all enlightened before we were born, there is no need to search for Buddha nature or to try and be a good Buddhist.

• In the wholeness of life, mistakes and failure are okay; they can be spiritual teachers for us.

• Zen is about everyday life so when we do anything, we do it wholeheartedly.

• Seeing through the fear body and living beyond it are important steps on the Zen path.

• Zen practice is "about taking care of our lives, helping others, and being open to whatever comes up."

Burkett is especially cogent in a chapter on "Training with the Hindrances" where he explores the practices of putting aside, letting go, or just letting be; expanding our field of attention; and cultivating a full awareness of feelings. Most people are used to quick fixes and find it difficult to accept Zen's view that delusion doesn't vanish once we achieve enlightenment.

Living with difficult questions takes patience and perseverance. There is another side to Zen as illustrated in the following:

"When I finished my talk on the mu koan [Does a dog have Buddha nature?], I asked for questions or comments. A guy in the back raised his hand. He said, 'I've had my dog for so long he's like my child. And after all these years, there are two things I know for sure. First, my dog definitely has Buddha nature. No doubt about it! And second, whether he has Buddha nature or not makes no difference to him. Just throw the ball!"

Just dipping into Nothing Holy About It will reframe your view of Zen!