How Zen Came to Become Zen: Barbara O’Brien’s “The Circle of the Way”

How Zen Came to Become Zen: Barbara O’Brien’s “The Circle of the Way” October 18, 2019




Just got my copy.

Barbara O’Brien’s The Circle of the Way: A Concise History of Zen from the Buddha to this Modern World. (Shambhala Press, Boulder, 2020)

I was fortunate enough to be able to read it in galleys. And have been recommending it to anyone who would listen.

Finally it’s here.

This wonderful book fills a serious gap in our current library of Zen literature.

At 316 pages, including bibliography and index, it’s not too brief, not too long. What Circle of the Way is, is an immensely readable study of Zen, showing from where it comes, and, critically addressing what it might mean for us in our lives today and in this particular place. It is a must read for anyone who cares about Zen.


I had access to the galleys because the publisher thought I might like it and might be willing to write a blurb for it. They were right on both counts.

“Finally! A clear and concise introduction to Zen Buddhism. The Circle of the Way fills a long-standing need for a simple, straightforward explanation of where Zen comes from, what the foundational teachings are, and how the coalesce as a school of Buddhism. O’Brien loves the subject but never lets it take itself so seriously as to miss the lively mix of Zen’s internal contradictions, and its profound teachings.”

I concluded, “This is a wonderful book.”

It is.

Buy it.

More, importantly, read it.


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