Monday, June 30, 2014

Neat Book Review #17 Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson

Plot summary
This book was written in 1995, after Michael Jordan's (first) return to basketball and after the Bull's loss in the conference finals (to the Magic, with Shaq and Penny) but before the second threepeat. Jackson talks here about his upbringing and his spiritual path from Pentecostal Christian to Zen practitioner and his development as a coach, with numerous examples from his teams in the CBA, Peurto-Rico and of course - and for the most part - the Chicago Bulls.
My opinion:
I love this book because of the way it naturally combines Zen and Christian insights and practices with hard-headed basketball coaching in real life, under the most stressful circumstances. I love that Jackson shows us how he uses Zen ideas and practices to enhance his own abilities as a coach and those of his own players. The results, obviously, speak for themselves. I also admire the fusion of monotheistic values with Eastern practice. In my view, if we are ever to have peace on this world, it will probably be a result of creating a culture that combines the best of the East and the West, and here Jackson shows us how this can be done. But first and foremost, this is a book about basketball and leadership in the context of the Chicago Bulls, and there are plenty of stories about both to satisfy fans of basketball in general and Bull's fans in particular.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Zen-Buddhism and Life In An Impermanent World

Shattered Glass - Zen and the impermanence of life

This is another great Zen story from Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson (see the other one here) in which he describes an encounter that a group of Americans had in Laos with master Achaan Chaa:

"You see this goblet?" Chaa asked, holding up a glass. "For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably; sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over, or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters I say, 'of course.' When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious."

One of the basic teachings of Buddhism is that everything in life is impermanent. True, modern life has managed to eliminate many of the uncertainties inherent to life but you never know when you'll lose something. This is especially true in a country like Israel, which has been fighting for its life since its inception. We are reminded on a daily basis that anything and anyone can be taken away, any moment: your children may be kidnapped on the way to school, a bomb may go off on the bus, a randomly aimed mortar may kill or maim your child. And war is not the only harbinger of unwelcome change. There are traffic accidents, home accidents, debilitating disease. You never know when you'll lose what you have taken for granted.
To combat my tendency to become complacent, I remind myself on a daily basis that nothing is for granted. If I wake up and there is electricity, that's great. We have running water too? Excellent. If I go to the supermarket and there is, once again, an abundance of food, it is a veritable miracle. It really is, when you consider how many people worked in coordination, all around the world, to deliver every product and place it on the shelves. And everyone of these people has a family and a million problems of their own and yet, somehow, the work gets done; it is not a given. And when I accept that what I have cannot be taken for granted, everything becomes more meaningful, more enjoyable, more significant in the here and now, which is what Zen practice aims for: living in the present.

If you enjoyed this you may also be interested in:

The Best Way To Be A Slave, According To Rabbi Judah HaLevi

 The Search For Truth - A Beautiful Quote

Photo: By ||read|| from Flicker with CC license

About the author
Joab Cohen is the author of the psychological thriller The Jewminator and
the vegan action hero novel Captain Tofu and the Green Team (coming soon!)

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