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The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji
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Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji, The : The Life of Zen Master Keido Fukushima
Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji, The : The Life of Zen Master Keido Fukushima
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Eastern Religion

Price:  $16.95

ISBN:  0-941532-62-3
Book Size:  5.5" x 8.5"
# of Pages:  272
Language:  English


The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji is an intimate account of the life and teachings of the contemporary Zen Master Keido Fukushima. It features the Zen insights of a living Zen master, who is in the tradition of the great Zen scholar, Professor D.T. Suzuki and the late Zen Master Shibayama Roshi, in bringing authentic Zen to the West.

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Detailed Description of The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji

The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji is an intimate account of the life and teachings of the contemporary Zen Master Keido Fukushima. It features the Zen insights of a living Zen master, who is in the tradition of the great Zen scholar, Professor D.T. Suzuki and the late Zen Master Shibayama Roshi, in bringing authentic Zen to the West.

Readers interested in Buddhism and Zen will consider it a rare treat to find a new book that:

    —Offers an intimate look into the life, mind, art, and spirit of a great living Zen master;
    —Reveals the concepts and practices that guide followers of what D.T. Suzuki has called the “true Zen,” which is not the Westernized and adapted Zen of popular fads;
    —Approaches Zen, often thought to be a complex and inscrutable system of ideas, through easily understandable stories, dialogues, and narratives; and
    —Involves us in a compelling story of one man’s spiritual development, in which we can share in his abundant love, laughter, and boundless respect for life’s deepest meanings.

The following issues are addressed in The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji:

    —In this book a living Zen master reveals personal details of his life and his journey towards becoming a Buddhist monk and Zen master. While most biographies celebrate the lives of past Zen masters, in this book the reader meets a living Zen master, and is introduced to his teachings, accomplishments, and humor.
    —What are the principles behind authentic, “pristine” Zen, and what is life like for those who follow this path?
    —What is “Zen Mind” and how does it differ from our day-to-day awareness of the world?
    What does the Zen master mean by “every day is a fine day”? How can Zen help us to better appreciate our lives?

About the Author(s)

Ishwar Harris

Ishwar Harris is a professor of religion specializing in Eastern Religions, an expert on India’s culture and civilization, an author of books and articles, and a musician. Prof. Harris has devoted his career to studying Eastern religions, particularly Zen Buddhism. He currently teaches at the College of Wooster in Ohio. Prof. Harris has had extensive contact with Keido Fukushima, head abbot of the famous Tofukuji Monastery in Kyoto, and has written a book about him, The Laughing Buddha Of Tofukuji: The Life Of Zen Master Keido Fukushima , published by World Wisdom.

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Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore is Professor of International Zen at Hanazono University, Kyoto, Japan, where he has taught for over a decade and a half. He received his MA in Comparative Philosophy from the University of Hawaii in 1978, focusing on Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, and thereafter performed postgraduate work in the Department of Religion at Temple University, before he moved to Japan in 1981.

Prof. Shore contributed a foreword to the World Wisdom book, The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji , by Ishwar C. Harris .

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Reviews of The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji

“Zen mind. Many Westerners have a vague concept of what it means. Relatively few, however, will have the opportunity to meet an authentic Zen master in order to experience such a living exemplar of Zen Buddhist life. In this concise and accessible volume, Harris (Ghandians in Contemporary India) presents a rare look into the life and teachings of Roshi Keido Fukushisma, Rinzai Zen master of Tofukuji monastery and accomplished…calligrapher. Biographical details of his life form an effective background for a living demonstration and elaboration of Zen ideals: nonattachment, the precepts of mu (the state of non-ego), and focusing attention in the present. Ultimately, the book specifically aims to demystify and ‘personify’ the concepts of Zen for Western audiences (indeed one of the Master’s primary aims) and achieves this objective admirably. The book ends with an appendix of brief tributes and impressions from colleagues. Recommended for public libraries, specifically as an addition to Eastern religion collections.”
Library Journal Review

“…This book serves as a wonderfully fresh introduction to Zen for the Western reader and an inspiring glimpse into the radiance of a remarkable spiritual character. These pages offer a deep dip into the Zen tradition and we can feel the pulse of this Zen master as a flesh-and-blood human being. Fukushima Roshi can be placed in the tradition of the great Zen scholar, Professor D.T Suzuki and the late Zen Master Shibayama Roshi, in bringing authentic Zen to the West.

“In the spirit of one of Roshi Fukushima’s calligraphy pieces in English, ‘Watch, Touch, and Bite,’ this book is an invitation to befriend Fukushima and to taste his brand of Zen.”
Banyen Books and Sound

The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji: The Life of Zen Master Keido Fukushima is an enlightening insight into the inspirational life and practices of Keido Fukushima. As a biographical documentation as well as an intuitive balance of humor and Zen teachings, The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji is an informed and informative look into one of the most influential and progressive spiritual masters of his time. Very strongly recommended for the non-specialist general reader with a interest in Eastern Philosophy in general, and students of the Zen and Buddhist practices in particular, The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji is a truly memorable read.”
Internet Bookwatch

“This book is a very legible, un-idealized, honest and reliably experiential account of traditional Zen training by the distinguished Zen Master Keido Fukushima, Abbot of Tofuku-ji, one of the classical Zen monasteries in Kyoto, Japan.”
Frederick Franck, artist and humanitarian, and author of The Buddha Eye

“This delightful volume, The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji: The Life of Zen Master Keido Fukushima, introduces us to one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers of our time. Through this book we encounter a spiritual master and consummate calligrapher whose infectious joy and humor has inspired the devotion of his biographer, Prof. Ishwar Harris, and students. Keido Fukushima Roshi transmits the spirit and teaching of Zen through humor, as well as deep spiritual insight. This volume will contribute to the encounter of Zen Buddhism and Western culture in a positive and illuminating way.”
Alfred Bloom, Buddhist minister, scholar, and author

“There are lots of commendable books about Zen, of course, and even an increasing number by and about Zen masters, a few of them American, but most still Asian. Hence, this book by Ishwar Harris on the life and teachings of Keido Fukushima stands out not because of its subject matter, or even its structure and approach, which are straightforward. No. What we find in these pages are Zen insights that shed clear light on the human condition and modern life that are almost startling in their simultaneous simplicity and profundity. This is made possible because the relationship between the author and his subject has been ongoing for more than thirty years, and the consequent openness and candor in their communication has allowed a picture of Zen wisdom to unfold before the reader in this casual-yet-profound manner.…Ishwar’s lengthy relationship with Keido Fukushima [has] enabled him to engage in many discussions with the master in which Zen experience is explored as thoroughly as possible given the limited power of words.”
Paul Mundschenk, Western Illinois University

The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji by Ishwar C. Harris…is very attractive…[and] will serve as a relatively easy introduction to the spirit of Zen Buddhism, especially as embodied in the life and actions of the Zen Master Keido Fukushima. That is, it has the virtue of accessibility, which is not always the case with books on Zen.”
Taitetsu Unno, Smith College, and author of River of Fire, River of Water and Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold

“Ishwar C. Harris…has created an admirable tribute to Roshi Fukushima.…Roshi Keido [Fukushima] once made a calligraphy that says ‘Hey! Throw it all away.’ That is a constant reminder to not become too attached to anything — even the pursuit of nirvana. Another one of this Zen Master’s best teachings is the slogan ‘Watch, taste and bite.’ In this metaphor, Zen is a slice of sweet pie and all that is necessary is to bite into it and enjoy. Not a bad way to read this paperback.”
Spirituality and Health

Table of Contents for The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji






The Making of the Zen Master

The Message of the Zen Master

             Every Day is a Fine Day

             Hey! Throw It Away

             Be a Fool

             With My Zen Mind

             Watch, Touch, and Bite

The Humor of the Zen Master


Appendix: Impressions


Biographical Notes


Excerpts from The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji

For years I have noticed that whenever Roshi Fukushima writes me a letter, he always signs it with the statement, “With my Zen mind.” Every time I read that signature statement, it forces me to examine my own state of mind. I cannot help but focus on my “contaminated mind,” overloaded with ego, attachments, and distractions. Once during a family discussion, one of my daughters remarked, “I like you more when you return from Tofukuji.” When I probed further, she explained that then I was more agreeable, less prone to losing my temper, and pleasant to be with. Her statement is a constant reminder for me to continue to examine the state of my mind. No wonder the first line of the Dhammapada reads, “You are the result of what you have thought.”

So what is the state of mind of Roshi Keido Fukushima? When I posed this question to the Zen master, I knew that we had a long discussion at hand. He began by suggesting that perhaps we could focus our conversation on the condition of his mind “before satori” and “after satori.” That seemed to be a good place to start the discussion which was to take us on a long journey of exploration into his Zen life. “I have always tried to follow the Buddhist dharma. But before my satori experience, now I can say, my life was a life lived with ego. After the satori experience, I have no ego. This has brought a new freedom in my life.” As we probed further, he explained that before satori he was attached to dharma. The monastic rules seemed difficult, though he believed in them and tried to follow them. However, there was “no joy” in keeping them. They were part of a daily routine. Intellectually he understood their function and the necessity to follow them, but emotionally they brought no satisfaction. After satori experience however, everything changed. In his Zen mind, he now feels that he has risen above the dualism of the dharma. In order to explain this further, he began to make a distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom to.” Before satori, there is a tendency to think that one should be “free from” various attachments (including the attachment to the dharma). After the satori experience, one is “free to” act without attachment and non-attachment. For Roshi Fukushima, this is a new freedom that Zen experience brings. In Japanese Zen, it is explained with the notion of ji yu, meaning “to depend on myself.” However, this self-dependence is without ego.

The Zen mind is also “spontaneous mind.” Before satori experience, as the Zen master explains, “The mind is attached to so many things that it loses its ability to act freely in the present. That means that the mind is not in its natural state. It is in the defiled state.” As it turns out, the master holds that without the Zen experience, people are preoccupied with so many things that they cannot live fully. If we analyze this condition we will discover that most of us either live in the past or in the future. As a consequence, we negate the present. Being in the past means that we worry about the mistakes we have committed that produced our current miserable condition. Living in the future means that we plan ahead for things that will give us joy. Zen wants us to see that the “present” is the real moment. The present is the past of tomorrow and the future of yesterday. So, why not live in the present? I once asked a psychologist what was the secret of joy? “To look for the joy you already have,” he responded, “rather than to try to find it in the future.” I thought that was a Zen-like answer. It all boils down to the problem of suffering. Living in the past or future is a symptom of anxiety. For Zen, spontaneous mind is an anxiety-free mind.

Selection from our Library about The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji
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With My Zen MindThe Laughing Buddha of TofukujiHarris, Ishwar Buddhism
Every Day is a Fine DayThe Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji: The Life of Zen Master Keido FukushimaHarris, Ishwar Buddhism
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