No Fear Zen presents an approach to Zen practice that focuses on concentration and sitting (shikantaza) as a discipline that can be practiced in everyday life with the dedication of the samurai. And in a world that requires bravery and decisive action in addition to generosity and compassion, we can learn much from the now-extinct samurai in creating a new kind of warrior for peace in the twenty-first century. While some practices focus on compassion and mindfulness as the goals of Zen practice, No Fear Zen contends that these are outcomes that occur naturally, spontaneously, and automatically from right practice without any goal or object whatsoever. In this way, No Fear Zen is the sequel to the author's edition of Deshimaru's Mushotoku Mind, which encouraged practice for one purpose only, the purpose of no purpose, the gain of no gain, the profit of no profit. The brief Zen talks that constitute the core of the book continue the tradition of spontaneous oral teachings delivered by the teacher (or roshi) during zazen. The collection might remind some of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, since the talks can serve either as an introduction to those beginning practice or as a manual for those interested in a structured approach to Zen practice. The tone of the talks ranges from humorous and informal to penetrating and philosophical, with references to day-to-day issues we all face as well as to works of literature. For example, several essays instruct in how to sit, how to manage mind and emotions, while others roam into difficult arenas, like the author's experience in bringing zazen instruction to those incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. As a professor of arts and humanities, Dr. Collins uses great literature, like Shakespeare's Hamlet, to demonstrate his case for fearless action uncomplicated by over-thinking. The collection ends with a sustained commentary on the twenty-one deathbed teachings of the samurai Miyamoto Musashi to his student Terao Magonojo. This provides a suitable conclusion to the work, which has focused on concentration and discipline for their own sake with the result of dispelling fear of death and fear of life. As the author's teacher, Robert Livingston, always said, coming to zazen was like climbing into your coffin, but after zazen there was "no fear".
Zen Buddhism practitioner Collins records his decade long reflections on zazen, or sitting concentration, in this thoughtful volume. Beginning with an overview of Zen, he explores the understandings and common misconceptions that characterize Western experiences of this practice. Collins is associated with the New Orleans Zen Temple and much of his writing focuses on his experiences there. There are odes to his teacher, Robert Livingston Roshi, as well as explanations for the uninitiated. An interesting section, "Sitting Behind Bars in Tehachapi," explores his experience of zazen with prisoners in California. Unfamiliar terms in non-English languages are defined and explained in a comprehensive glossary. This book will appeal most to those associated or familiar with Collins and his temple, but the Zen-curious reader will find it an accessible and readable introduction.