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Zen Without a Master

How and whether a European can delve into the doctrine of Zen is the guiding principle.


£ 26.99 £ 19.99

175 x 240 mm
296 Pages b&w
ISBN: 978-1-912278-32-9
UK and Northern Ireland International
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Product Description

How and whether a European can delve into the doctrine of Zen is the guiding principle.

Frenk Meeuwsen is a Dutch painter and draughtsman who has long been interested in Far Eastern philosophy and martial arts, he owns the black belt in karate. In the mid-1990s, he lived in the temple district of Kyoto, where many of the Japanese sketches he included in his first graphic novel “Zen Without a Master” are located. The book is a collage of various materials: Meeuwsen’s childhood in the Netherlands, Japanese everyday life, the
history of Buddhism, instructions for meditation, reflections on drawing.
How and whether a European can delve into the doctrine of Zen is the guiding principle. Overcoming internal violence can be a drive for this, Frenk Meeuwsen tells of how he wanted to take revenge on a classmate as a boy and this student actually dies without Frenk being to blame. Nevertheless, this haunts him for a long time through his dreams. Banishing the randomness and cruelty of life through reduction and ritualisation is one of the temptations of Zen Buddhism.
Search for a subjective way into meditation Frenk Meeuwsen shows them when he understands the ritual of traditional Japanese archery in a long sequence of pictures. In all attempts at approximation, he comes to the conclusion for himself and the many other European enlightenment seekers in Japan: they remain exotic there and can only approach Japanese thinking in their own way. The book title “Zen Without a Master” alludes to this, Frenk Meeuwsen shows that you have to and can look for your subjective way into meditation.
Despite all the fascination, Frenk Meeuwsen also looks at the dark sides of the Zen tradition in Japan. Zen monks blessed the planes of the Kamikaze pilots in World War II, “enlightened” Zen masters have expressly supported Japanese authoritarianism of that time. In modern Japan, he hardly finds any remains of an authentic Zen culture.

Frenk Meeuwsen draws all this in simple black and white, in reduced realistic pictures, in which he very skilfully incorporates the possibilities of the comic: different panel sizes and perspectives on the events, surreal dream worlds, massive font blocks that harass characters. Meeuwsen has arranged his material in very short chapters, his book meanders through time. This creates an attractive directionless storytelling, similar to the form of teaching of Zen Buddhism, the reproduction of short, incoherent “Kōans” with statements of the Zen masters.

Supported by Dutch Literature Found

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