Eat Sleep Sit My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 9/1/2015
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA

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At the age of thirty, Kaoru Nonomura left his family, his girlfriend, and his job as a designer in Tokyo to undertake a year of ascetic training at Eiheiji, one of the most rigorous Zen training temples in Japan. This book is Nonomura's recollection of his experiences. He skillfully describes every aspect of training, including how to meditate, how to eat, how to wash, even how to use the toilet, in a way that is easy to understand no matter how familiar a reader is with Zen Buddhism. This first-person account also describes Nonomura's struggles in the face of beatings, hunger, exhaustion, fear, and loneliness, the comfort he draws from his friendships with the other trainees, and his quiet determination to give his life spiritual meaning.

After writing Eat Sleep Sit, Kaoru Nonomura returned to his normal life as a designer, but his book has maintained its popularity in Japan, selling more than 100,000 copies since its first printing in 1996. Beautifully written, and offering fascinating insight into a culture of hardships that few people could endure, this is a deeply personal story that will appeal to all those with an interest in Zen Buddhism, as well as to anyone seeking spiritual growth.

Author Biography

Born in 1959, Kaoru Nonomura traveled widely in Asia as a university student, and upon graduation began to work as a designer in Tokyo. At the age of thirty, he decided to put his career on hold to spend a year as a trainee monk at Eiheiji, a monastery famed for its rigid discipline. Twelve months later, he returned to his design job, and it was during his daily commute on a crowded train that he began to jot down his recollections of his Eiheiji experience. These notes eventually became Eat Sleep Sit, the author's only book.

Table of Contents


PART ONE: The End and the Beginning
Resolve ..11
Jizo Cloister ..17
Dragon Gate ..25
Main Gate ..29
Temporary Quarters ..34
Lavatory ..38
Facing the Wall ..46
Buddha Bowl ..47
Evening Service ..53
Evening Meal ..56
Night Sitting ..61

PART TWO: Etiquette Is Zen
Morning Service ...69
Morning Meal ..74
Cleaning the Corridors ... 81
Dignified Dress ... 84
Washing the Face ..89
Verses ..96
Noon ..97
Stick ..103

PART THREE: Alone in the Freezing Dark
Entering the Hall ..111
Monks' Hall ..115
Common Quarters ..120
Wake-up Bell ..129
Bell Tower ..133
Self-reflection ..143
Food Server ..150
Monks' Food ..153
Shaving the Head ..159
Daikan ..164
Hunger ..169

PART FOUR: The Passage of Time
Escape ..177
Registration Ceremony ..180
First Bath ..185
Beginning Intensive Training ..189
Manual Labor ..195
Penance ..201
Main Lecture ..207
Transfer ..211

PART FIVE: The Source of the Warmth of Life
New Job ..219
Sales ..223
Distribution of Goods ..229
Guest Pavilion ..233
Inspection ..238
Washrags ..242
Ending Intensive Training ..247

PART SIX: The Colors of the Peak, the Echo in the Valley
Attendant to the Director ..253
Conference Room ..256
In Attendance ..259
Morning Session ..263
Incense Bearer ..267
Preparations for Winter ..271
Intensive Sitting ..275
Year-end Cleaning ..280
New Year's Day ..283
New Arrivals ..286
Just Sit ..290
Departure Survey ..294
Leaving ..300

Afterword to the Japanese First Edition ..311
Afterword to the Japanese Paperback Edition ..315
Notes ..323

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