Book Review

Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go: Waking Up to Who You Are by Thich Nhat Hanh. Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA, 2007; 204 pages, ISBN 1-888375-72-8, paperback, $14.95.

The businessless person, "one with nothing to do and nowhere to go," is "someone who doesn't run after enlightenment or grasp at anything, even if that thing is the Buddha.  This person has simply stopped.  She is no longer caught by anything, even theories or teachings.  The businessless person is the true person inside each one of us.  This is the essential teaching of Master Linji" (p. 11).  The Chinese Master Linji (c. 810 - 867) was one of the founders of Zen Buddhism.  His paradoxical and iconoclastic teachings, written down by his students in The Record of Master Linji, are sometimes difficult to understand and appreciate.  Here Thich Nhat Hanh gives a translation on this work with a commentary that emphasizes the timelessness of Master Linji's teachings: living in the moment, approaching everything and everyone with openness and a lack of preconceived views, ruling ourselves with confidence so that we act without attachment, and not being distracted by the content of our minds, including theories, teachings, and scriptures.

Despite differences of custom, sensibility, and opinion built up over 1,000 years, these teachings remain immediate. They speak to us of the human condition and how by our own efforts in the present moment we can come to enlightenment, a true understanding of ourselves unlimited by ignorance, attachments, and craving.  It involves getting in touch with our true nature, for "If we search for something outside ourselves, we will never find it.  We have, within us, all the seeds of Buddhahood.  The Buddha and the masters don't belong to the past, the future, or another place. They are here with us in this present moment" (p. 89). I found this a absorbing and useful book. – Sarah Belle Dougherty (January 2009)