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Eat Sleep Sit

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At the age of 30, Kaoru Nonomura left his family, his girlfriend, and his job as a Tokyo designer to undertake a year of ascetic training at Eiheiji, one of the most rigorous Zen monasteries in Japan and head temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism. This book is Nonomura's account of that year, and his quietly determined quest to imbue his life with spiritual meaning.

Deep in the mountains of remote Fukui Prefecture, trainee monks live a life of hardship that few could endure: the physical agony of hours of seated meditation, lack of sleep, meager diet, and a punishing schedule of physical labor, against a background of threats and beatings from superiors. Yet Nonomura's account of his year at Eiheiji is full of warmth, humor, and gratitude, and as we follow his journey, we discover with him the courage to affirm the past and the joy of living mindfully in the present.

Shocking, moving, insightful, funny, and warm, "Eat Sleep Sit" is a warts-and-all story of the life of a novice Buddhist monk, grappling not just with the day-to-day mysteries of Buddhist practice — how to eat, how to sleep, how to sit — but with fear, exhaustion, hunger, and loneliness.

A bestseller in Japanese, this beautifully written and inspiring memoir is a fascinating insight into a life of hardship that few people could endure. "Eat Sleep Sit" will appeal to all those with an interest in Zen Buddhism and to anyone with an interest in the story of one ordinary man's search for spiritual enlightenment.

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13 Comments
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Sold! i want to get that book! ;DD

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Learning to enjoy misery might be a good theme for working Japan to embrace in the days ahead.

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We don't have to go through all of that to reach "enlightenment". In fact, the Buddha realized that after all the hell he went through. I think simple regular meditation and appreciate for who we are and what we have and the people we love and are loved by is all people really need. We don't have to go through "hell" to realize that "heaven" is already inside of us.

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Punishment and being able to endure are common themes in Japanese culture.

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similar to a typical Japanese guy...just add the smoking bit.

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johnshiomi, you're exactly right. and furthermore, the Buddha was the one who said that enlightenment was not something that could be learned or taught, but rather something that each person had to find by themselves.

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I would argue that truth is self-evident to those who seek it. What one man considers true another would call a bold-faced lie, even presented to them at the same time. Everyone chooses their own truth, to be presented to them in the way they feel they can best understand. Truth is self-evident, but the path to it is not. There will always be people who feel like they need to push themselves to extremes to find whatever truth they seek, and others like sydenham and Jonshiomi who see truth in a simpler light. The truth that we all get in the end, I think, ultimately is the same thing.

I am an atheist, or at least until I feel compelled otherwise by something I have yet to experience, which I am totally open to.

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In the real world we are jostled around by conflicting realities. Work; money, neighbors, health, relationships and self-worth. Going into a monestry is like going into a spiritual health farm: Fixing and toning-up the spiirtual biceps. Maybe it's a good idea to do it once a year. But, unless you are one of the lucky ones who has found the right niche in society, say making prayer beads for a living, then life's realities will eat into the benefits gained from the spiritual retreat. Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to get away from reality for a while and clense the spirits.

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Bullying, humiliation, belittling, gaman...just like a microcosm of Japan.

I've been to Eiheiji, it's not that remote but they are definitely more serious than the monks in Kyoto. Although the novice monks go crazy for pinku chirashi.

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Spent some time inside there. Not easy.

I remember being awoken at 3:30 am in the middle of February.... "I thought 4:00 o'clock was wake-up time?"

Monk: "No, that was the winter schedule. Summertime starts from today."

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I clicked on this article because I thought it was about the life of a salaryman. The life at the monastery sounds similar to company life - eat, sit, sleep...hours seated in agony, lack of sleep, meager diet, threats and bullying from superiors. In a company, you reach enlightenment quicker and more often, because there is a small monthly epiphany in your bank account. For a lucky few salarymen and monks, the ultimate truth reveals itself: "Uh..time to move on."

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The goal of Buddhists is to escape the endless cycle of suffering through birth, death and rebirth. To do this, they seek enlightenment. But that's only one reason boys join a monastery for some period of time.

Other reasons include enabling their mothers to accrue merit. Women cannot become monks and are therefore consigned to a lower status in the life cycle.

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The harsh discipline is supposed to help in escaping one's own selfishness. This is the goal of Zen. I want to read this book since one of my goals for this year is to fight my selfishness but I'm not ready for Eiheiji. I have to get rid of the "me" that I constantly think about.

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