The Old Zen Master

The Old Zen Master – Inspirations for Awakening

Stories, parables, and examples have been a favour­ed way of conveying spiritual insights and truths since time immemorial, and Trevor Leggett was a master at it. He had the knack of pointing out the spiritual implications of practical events which people can relate to.

The Old Zen Master contains stories based on Buddhism with references to martial arts, music, chess and incidents in ordinary life. He describes this as a freewheeling book: `I am trying to give a few hints which have helped me and which can be of help to others,’ he said.

For those who know nothing of Buddhism or Zen in particular, this is an ideal introduction. It is nevertheless relevant to long-term practitioners as well. As the author points out, occasionally a new slant, a new angle or a new illustration — especially if it is an unexpected one — can be a help in absorbing practice, study and devotion.

In Judo there is a certain grading contest called ‘one-against-ten.’ You have to take on ten men-one after another. They are generally a couple of grades below you, and with luck are so terrified of you, that it is easy to dispose of them. But one or two of them think, ‘Everybody knows I’m going to lose anyway, so I’ve nothing to lose,’ and they come shooting at you, taking fantastic risks. Because you are so sure of your own superiority, which he doesn’t seem to recognize, and because he comes straight at you – ‘whoosh’ – you can’t get the robes of self-conceit and assurance off in time, so that, once in a blue moon, he scores. Then you know what it is like to look an utter fool. This happened to some rather famous contest men who were not fully alert because they felt it was unnecessary. They had already put on the robes of their coming victory. No longer simply the judo champions they ought to be, they became judo champions combined with something restricting – judo champions in cumbersome robes of honour.”

Specimen Chapters

Regrets, Casual Doubts, Taking Refuge in the Sangha, Studying the Holy Texts, Leaves and Moss, East and West, Triumph or Success, A Hundred Hearings Not Like One Seeing, Sword and Mind, Jottings from Zen Master Bukko, If You’re Going to Die Die Quick!, Robes of Honour


“…humour and learning… in his own inimitable way…”

“This is a vintage collection of pieces drawn not only from Zen, chess and the martial arts, but also from the Upanishads, the Old and New Testaments, music and various other sources. Sometimes there are useful hints – how to cope with wearing tasks, a sudden flare-up of anger, nagging thoughts. Sometimes a piece has a deeper meaning, which readers are left to work out for themselves. We are introduced to Zen masters, a famous fencing master and a champion chess player, to name but a few of those to be found in these pages.”

(Buddhism Now)