Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bow First, Ask Questions Later: a book review

Bow First, Ask Questions Later: Ordination, Love, and Monastic Zen in Japan

by Gesshin Claire Greenwood

Released May 8, 2018

Wisdom Publications

Bow First, Ask Questions Later is a memoir by Gesshin Claire Greenwood, a white woman from San Francisco, who ordained as a Zen monk in Japan at the age of 24 years. She talks about her experiences in the monastery, as a student, as a teacher, as a questioner. And she does so with openness and humor.

Simply running down the table of contents was fun, and yes, the book is named for one such chapter. It implied that I would be brought on a spiritual journey and would laugh along the way.

I loved this book. I loved learning about Greenwood’s experiences, but even more I loved her exploration of faith, trust, surrender, and what enlightenment really means. I especially love that she was able to approach all of this with humor. She takes her practice very seriously, but not herself.

She opened up about some of her experience with depression and ways she attempted to deal with it. She talked about the differences in different countries’ monasteries. She talked about how wearing the robes made her feel in different situations. She even talked about sex.

Greenwood is also a great questioner. She questions Buddhism and practice in a way that shows the depth of how much she wants to understand it all at a core level.

This book is smart and funny, which makes for a very engaging read.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I used Amazon affiliate links in this post. Should you choose to buy something through those links, you will not pay any extra, but they will send me a small fee, which I will likely add to my book fund. Thank you. Please see my Book Review Disclaimer for more information.

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