Sky Above, Great Wind Book Summary - Sky Above, Great Wind Book explained in key points

Sky Above, Great Wind summary

Kazuaki Tanahashi

Brief summary

Sky Above, Great Wind is a collection of poetry by renowned Zen master Ryokan. His simple yet profound verses inspire us to embrace nature, live in the present, and find peace in the midst of life's challenges.

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    Sky Above, Great Wind
    Summary of key ideas

    Embracing Simplicity and Nature

    In Sky Above, Great Wind, Kazuaki Tanahashi introduces us to the life and poetry of Ryokan, a Zen monk who lived in Japan during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Ryokan's life was marked by simplicity, humility, and a deep connection with nature. He chose to live in a small, thatched-roof hut, away from the formalities of the monastery, and spent his days writing poetry, playing with village children, and communing with the natural world.

    Ryokan's poetry, as translated by Tanahashi, reflects his deep appreciation for the beauty and transience of life. His verses often describe the changing seasons, the moon and stars, and the simple pleasures of everyday life. He finds joy in the sound of a frog jumping into a pond, the sight of cherry blossoms in bloom, and the warmth of a cup of tea. His poems are infused with a sense of impermanence, reminding us to cherish each moment.

    Seeking Enlightenment in Solitude

    Despite his deep love for the world, Ryokan was also a solitary figure. He spent long periods in seclusion, seeking enlightenment through meditation and self-reflection. His hut, nestled in the mountains, became a place of spiritual retreat, where he could contemplate the nature of existence and the teachings of Zen Buddhism. In his solitude, he found a profound sense of peace and contentment.

    Ryokan's lifestyle and poetry embody the Zen principle of simplicity and non-attachment. He owned very few possessions, often giving away what little he had to those in need. His detachment from material wealth and social status allowed him to live a life of freedom and authenticity, unburdened by societal expectations or desires.

    Teaching through Unconventional Means

    Despite his reclusive nature, Ryokan was also known for his unconventional teaching methods. He would often engage with villagers and travelers, using humor and playfulness to impart Zen wisdom. He was particularly fond of children, whom he saw as pure and unspoiled by societal conditioning. He would play games with them, compose silly poems, and share his love for nature, using these interactions as opportunities for spiritual guidance.

    Ryokan's teachings emphasized the importance of living in the present moment, embracing impermanence, and finding joy in simplicity. He encouraged his students to look beyond the superficial and seek enlightenment in their everyday experiences. His approach to teaching was deeply personal and rooted in his own lived experiences, making his lessons all the more impactful.

    A Legacy of Simplicity and Compassion

    In Sky Above, Great Wind, Tanahashi presents Ryokan as a figure of profound wisdom and compassion. Despite his unorthodox lifestyle, Ryokan's influence extended far beyond his hermitage. His poetry and teachings continue to inspire people around the world, reminding us of the value of simplicity, the beauty of nature, and the importance of living with an open heart.

    Ultimately, Ryokan's life and work serve as a powerful reminder of the enduring relevance of Zen philosophy in our modern, fast-paced world. His commitment to simplicity, his deep connection with nature, and his unwavering compassion for all beings offer us a timeless example of how to live a life of meaning and fulfillment.

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    What is Sky Above, Great Wind about?

    Sky Above, Great Wind is a collection of poetry and calligraphy by the renowned Zen master Ryokan. Through his simple yet profound verses, Ryokan invites readers to contemplate the beauty of nature, the impermanence of life, and the essence of true happiness. This book offers a glimpse into the wisdom and tranquility of a beloved figure in Zen literature.

    Sky Above, Great Wind Review

    Sky Above, Great Wind (2019) by Kazuaki Tanahashi is a captivating exploration of the art of haiku. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • It provides a deep dive into the profound beauty of haiku, revealing how these concise poems can capture the essence of a moment with remarkable power.
    • The book offers a rich historical context for the haiku form, shedding light on its origins and evolution, and showcasing the work of famous masters.
    • Through carefully selected examples and insightful commentary, Tanahashi gives readers a fresh perspective on haiku, inviting them to appreciate its elegance and simplicity.

    Who should read Sky Above, Great Wind?

    • Individuals interested in Zen Buddhism and its teachings
    • Readers seeking poetry that reflects simplicity and mindfulness
    • Those looking for inspiration and insights from the life of a unique and unconventional spiritual figure

    About the Author

    Kazuaki Tanahashi is a renowned Japanese calligrapher, painter, and translator. He has been a pioneer in introducing Zen art and philosophy to the West. Tanahashi has translated and edited numerous books on Zen, including the works of Dogen and Thich Nhat Hanh. His own writings, such as "Enlightenment Unfolds" and "Brush Mind," explore the intersection of art and spirituality. Through his art and teachings, Tanahashi continues to inspire people around the world to cultivate mindfulness and creativity.

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    Sky Above, Great Wind FAQs 

    What is the main message of Sky Above, Great Wind?

    The main message of Sky Above, Great Wind is to find beauty and hope amidst tragedy and destruction.

    How long does it take to read Sky Above, Great Wind?

    The reading time for Sky Above, Great Wind varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Sky Above, Great Wind a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Sky Above, Great Wind is a poignant read that offers a unique perspective on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Sky Above, Great Wind?

    Kazuaki Tanahashi is the author of Sky Above, Great Wind.

    What to read after Sky Above, Great Wind?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Sky Above, Great Wind, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Choose Yourself by James Altucher
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    • Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
    • The Power of No by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher