Grassroots Zen

Grassroots Zen

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Community and Practice in the Twenty-First Century

Revised Edition

Perle Besserman and Manfred Steger

US $15.95 /CAN $21.99
US $11.99 /CAN $16.50

Grassroots Zen envisions a socially engaged Buddhism where zazen is integrated each day with work, family, and social obligations.Though both authors have practiced traditional Zen for decades here they eschew the militaristic, patriarchal tendencies of Zen in favor of "an egalitarian community of socially mobile members who place less emphasis upon transmission and hierarchy than on individual responsibility."


Perle Besserman is the award-winning author of numerous works of fiction and creative nonfiction, including several books on spirituality that were praised by Isaac Bashevis Singer for their "clarity and feeling for mystic lore" and by Publishers Weekly for the "wisdom [that] points to a universal practice of the heart." Besserman's books have been translated into over ten languages. She holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and, together with Manfred Steger, is founding co-teacher of the Princeton Area Zen Group in Princeton, New Jersey.

Manfred B. Steger is the founding teacher of the Princeton Area Zen Group. ( He and his wife Perle Besserman are deeply dedicated to the cultivation of a Western-style lay practice that maintains the essential elements of Zen—sitting meditation, interviews with a teacher, and silent retreats. A professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and Honorary Professor of Global Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, Steger has written or edited twenty books on politics, history, and religion, including the bestselling Globalization: A Very Short Introduction.

Manfred and Perle divide their time between Princeton, Melbourne, and Honolulu.


"... Steger and Besserman name and describe a phenomenon that is occurring all over the country: relatively small, democratically run groups of Zen Buddhist practitioners are banding together and sustaining a sangha, or community, free of the hierarchy and formality of the monastery."—Publishers Weekly

"The real life Zen explored on these pages can be seen as an explication of the Zen saying "Inside and outside are one." Or as Steger and Besserman put it: "What we do and think and buy and eat aren't done in a vacuum." It's all of one piece."—Spirituality and Practice

"Steger and Besserman offer something quite different, and quite welcome: a truly domesticated but deeply grounded approach to Zen for American life; a Zen that comes to terms with, and ultimately transcends, the hierarchical, sexist, otherworldly, and pseudomilitaristic overtones of the Zen tradition."—Library Journal

"Future generations may come to see the publication of Grassroots Zen as a pivotal in the emergence of an uniquely American Zen."—Rami Shapiro, Minyan: Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity

"A short, clear presentation on one way to make Zen less Japanese and more Western...This book is highly accessible."—Rita M. Gross, Buddhism After Patriarchy