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Straight Road with 99 Curves, A: Coming of Age on the Path of Zen

In 1971, when Greg Shepherd was in his early twenties, he left New Jersey and joined the Koko An Zendo community in Hawaii. What began as a quest for enlightenment became Greg's confrontation with his own inner demons: his need for approval, his distrust of authority, and his ego-driven fixation on achieving the profound spiritual breakthrough of kensho ("the Big K"). Later, in Japan, he struggled with prejudice and cultural rigidity and found his deeper meditations leading to actual panic attacks over fear of losing himself. Ultimately, he broke with Zen and his teachers to pursue a career in music.

This frank memoir traces Greg Shepherd's meandering path from seeker to disillusionment, and, over a decade later, his way back to Zen and inner peace. We experience Zen practice in Japan and Hawaii and meet Zen masters Yamada Koun Roshi and Robert Aitken, the "dean of American Buddhism" (who had once pegged Greg as his successor). And we understand why Zen was so appealing to the American counterculture and how its profound lessons of focus and detachment remain insightful and important.

Gregory Shepherd has studied Zen Buddhism since the early 1970s in Hawaii and Japan. He has masters degrees in music performance and musicology from the University of Hawaii and is currently associate professor of music at Kauai Community College, where he has taught since 1988.

Ruben L. F. Habito is a practicing Catholic and former Jesuit priest who is also an acknowledged Zen master practicing in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen.

Written by Gregory Shepherd and Foreword by Ruben L. F. Habito.

 

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