Enter the mind and practice of Zen: apply the insights of one of Zen's classic poems to your life--here and now.
Shitou Xiqian's "Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage" is a remarkably accessible work of profound depth; in thirty-two lines Shitou expresses the breadth of the entire Buddhist tradition with simple, vivid imagery. Ben Connelly's Inside the Grass Hut unpacks the timeless poem and applies it to contemporary life. His book delivers a wealth of information on the context and content of this eighth-century work, as well as directly evokes the poem's themes of simple living, calm, and a deep sense of connection to all things. Each pithy chapter focuses on a single line of the poem, letting the reader immerse himself thoroughly in each line and then come up for air before moving on to the next. Line by line, Connelly shows how the poem draws on and expresses elements from the thousand years of Buddhist thought that preceded it, expands on the poem's depiction of a life of simple practice in nature, and tells stories of the way these teachings manifest in modern life. Connelly, like Shitou before him, proves himself adept at taking profound and complex themes from Zen and laying them out in a practical and understandable way. Eminently readable, thoroughly illuminating, Inside the Grass Hut shows the reader a path of wholehearted engagement -- with the poem, and with the world. Destined to become a trusted, dog-eared companion.
“Ben Connelly clearly and beautifully links the life of this renunciate mountain monk to our own complex, multitasking, engaged and over-involved lives, showing how we can find great depth of wisdom and compassion right here. He brings this poem to our lives, just as they are."
– Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness
“Written from the inside out, this wonderful book explores Zen Master Shitou's marvelous and revelatory poem ‘Song of the Grass Roof Hemitage.’ The language and sense of immediacy makes Shitou's work transparent to all.”
– Joan Halifax, founding abbot, Upaya Zen Center
“A great addition to the latest stage in the development of Buddhist books by Westerners for Western audiences: the careful commentary to a traditional text. This stage follows the Dharma talk book and the general intro book, necessities for introducing the general reader to Buddhist teaching. That having been done, we are now ready for something with more depth, and the audience is well prepared for it, and seeks it. Connelly has what it takes to accomplish this task: a deep and detailed knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and the ability to write about it in an informal, engaging, and understandable way. This book is easy and pleasant to read, with plenty of wit, and with many examples from daily life. There's humor, deft turning of phrase, even some paradox and poetry.”
– Norman Fischer, author of Training in Compassion
"This lovely book is an invitation to experience calm and ease while looking deeply into who lives in the grass hut. It is a wonderful guidebook on the path to being a wiser and kinder human being delighting in a simple, natural way of life."
– Ellen Birx, author of Selfless Love
"Inside the Grass Hut is a clear, charitable presentation of Zen tradition and practice. Connelly provides fresh, insightful interpretations of Shitou’s classic poem, directly applicable to zendo and daily life. But striking, too, is the personal and serene tone of the writing, of the instructive exposition, which infuses the book with a living pulse and -- what I will dare to call here -- the very essence of Zen."
– Mike O’Connor, translator of Where the World Does Not Follow
"Ben Connelly sensitively re-imagines for the modern reader Shitou's timeless poem about what it means to be fully alive in the world. Written not just for Zen practitioners, this lovely book offers insights and encouragement to all who seek to live in the simplicity of the present moment."