There are tons of books about Zen, and several books about Zen and psychotherapy, but very few clearly reveal the nuance of original Chinese Zen. Dr. Yuanxia Zhang translates most of Zen classics excerpted in the book and shows the ambition to clarify the core of original Chinese Zen.
Zen combines the essence of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism. While Buddhism is focused on tranquility and peace of emptiness, Taoism is focused more on change and transformation of universal energy. Zen situates in the middle of Buddhism and Taoism, and develops to be an art of paradox. Dr. Zhang concisely introduces the theories of Buddhism and Taoism in the book, states that the essence of Zen is about how to identify, understand, and resolve paradox.
While Zen is focused on the universal phenomena of paradox, psychotherapy is aimed to help a patient resolve the troublesome paradox in his or her life. Dr. Zhang compares several popular schools of modern psychotherapy, such as psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy, cognitive therapy, Gestalt therapy, existential therapy, and client-centered therapy with Zen, reveals the similarity among them, and demonstrates the possible integration between Zen and psychotherapy.
Dr. Zhang identifies the difference between the Gradual School and Sudden School of Zen, emphasizes the essence of the Sudden School, presents the Zen in four aspects: mindfulness, Koan, enlightenment, and transcendence. The four aspects actually imply the process of dealing with paradox: mindfulness is to perceive paradox; Koan is to resolve paradox; enlightenment is the achievement of resolving paradox; transcendence stimulates consecutive exploration into the further paradox. Psychotherapy is for a patient who is unable to resolve simple paradox; Zen is for everybody who faces paradox in his or her everyday life.