Book Review - Mzansi Zen

by Antony Osler (Jacana) ISBN 9781431423224

Mzansi Zen is Osler’s third book about the distinct flavour of Zen practised in South Africa and more than in his previous Stoep Zen and Zen Dust, he steps up as the wise teacher that South Africans in these confusing, painful times so sorely need. 

Using stories, memories, poetry, drawings and photography Osler shows us how to offer ourselves to whatever is in front of us with an open heart, ‘clean ears’ and compassion for our interconnected lives. 

At its heart, the book beats to the rhythm of a Zen meditation retreat as hosted by Osler and his wife Margie on their farm in the Karoo. In a daily schedule of sitting, walks in the veld, chanting, work and talks, retreatants experience how from paying silent attention great clarity arises. 

Osler recounts a number of koans from the Zen tradition and explains that the purpose of these wonderful but often confusing stories isn’t to fix or explain but rather to invite a response and in that response find our teaching. His observations of South African life often read like koans, in fact the whole book, that for me brought about smiles, tears, insight and question marks, is a special teaching story in itself. 

Josine Overdevest


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