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Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind


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About the Author

In 1979 Maura O'Halloran left a waitressing job in Boston and traveled to Japan, only to find herself studying Zen at an old temple tucked into a Tokyo backstreet. There, and in the remote countryside of northern Japan, Maura began a compelling journey into the depths of her own heart and mind. Her journals and letters home reveal the gentle humor, compassion, and profound wisdom won only by intense hardship. Insightful and absorbing, Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind offers an unmediated glimpse into her endless commitment to awakening. Published nearly twenty-five years after Maura's tragic death, this commemorative edition includes her previously unpublished letters and unfinished novel, adding new insight and rich detail to what is already one of the most-loved dharma books of all time.


"'Maura-san," or 'Soshin'--celebrated during her lifetime in the Japanese media as an anomaly of anomalies, a female Irish Zen monk--has come to be regarded as a Buddhist bodhisattva or saint of compassion. [Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind is] a remarkable record of a life fully lived, a unique and inspiring and even heartbreaking book. [...] Like Virginia Woolf in her diaries or Elizabeth Bishop in her letters, Maura O'Halloran appears on the page singular and whole. So this is a person! She is a Zen monk, yes, but she is also a splendidly educated Irish-American from a large and loving family, intellectually ambitious, attractive and attracted to men of all sorts, hungry for the world's goods. These aspects of herself fulfill one another rather than cancel each other out. While it is called Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, the book is full of Maura's soul. [...] the journal itself is personal, sometimes abstruse, but rarely myopic; as a writer, Maura O'Halloran can't help but communicate. It is complemented perfectly by the letters to her family interspersed throughout. In them she is unusually confident and clear-headed about her search for enlightenment. She makes no apologies, gives no defenses. [...] How sad I felt as I finished this book, which I will read again: sad that Maura O'Halloran didn't survive to return and enrich our culture, and sad that she had to go away from us in the first place."-- "Commonwealth"

"Some of the most important lessons I've learned about Buddhism haven't come from the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh. Rather, they came from Maura O'Halloran. [Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind] brought the Buddhist experience into my mind and psyche in a way that no dharma book or doctrine ever had.... For me, Maura's book is a gift, offering guidance and inspiration. Reading about her life, I'm able to reflect more clearly on my own experience, and to glimpse what I do not yet now or understand. While other books have helped me to appreciate the concept of enlightenment, reading Maura's account of her awakening made the possibility of it much more real. I come back PH, EM often. Every time I read it I break down into heaving sobs, unable to finish. To this day, I'm unable to explain why I'm moved so deeply."--Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha, in Buddhadharma

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