Roshi Susan’s Books


Roshi Susan Murphy’s unique lyrical approach to Zen takes up “all offers.” She draws from a diversity of spiritual traditions, from science, cinema, art, poetry, ecology and the wisdom of indigenous Australians to challenge us to “find the marvelous in the ordinary” and then to act to mend that marvelous world, now in crisis. And this is a message she is compelled to share.


Red Thread Zen

Love, attachment, the passions, gender, carnality, birth, bodily being, mortality, belonging, suffering, hope, despair, personhood, imagination, vitality, the struggle to be fully human — how do these things dwell wholly in emptiness, how do we reconcile their vivid life with “no-thingness”?

The red (or “vermilion”) thread originally connoted the color of the silk undergarments courtesans were obliged to wear. Most spiritual traditions do their best to distance themselves as thoroughly as possible from such direct and intimate contact with the fact of impassioned human bodily being. Some declare open war on the flesh and the female body that most plainly bears flesh into the world. Spirituality has trouble dealing with the fact that we arrive here covered in blood.

But the red thread can never be cut. Why not? Why would no perfectly accomplished saint ever even dream of cutting it?

Red Thread Zen will set out to explore every corner of the magnificent koan of being “still attached to the red thread,” or “line of tears.” This is an argument against the bloodless and socially disengaged form of “Buddhism” that is generally being gestated in the West, one that shades too readily into the blandest of bland self- help.

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Minding the Earth Mending the World

“The crisis facing us all right now is a tremendous koan set for us by the earth, speaking to us plainly but in words we cannot yet fully comprehend, caught as we are in the frame of the past that cannot conceive of this emergency. To respond we need to free ourselves from a too narrow sense of self and an unquestioned assumption or self-entitled priority as a species.”

In this Zen response to the Planetary emergence brought on through the climate crisis, Roshi Susan offers a “medicine bundle” of stories to help us grasp a new story of self and a new story of earth.

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Upside Down Zen

“Zen is a direct path into reality, a direct path into the hard and exhilarating questions of being alive. The path of Zen is a mountain path. Walking it is like choosing to walk deeper, ever deeper, into mountains. When you climb a mountain it has the curious effect of disappearing under you and closing round you.”

In this broad introduction to Zen practice, Roshi Susan examines some of the upending and mixing up of a formerly Asian Zen as it takes root and grows more native to the West. She examines Zen’s relationship to environmental issues, the way of dream, creativity and imagination, resonances with Aboriginal spirituality and the challenges of maintaining a lay practice in a busy world.

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