The Empty Mirror Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery

Janwillem van de Wetering

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

160 Pages



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This brief memoir, seen by many as a contemporary classic, records the experiences of a young Dutch student—later a widely celebrated mystery writer—who spent a year and a half as a novice monk in a Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, author of Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, has written, The Empty Mirror "should be very encouraging for other Western seekers."

It is the first book in a trilogy that continues with A Glimpse of Nothingness and Afterzen.


Praise for The Empty Mirror

"This small and memorable memoir records the experiences of a young Dutch student who spent a year and a half as a novice monk in a Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery . . . What makes this account extraordinary is that the book contains none of the convert's irritating certitude."—Time

"A vivid, humorous, and slightly disillusioning account of a Dutchman's frustrating struggle toward enlightenment in a Japanese Zen monastery. Insightful, funny."—Carl Rogers

"What emerges is a work of nonfiction, told through the ingenuous persona of van de Wetering, that is as enjoyable to read as a well-crafted novel."—East West Journal

"What is accessible is the day-to-day description of life, of the monks themselves, and of the others [whom the author] met, of the jokes they played and the food they ate, of the moments of satori, the explosive moment of an understanding surpassing understanding."—Los Angeles Times

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Janwillem van de Wetering has lived with his wife on the Maine Coast for twenty years, but before that he lived literally all over the world --Holland, South Africa, London, Japan, South America. He is the author of a successful mystery series.
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  • Janwillem van de Wetering

  • Janwillem van de Wetering is also the author of a well-known series of offbeat mystery novels. A native of Holland, he now lives in Maine.