Cover image for The empty mirror : experiences in a Japanese Zen monastery
The empty mirror : experiences in a Japanese Zen monastery
Van de Wetering, Janwillem, 1931-2008.
Uniform Title:
Lege spiegel. English
First St. Martin's Griffin edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.

Physical Description:
146 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Thomas Dunne books"--T.p. verso.

Originally published: London : Routledge & K. Paul, 1973.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library BQ9294.4.J3 W4713C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Seen by many as a contemporary classic, Janwillem van de Wetering's small and admirable memoir 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 .

Author Notes

Janwillem Van de Wetering was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands on February 12, 1931.

He traveled extensively, both geographically and philosophically, his adventures ranging from being a motorcycle gang member to a Buddhist, a real estate salesman in Australia to an exporter in Holland.

He was a police officer in Amsterdam from 1966 to 1975 and his crime novels featuring detectives Grijpstra and De Gier were based on his experiences. He also wrote a trilogy based on the time he spent at a Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery and wrote children's books about a porcupine named Hugh Pine. In 1984, he received the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. He died on July 4, 2008 at the age of 77.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nearly 30 years ago, van de Wetering, who would later achieve fame as a mystery novelist, published The Empty Mirror, about his experiences at a Zen monastery in Japan in the mid-60s. In 1975, he published a sequel, A Glimpse of Nothingness, about his stint at the Moon Springs Hermitage in Maine. Now the author has written a follow-up, AfterZen, told from the perspective of an aging soul who dropped most formal Zen practice years ago but still carries an abiding respect for the gut truths of the teaching and for at least some of its teachers. Much of the book has the air of the classic Zen saying, "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him": with humor and occasional crankiness, van de Wetering knocks koans, meditation and some of the trappings of the monastic Zen life. There are many flashbacks, to Japan, to his American experiences, to meetings with fellow ex-students, and the book has a somewhat chaotic feel, rather more like life than art. Throughout, van de Wetering's voice is sincere, if iconoclastic. Those looking for composed wisdom should read Basho; those looking for an honest memoir by a perhaps wise man will find this to their taste. One Spirit alternate. (June) FYI: Also in June, van de Wetering's two earlier books, which have been out of print, are being reissued by St. Martin's/Dunne; Empty Mirror: $10.95 paper 160p ISBN 0-312-20774-3; Glimpse: $11.95 paper 192p ISBN -20945-2). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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