Book Review – Cultivating the Empty Field

This is a follow-up to my previous post about the book “Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi”. This book is edited and translated by Taigen Dan Leighton and Yi Wu.


I would consider this a classic Zen text and one every practitioner, from beginnings to masters should have. Included are Hongzhi’s practice instructions for sitting meditation, also called silent illumination or zazen (just sitting). Being in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition, the focus is not to concentrate on an object, but on silence and clearing thoughts. It is key to acknowledge a thought and let it go, giving the thoughts and objects a moment, before they move to the past, clearing a way to move forward.

The concept of the empty field is equivalent to the mind, and the thoughts that get in our way to live the life we desire are objects and overgrowth on that field. We must clear and cultivate the field.

Hongzhi’s language is clear and powerful and always with the goal of finding peace and your reality, not what others would like you to have. We each have a field and in that field is a bright luminous light, and that field is within. Our reality is within, and so are the answers we seek.

I continue to read and re-read this book and each time it makes more sense. I am able to incorporate more of the practice, tailor it to what works for me, and move forward with a more empty field, and further into a true reality. This book is a guide for finding that path.

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