About the Author

BarbaraBarbara O’Brien grew up in the Ozark Mountain section of the Bible Belt, also called the Land of Perpetual Holy Spirit Gospel Tabernacle Revivals. Doubts pulled her away from Christianity, however, and after much stumbling around in many traditions she became a formal student of Zen Buddhism in the late 1980s. As a journalist she has written extensively about religion in America and how it impacts politics and culture. Since 2008 she has been the resident expert on Buddhism for About.com, and she blogs about whatever is on her mind at her personal blog, The Mahablog (mahablog.com). She is currently a member of the Empty Hand Zen Center in New Rochelle, NY.

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7 comments on “About the Author
  1. Tom Hessian says:

    Barbara, John Daido Loori, Roshi’s explanation of “emptiness” has put me in a place where I believe I finally “get it” Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Been thinking about this for many years and after reading “The Mystic Eye” things are starting to make sense.. Thanks for posting this essay. Tom H

  2. Dave says:

    Barbara, I’m a newbie to meditation and have enjoyed reading your pieces on About.com as well as your blog.

    One of the questions that I’m having a tough time sorting out is–at the level of the layman–what is the difference between Zazen and other forms of sitting meditation such as Vipassana/Insight.

    I know the two traditions have different histories, but from the perspective of basic “mindfulness” training, how do Zazen practitioners think about their practice as opposed to what Vipassana practitioners do? Is it that the goals of each are different? That the type of breathing is different? Something else?

    Any thoughts you have for a newbie are appreciated.

    • Barbara says:

      Hi, Dave. My understanding is that Vipassana and the Soto Zen meditation practice of Shikantaza are nearly the same thing, at least on a beginner level. There may be subtle differences, but not having done Vipassana I can’t tell you what they are. Formal koan contemplation done in Rinzai Zen is something else again, but I don’t recommend trying that unless you are working directly with a Zen teacher.

  3. Hi Barbara. Cannot find an e-mail addy for you . . . reading your about.com piece on prayer, thought I’d share some relevant writing in this week’s Chenrezig Project weekly e-letter . . . see the Yakity-Yak column . . . hope you enjoy, please feel free to share . . . happy days, mark


  4. Simeon Davis says:

    Hello Barbara,

    I found you through About.com, and the comments here are the only way I found to contact you.

    I thought you would like to know about the brief sale of “The Dhammapada for Awakening: Buddha’s Practical Wisdom” available at Amazon this week for 99 cents ( http://amzn.com/B00P1D2U18 ) Maybe your About readers would like to know about this. Thanks!

  5. Jing Pei says:

    Greetings, Sister Barbara,

    I am a Malaysian and a Buddhist starting back in 2014. I only learnt about this religion and took refuge under the Triple Gems when I entered the university. I have enjoyed reading your articles in About.com, and would wish to learn more on Zen Buddhism, or at the very least obtain references from you. I am curious as the schools I have learnt are mainly from Mahayana (dhamma classes and camps), Theravada (talks and readings) and Vajrayana (only some readings and a talk). We were taught by the monks and nuns as well as our more experienced brothers and sisters to learn more on all schools present, hence my interest as Zen Buddhism is not a school I found upon often. And I am sorry to say before I read your articles, I have categorised it as one of the romantised versions. I have realised my mistake for carrying this presumption and would like to learn more.

    I would also like to recommend a book by the late Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda when I stumbled upon your article “What Buddhists Believe”, if you have not read it. It is interesting to note that the book is titled the same as your article.

    Look forward to your reply.

    With Metta,
    Jing Pei

  6. Sevil Oz says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I saw you when I was searching for Buddhism Schools in Tibet . (Today I started to follow you:) )
    There are so many sources about them and I am so confused. I am sure you know about them. How could someone enter to these schools, where are they and how to reach to them?
    Thank you so much!

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