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#3596 - Friday, July 17, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights  

Bargainin' for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen Master?

by Steven Heine

A thoughtful examination of Dylan’s oeuvre through the lens of Buddhism

In Bargainin', Heine, who is Professor of Religion and History and Director of the Institute for Asian Studies at Florida International University, interprets the oeuvre of Dylan's career through a Zen Buddhist perspective and includes but digs much, much deeper than Dylan's obvious Buddhist influences -- the references in songs and interviews, his travels to Japan, his kinship with Allen Ginsberg and other Beat writers who were involved in Zen practice -- by presenting Dylan's entire career trajectory as a demonstration of attainment of the "Middle Way" in Buddhist teaching, or the avoidance of all extremes and the refraining from opposing positions.

One of the mysteries of Bob Dylan’s incredible corpus is why he seems to veer and zigzag so drastically and dramatically from one extreme standpoint to another. Throughout his career, rapid, radical transitions in musical style and public persona have either inspired or shocked different sectors of his fans. Is Dylan’s work complex and contradictory, or is there an underlying consistency and continuity to its seemingly chaotic ebb and flow?

Steven Heine argues that Dylan actually embraces two radically distinct worldviews at alternating periods. One is prevalent in his Protest (early ’60s), Country (late ’60s), and Gospel (late ’70s) phases; it finds Dylan expressing moral outrage by endorsing a single higher truth based on a right-versus-wrong philosophy. The second view appears during periods of Dylan’s disillusionment in the mid ’60s (“Desolation Row”), mid ’70s (“Tangled Up in Blue”), and mid ’80s (“Jokerman”), finding him disenchanted with one-sided proclamations of truth, and wandering, seemingly aimless, amid a relativistic world of masks and disguises where nothing is ever what it claims to be.

Throughout his various stages, Dylan’s work reveals an affinity with the Zen worldview, where enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation and intuition rather than through faith and devotion. Much has been made of Dylan’s Christian periods, but never before has a book engaged Dylan’s deep and rich oeuvre through a Buddhist lens. Forgoing Christianity and Western views for Zen and Buddhism, Bargainin’ for Salvation will capture your attention and direct it toward the East.

Table of Contents
1. Satori in Amsterdam - "Inside the Museums, Infinity Goes Up on Trial"
2. The Paths of Duality and Non-Duality - "The Judge is Coming In, Everybody Rise"
3. Duality I: The Protest Era - From the Union Halls to the Blues Bars
4. Non-Duality I: The Mid 60's Folk-Rock Era - "I've Had to Re-Arrange Their Faces"
5. Duality II: The Country Era - "Have a Bunch of Kids who Call Me 'Pa'"
6. Non-Duality II: The Mid-70's Road Show: "An Illusion to Me Now"
7. Duality III: The Gospel Era - "You Either Got Faith or Unbelief"
8. Non-Duality III: Mid-80's Retro - "Staying One Step Ahead of the Prosecutor Within"
9. The "Modern Era": Middle Way Lost - "I Used to Care, But Things Have Changed"
10. Dylan's Expressiveness and Zen - "Sitting Like Buddha in a Ten Foot Cell"

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You may purchase Bargainin' for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen Master? by Steven Heine through

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