Hagen, Steve 1945-

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Hagen, Steve 1945-


Born December 20, 1945.


Office—Dharma Field, 3118 W. 49th St., Minneapolis, MN 55410.


Zen priest, educator, writer, and editor. Ordained as a Zen priest, 1979; Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center, Minneapolis, MN, head teacher.


How the World Can Be the Way It Is: An Inquiry for the New Millennium into Science, Philosophy, and Perception, Quest Books (Wheaton, IL), 1995.

Buddhism Plain and Simple, Charles E. Tuttle (Boston, MA), 1997.

(Editor) Dainin Katagiri, You Have to Say Something: Manifesting Zen Insight, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1998.

(Author of introduction) The Iron Flute: 100 Zen Koans, commentary by Genro Fugai and Nyogen Senzaki, translated and edited by Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Strout McCandless, Tuttle (Boston, MA), 2000.

Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom beyond Beliefs, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

Meditation Now or Never, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2007.


A student of Buddhist thought and practice since 1967, Steve Hagen is an ordained Zen priest who received his Dharma transmission from Zen master Dainin Katagiri Roshi in 1989. He has gone on to become a teacher of Zen and Buddhism at the Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also the author and editor of numerous books focusing on Buddhism and Zen.

Hagen's book Buddhism Plain and Simple presents a look at Buddhism that emphasizes the Buddha's practical and eminently down-to-earth insights about life and dealing with awareness in the here and now. In an effort to provide clear and simple insights into the basic principles of Buddhism, the author strips from the fundamental teachings of Buddhism the cultural trappings that have accumulated over the years. Nevertheless, despite his simplified approach to the subject of Buddhism, the author still has much to say for experienced Buddhist practitioners. For example, Zen Unbound Web site contributor Taft Lowell noted: "Those of us who are familiar with Buddhism are already very cognizant of the four noble truths and the eightfold path, yet in his book Hagen goes into each in such a way that he answered questions I had about a few of them." Lowell added in the same review that "it is likely to help many advanced Buddhists to see their religion in a new light." Other reviewers also praised the book. A contributor to the Dance of the Mind Web site called Buddhism Plain and Simple "a very good book and likely an excellent primer to Buddhism—especially if you haven't gone way deep into whatever religion you are already involved in."

The author writes about what he believes to be the central teaching of Buddhism in his book Buddhism IsNot What You Think: Finding Freedom beyond Beliefs. Pointing to what the Buddha summarized as the basis of his teaching, that is, awareness, the author explores what is reality and how people perceive reality. In his prologue to the book, the author writes: "This is not a feel-good self-improvement book about how to become more spiritual. It's an intensely practical book about how to live our daily lives openly and honestly, with wisdom and compassion. It is a book about being awake to Reality—about being fully human."

Buddhism Is Not What You Think discusses concepts such as why people typically misperceive the world around them and how Buddhism can help people raise their awareness. During an interview about Buddhism Is Not What You Think with Lisa Schneider on the Beliefnet Web site, the author noted that people's conceptualization of the world "often … gets mixed in with our own egoistic desires and that kind of shades our understandings." He went on to say: "Buddhism as I understand it is about cutting through this and getting in touch with our actual, immediate, direct experience. The truth, reality, is not something that forms in the mind as an idea; it is immediate, fresh, every-changing, now. The moment we freeze it out as an idea or a thought or a belief, immediately we're out of touch with the actual experience of the moment."

Overall, the book explores how Buddhism can help people base their actions on a true reality rather than on the mind's longings and loathings. He uses down-to-earth examples from everyday life to illustrate his points, as well as stories told by Buddhist teachers of the past and present. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "makes his central point emphatically … throughout this book: Buddhism is about direct experience, not about the thoughts people habitually entertain about experience." Mark Woodhouse wrote in the Library Journal: "For practitioners it is … a book that will reward multiple readings over time."

In his 2007 book Meditation Now or Never, the author discusses meditation not simply as a spiritual technique but also as a way of living. The author covers the entire gamut of issues associated with meditation, from the basic concerns of beginners to the difficulties that even experienced students of meditation encounter. He examines topics such as where most people get "stuck" in meditation and also discusses how to get unstuck. The author provides simple and basic meditation practices, including sitting and walking meditations, which seek to avoid needlessly complicating the meditation process. The author also explores what meditation is and what it is not. Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat wrote on the Spirituality and Practice Web site that the author "explicates the things mistaken for meditation—relaxation, visualization, acquiring supernatural powers, a bodily form of philosophical inquiry, a means of achieving enlightenment, a way of escaping our lives, or a pathway to bliss or ecstasy." A Publishers Weekly contributor called Meditation Now or Never "a brief and wonderfully accessible primer on meditation."



Library Journal, October 1, 2003, Mark Woodhouse, review of Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom beyond Beliefs, p. 82.

Publishers Weekly, August 11, 2003, review of Buddhism Is Not What You Think, p. 274; July 9, 2007, review of Meditation Now or Never, p. 51.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Susan Rakow, review of Buddhism Plain and Simple, p. 15.

Writer, December, 2001, Scott Edelstein, "Writer's Mind: Natalie Goldberg and Steve Hagen: Zen and the Creative Process," p. 26.


Beliefnet,http://www.beliefnet.com/ (April 8, 2008), Lisa Schneider, "The Wisdom of Seeing," interview with author.

Dance of the Mind,http://minddance.wordpress.com/ (September 7, 2007), review of Buddhism Plain and Simple.

Dharma Field,http://www.dharmafield.org/ (April 8, 2008), brief profile of author.

Spirituality and Practice,http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ (April 8, 2008), Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat, review of Meditation Now or Never.

Zen Unbound,http://www.zenunbound.com/ (April 8, 2008), Taft Lowell, review of Buddhism Plain and Simple.

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