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Tarot in the Spirit of Zen
The Game of Life
by Osho

Tarot in the Spirit of Zen Anyone who is familiar with the Osho Zen Tarot knows it is a truly different deck, and it offers unique insights. Eastern influence is clearly present, not only in its refined artistic style, but also in its approach to the tarot. Through simple passages by the late spiritual leader Osho and interpretive commentary, each card gives helpful reflection, in response to any sort of query. Though most useful in spiritual issues, it easily addresses questions of mundane matters as well. The Osho Zen Tarot has long satisfied tarot enthusiasts who find that it offers immediate access to deeper wisdom, and it has become a favorite of many.

In Tarot in the Spirit of Zen, which is a "handbook designed to broaden and deepen the understanding of those who use the Osho Zen Tarot," longer passages are provided for each of the seventy-nine cards of the set. The format of the book is straightforward and sensible. Cards are organized by suit, beginning with the Major Arcana, followed by Fire, Water, Clouds, and Rainbows, which correspond to the traditional tarot suits of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks or Pentacles. Cards loosely follow the traditional tarot meanings. The passages that explain each card - that make up the book - were not written with that purpose. Rather, they were selected and compiled from lectures Osho gave over the years, while he taught his many students a simpler, more Zen way of living. The editors of the book chose passages that most effectively expanded upon the information in the Osho Zen Tarot, as well as corresponded most accurately with more traditional tarot meanings.

The book first reads like a collection of short lectures by Osho. These are often quite insightful, intuitive, and helpful. They share Osho's unique vision and experience of Zen, which he stresses combine Buddhist and Taoist concepts, yet strive to find a place in no specific religious setting. Osho's reflections tend to be quite direct and easy to understand - there are no Zen koans to ponder, for example - but in their simplicity they gently guide the reader into greater awareness. The book can certainly be read and enjoyed alone (without cards), which is an unusual bonus in a tarot handbook.

Included with the book is a high quality set of the twenty-two Major Arcana cards from the Osho Zen Tarot in miniature. For the first-time tarot user (or first-time Osho Zen Tarot user), this set of miniature cards is a lovely accompaniment to the book. It provides the reader a chance to get a feel for working with tarot cards, and specifically, with the Osho Zen Tarot. An attitude of intuitive play is suggested through Osho's passages, so the reader should feel free to use the cards without structured guidance. There are no directions for shuffling the cards, or laying them out in tarot spreads, but if one learns anything from the wisdom in the book, it is that such structure is not exactly necessary.

For readers who prefer to stick with another favorite deck, such as the Rider-Waite Tarot or Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot, Tarot in the Spirit of Zen will offer invaluable insights not available elsewhere. The meanings used for each card are unique to Osho's vision, and can be readily applied to other tarot sets. Furthermore, a student struggling to bring tarot and Zen together into one spiritual practice will find here a knowing and helpful resource.

The Introduction says, "Unlike traditional tarot, with its focus on predicting future events, the Zen approach to tarot aims to bring clarity and insight to the present moment." Though many tarot enthusiasts today would dispute the assertion that traditional tarot focuses on prediction, the Zen approach is definitely different - most tarot readers likely don't bring concepts of stillness, being, and spiritual liberation to their cards. The Zen approach here, as provided by Osho's teachings, does offer the potential of understanding our present through the tarot. Tarot then, is itself transformed, as it turns its common emphasis on teaching us who we can become or how we might create the life we want, to realizing who we already are and awakening to a life that consists of beauty, joy, and wisdom.

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Illumination Tarot has been publishing articles, reviews, tarot spreads, and personal reflections for tarot enthusiasts and followers of alternative spirituality online since 1999.
All writing, reviews, and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2021