Category Archives: Zen Buddhist saying

A Master in the Art of Living Makes Little Distinction Between His Work and His Play

James Michener? Zen Buddhist saying? L.P. Jacks?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have been deeply moved by an inspirational passage that I thought was written by a Zen Buddhist master:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

However, when I recently searched the internet to locate the name of the Zen master I was shocked to find that the words were attributed to the late author James Michener whose fame was based on writing fat tomes that became bestsellers.

Michener did win a Pulitzer Prize and I do not wish to disparage his work but when I think of a spiritual guide I envision someone different. Could you look into this quote and determine who really created it?

Quote Investigator: There is no compelling evidence that this quote was crafted by Michener. Nor is there evidence of a Zen Buddhist origin. The spiritual tradition of the creator of the passage is Unitarian. Lawrence Pearsall Jacks, an educator and Unitarian minister who is pictured in the center image above, crafted the quotation and used it in a book he authored in the 1930s. His name is often abbreviated as L. P. Jacks.

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