A Heart Blown Open: The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi



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Keith Martin-Smith
Publication Date
February 1, 2012
5 x 11.5 inches
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US $5 | CA $15 | EU/UK $25
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Denis Kelly's life is part Hunter S. Thompson, part Timothy Leary, and part Eckhart Tolle.

From his beginnings in an abusive and alcoholic home in Wisconsin to becoming a major force in the counterculture movement, and then from a life on the run and in prison to a life in a monastery and in service, Denis Kelly’s journey is as entertaining as it is inspirational.



About the author

Keith Martin-Smith is a freelance writer in Boulder, CO, where he teaches Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, Buddhism, and writing.In 2007, Keith met Jun Po Denis Kelly, and in 2010 was given the dharma name Kogen (Tiger Eye) and the title of sensei (teacher). Keith’s first collection of short stories — The Mysterious Divination of Tea Leaves, and Other Tales — was published by O-Books in 2009.



2013 Nautilus Award: Silver
Category: Religion/Spirituality – Other Traditions & Practices

Category: Finalist 2012 Book-of-the-Year Awards - Biography



“Written with extraordinary heart and skill, this book chronicles the making of an integral Zen master. Jun Po’s life has been as unpredictable as it has been astounding. How many spiritual masters can speak of intense family abuse, life on the run, prison, fame and notoriety, hedonism, and monasticism as part of the journey to their awakening? Jun Po’s dedication to exploring his own psychological shadows in light of his own awakening consciousness is the story of our times, for it is the integration of Eastern mystical wisdom with Western psychological insight. It is an absolute must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in human evolution and Keith Martin-Smith does a truly brilliant job of bringing it all together.”
— Ken Wilber, author of Integral Spirituality


“This is the legendary story of an inspiring teacher that mirrors the journey of many contemporary Western seekers. A flash of white light from psychedelic theophanies leads to a lifetime’s pursuit of enlightenment under the Buddha dharma prayer flag.”
— Alex Grey, artist and author of Transfigurations, Sacred Mirrors, and The Mission of Art

A Heart Blown Open is the real life saga of a true spiritual warrior. What is so fascinating about Jun Po Roshi’s story is that it describes, at times with painful honesty, the challenges of warriorship in the strange new world of postmodernity, where Spirit is denied, all things are equal, and therefore real teachers are forced to find their own way. ‘Mondo Zen,’ the American Roshi’s updated version of Japanese Buddhism, retains the immediacy and uncompromising fire of nonduality that too many Buddhist traditions seem to have lost in their translation from Eastern masters to Western teachers. This biography is a time capsule colorfully and poignantly conveying the powerful emergence and evolution of a cultural revolution from the inside out.”
— Andrew Cohen, founder EnlightenNext, author of Evolutionary Enlightenment

“This book provides a provocative window into the life of one of the more controversial Zen Masters of our generation, and will not fail to touch and inspire those who read it. Jun Po Roshi has lived a life of amazing fullness. Few have risen to such heights of notoriety and wealth in their youth and given back so much wisdom and service later in life. His greatest gift is his continuing effort to discover the best way to transmit the ancient wisdom of Zen in this 21st century.”
— Dennis Genpo Merzel, author of Big Mind, Big Heart: Finding Your Way 


“This is a profoundly inspiring story about a rebel with a cause, Jun Po Roshi — a fiercely caring man who does not know what it means to give up. At one point in the book Jun Po has to own up to betrayal. Because of his status as a respected Zen master, Jun Po could have hidden behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz. Instead he made a choice to tell the truth and risked destroying everything he had worked to create. Jun Po’s life teaches us that it is never too late to regain our integrity and realize our true nature.”
— Rich Tosi, Founding President, ManKind Project

“Jun Po Roshi’s life is a powerful testament to the human capacity to go beyond fear. How rare is it that we risk our comfort, let alone our lives, to do what needs to be done? Jun Po’s life and teaching seem to whisper, sometimes softly, sometimes with deafening force: to wake up, you have to risk it all.”
— Vincent Horn, Chief Geek, BuddhistGeeks.com

“From the hills of San Francisco to the foothills of the Himalayas, Jun Po Roshi’s life story is a mad rip through the jungles of Samsara. Brilliantly crafted by Martin-Smith, it left me by turns breathless, astonished, devastated, and finally redeemed right alongside Denis himself. I stayed up all night reading, not daring to put it down as jewel after brilliant jewel revealed themselves through the hero’s journey that it really is. And it’s our story, each of us... When that moment dawns in our lives and we’re called through God’s precious gift to take our seat, we need look no further than this modern day hero to show us how it’s done.”
— Robb Smith, former Chairman, Integral Life

“A Heart Blown Open is for anyone with an interest in Zen Buddhism, including those who are not Buddhist. Keith Martin-Smith’s writing is so straightforward and engaging I felt as if Jun Po Roshi had knocked on my door and offered to tell me the story of his remarkable life. And in the process of hearing his story, my understanding of Zen was also deepened. The conversations about the role of emotions, especially anger, were the most insightful and powerful for me — they shone a new light on the immeasurable benefit the day-to-day practice of Zen can have in our lives.”
— Gary McClain, PhD, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living

“Jun Po Roshi’s teaching has a transcendent ring and gritty humor that speaks to decades of him surrendering every aspect of his life to more love and more truth. Whether I am meditating with Jun Po, or reading his book, or spending a couple of hours in the mountains with him, I receive the gift of the softness of him humbly owning his humanity and electric jolts as I am shown mine — tears from experiencing loss in this life and tears of hilarity from leaving no stone on a journey unturned. I love finding a teaching I know is being lived by the one teaching it.”
— Decker Cunov, Founder, Authentic World


Jun Po Denis Kelly received his Zen Master recognition in 1992. Interested in bringing his Zen lineage (Rinzai tradition) into American culture without the Japanese cultural bindings, Jun Po left the monastery and founded the lay Buddhist Hollow Bones order, of which he is abbot. A yoga instructor as well, he traces his lineage to BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. Jun Po travels internationally offering Mondo Zen retreats.