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The Osho Zen Tarot
A Deck Review

The Osho Zen Tarot is unique in a number of ways. Its approach to the Tarot is not based on predicting the future, but on finding spiritual insight and guidance through "the transcendental game of Zen". It does not - as some decks have done - alter the structure of Zen to suit the Tarot, but instead it alters the structure and meaning of the deck to reflect the philosophy from which it is derived. But these changes do not detract from the deck in any way. If possible, the alterations made by the artist make the final product even more powerful than a standard Tarot deck.

The images on the Major Arcana of the Osho Zen deck are nothing short of spectacular, and though the Minor Arcana are generally less complex in both quality and imagery, they are still very deep images - as one would expcet from a Zen deck. It's rare to see a deck which does not just display the Rider-Waite images in different perspectives and colors, and in this respect the Osho Zen shines. One can literally meditate on these images for hours. Cards such as the Five of Rainbows and the Eight of Water express the same general themes as their equivalents in other decks, but with the kind of simplicity and elegance that only Zen can provide.

Yes, the suit names have been changed - Wands are Fire, Cups are Water, Swords are Clouds and Pentacles are Rainbows. And this is not the only immediately visible change to the structure of the Tarot. The court cards have no ranks, being replaced instead with words such as "Intensity" for the Knight of Fire and "Control" for the King of Clouds. The majority of the Major Arcana have been renamed - only the Lovers and the Fool retain their traditional title. A numberless twenty-third Trump called The Master has been added to provide a way out of the cyclic Fool's Journey.

But as I said before, these changes are only detrimental if you are not open to new ways of experiencing the Tarot. And while there is a visible Oriental influence in the images and meanings of these cards, one does not have to be a follower of Zen to appreciate what has been created here. The only real drawback about the Osho Zen deck is that doing divination readings with it can be challenging, especially if you use "traditional" interpretations. The only real way to do a divination with this deck is to use the rich symbolism as a jumping-off point for your own intuition. But as a tool for meditation and guidance, Osho Zen has few equals.

This deck does not come with a little white booklet, which is fortunate since there is no possible way to cram all of its wisdom into such a pamphlet. Instead, the deck is packaged with a 176-page book that contains, for each of the 79 cards, a page of interpretation and an excerpt from one of Osho's books as a meditative aid. The book also contains some history (most of which is sadly inaccurate, and I suppose that is the only flaw I shall find with this wonderful deck) as well as a number of very useful spreads and a glossary of symbols.

I highly recommend the Osho Zen Tarot to readers of all skill levels and spiritual backgrounds. The philosophy of Zen is equally accessible to all and that is part of what makes this deck so powerful. The quality of the artwork is such that some collectors may want it for the images alone. But regardless of whether you use it for divination, meditation or spiritual insight, this deck is guaranteed to change the way you think about Tarot. That is its true power.

Copyright 2000 James Rioux