Zen Action/Zen Person

Zen Action/Zen Person

Zen Action/Zen Person

Zen Action/Zen Person

Excerpt

"You have asked permission to practice Zen meditation in this temple, but tell me: What is Zen?"

After some hesitation and embarrassed smiling, I said something about Zen's being a way of life rather than a set of dogmas.

Laughter filled the tatami-matted reception room. "Everyone comes here to study Zen, but none of them knows what Zen is. Zen is ... knowing thyself. You are a Western philosopher and you know of Socrates' quest. Did you assume Zen would be something different?"

At least from the time of Socrates, Western thinkers have been concerned with human nature. What am I? What is my relationship with the people and things around me? What ought I to do? In the twentieth century, we in the Western world generally believe that there is no substance or essence constituting our humanness; our identity as persons is developed, not given. As communication among the peoples of the world increases, it is natural for us to wonder how those in other places address these same concerns. This book is a study of what it means to become a person in Japanese Zen Buddhism. Since the approach is philosophical, however, it is above all an inquiry into ourselves.

That Zen Buddhism resists philosophical explication is a thesis more Western than Japanese. Thus, many Japanese scholars recognize Dōgen, a thirteenth-century Zen Master, as their country's most profound thinker. With his piercing analytic skills and comprehensive knowledge of the Chinese philosophical classics, Dōgen brought philosophy and Zen Buddhism closer together than they had ever been before. In fact he played a role not unlike that of a . . .

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