The Philosophy of Zen Buddhism

08 Sep 2023 06:11 - 01 Nov 2023 11:49
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    • The book opens with an apology; philosophy is not the way to approach Zen, but we're going to do it anyway.
    • Riffing off of Hegel. Trying to use Hegel to explain Zen sounds like using a mousetrap to catch a cold – just wrong. Yet somehow it works, even though I have approximately zero understanding or interest in Hegel.
    • The book suggests that Zen presents an alternative to Hegel's most famous bit, the master-slave dialectic, in which human thought and activity is presented as foundationally a struggle for dominance. Instead, Zen cultivates an attitude of friendliness, a radically different stance. The master/slave stuff is part of the Western character, an aspect of its interiority. Zen by contrast de-emphasizes interiority in favor of relationship and openness.
    • This sounds kind of sappy when I write it out – too hippie-dippy. Perhaps too easy, to tuned to my biases. But real Zen is anything but. It may be anarchism without the bullshit.
    • A religion without God

    • At the deepest level, the desire for complete union with God exhibits a narcissistic structure. In the unio mystica, a human being likes itself in God. It sees itself in God, nourishes itself with Him, so to speak. Zen Buddhism is free from narcissistic self-reference...The emptiness of Zen Buddhism negates every form of a narcissistic return to oneself. (p17)
    • Enlightenment (satori) does not signify 'rapture' or any unusual 'ecstatic' condition in which one likes oneself. Rather, it is an awakening to what is common. You are awoken not an extraordinary There but to an age-old Here, to a deep immanence . (p18)
    • Emptiness

    • Emptiness thus does not mean the negation of the individual. Enlightened vision sees every being shining in its uniqueness. And nothing rules. The moon is friendly towards the water. The beings dwell in each other without imposing themselves on each other, without hindering each other. (p32)
    • No one

    • The world of the monad, as an expression of the monad itself, remains locked inside the interior of the soul. It lacks an openness. The souls, as windowless individuals, do not look at each other. Every monad stares ahead in self-obsession. Only through 'God's intervention' can they communicate with each other after all. According to Zen Buddhism's conception of the world, by contrast, an un-bounded openness of friendliness is inherent to being, as if it consisted only of windows. (p43)
    • Satori is the other of selfhood, the other of inwardness, but it is not an outwardness or alienation. Rather, it involves the overcoming of the distinction between 'inward' and 'outward'. Spirit de-internalizes itself in an indifference, even in friendliness. (p47)
    • Dwelling nowhere

      • A Zen monk should be like a cloud with no fixed abode, like flowing water with nothing to rely on. – Dogen (p61) ... The one who dwells nowhere is not at home in his self. Rather, he is a guest there. All forms of possession and possession are renounced. Neither body nor mind is mine. Dwelling nowhere is therefore opposed to the economic world to the household.
      • The heart that dwells nowhere that does not cling to anything, follows the changing circumstances. It does not remain identical with itself.
        • – p65, linebreaks added
      • Well OK I was really eating this idea up until I was reminded of this
    • Death

      • Can't easily summarize this, which includes a deep dive into the role of death in Western philosophy.
      • Death is no longer a catastrophe because the katastrophe of the great death already lies behind. No one dies. The Zen Buddhist transformation of death takes place without the labour of mourning. It does not turn the finite into the infinite. It does not labour against mortality. Rather, it turns death inwards. You die while dying. This unique kind of death is another way of escaping catastrophe. (p82)