Monday, July 11, 2011

New Book - PURIFYING ZEN: Watsuji Tetsuro's Shamon Dogen

Zen is baffling: You find yourself wrestling with thoughts such as "It is easy to grasp body-mind. The world is like rice or flax or bamboo or bulrushes."

Zen in translation is doubly baffling. Do words like body-mind, Buddha, the Way, love, compassion, truth, impermanence — even rice and flax — mean to us in English what they mean to the Japanese in their language, or the Chinese in theirs, or the Indians, who started it all, in theirs?

The monk Dogen (1200-1253) is known as the founder of the Soto sect of Zen, which in contrast to Rinzai Zen stresses meditation above all other practices, dismissing as irrelevant such Rinzai teaching devices as the "koan," the logic-defeating puzzles ("What is the sound of one hand clapping?") that fret and frustrate the mind until finally it ceases its self-defeating quest for comprehensible truth and accepts that truth is incomprehensible and all the more marvelous for that.

Watsuji Tetsuro (1889-1960), historian and philosopher, is considered one of modern Japan's deepest thinkers — benighted by liberals because he revered the Emperor, damned by conservatives for being, all the same, a democrat. He wrote the biography "Shamon Dogen" ("Dogen the Monk") in 1926 because, he explains, "The essence of our own culture cannot be properly understood without taking such religious figures into consideration."

Continue reading at The Japan Times.

Buy it from Amazon.

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