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An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!
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An Introduction to Zen Buddhism... and Heidegger!

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Zen Buddhism – emphasising the transitory nature and ultimate emptiness of everything, Zen can appear at once peaceful, baffling, wise, nihilistic, and downright surreal to western eyes. …

Zen Buddhism – emphasising the transitory nature and ultimate emptiness of everything, Zen can appear at once peaceful, baffling, wise, nihilistic, and downright surreal to western eyes.

Martin Heidegger – the modern German philosopher said western philosophy had ignored the issue of BEING ITSELF, and he attempted to construct an account of existence from scratch with his 'phenomenology'.

Is the Zen concept of “enlightenment” the same as Heidegger’s “authentic being”, or what?

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  • 1. An introduction to ZenBuddhism... and Heidegger!~or~Two accounts of AUTHENTIC BEING (Becauseit’s not difficult enough introducing just onescratch-head philosophical world view)
  • 2. The Buddha• Siddhartha Gautama, aka the Buddha, livedabout 500BCE, in North East India or Nepal.• A prince, shielded from the outside world, at29 left his palace and saw poverty, age,sickness and death and had a bit of a crisis.• Realised suffering is everywhere, left hisfamily, renounced his wealth, took up the lifeof an ascetic, travelling, hanging out with yogichermits and begging on the streets in search ofan answer.• Unsatisfied, he pushed his asceticism furtherand further, starving himself to the point hecollapsed while bathing and almost drowned.• Fed up and still no closer to finding an answer,he ate a decent meal, sat under a tree andvowed not to get up until he had foundenlightenment.
  • 3. • After 49 days under the tree, at the age of 35, Buddha is said to haveattained enlightenment.• He realised The Four Noble Truths, which say that life is suffering, butthere are steps we can take to free ourselves from it.• Mastering the noble truths leads to Nirvana, a liberated state of peacefree from fear, ignorance, greed and hatred, in which you cast off theboundaries of the mind – and also personal ego/identity.
  • 4. Important Buddhist themes• Balance – Buddhism is the “Middle Way”.• Non-attachment – everything is transitory.• No desire – desire is the cause of suffering.• No ego – you are transitory too. Much of oursuffering comes from clinging on to ego. Themind creates it.• Oneness – we are all part of everything andeverything is part of us.
  • 5. Zen Buddhism• When Buddhism reachedChina it merged with thenative Taoist philosophy andthe result was Zen Buddhism,which also flourished inVietnam, Korea and Japan.• “Zen” derives from “Chan”,which literally meansmeditation.
  • 6. • Zen is one of the most extreme formsof Buddhism in rejecting the authorityof dogma and scripture – that is aform of attachment.• The stress is on meditation – andmindfulness, paying attention to themoment, the act of being, being-through-doing.• Teaching is passed directly, personally,from master to student.• The true nature of things cannot beexplained in writings or graspedlogically.• Everything is ultimately nothing, andcannot be expressed in words.
  • 7. Zen koans• Zen koans are little stories or quotes designed to confuse, toshock the listener/reader out of everyday thinking.• They allude to/point towards enlightenment rather thanstating it directly, as that’s impossible.• Hence why they often appear surreal or nonsensical.• Eg...
  • 8. Taoism• Taoism predates Zen, and is a nativeChinese philosophy.• Key themes include removing oneselffrom everyday society and politics andliving in harmony with nature.• The principle of “non-action” – or“letting be”• Tao = The “Way”• “The Way that can be spoken of is notthe constant Way/The name that canbe named is not the constant name”
  • 9. Heidegger• Martin Heidegger (1899-1976) was a modern Germanphilosopher.• Not a household name, buthugely influential, especiallyon Existentialism.• Most famous work: Beingand Time – sought to answer“What is the question of themeaning of Being?”
  • 10. Phenomenology• A school of philosophy that sought to a return to first-hand experience –the “phenomena” themselves – to explain the world.• To chuck out tried old traditional philosophical/metaphysical concepts(mind/body, reason/experience, free will/determinism) and start again.• Heidegger’s mentor Edmund Husserl thought philosophy had hit a deadend and proposed we go back to basics – “bracket out” what we think weknow, go back to first-hand experience, and build up an explanation ofthe world from there.
  • 11. • Heidegger took on this emphasis onanalysing first-hand experience. Butwhere Husserl focussed on what wecan know, Heidegger focussed onwhat we are.• He said western philosophy since theGreeks had been so concerned withknowledge and ethics and so on, ithad ignored the question of being –what IS being, what is it to BE?• He was an iconoclast – he wantednothing more than “a destruction ofthe history of ontology(philosophical ideas about what is)”– a clean break with traditionalmetaphysics and its traditionalpitfalls.
  • 12. • But he wrote like this:“The projection of its (Dasein’s) ownmost-potentiality-for-Being has been delivered over to the Fact of itsthrownness into the ‘there’. Has not Dasein’s Beingbecome more enigmatical now that we haveexplicated the existential constitution of the Being ofthe ‘there’ in the sense of the thrown projection?It has indeed.”• Key term: Dasein = The ‘there-being’ or the‘being that is there’ – describes us, or aconsciousness in the world: “The being forwhom its own Being is an issue”
  • 13. Common Themes• Why do some think Heidegger is Westernphilosophy’s best bet at establishing a dialoguewith Eastern philosopy?
  • 14. 1! Fallenness and ego/selfHDGR: FallennessIn everyday life Dasein becomes one of, andinterchangeable with, people ‘there’, henceturning away from the ownmost-ness of its being.Dasein disowns the full extent of its possibilities,moves away from itself, becomes alienated fromitself. It lets the ‘them’ convince it ‘they’ hold thesecret to life, and the fullest and most genuinepossibilities of being-in-the-world.Falling is not a state of rest. It is a ‘turbulent motion’in which Dasien becomes entangled in itself. It isstill a way of being, but a way alienated fromDasein’s true ‘ownmost possibility of being in theworld’.
  • 15. 1! Fallenness and ego/selfZEN: Ego/SelfIn attachment to objects, beliefs and ambitions, vanity and desires, one cannever be at peace and attain true understanding:“After birth… people learn bad habits from others in the course of theirseeing and hearing them… Getting fixated on what others say they turnthe all-important unique Buddha mind into a monster, mulling overuseless things, repeating the same thoughts over and over again… Goingfrom one hellish state to another, from one animalistic state to another,from one ghostly state to another, from darkness to darkness in anendless vicious cycle, you go on experiencing infinite misery for the badthings you have done, with never a break… As soon as a single thoughtgets fixated on something, you become ordinary mortals. All delusion islike this. You pick up on something confronting you, turn the Buddhamind into a monster because of your own self-importance, and go astrayon account of your own ego…” (17thcentury master Bankei in Cleary,2001, pp.4-5)
  • 16. 1! Fallenness and ego/selfFor both Heidegger and Zen/Taosim our everyday mode of being is atranquillised state, a mode in which we live our lives blind to, or fleeingfrom, the true nature of our being.We are tempted into this state not so much by conscious choice but by anunderstandable response to the world we find ourselves in, and thebeings we find ourselves with (our ‘thrownness’ in Heidegger). However,this is not our primordial and authentic state. It is the opposite ofauthentic being, the opposite of enlightenment, a trap into which we falland must struggle out of as best we can if we wish to grasp our truenature and potential.
  • 17. 2! Nothing and emptiness,uncanniness and blissHDGR: The nothing and uncanninessIn Heidegger ‘notness’ defines what is. Without nothing, there is no definite‘here’ or ‘there’. Nothing ‘founds’ the world:“Far from being a negation of all things, the nothing is the possibility ofthings: This possibility, in Heidegger’s interpretation, is the world itself.”(King, 2001, pp. 94)In face of this void, oblivion, infinity, Dasein feels ‘uncanniness’ (unheimlich)– and ‘angst’ in the face of the truth of its own being-in-the-world andpossibilities - because the accompanying sense of insignificance iscrushing. Dasein flees to the familiar and self-assured company of the‘them’, where it can “dwell in tranquillised familiarity”.
  • 18. 2! Nothing and emptiness,uncanniness and blissZen: Emptiness and blissIn Zen, as well as Taoism, the ultimate reality is nothingness, or ‘emptiness’ -the world is empty; the ‘nothing’ is implicit in everything.We are born with a pure ‘Buddha mind’ that is already at one with thisultimate nothingness, but through everyday living retreat into a limited,circular, habitual way of being that is hard to break out of.When we glimpse the infinite emptiness of the world from this state it isscary and daunting. We feel insignificant because we realise that our ownbeing is essentially empty, and our ego groundless. But it is in this emptystate that we find authentic enlightened bliss. The uncanniness we feel inthe face of the fundamental impermanence and emptiness of the world,in Zen, may be transcended and transformed into bliss when we graspour freedom and the true nature of our being.
  • 19. 3! Impermanence and being-towards-deathHDGR: Being-towards-deathOur death is always with us, as part of our existence, but weignore it, run away from it and forget it. Our death is ourlimit, the thing that makes our being and our possibilitiesfinite. If it were not for this limit, we would have noimpetus to do anything, no reason to stop procrastinatingand get things done. Indeed, if our being were infinite, it isdebatable that we would have consciousness at all.Without the possibility of negation (notness) our Being wouldnot be an issue for us. Our death is absolutely our own,and the realisation of this points to the insurmountablegulf between ourselves and others. Our being is unique andisolated, no matter how much we lose ourselves in thethey-self. This points us towards our own Being, andhence authenticity.
  • 20. 3! Impermanence and being-towards-deathZEN: ImpermanenceIt was the realisation of the universality of disease, sufferingand death that first set the Buddha on ‘the path’. Therealisation of our own impermanence is a pointer towardsenlightenment.But in Zen the concept of impermanence is wider and not onlypersonal – everything is transitory, everything is inconstant flux.Though we may experience everything as multitudinous andfinite, the ultimate reality is the infinite. Everything is one,and everything is nothing. Since everything is essentiallyinfinite and empty, ultimately we are “not born” and donot die.
  • 21. 4! Action, tools and useHDGR: The ready-to-handIn our everyday existence we do not passively view ourenvironment, we interact with it. Everything ultimately relatesback to Dasein – it is impossible for Dasein to comprehendsomething that is not in relation to itself. Everything is definedby this context.A hammer exists because Dasein has created it in order tomanipulate its environment to shelter and comfort itself. But,through its use, the hammer disappears for Dasein. We donot contemplate our tools while we use them. It is only whenthese tools break down, or are not to hand, that they becomean issue for Dasein, and Dasein really appreciates what theyare and what they do. One may thoughtlessly drive back andforth to work every day of the week, yet when the car breaksdown, it, or a suitable substitute, is suddenly the focus ofconcentrated attention. Again notness defines what is.
  • 22. 4! Action, tools and useZen: Archery and One Hand ClappingIn Zen, tools also disappear with use – it’s said a good archer, forexample, must be his bow and arrow. In Zen this istranscending the ego and traversing the void between theself and the world.The essential nature of notness in utility is also a familiar themein both Taoism and Zen. Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Chingreads:“Knead the clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothingtherein to the purpose in hand, and you will have use of thevessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room.Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand , and youwill have use of the room.” (Lau, 1963, pp.15)The nonsense of “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” isone of the most famous Zen problems (or koans) in thewestern world. Things are what they are only in relation toother things – again everything is defined by context.
  • 23. 5! Enlightenment andAuthenticityHDGR: AuthenticityAuthenticity in Heidegger can be summed up as the recognition andunification of all of Dasein’s constituent parts. Dasein recognises itsbeing as a whole - how we find ourselves in the world (past), oureveryday ‘now’ and our possibilities (future). This is one unified structureand when Dasein realises this to its full extent, then Dasein is authentic.What makes this possible is “Being towards one’s ownmost, distinctivepotentiality-for-Being.” (Heidegger, 1962, pp.372)Being authentically cannot be reduced to particular opinions or behaviourpatterns - It is not that one is either authentic or fallen, because being isnot static. One is always moving between the two.
  • 24. 5! Enlightenment andAuthenticityZen: EnlightenmentWhile Zen and Taoist enlightenment certainly involves a graspingof one’s being as a whole, it is not just this.The concept of enlightenment would seem to go beyondunifying of the elements of ones being and involves theunifying of everything, the grasping of the totality of being ingeneral.
  • 25. 5! Enlightenment andAuthenticityIs the Zen concept of “enlightenment” the same as Heidegger’s“authentic being”?In Heidegger there still exists a void between one’s own Beingand that of others. In enlightenment one is said to transcendthe self and become one with everything, including the void.Furthermore, Zen enlightenment is said to be contented bliss.For better or worse, authentic being does not come with suchan unambiguously enthusiastic recommendation.
  • 26. 5! Enlightenment andAuthenticityBeing and Time was only the first part of Heidegger’s project toclarify the “question of the meaning of being”.He only got as far as ‘clarifying’ Dasein’s being.No second part was ever written because the questions raisedby Being and Time were too many and too problematic for asimple ‘second half’. Instead Heidegger began to turn towardsart and poetry as possible candidates for a ‘language ofBeing’ - He had found the language of everyday things wassimply not adequate to talk about Being.It is almost certainly no co-incidence that in the Zen tradition it issaid that enlightenment, the true nature of things, theBuddha mind, the essence of Zen and so on, cannot beadequately explained in words.

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