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Posted January 22, 2013
Philosophical thought and Zen have always seemed at odds with each other. Philosophy wants an explicit statement of assumptions and has a clear set of rules one must follow to defend a conclusion based on these assumptions (e.g., Assumption: Socrates is a man. Logic chain: all men are mortal. Therefore, Socrates is mortal). In contrast, Zen puts intellect aside and works on a more intuitive, “let’s look at the here-and-now” attitude (e.g., what is the sound of one hand clapping?). Can the two approaches be reconciled? Kasulis answers yes, they can. He does this by examining the fundamental thought processes of Zen, building on the concepts of ‘nothingness’ which leads to the distinctions between ‘thinking’, ‘no-thinking’ and (what Zen is after) ‘without-thinking’. By teasing apart these distinctions in thought, he demonstrates that there is indeed a coherent philosophy in Zen, one that can satisfy the most rigorous western thought process. He also shows that this results in the beautiful and practical world view for which this practice is known. This book is not easy reading, and is probably not a good one for beginners to Zen. But this book is highly recommended for persons of a philosophical bent who have already read Suzuki (both D.T. and S), Watts and others basic texts.
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