Zen in Philosophy Essay

1482 WordsApr 20, 20156 Pages
Menelik Dagnachew Professor Hillis Religious Studies 21 11 November 2014 Zen in Philosophy Zen is considered more a way of life than a religion. This explains the reason why most Zen ideas are more akin to philosophical ideas than religious concepts. Zen precepts and foundational principles have similarities to and have also influenced various philosophical schools. These similarities go as far back as Plato and extend to contemporary philosophy such as the ideas of Francis Bradley. Although Zen is best understood as an anti-philosophy, because it is meant to free the mind from the establishment of “the kingdom of reason”1, the ideas it engenders are still philosophical in nature. Plato, considered by many to be the father of modern philosophy, held beliefs that were almost a Western alternative to the Buddha. Plato’s writings invoked, “a spiritual path by which we can ascend to the highest wisdom beyond worldly attachments.”2 This is reminiscent of the Zen ideals of transcendence and absence of consciousness. The techniques by which Plato instructed his disciples was also similar to the koan study popularized by Dahui. Philosophical exchanges between master and student were common ways of teaching for both Plato and Zen masters. Plato’s belief in the transience of worldly things was in line with Zen ideals of impermanence. Eternalism, the belief that “all points in time are equally real”2, was one of Plato’s foundational principles and greatly influenced his view on the world. He taught his disciples that time was not linear but that each point in time was individual and was separate. Plato believed that since all points in time were separate they were all based in reality. Dogen spoke of time in an almost identical manner, believing that, “Zen does not understand time to be a quantifiable homogeneously punctuated unit… nor does it conceive of

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