Blogpost: Zen and Japanese Culture

Posted by T • March 5, 2019

Posted by T • March 5, 2019

Zen and Japanese Culture

Princeton University Press

 

Zen and Japanese culture are inextricably linked and this tome on the topic explore how embedded in its original context Zen is much more than what the public would perceive as religion.

It makes for both a delightful and profound read as Zen tackled from a myriad of angles, professions and viewpoints, shedding light on underlying concepts and teaching and thereby ultimately simmering it down to the unity of mind and spirit.

The fact that Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s considerate and refreshingly undogmatic writing style is calibrated at the right frequency helps as it tunes in with the flow of the themes that are explored – it’s worth reading if you are in for beautiful literature alone as the chapters on e.g. swordsmanship are beautifully crafted, despite the occasional digression.

Having undergone training as a disciple of Buddhism and having honed his craft via writing hundreds of books on the topic certainly helped as well to refine his approach.

The way Zen’s relationships with haikus, art, nature and regional traditions like e.g. tea ceremonies are explored, tying them to the way of the bushido and Confucianism, which are backed by extra information and references contained within ample footnotes.

For the starter, I’d be hard pressed to recommend another book that is as informative and easy to handle and provides a better introduction to Zen from nothing.

For the initiated luminary, the book might still be a bit light as it overly glamourizes everything remotely connected to Japanese culture and one cannot help but something feel the need to interject that merely being Japanese does not automatically bring enlightenment, a sentiment that seems to accompany most of Suzuki’s train of thoughts.

I am personally more with Robert Pirsig who quipped that the Zen you might find is the Zen you have to work on within yourself, independently from who you are or where you were born.

T • March 5, 2019

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