Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: Towards a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism

What is Zen?

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This mode of learning was well expressed by Zen master Ch'ing-yuan? His Philosophy and Religion, ed. When Wittgenstein speaks of bringing metaphysical terms back to their uses in everyday language, [8] he does not do so from any spirit of hostility to metaphysics but because he wishes to show how they illuminate the deeper logical grammar of our language. In this way Shen-kuang showed his eagerness to be instructed and at last convinced Bodhidharma who we may say, seemed to act in accordance with the Confucian principle that "I do not enlighten those who are not eager to learn. That is, metaphysical reflections often take either space or time as one's root metaphor and then articulate an account of reality as such with either spatial units atoms, substances, matter or temporal units events, moments, occasions as the basic model of an individual. In place of "firewood dwelling in the dharma-position of firewood," Tanahashi and Aitken have "firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood" Moon in a Dewdrop, p.

Strictly speaking, truth exists not in books but in man, and to know man is to find truth. Mencius said, "All things are already complete in oneself. There is no greater joy than to examine oneself and be sincere. Yet the more life experience one has, the purer one's mind could become and the greater truth one would get.

The so-called truth is the outcome of this educative process. Today, education is often regarded as the mastery of a skill or trade that will enable one to earn a livelihood. Children are urged to go to school so they can receive knowledge from teachers and prepare themselves for the professional labor market. But for Confucius, man's most important knowledge is of course not knowledge about technology, business or other external.

True knowledge, in Confucius' view, is self-knowledge. Knowing should be knowing who and what one is. Education is an opening of the mind. Students go to school, in the strict sense, not to receive knowledge or anything at all from teachers, but rather, "The way of great learning consists in illuminating innate virtues.

To follow nature is called Tao. Cultivating Tao is called education. Confucian education is a kind of values education, nourishing the personality and character, concerned with the moral and spiritual quality of life. Educated persons know how to develop their higher qualities and abilities, while uneducated persons may just live according to their animal impulses. Good education should start with oneself. For Confucius, those who did not want to learn could not be taught. A teacher can help students overcome evil external negativities, but he cannot give them good nature nor can he force them to learn.

True education, according to Confucianism, is self-education. The self-illumination of sincerity is called education. What can be separated from us is not Tao. Formal schooling is only a small part of education. The educational enterprise is the process of living from birth to death, not confined to a classroom or school. In fact the home, according to Confucianism, is the more important source of education.

When an infant is born his innate ability and knowledge should be nourished and he should be trained as a filial child and as a social being, since good nature is manifested in good relationships with others. The child's dignity or goodness is shown in his filial relationships. More subtly, education is not merely a preparation for life in society, but childhood is itself an important part of life. This is why Mencius claimed, "The great man is one who does not lose his child's heart. For Confucius, learning is not just a matter of reading books.

He stressed the importance of ssu, thinking. In the Analects, we read, "He who learns but does not think is lost. If one does not think, he will not get it. To learn with thinking, according to Mencius, is to learn with mind, as "the faculty of mind is thinking. Thinking in Confucianism is not, however, to be identified with abstract speculation nor is it the function solely of our brains. Rather, it belongs as well to the field of our hearts: It includes the psychological, epistemological and axiological activities of the mind. What the mind likes, according to Mencius, is li reason and i righteousness.

To think is to do so reasonably and morally, and it is a common sentiment among human minds. If one studies without using his mind, it would be better for him not to study, and instead go to play. Confucius claimed, "Hard is it to deal with anyone, who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind!

Confucianism and Zen (Ch'an) Philosophy of Education

Are there not gamesters and chess players? To be one of these would still be better. The truth and validity of thinking, according to Confucianism, have to be seen, tested, apprehended and appreciated in actual experience. Confucian education equally emphasizes theory and practice. True understanding is obtained through a series of the practical applications.

The more one practices, the better the understanding, such that Confucius thought that the older he was, the more practical experience he had, the wiser he was. As here implied, verbal transmission of knowledge cannot be the sole method of education, a fact teachers should remember.

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Thus, "The superior man wants to be slow in word but diligent in action," [20] and "the superior man is ashamed that his words exceed his deeds. He usually gave a short statement and let his disciples ponder it and digest its true meaning and implication through their practice. This way of education is well illustrated in the Analects, the collection of Confucius' sayings.

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The Analects consists of various short discourses and dialogues between Confucius and his disciples. The discourse is designed not to completely explain truths, but to serve as a pointer to guide disciples to the issues and help them to open their own minds. Disciples are often left alone to develop themselves. Effective teaching, therefore, lies not so much in conceptual analysis. Through the personal relationship a good teacher can read the minds of students and teach them according to their qualities.

He would give the students things when they are ready for them and guide them to develop their inner natures. Furthermore, a good educator would not force others to follow him. He would discipline himself before he disciplines others, and teach others by what he does as well as what he says.

His own living example should attract students. Confucius compared the art of education is similar to the art of government. As pointed out, education, according to Confucianism, is an opening of one's mind. Yet for Mencius, the mind cannot be re-opened unless the senses are stimulated and the heart shocked by extraordinary events. Hard work, suffering, anxiety and other extraordinary things, Mencius believed, are necessary for developing one's innate ability and quality, which has been lost.

The great man is one who has endured suffering and overcome misfortune; no excellence and greatness can be achieved without toil and hard times first. Education is viewed as a medicine for curing disease in man's mind, while no medicine can effectively cure disease unless its taste is sour and its effect painful. Thus, in Mencius' understanding, a good education and hard work are often inseparable, and men need occasional pain and extraordinary events to "shock" them back to a normal and healthy state. The ultimate objective of Confucian education is to know oneself. Its chief achievement is self-illumination and understanding human nature.

In large, the aim is not to give a man a particular skill or profession, but to make him a true man in whatever he does in the world. In Confucianism knowing, being and doing are interrelated: Goals of discipline were expressed as discovering the lost mind, seeing into one's nature, becoming a man, attaining sagehood, and living a princely way of life. A Confucian sage does not avoid the secular world. Sagehood is not the title of a special profession or class. Like others, a sage lives in this world,. In summary, education is to develop a superior man. The superior man can be a family steward, a governor, a teacher, a courtier or a man of any profession.

The Zen Buddhist school was founded in China in the sixth century A. Zen masters and disciples must have studied and known Confucian teachings, and it seems reasonable that they had consciously or unconsciously assimilated Confucian ideas into Zen Dharma. In particular, the Zen philosophy of education is similar to the Confucian view. Like Confucianism, Zen Buddhism holds that by nature man is originally sound.

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It is due to the external environment that he becomes evil. But as soon as man is born, this innocent mind is obscured and lost. The Buddha's Dharma, according to Hui-neng, is the way back to the original state, and he seems to share Mencius' philosophy that "the great man is one who does not lose his child's heart.

Hui-neng is said to have been poor when he was a young boy. He wanted to receive education from Hung-jen, the fifth patriarch residing at Yellow Plum in Chin-chou. After Hui-neng arrived at Yellow Plum, be asked Hung-jen to accept him as a pupil at the monastery. He was asked where he came from and what be expected to get from the master. Hui-neng said, "I am a commoner from Sun Chow of Canton. I have traveled far to pay. How can you expect to be a Buddha?

A barbarian is different from Your Holiness physically, but there is no difference in our Buddha-nature. The apparent difference between the two is that Confucius referred to human nature while Hui-neng spoke of Buddha- nature or Buddhahood. Like Confucius, Hui-neng popularized [Buddhist] education among men of all regions and classes.

And like Mencius, be maintained that one possesses innate ability and innate knowledge from the very beginning. By nature all men are able to learn. If they were not it would make no sense to try to educate them. Both Confucianists and Zen Buddhists call this innate nature hsin mind or heart. For both, education is impossible without the mind. Mencius named this mind liang-hsin innate mind. It is the most important or precious part of a human being and makes him a true man or superior.

Similarly, Zen Buddhists hold that the mind or heart is the most precious part of human life. They often call it Buddha-mind. Thus the bodhisattva is superior to the arhat because the bodhisattva nourishes and possesses Buddha-mind, which cannot bear to see the suffering of others and intends to save or help all sentient beings. This is a superior mind. According to Mencius, the mind. But Confucianists are optimistic about the discovery of the originally pure mind.

Zen Buddhists hold a similar view of the human condition. The mind is originally pure and yet is clouded, and hence the Tao is lost. Zen is very simple. It is so simple, in fact, that it's very difficult to grasp. In the silence of the dojo or temple , quietly sit down, stop moving, and let go your thoughts. Focus just on your Zazen posture and your breathing. Keep your back straight. Let your ego and your unconscious mind melt away, merge with the universe.

Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: Towards a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism

If you're seeking to explore Zen or Buddhism more deeply, here is a list of my favourite books that you can use to learn more about this ancient tradition. Navigation What is zen buddhism? Your guide to Zen Buddhism and Zen meditation. To study Buddhism is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self. It's not very factual on motorcycles , either. Initially, the book sold at least 5 million copies worldwide. According to Edward Abbey , the book is Pirsig's fictionalized autobiography [1] of a day journey he made on a motorcycle from Minnesota to Northern California along with his son Chris.

The story of this journey is recounted in a first-person narrative , although the author is not identified. Father and son are also accompanied, for the first nine days of the trip, by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland, with whom they part ways in Montana. The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas by the author, on topics including epistemology , ethical emotivism and the philosophy of science. Many of these discussions are tied together by the story of the narrator's own past self, who is referred to in the third person as Phaedrus after Plato's dialogue.

Phaedrus, a teacher of creative and technical writing at a small college, became engrossed in the question of what defines good writing, and what in general defines good, or "Quality", which he understands similar to Tao. His philosophical investigations eventually drove him insane, and he was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy , which permanently changed his personality.

Navigation menu Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: Towards a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism (): Joshua Carl Davis: Books. This book is about the meaning of life, but it addresses it in a Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: Towards a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism.

Towards the end of the book, Phaedrus's strong and unorthodox personality, presented as dangerous to the narrator, begins to re-emerge and the narrator is reconciled with his past. In a interview with National Public Radio , Pirsig stated that the book took him four years to write. During two of these years, Pirsig continued working at his job of writing computer manuals.

This caused him to fall into an unorthodox schedule, waking up very early and writing Zen from 2 a.

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He would sleep during his lunch break and then go to bed around 6 in the evening. Pirsig joked that his co-workers noticed that he was "a lot less perky" than everyone else. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , Pirsig explores the meaning and concept of "quality"; a term he conceives as undefinable. His thesis is that to truly experience quality one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation. According to Pirsig, such an approach would avoid a great deal of frustration and dissatisfaction common to modern life.

In the book, the narrator describes the "romantic" approach to life of his friend, John Sutherland, who chooses not to learn how to maintain his expensive new motorcycle. John simply hopes for the best with his bike, and when problems do occur he often becomes frustrated and is forced to rely on professional mechanics to repair it. In contrast, the "classical" narrator has an older motorcycle which he is usually able to diagnose and repair himself through the use of rational problem-solving skills.

In an example of the classical approach, the narrator explains that one must pay continual attention: The next day he is thinking of this as he is going through his ritual to adjust the valves on his cycle's engine.