Late Zen (sorry, not specificly film related)

Joss Winn josswinn
Fri Sep 10 12:20:48 EDT 1999

Craig wrote:
> I accept the point that a lot of woolly nonsense has been written, and
> continues to be written, about Zen.  However such sloppy pronouncements are
> not only made by non-Japanese 'orientalists' - native Japanese also produce
> 'orientalist' (or more accurately 'essentialist') statements about Japanese
> culture and 'Zen'.
> (As an aside: shouldn't this indigenous production of 'orientalist'
> discourse itself be a valid area for research?)

This is, in my opinion, the most interesting area of recent Buddhist

See Sharf's work on 'experience' and also D.T. Suzuki, and Faure's
work on 'reverse orientalism' (from bibliography I gave in previous post).
Sharf argues (and I feel this argument is closely related to his criticism
of Suzuki's emphasis on the 'Zen experience'), that 'experience' used in a
religious (in this case, Zen--the 'experience of zazen, etc.) is nothing but
rhetoric used mostly for personal and sometimes political gain.  He shows
that there is very little evidence that premodern Buddhist texts use a term
that could be understood as our moden, psychological term, 'experience'.
Hence, Suzuki and recent zen enthusiast's attention on the 'experience of
enlightenment' and the 'Zen experience' is quite probably the result of
Western influence on the Buddhist tradition.  In other words, the modern
Buddhist tradition has come to understand it's own teachings through western
psychological and philosophical terminology.

In addition to Sharf and Faure, Foulk's work on Zen monastic organisation is
extremely revealing and would certainly disturb anyone content to talk of
zen in terms of 'emptiness', 'experience' and 'enlightenment'.

interesting stuff!

anyway, enough from me.  There is someone on this list much more qualified
to talk of zen than me....are you there?

Joss Winn

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