April 14, 2007

"Zen Buddhism, very hard to understand, thank you."

Philip Ryan

The title of this post is (allegedly) the complete text of a speech made by D.T. Suzuki at U.C.L.A. back in the day. The story of this and other Buddhist ha-ha's here.

(I realize ol' D.T. Suzuki is way way way out of fashion in contemporary Buddhist thinking, and is so for a lot of reasons, but once upon a time he was one of my -- and a lot of other people's -- first glimpses into something new. And people are still being introduced to Zen Buddhism -- D.T.'s own special blend of it, that is -- through his work. Someone is learning about Buddhism in one of his books right now! . . . Probably. Like, did anyone else try and read those Bernard Faure books, in school or out? Speaking of very hard to understand. But they went well with a cigarette and a bottomless cup of coffee.

"These stories reveal the opposition between two visions of space, two different anthropologies: that of Chan Buddhism, and that of territorial cults symbolized by the snake, the mountain god, or other autochtonous spirits."

- Bernard Faure, Chan Insights and Oversights, Princeton University Press, 1993.)

Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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gregorywonderwheel's picture

Doesn't it depend on what one intends to mean by the word "understand"?

One could just as righlty say, "Zen Buddhism, very easy to understand, thank you."

What does it mean to stand under the cypress tree in the courtyard?

What does it mean to stand upon three pounds of flax?

If thinking without being fixated by thoughts, then whether one stands under or upon is neither hard nor easy, and breath flows naturally through the feet.