Dale S. Wright, Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism. Cambridge Studies in Religious Traditions 13. Cambridge University Press (1998), 227 pages.
What is the place of Zen in contemporary thought, the relation of Buddhist metaphysics to philosophy and the value of ancient texts to thinking people today? These and related questions form the subject matter of this intelligent, subtle and provoking book. Dale S. Wright, Professor of Religious Studies, Occidental College, Los Angeles, provides a thought provoking read especially for those of us concerned with problems of representing Buddhism, and Zen in particular, within Western culture today.
The starting point of Wright's argument asserts that there is a profound difference between the worlds of post-modern and modern thought. This requires texts written by Western interpreters of Buddhism prior to the 'post-modern turn' to be themselves re-interpreted in the light of current thinking. Without such a process the meaning of Buddhism in the contemporary context remains unclear and inclined to irrelevance. Wright chooses the work of John Blofield, in particular his translation of the Transmission of Mind by the great ninth century Chinese Master Huang-po (Huang-po Ch'uan Hsin Fa Yao), as exemplary within modern scholarship and provides a contemporary reinterpretation not only of Blofield but also of Huang-po himself.
John Blofield was a bold, spiritual adventurer who, after leaving Cambridge, went out to China in the 1930s and immersed himself in Ch'an culture and practice. Although deep insight appears to have eluded him, he became richly familiar with the Ch'an outlook and its textual documentation. Later in life he studied Tibetan Buddhism and lived in Bangkok. His translations from the Chinese are outstanding and popular while his autobiography makes fascinating reading. Blofield, Wright tells us, was a romantic very much in the style of the thirties. His approach to Zen was undoubtedly influenced by its earlier representation in the West by D. T. Suzuki whose 'spin' on the subject fitted the inclinations of the time. This viewpoint implied that 'oriental' perspectives, the mysterious East, could offer immediate access to a spiritual understanding that underlay all religions. This universal basis of spirituality was seen as culture-free and fundamental, a 'perennial philosophy' as Aldous Huxley was to call it. With its emphasis on direct experience beyond words and scriptures, Zen was interpreted as a major route to this experiencing of the real, the various terms for which usually began with a capital letter. Literature of this sort soon became challenged by 'scientific' historical analyses of texts in their socio-historical contexts which, as with Biblical criticism, adopted a sceptical, rationalist tone by- passing much of the inherent psychological insight of these writings. Such opposition still continues today when rational scholarship confronts the now often severely 'dumbed down' idealisms of New Age romantics.
Contemporary thought reveals that this romantic-scientific opposition was itself an expression of 'modernity', a schizoid world-view, which can now itself be examined in the context of the culture giving rise to it. This fresh, 'post-modern' perspective emphasises the contextuality of all philosophy. Whereas the "romantic quest" was to "behold spirit directly without mediation" through culture, so too did the scientific endeavour attempt to find an interpretation of history independent of context. The realisation that both perspectives share a common root in an avoidance of contextuality, turns the focus on how that root actually shaped the ideas of the time. Wright argues that any reading of a text cannot be free of its contextualisation within an inevitably culture bound, world-view of the reader. This insight leads us to question the very acts of reading, understanding and meaning-making. Blofield's interpretative bias itself needs deconstruction before we can again have a go at Huang-po himself. We then approach Huang-po in the knowledge that we too are doing this within the context of our own time, through our own coloured spectacles.
Wright shows convincingly that such an approach fulfils the requirement of Buddhism's own commitment to an understanding of the inter-relatedness, the co-dependence or interdependence of all things and processes. The co-dependence of text, a reader's understanding and culture are all matters that reveal the prescience of this fundamental viewpoint. To start with, the text Blofield translated so well hardly consists of Huang-po's own certificated words. The text has gone through innumerable re- workings right from the start and each one of these reflects the perspectives and prejudices of the time. To get back to Huang-po himself, as Blofield thought he was doing, is a very uncertain process which, however, does not mean that fundamental perspectives in Buddhism's history are not present in the work attributed to him and highly relevant to us now
A major paradox in reading Zen is the constant admonition against reading itself, rough treatment of valued texts, even of the Sutras, and the suggestion that were one to meet the Buddha on the road the right thing to do would be to kill him. Yet these viewpoints are themselves presented in texts, in language, in often authoritative argument. We understand these remarks as criticism of a scholarly, book-worming, dry and lifeless, academic Buddhism that failed to read out of the books the spirit of life itself. The Master 'reads' his pupils, not merely the texts, he 'reads' the circumstances of the times. "When reading becomes a metaphor in this sense, it is synonymous with 'interpretation' and beyond that, with 'understanding' itself" (p40). What then is an understanding of Zen?
When the rich, textual products of one culture infiltrate another it is inevitable that their 'understanding' is influenced by whatever comprehension of its subject matter is already prevalent. On arriving in China, Buddhism was largely interpreted through the prior understandings of Taoism. The same process is operating in the arrival of Buddhism in the West today. When we read Zen stories in which, in answer to a perfectly reasonable question such as "What is the meaning of Zen?" the master tweaks a nose or beats the unfortunate questioner with his staff, we tend to be bewildered or to imply some hidden sagacity to the master. We may then apply to the story an explanation in conventional terms with which we feel at ease. The fact is we simply lack the understanding of context, the behavioural code, which underlay such an interaction. Only through familiarity and reflection can we begin to perceive the verbal and non-verbal communication that is happening here.
Following Austin and Derrida, Wright remarks that, "utterances can only be understood within actual speech situations where shared assumptions enable interlocutors to make sense of each other" (p48). And the same is true of situations, for these are always expressions of on-going culture. Interpretation is always based on pre-understanding and on the working out or floating with the various possibilities that this implies for interpretation. The implication here then is that any word, concept or story is 'empty' of any precise, culture-free meaning and is always relative to context. Once again the Buddhist emphasis on the implications of interdependence emerges clearly.
The absence of 'original meanings' or 'objectivity' in these texts becomes clearer when we examine their frequent use of allegory. When Huang-po is asked a complex question relating to some folk story about previous lives he replies by interpreting the story as representing the mind and its intentions or quest. In these texts we may see that the self who is interpreting or understanding them is "not just the subject of the activity but also the object as well" (p61). The 'Great Matter' of these texts is the self, the self who is doing the reading. When in reading Huang-po we eventually confront ourselves and our pre- understanding we sense "our immersion in the open space" of language (p62).
While Blofield often adds footnotes, today these only clarify Blofield's own interpretative stance based in his own cultural preconceptions. Today we may be more aware of the simple relativity of our interpretations and such a view must then itself be subject to reflection. Essentially this is what Wright means by the 'philosophical meditations' of his title. It is indeed a self-confrontation to realise there is no end to this!
Our discussion leads of course immediately to the question of Zen language. The importance of language in Zen is often ridiculed in the texts, yet again this is a device pointing to the limitations of conventional uses of the formal or academic language of Buddhist description. There is a theme to be discovered here which is open to discourse in surprising ways because it has no solidified meaning - the relativity and flux of life itself is being pointed to and it is usually the tool of language that is used in such pointing.
Yet Zen rhetoric takes many forms. The language of Zen in Huang-po's time made use of ordinary speech intensified to a special purpose. The coded usage here had to be learned through the experience of being in a monastery, in having contact with the users among whom the masters were pre-eminent. "Words give rise to the experience and then issue from it immediately and spontaneously. 'Awakening' has not occurred in the absence of language, but fully in its presence" (p84).
The moment of awakening is a rhetorical occasion when the words of one speaker elicit a response in another. Wright classifies the varying forms of this rhetoric: the use of strange and puzzling expressions; direct pointing in which gesture rather than words is the means of transmission; the use of silence where words might have been expected; the employment of sudden disruptive even seemingly aggressive behaviour. All of these means are part of a 'language' with a clear intentionality - to effect transmission. For practitioners, language is therefore both the trap of samsara and the mechanism of release. Practitioners "sought a transformed rhetoric of 'live words' and 'turning words' through which awakening might be evoked." Some great masters, Huang-po and Lin-chi, were so powerful in the use of these methods that almost all 'faltered' before them. The master cut through convention so drastically that interlocutors were often unable to find any response - and yet through being thrown out of conventional language they might suddenly perceive its emptiness.
Wright remarks, "The Zen master is one who no longer seeks solid ground, who realises that all things and situations are supported, not by firm ground and solid self-nature, but rather by shifting and contingent relations... he no longer needs to hold his ground in dialogue, and therefore does not falter when all grounds give way... His role in dialogue is to reflect in a selfless way whatever is manifest or can become manifest in the moment" (p101).
Commonly the spoken words merely reflect the actuality of the moment, words and actions are contingent on occasion, they fit or reflect the interconnections in play and neither attempt to impose upon it nor to explain nor describe it. They co-emerge with it.
An important feature of a Zen story or koan is thus the 'turning word' upon which the point of the event 'turns'. There are no fixed words of this kind. They arise in the moment and one of the tasks of a master is to realise and release them. These 'live words' act as direct pointers but to what? They cause the interlocutor or the practitioner to focus so unnaturally on a phrase, a word or a story that it opens out of the conventional, common-sense relations of the actual linguistic usage, thus breaking the hold that ordinary language has upon the mind. When this operates on self-understanding, the positioning of self-concern within its habitual understanding is broken and, falling both into and out of relativity, its own emptiness is seen in a radical reframing.
John Blofield assumed that Huang-po spoke from a direct perception of truth that was pre-linguistic or extra-linguistic and that he would therefore not have an interest in history. In fact Chinese Zen, and indeed Huang-po himself, was always deeply concerned with matters of lineage and the accuracy with which transmission occurred. There is a vast literature that concerns itself with the historicity of transmission, much of which is myth or legend but which has an important function in legitimating practice.
These lineage records are essentially family genealogies of transmission complete with anecdotes, exemplary stories, methods of practice and rituals. Contrasting lineages are like branches of a tree which draw their strength from presence of the root. The ahistorical nature of experiential presence in Zen practice is thus always embedded in the narratives of the lineage. Enlightened identity is expressed in lineage identity and may include the occasional denial of the latter's importance for the sake of further transmission.
Contemporary historical study searches for the actual course of events and for documentation that may reveal the actual, 'true' history of Zen in China and Japan. From this perspective, lineage histories are simply bad history full of irrelevance, faulty timings, endless revisionism. The problem these lineages present for the practitioner in the present time are of a different nature. By idealising a certain approach, by a fixation of method and ritual, by an attempt at enlightenment as a resurrection of a particular moment in time, by a desire for unity and a specific identity in Zen, the capacity for a flexible relationship with the contingency of the moment - this moment - can be denied or made very difficult.
Yet, as Wright observes, a converse application of the Zen viewpoint to modern historical practices reveals the latter's stance as supposedly tradition-free and representing simple facticity yet lacking philosophical perspective and social responsibility. Such Western historians often fail in awareness of the extent to which historical study is reflexive to our time. This often comes about through a misuse of the natural science model in attempting to account for the origin and drift of human values.
"...both the Zen Buddhist and the modern, Western historical tradition deny implicitly some dimension of the impermanence of history, the radical mutability of temporal movement" (p117).
The encounter between traditional Zen historiography and Western methodology is already happening and as each begins to inform the other, particular traditions of historical reflection with contrasting purposes "may become... richer, more comprehensive and... applicable to cultural ends which are themselves open to similar transformation" (p118).
The Western idea of freedom dating back to the European 'Enlightenment' is closely tied to the significance of individualism in Western culture. There is always a dualism here, the individual is marked by his or her differentiation from others in society through the development of a unique identity relatively free from social coercion through self-possessed power and maturity. Liberation is conceived as the attainment of such distinction. This individualism plays a role in Western culture at a social psychological level to an extreme that differs markedly from Asian values with their greater concern with mutuality and social conformity.1 In the West we have a dualism in our understanding of freedom that parallels the notion of a spiritual dimension independent from cultural constraint and definition. It was therefore easy for Westerners to interpret Zen enlightenment in terms of a liberation from social constraint into a transcendent spiritual dimension providing a sort of ego-free power. And indeed Zen texts are full of statements that may be read in this manner. With a naive but conscious guile or perhaps unconsciously, D. T. Suzuki promoted such a Euro-friendly vision and thereby laid an acceptable groundwork for the Western fascination with Zen in its romantic form. Like other Japanese teachers, his views expressed within Japanese culture were far more traditional and authoritarian.2 Beat Zen, Jack Kerouac, and many Western Zen romantics continued this illusory preoccupation which has, even so, undoubtedly eased Zen Buddhism into Western culture in much the same way that Taoistic interpretation assisted the entry of Indian Buddhism into China.
A more considered examination of Huang-po and other Ch'an writers of the classical period reveals however a much more carefully nuanced idea of freedom. Statements that appear to promote individualism are carefully hedged about with requirements to obey the monastic rules, to conform to monastic ways of life, to imitate time-honoured practices, to obey the master and never to query the inheritance of the lineage as represented by him. The implication is that the practitioner submit himself to a powerful authority. And yet it is within this very submission that freedom may be found and the rules discounted. Freedom here is certainly not autonomy, nor is it the throwing off of constraint. Nor does this come to an end with the acknowledgement of enlightenment. When the enlightened master Huang-po is asked why he still bows before the Buddha although he has reached non-attachment, Huang-po simply remarks that this is his custom. Lin chi having slapped his teacher, Huang-po, in the moment of realisation, then settles down to study under the master for many years.
Wright emphasises the point that freedom is always relative to some form of constraint. In the Zen texts, terms such as cutting off, severing, exhausting, breaking through, are related to obstructions, screening, holding, fixtures, limitations, fixed perspectives, enclosure or bondage. Yet the result is not an independence from the monastery or a separation of individual from custom. Rather freedom is found within constraint. There is a triangulation in play here, independence and dependence are transcended in a third stance involving an emancipation from both through forms of inner renunciation. This comes about through an acceptance of limitation on individual will "in order to make possible forms of freedom beyond those surrendered" (p123). And yet within this very emancipation the monk continues in his personal dependence and independence.
Dependence on the master may be seen as a form of imitation through which a process with effects visible in the teacher emerges also in the practitioner. Imitation here is not copying, which is roundly condemned in Ch'an writings, but rather a following of a path revealed by another in order to make one's own discovery in the course of time. Again, the abandonment of the Sutras is not a rejection of them but rather a digestion of their meaning to an extent that they need no longer be consulted. It is the realisation of the essential 'emptiness' of phenomena that allows the 'burning' of the Sutras or the destruction of images and pagodas. The realisation that "form is emptiness and emptiness is precisely form", leads to the insight that monastic life and practice are empty of any objective value, are not anything of fixed merit and that, in the recognition of emptiness, there is no constraint in such a life either. Yet there is a path that has led to this insight, a path that seems at first sight the very antithesis of freedom. In the abandonment of self as independent, the interdependence of self with all things becomes clear. Within the insight of this renunciation any mode of being then becomes equal to any other.
Furthermore, the mode of realisation will not be of a fixed nature. Individuals will make their own discovery out of the uniqueness of their own experience, practice and karmic constraint. As time goes along and society itself changes so the mode of realisation shifts. In Ch'an texts we find old modes of enlightenment being updated so that ancient ancestors may be described as having realisations in the mode of the then present. Here again the Zen historian has often tried to fix too clearly the mode of transmission, ignoring Buddhism's own insistence on relativity. Enlightenment today will come about in its own way and the psychology of renunciation is likely to take many forms. Mere imitators of the texts beware!
In realisation, the pupil 'goes beyond' the master. Here we can see that, although the traditional path remains vital, without a new creativity embodying the specificity of the moment the tradition will itself die through non-renewal. The storyline of Zen thus never reaches a final statement, has no fixity, remains in the perennial space of an openness always partaking of and never independent from the now. Wright asks: how does the call to 'go beyond' also apply to us in the context of our reading Zen?
The pivot of Huang-po's thought and indeed that of the whole Zen project is the understanding of Mind, yet it is at once clear that this word does not denote the simple mind that all of us have - the restless thinking consciousness. Mind, and here perhaps we might consider a capital 'M', is treated variously in Huang-po's writings as something that cannot be fixed either subjectively or objectively; as encompassing all things yet itself remaining unfindable; as like space or as a source; as a ground of phenomena. Mind is neither identical with the forms of knowing nor separable from them, yet: "In correspondence to conditions mind becomes things" (p158). The repeated use of 'as' shows the importance of effective metaphor here: metaphor pointing to a target that cannot be clearly seen as an object. Being the all and the everything in both the inner and the outer of experience it is necessarily also nothing in particular. The 'One-Mind' is at the same time 'No-Mind'.
Wright barely discusses the sources of such ideas. They derive from origins in the Tathagatagarbha tradition of the Indian Yogacara view almost immediately, however, undermined by the application of the Prajnaparamita and Mahayamaka perspectives. Since, in the latter view, the six senses, their objects and the relations between them, all lack any inherent selfhood and have no controlling agency they are all 'empty'. In the Zen texts there is thus an inevitable tension between expressions locating presence and absence in the appearances of Mind. The insight into what the nature of this all-encompassing but unlocatable mind may be is both the focus of practice and the subject of much intellectual activity.
Wright explores the manner in which Huang-po's text and Blofield handle this issue. Wright's philosophical struggle engages the texts in a very Zen style, refusing to allow any definition to harden into an idea which would exclude its inevitable contrary or which would bring about a premature closure in thought excluding further mobility. In accord with his post-modern dialectic he repeatedly demonstrates that no term can be taken as standing on its own outside of language or culture and again, through this persistence, he cuts down the tendency to do exactly this. Similar tactics are inherent both in some ancient interpretations and in some parts of Blofield's own account.
For example, while "everyday mind is the Way", too much of an indulgence in everyday behaviour would lead to a passivity very far from the quest described elsewhere in the texts. Again, the attractive notion that Mind means the experience of the pure 'presence' of the here and the now can imply something outside the usual experience of time and space in an eternity set up as against temporality. While the experience of the present moment lies at the heart of Zen, this cannot mean that everything else has somehow disappeared; other aspects of experience such as the temporal nature of things have simply been set in the background for a time. Similarly, a focus on certain terms and their experiential concomitants does not mean that other modes of experiencing are negated - they are simply not then in focus.
The whole tendency to represent the Mind as any sort of id-entity is replaced in Huang-po by expressions implicating some sort of id-unity: a unity of diversity such that nothing is experienced in its separateness but rather in a merging in which everything is present as nothing in particular. Wright again and again emphasises that words and experiences are co-present in understanding. Such understanding is largely 'pre-conscious', shaped by and contained in old memories, stories and past behaviour of oneself and others. There is a 'storehouse'3 of such resources that gives meaning to any event and which can take linguistic expression. Conversely, the recall of words can reset an experience in modes that are as much non-verbal as verbal. This 'pre-theoretical and pre-discursive' experiencing, while drawing on understanding, also re-forms it beyond the merely intellectual. Such action facilitates living within time rather than an endeavour to escape it (p174).
Indeed, if this relation between language, temporality and experience did not exist, it would be impossible for Huang-po to write of either experience or its presence now as an outcome of an event in the past - under the Bo tree perhaps. Paradoxically, his very words that point to 'direct awareness' are also understood by him as a doctrinal obstruction should the listener fixate upon them. And yet without them no transmission would be possible.
Wright says: "A dialectical relationship between the practice of thought and Zen experience is essential to the tradition. Thought pushes experience further, opens up new dimensions for it, and refines what comes to experience. Experience pushes thought further, opens up new dimensions for thinking, and sets limits to its excursions. The brilliance of Zen thinking is its tentative and provisional character, the 'non-abiding', 'non-grasping' mind. Knowing through thought that all thought is empty, Zen masters have explored worlds of reflection unavailable to other traditions - playfully 'thinking' what lies beneath commonsense" (p.179).
Whereas Blofield felt the 'Mind' to infer some 'absolute' hidden beyond the veils of ignorance, Huang-po and other authors in his tradition continued to insist on its immediate presence only distanced from us due to a tendency to adopt some idealising 'theory' closing ourselves off from the open freedom of staying with the flow of life. Yet to stay in such a space is scary, for the finitude of the self in its awareness of mortality then needs moment to moment acceptance. Traditional training in such awareness has required practices which are the outcome of exceptional life choices: to leave home; to live together with others in the acceptance of monastic rule, in the awareness of lineage and time, in discovering the co-arising of monastic and ordinary life and a sense of empathic compassion for all beings, and hence the insight that life is itself the ground of being.
"The ground is encountered, not as a separate relation, but in the midst of all other relations... practice is to cultivate the understanding and awareness that every relation to things in the world is simultaneously a relation to the ground of all things which has no 'existence' independent of the 'worldly things' through which it is manifest" (p189)... As the mind shifts in succession from one situation and object of awareness to another, the enlightened mind stays attuned to the 'one-mind' at the root of all things"(p 190).
Wright argues that to be enlightened is to be responsive to life situations in an "open reciprocity" with them brought about by "certain dimensions of self-negation". In the history of Zen in China there were many disagreements concerning whether this understanding could be achieved by sudden or by gradual methods. Underlying these arguments were disputes between contrasting lineages basically political in nature. Careful reflection on the wording of the texts shows that sudden and gradual actually coexist in training. While a monk's everyday self-understanding is gradually called into question through hearing the teachings and living in a monastery in the proximity of a master, it was often by a sharp re- orientation of the manner whereby the individual conceived of himself against the background of his life that he came to an insight recognised by the master. Such momentary insight needed then to be related to an ongoing way of life and manner of experience before it could be said to be mature. Hence after 'seeing the nature' many monks remained in training often for years. Such a release into insight has the character of a 'letting go' which may only come about after much resistance: to let fall a secure conception of one's own identity is fearful and requires a trust that can only develop within time.
Wright once again emphasises the co-action within this process of meditative practices that are non- discursive with those that involve critical and creative reflection in thought. Practice is seen as not different from ordinary life, indeed the latter is to be experienced within the life of practice. To stress one or the other would be once again to fossilise an attitude in a closed perspective, the need for a 'going beyond' is again vital.
"Emptied of previous selves, monks were initiated into processes of constructing identities by... reshaping the variety of patterns bequeathed to them through the tradition. Established convention and distinctive identity were not held to be in opposition since the established models were distinct identities, and since one's own act of self-construction would inevitably push in some new direction" (p214). Indeed, the very creativity of the master would inspire a bright monk to innovation arising spontaneously within the life of practice.
The tension between the poles of tradition and innovation through 'going beyond' has sustained Zen through numerous historical crises and must be a key source for reflection at the present time. Yet a 'turning' moment remains essential for any individual on the path. The quest is necessarily always reflexive. Who is it that practices? Ever since the ministry of the great master Ma-tsu this has always been the critical question and the response to it constitutes the turning moment. As Wright says, the contemporary versions of this questioning remain at the heart of the Great Matter.
If we have understood Wright's philosophical reflections accurately we will be sensitive to the realisation that the end of this present reading is no end to understanding. Wright's text is itself relative to the deconstructive trend in post-modern thought for which the many parallels in Zen have become more obvious than could be the case for Blofield's generation. Are there, however, contemporary limitations to Wright's viewpoint? Apart from continuing the debate it is hard to answer this question.
Wright's text is clearly a product of a post-modern, philosophical mind, albeit one almost certainly having a background familiar with practice. Zen is like a landscape and Wright has provided a philosophical map in terms expressing a contemporary philosophy highly influenced by Wittgenstein, Austin and Derrida. The same landscape can however also be drawn by different cartographers. In particular, while Wright does discuss mind and experience eloquently, this is not through the eyes of a skilled psychologist.
In the Lankavatara Sutra we find a psychological model basic to Zen practice and experience. Extrapolating from this model and relating it to modern psychology provides another equally fascinating map in which cross-references to Mead, Winnicot and the object relations school of psychotherapy would be in the foreground.4 Again a more phenomenologically based stance would take us onto maps scored with place names derived from Husserl or Heideger and placed in close relationship with ideas expressed by the great Japanese Soto master Dogen.5 Furthermore the experimental psychology of meditation has much to inform us about the underlying mechanisms of attitude change and alterations in consciousness.6 A contemporary scepticism may also lead us to examine Zen through Thomas Huxley's advocacy of agnosticism.7
In collecting these maps together those practitioners of Zen who are not themselves cartographers may get confused. Where are the mountains on a map of county boundaries? What is the density of sparrows in a map of the vegetation of Wales? Maps do not answer all questions. They give us literally and deliberately a partial perspective. In the end, perhaps, we need to return to philosophising to gain an overview.
Wright teaches us not to allow closure on any perspective of Zen. There are always others in attendance. Zen in our time is Zen in our time - only just emerging from an Asian into a Western and increasingly global history. In China Buddhism went into a long eclipse under a neo-Confucianism that focused more on issues of social management and the economics of justice than it did on the dynamics of personal suffering. Indeed the economics of the monasteries were often hardly of value to the man in the paddy field.8 Perhaps as these vital themes also emerge as paramount in the West the relation between Buddhism and our unhappy concern with a degrading environment should loom large lest what some may see as excessive introspection or self-indulgence leads to a lessening of current interest in the Buddhist view. Then again, when the vast majority of Western practitioners are lay people and never likely to become monks, close attention to a creative manifestation of Lay Zen is vital. This is likely to require a considerable questioning of ancient monastic practices in order to bring the essential clearly to the fore.
Staying in the open ground is in fact almost a necessity in the post-modern world of relativity where one can pick a religion off a shelf in the local church, mosque or temple; where one can choose from any number of systems of closure in a misguided and inevitably prejudiced search for escape into unworldly perfection. Zen tells us to fly by the seat of our pants in the world as it comes to us, staying open to its beauty, perversity and continuous flux, and finding that moment of global empathy in the loss of self- concern that yields compassion. If we are both personally and collectively to 'go beyond' the inherent suffering of human ignorance it will be essential to remember that while "setting the mind alive we do not put it anywhere."9
1 See further: Neisser, U. and Jopling, D.A. (eds). The Conceptual Self in Context. Cambridge University Press (1997).
2 Victoria, Brian A. Zen at War. Weatherhill, New York and Tokyo (1997).
3 The alayavijnana of the Vijnanavada perspective of the Yogacara element in Ch'an.
4 See: Crook J.H. The Evolution of Human Consciousness. Clarendon. Oxford (1980). Skinner, M. 'Spontaneity and Self Control', in Crook J.H. and Fontana D. Space in Mind: East-West Psychology and Contemporary Buddhism. Element (1990).
5 Peranjpe. A.C. and Hanson R.K. 'On Dealing with the Stream of Consciousness: a comparison of Husserl and Yoga', in Peranjpe, A.C., Yo, D.Y.F. and Rieber, R.W. Asian Contributions to Psychology. Praeger (1985). Heine, S. Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dogen. SUNY Press (1988).
6 Blackmore, S. 1990 'Mental models and mystical experience'. In Crook and Fontana loc cit.
7 Batchelor, S. Buddhism without Beliefs (1998).
8 See: Gernet, J. Buddhism in Chinese Society: an economic history from the 5th -10th centuries. Columbia University Press (1995)
9 Ref: The turning line from the Diamond Sutra that led to Master Huineng's enlightenment.