Tag: Chuang-Tzu

Three Lesser-Known Figures in the Zen Tradition

All three emphasized the Tao side of Zen

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone has heard of Shakyamuni (Gautama Buddha) and Lao-Tzu, the semi-historical founders of Buddhism and Taoism.

A lot of people have probably also heard of Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch of Buddhism (and first patriarch of Zen Buddhism) who brought Indian metaphysics to China in 520 AD, where it started to mix with Taoism, leading to the entirely new phenomenon that we call “Zen.” See D. T. Suzuki, “History of Zen,” in Essays in Zen Buddhism.

But most of us in the West haven’t heard of the hundreds of other philosophers and monks in the Zen tradition whose insights and lives deserve attention.

Now, as a Catholic, I don’t believe these men merit the attention of the saints, but they do merit attention. They represent the highest attainment of natural philosophy.(FN)

By “natural philosophy,” I primarily mean “philosophy without any revelation.”

The Zen tradition is almost entirely deprived of Christian revelation. More troubling, its ontology is monistic, meaning that it presumes there is not even a transcendent being (God) that could impart revelation.

It wouldn’t be accurate to call Zen “atheistic,” but it wouldn’t be inaccurate either.

As far as philosophical traditions go, you could argue that Zen is the one tradition that, through its premises and practices, has done everything possible to deprive itself of grace. I’m not saying it is deprived of grace (and I’m inclined to think that, despite its unknowing attempts to eliminate grace, it has received it in spades nonetheless), but any grace it receives is applied solely on the natural plane.

Yet Zen’s insights are enormous and important. Its insights are often wrong and incomplete, but that’s unavoidable in a tradition that denies one-half of existence … Read the rest