Monday, 18 January 2016


23. The practice of Zen as a philosophical practice is the exercise of a practical philosophy in the everyday life of the practitioner. This view of Zen as a practical philosophy should not be confused with other views of Zen philosophy that see it as the spelling out of a metaphysics that is said to be implicit in Zen practices and discourse, still less with the view that sees it as a body of Buddhist philosophical doctrines. For Zen, as understood here, represents a deliberate and rigorous turning away from the metaphysical speculations of the Mahayana. Attempts to explicate and articulate what is thought to be Zen's hidden philosophical potential only serve to betray Zen by returning it to metaphysics. Zen, if looked at through the lens of Wittgenstein's philosophy, does not have to deck itself out in the disputed doctrines of metaphysics in order to prove its philosophical credentials. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Zen is anti-metaphysical. Rather it is a case of refusing to engage in metaphysical speculations or to argue the merits of a metaphysical position. Instead, the Zen master lets the metaphysical manifest itself in whatever concrete individual act or thing is to hand. Careful attention to the koan and how it works will show that this is so. 'A monk asked Ummon, "What is Buddha?" Ummon replied, "A dried shit-stick!"'

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