Wednesday, 20 January 2016


24. The philosophical practice of Zen is about waking up to the way things are. As such, it is not concerned with teaching anything new. Rather, it is about showing what is already visible, hearing what is already audible, touching what is already tangible, tasting what is already tasty, and smelling what is already there to be smelt. Zen is about shaking the practitioner out of his or her slumber, whether that slumber be dogmatic, conceptual, linguistic or customary, so that things can be encountered just as they present themselves. If this sounds like a version of phenomenology, then perhaps it is, if phenomenology's primary concern is with what is immediately given in experience. Here, too, Wittgenstein comes to mind, given that throughout his philosophical career his attention was directed to his immediate experience. As he himself remarked, 'We want to understand something that is already in plain view'.
     Practices that are designed to awaken rather than to 'teach', are not about providing information or imparting doctrines. The Zen master puts the emphasis on training the disciple in a practical skill that is to be applied in everyday living, and not on the acquisition of a body of theoretical knowledge. In mastering the practical skills of Zen, the disciple awakens to the knowledge and understanding that underpin and accompany the practice of those skills.

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