Zen - Ernest Becker

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Zen - Ernest Becker


<p>ZEN:aBy</p> <p>ERNEST BECKER, Ph.D.The appealernerssionalsof</p> <p>Zen</p> <p>to a variety of</p> <p>West-</p> <p>both</p> <p>dilettantes</p> <p>and</p> <p>profes-</p> <p>has been increasingly evident</p> <p>and, to some, has</p> <p>become a matter</p> <p>of</p> <p>concern. Zen typifies an Eastern approachto problem-solving thatis</p> <p>at the opposite</p> <p>pole from Western ideals: the</p> <p>human</p> <p>being, puppetlike, manipulates himself in</p> <p>the hope of coercing his environment.</p> <p>Steeped in a tradition of magical omnipotence, the Zennist seeks to bring other-</p> <p>worldly power to bear on this-worldlyproblems.</p> <p>To</p> <p>the question "Does Zen hold forththis</p> <p>something of value to the West?"</p> <p>book makes an unremittingly negativeanswer. Zen, Dr. Becker remarks., hasthus far escaped unscathed from traditional</p> <p>Western skepticism about irrational</p> <p>and</p> <p>antirational approaches to</p> <p>human</p> <p>understanding. In this book, he provides</p> <p>a</p> <p>much needed</p> <p>clarification of perspec-</p> <p>tive.</p> <p>He gives a fresh view of Zen's origins(Continued on back flap)</p> <p>3 1148 00019 1981</p> <p>-</p> <p>29^ B3952 61-2378J Becker Zen: a rational critique</p> <p>Zen:ARational Critique</p> <p>DATEOCT</p> <p>f</p> <p>Zen:ARational Critique</p> <p>By</p> <p>ERNEST BECKER,</p> <p>Ph.D.New YorL</p> <p>Department of Psychiatry, State University ofUpstate Medical Center</p> <p>W-W-NORTON &amp; COMPANY, INC</p> <p>.</p> <p>New York</p> <p>Copyright</p> <p>1961 by Ernest BeckerFirst Edition</p> <p>Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 61-7474</p> <p>Printed in the United States of Americafor the Publishers by the Vail-Ballou Press</p> <p>123456789</p> <p>To</p> <p>Douglas G. Haringthe teacher imparts the</p> <p>",</p> <p>.</p> <p>.</p> <p>spirit."</p> <p>6123783</p> <p>CONTENTS</p> <p>Introduction:</p> <p>The Appeal</p> <p>of</p> <p>Zen to the West, 13</p> <p>1</p> <p>The</p> <p>Psychotherapeutic Personality Change, 23Conversion, 43</p> <p>2</p> <p>The Zen Buddhist</p> <p>3</p> <p>The Zen</p> <p>Discipline as a Psychotherapeutic</p> <p>Process, 87</p> <p>4</p> <p>The</p> <p>Historical</p> <p>Background</p> <p>of Zen:</p> <p>An5</p> <p>Anthropological View, 102</p> <p>The</p> <p>Central Psychological Role of the Trance</p> <p>in Zen, 119</p> <p>6</p> <p>Zen Cosmology and Zen Values, 133</p> <p>7</p> <p>The Thought ReformThe</p> <p>Rebirth, 143</p> <p>8</p> <p>Psychotherapeutic Meeting of East and</p> <p>West, 1559Conclusion, 173Bibliographic Notes and References, 185</p> <p>Index, 190</p> <p>"Theman;</p> <p>state of</p> <p>A society holds together by the respect which man gives toit fails</p> <p>mind, the state of societyit falls</p> <p>is</p> <p>of a piece.</p> <p>.</p> <p>.</p> <p>,</p> <p>in fact,its</p> <p>apart into groups of fearis false."</p> <p>and</p> <p>power,</p> <p>when</p> <p>concept of</p> <p>man</p> <p>J.</p> <p>BRONOWSKI</p> <p>"The dangerlieve</p> <p>to society</p> <p>is</p> <p>wrong things, though that should become credulous."</p> <p>not merely that it should beis great enough; but that it</p> <p>W.K.CLIFFORD</p> <p>Zen:</p> <p>A</p> <p>Rational Critique</p> <p>INTRODUCTION</p> <p>The Appeal</p> <p>of</p> <p>Zen to the West</p> <p>A living man who sits and does not lie down; A dead man who lies down and does not sit!Afterall</p> <p>these are just dirty skeletons.</p> <p>The Westerner who finds some charm in Zen is oftenhard put to reconcile the antinomy, so foreign to his own traditions, between its poignantly esthetic musings about man and nature and its blatant denial of life. The purpose of this book is not to effect reconciliation, but rather to show that Zen really &amp; S^SSSLS^life, abnegation of the Western ethic of individuation and autonomy which was ,sp Jaboripusly fashioned by Mediterfa"ilBM^iviIization and is still too precariously grasped. It is a trite observation that knowledge accumulates so quickly and voluminously that we are con-</p> <p>stantly forced to rediscover something long known which has been quietly buried under the silt of more up-to-date thought or more pressing research. Yet this is what seems to have happened to Zen. The credulous new generations have to start again at the beginning and learn things all over; and with an ever new spirit</p> <p>animating their strivings, it is inevitable that they should choose to delight themselves with the wrongthings.</p> <p>13</p> <p>Zen, Thought Reform, and Psychotherapy</p> <p>Of</p> <p>course "wrong things"</p> <p>is</p> <p>a highly relative phrase;</p> <p>traditions. Curiously, right and wrong depend on social this is the one area in which proponents of Zen to the West have been most remiss: they have without exception claimed that Zen is not only in harmony with Western tradition, but is in fact in essence more Western than the Western Greek and Christian-Judaic traditions themselves. This would be amusing if it were accepted only among a handful of gullible poets harmthe idea has inlessly dispersed in espresso shops. But fected some unimpeachable Western professionals, and</p> <p>among themQf</p> <p>psychotherapists who possess a good deal over individuals. purpose here is neither power to make light of Oriental esthetics, nor to quench any</p> <p>My</p> <p>possible proselytizing by the Buddhist religion, but simply to look at Zen "in the round" in the hope thatif</p> <p>we can be purged</p> <p>of childish</p> <p>dependence upon</p> <p>magical achievements and impossible problems with a selfreliant adult realism. Those who turn to Zen expect it to grant the most impossible of all the things thatlife</p> <p>omnipotence, we might view our imperfect</p> <p>of personal</p> <p>cannot give: a ready solution to the ponderous task and social adjustment and this withoutdenial ofis</p> <p>the exercise of reason!-yllheas old</p> <p>mind</p> <p>is</p> <p>as old as</p> <p>Buddhism; at</p> <p>least</p> <p>Buddhism's impotence to do something tanto aid gible suffering humanity judging by the cities and slums and rural misery of Asia. It has become soimportant for everyone to have a "personal belief" in our society, which is so mistrustful of "bad intentions,"thatto question content only in the case of Marxism. And even the idea that Marxism can actu-</p> <p>we seem</p> <p>14</p> <p>The Appealally</p> <p>of</p> <p>Zen</p> <p>to the</p> <p>West</p> <p>be accepted</p> <p>as a religion in theit</p> <p>underdevelopedat all</p> <p>countries absolves</p> <p>of</p> <p>some</p> <p>evil. I</p> <p>do not</p> <p>mean</p> <p>to imply that one religion is better than any other, but simply that all religions do have a conceptual content;</p> <p>and the nonbeliever</p> <p>interested in certain facets of a</p> <p>creative ends needs religion for esthetic or artistically for its eschatology of salvaalso to know the</p> <p>premises</p> <p>Western psychotherapists however their professional understanding of the Zen negation of reason and understand it. logic is perverted, at least dotion.</p> <p>into</p> <p>In Buddhist thought, the world is a terrible place which one is reincarnated again and again through aeons of time, to form attachments to things and loved</p> <p>ones and be separated remorselessly from them by an is not fundaimpersonal fate. The Buddhist protest eternal mentally against life. Life is not bad; it is thea</p> <p>from desired objectr ^RaTTFTfie gainful separationis</p> <p>an</p> <p>entirely impersonal flux in,</p> <p>which nothing really "exists" except attachment and desire. The Buddhist salvation is freedom from desire and hence from rebirth^he_Zen doctrine is that instantaneous freedom is achieved by uniting oneself with the eternal essence; liberation from the fetters of existence is possible in the here and now, not merelyat death or in in</p> <p>some life to come. Nothingthis</p> <p>is</p> <p>importanttfie</p> <p>Zen except</p> <p>tsafil^^</p> <p>able to this end.thing, in fact,</p> <p>Most expendable</p> <p>of</p> <p>all</p> <p>one</p> <p>which must be effaced</p> <p>in order for the</p> <p>Zen</p> <p>liberation to take place</p> <p>i^hgjitt^*</p> <p>mind tojhou^^^</p> <p>^^</p> <p>rom15</p> <p>Zen, Thought Reform, and Psychotherapyshall the very possibility of union with the cosmic. of this roots historical examine later the magical andidea.</p> <p>We</p> <p>r.The negation of mind in Buddhist thought is rather Westerners generally known, and undoubtedly many the West in it. of find Zen attractive because Manyrevolt</p> <p>both against reason's obviously majestic crea-</p> <p>tions for the</p> <p>good</p> <p>life,</p> <p>as well as</p> <p>its</p> <p>utter failure tocreativity.</p> <p>solve problems of personal</p> <p>contentment and</p> <p>But</p> <p>less</p> <p>well</p> <p>known than</p> <p>fundamental to any</p> <p>the negation of mind, method appraisal of it, is the</p> <p>and Zen</p> <p>which</p> <p>uses to proselytizel^Zen is basically a technique by to achieve a mental breakdown of people so that Its rethey can be made to accept a new ideology.</p> <p>semblance here to Chinese thought reform can be conclusively demonstrated. Also not widely enough recognizedis</p> <p>version</p> <p>and reform are</p> <p>that Zen's propensities for ideological conalso inherent in many forms of</p> <p>a basic psychotherapy practiced in the Wqst. There is which identity in the coercive and regressive processes</p> <p>Zen, thought reform, and various Western psychotherapies use to achieve reform or conversion goals,</p> <p>system of belief may be offensive to some, but the Zennists themselves will be the most tranquil in a reappraisal of facts which have slipped from view, or remained in the special"scientific" dissection of a</p> <p>A</p> <p>province of ivy-overgrown inaccessibility. They will relay the burden of critical defense back to the sourceof attack, by branding this "conscious/' "fragmented/' and hopelessly "unspontaneous" treatment because as a typical example of its symbolism is "learned"</p> <p>the "error" of attachment they seek to eliminate.16</p> <p>But</p> <p>The Appeal</p> <p>of</p> <p>Zen</p> <p>to the</p> <p>West</p> <p>the examination of facts does not permit reduction to the same innocuous relativity as the assumption of</p> <p>emotionally validatedstitute</p> <p>beliefs. If it did,</p> <p>we</p> <p>could sub-</p> <p>firecracker-propelled garbage cans for space rockets, and effect a considerable saving in the national</p> <p>budget.</p> <p>No</p> <p>purposeful argument</p> <p>c^be^^dwi&amp;thQ^the bankruptcy of"really</p> <p>mystic, becianoser inniltimat^^ untenable premise, he invokes</p> <p>thought process to arrive at</p> <p>what he</p> <p>mea^s."</p> <p>Besides, the mystical position has been bolstered by the recruitment of many intellectuals here in the West:</p> <p>Junglogic</p> <p>is</p> <p>revitalist</p> <p>one of the foremost to have answered the "Who'll step out and declare" cry againstrational analysis.</p> <p>and</p> <p>Tois</p> <p>judge by his writings,</p> <p>the "universal unconscious"</p> <p>a vast repository of heal-</p> <p>ing symbols, a psychic bank which has been accumulated through untold generations of evolution, and which lies at the disposal of mankind for healing purposes. Appropriately, the symbolic plasma of this bank seems to have been largely contributed by the East, in</p> <p>the form of</p> <p>tranquilizing_mgndgZdg religious represen tationsoF universal harmony which have only to be seen or imagined in order for a mental reintegrationto take place. One is hard-pressed to imagine a universal hereditary unconscious; and serious scholars have long since turned to more profitable preoccupations</p> <p>ever since theacteristics</p> <p>abandonment</p> <p>of the doctrine that char-</p> <p>acquired by the individual in his lifetime can be passed on to his progeny. Freud observed in the</p> <p>reticians</p> <p>early part of this century that psychoanalytic theowho form their own school bring their per-</p> <p>sonal faiths with</p> <p>them</p> <p>Jung</p> <p>is</p> <p>religious,</p> <p>Adler was17</p> <p>Zen, Thought Reform, and Psychotherapya socialist.</p> <p>More recently,gift</p> <p>Erich</p> <p>Fromm's</p> <p>gratitude for</p> <p>the precious Zen</p> <p>from the East (these are his</p> <p>directly traceable, as we shall see, to his conviction of the need for a greater spontaneity, a more</p> <p>words)</p> <p>is</p> <p>total expression of the inner</p> <p>man</p> <p>than a culture ani-</p> <p>mated by markets and Madison Avenue can give. The whole man to Fromm represents an original total potential which has been warped and channelized by thefunctional needs of a buying-and-selling society. Of course Zen is not limited in its appeal to those</p> <p>who deny the valuetherapists.</p> <p>of reason, or to apocalyptic psychoreflective</p> <p>Zen answers the esthetic and</p> <p>needs</p> <p>of a variety of temperaments without suBjectmg them to complete conversion by means oFiEsrebifth method,</p> <p>and without subverting clar% of tHnking. Zen enjoys favor in the West on many different levels, and itsappeal defies ready explanationjlf o the philosophically minded, the Buddhist metaphysics of universal becoming has long provided rich conceptual fare; but this is not a new attraction, and Zen is only one of manyspeculative schools^ In the</p> <p>more modernit</p> <p>spirit of</p> <p>East-</p> <p>West</p> <p>synthesis</p> <p>one</p> <p>is</p> <p>tempted</p> <p>to use the epigram</p> <p>is perhaps unfair Zen avows itself philosophically protean: in Japan Zen has been incorporated into Hegel, and in the West it has been equated with Kierkegaard, Existentialism, Faust, and Pragmatism. This is in the same spirit as Sri</p> <p>"pooled ignorance*' but</p> <p>Aurobindo's reconciliation of Indian spiritualism and European materialism.! Akin to the appeal of a philoobvious delight of the religious, mystical temperament in the submersion of telluric values, and even the conceptual ablation of asophical esotericsis</p> <p>tfee</p> <p>18</p> <p>The Appeal</p> <p>of</p> <p>Zen</p> <p>to the</p> <p>West</p> <p>universe of mind and matter. It is possible too to understand the creative becoming of Zen cosmology in a purely humanist sense; but this requires overlooking the core idea of and the susjiuddhi^n^ tained affirmation!^ Western</p> <p>humanism</p> <p>tions in the arts,</p> <p>upholds. As for Zen's reputed manifestait is not enough realized that its in-</p> <p>fluence on garden art, painting and poetry is more a post facto rationalization on the part of Zen adherents</p> <p>than something historicallythe mother of the</p> <p>In Japan, Shinto is arts. Besides, the aesthetic response to creative forms need owe nothing to an understanding of Zen thought itself; anyone can appreciate:real.</p> <p>A fallen flowerReturning to the branch? It was a butterfly.</p> <p>One</p> <p>can be an excellent rock gardener and a Shintoist</p> <p>as well.</p> <p>But again, one does not begrudge Zen a historical connection with the arts in Japan these arts may well turn out to be a lasting contribution to an asphaltharried eye's need for a restful line and a rapport with nature, and there is no need to cavil at their proveni-</p> <p>The most unwarranted aspect of Zen's appeal to West is the one which highlights the West's own critical bankruptcy. There are those who continue toence.</p> <p>the</p> <p>impute to the East the ability to offer ready answers to the dilemma of man's existence, long after the Eastitself</p> <p>has turned to the</p> <p>ented approaches.I</p> <p>West for more practically oriRomain Rolland's post-World Wartypical:</p> <p>poetic plaint</p> <p>is still</p> <p>19</p> <p>Zen, Thought Reform, and Psychotherapy</p> <p>Who, amid the disorder in whichof the</p> <p>the chaotic conscience</p> <p>struggling, has sought whether the fortycentury-old civilizations of India and China had not answers to offer to our griefs, models, it may be, for ouris</p> <p>West</p> <p>1</p> <p>aspirations?</p> <p>The</p> <p>unveiling of the Oriental</p> <p>mind</p> <p>initiated</p> <p>by</p> <p>excited nineteenth-century scholars is still not over; public translations oft esoteric texts have been given ai</p> <p>M</p> <p>_</p> <p>_.</p> <p>I'-</p> <p>jiMLMMirt"'</p> <p>'"'</p> <p>1</p> <p>new impetus byreaders</p> <p>the paperbacks.shelves</p> <p>Power nextlife</p> <p>matter-of-factly to Joyce' Ulysses: the...</p>