Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Essays in Zen Buddhism, Second Series / D.T. Suzuki

Someone once wrote there are two kinds of people in the world, those who have read D.T. Suzuki and those who have not. Beyond the tautology, the writer was underscoring the importance of Suzuki's work. It's hard for me to disagree. Suzuki is among the most respected writers on Zen Buddhism and on Buddhism generally. His reputation is particularly high in the West. I think this is primarily because of his clear, scholarly, analytical approach to his subjects. In Essays on Zen Buddhism (Second Series), Suzuki takes up the Zen method of the koan in achieving a state of enlightenment (satori). He offers numerous accounts of events that triggered satori in various Zen practitioners, dividing them into several kinds of responses to the koan. Much of what he writes illuminates the psychological mechanism involved in reaching satori. His scholarly, ananlytical style has resulted in much criticism of his work by Zen practitioners. For many, scholarship and systematic analysis actuallly inhibit one from attaining enlightment. However, for anyone not actually dedicating themselves to Zen, Suzuki gives an unsurpassed account of the tradition, not merely in this book, but in numerous others. Moreover, he treats the subject so sympathetically, that one is tempted to put aside Suzuki's works and find a real master to follow.

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