Updated: Aug 22
I have over the years found my teacher's background in design similar to mine in organizational development. He from the Bauhaus school and I from a sociology theory perspective. Taiun Elliston’s latest book, The RazorBlade of Zen is a second of a series in practical Zen offered by Hojo-san.
It looks at the application of practice in comparison to some well known, philosophical, theistic, and Zen-Buddhism constructs.
Using three of Kipling’s six honest men. Sensei offers an array of topics that in a “Dogen Moment,” (70,000 or so in a second) offer each of us a comparative analysis. I Keep Six Honest Serving Men - A Poem by Rudyard Kipling | Sergio Caredda
You will find Elliston-roshi true to his design roots as he uses several clear and appealing graphics to show the integrated nature, that is Buddha Nature, for us to play with. I will focus on the eight dimensional offering below as an umbrella (p.24 The RazorBlade of Zen):
Dimension #1 focuses on the various perspectives of questioning. A question inquires as to the unknown. Here Zen is time-based with the inquiry being immediate/now, or moment-centric. Rationalism focuses on the precursors, the links building the What which is How. Note this is knowledge building. Theism on the other hand asks why which is a much higher bar. As we question we tend to rotate among the contructs and dimensions. For this practitioner while the other constructs are helpful, I see and experience the what of the moment.
Dimension #2 is pivotal in that Zen’s human being’s have problems based on ignorance or lack of comparative understanding, as a kind of shallow myopic view that does not change. Theism draws a contrast between a being outside the workings of the universe that requires repentance for the break of Beings with the rules of the entity. This trespasses and must be mended to regain good grace. Rationalism assumes chaos, which can be a form of not knowing, to be solved allowing logical conclusions that lead to predictable and better results. Here Rationalism and Zen orbit more closely.
Dimension #3 by Hojo addresses effort. How does one move along the dimensional paths of the three constructs? Zen's nurturing attitude is to embrace doubt as Matsuoka-roshi would answer when asked why something was the way it was…”it depends.” This ability in theism is faith as when you have doubt you believe the entity outside the universe has all the answers and will reveal them when conditions warrant. Rationalism is logical in that you just keep working on the problem and later or sooner the answer may be found. This is also a gradual approach that bets on probability. Zen looks into things through wide-open integrated insight. Our term for the Zen we do is practice. We find rationalism useful at some levels.
Dimension #4 Entities trusted? First the construct of “something,” is suggested. In Zen we come to experience that within self there is nature (universe/cosmos), “be a light unto yourself” being Buddha’s last request of the Sangha. Logic implies evidence which is a kind of certification that if followed answers will follow building the knowledge base. Theism is a departure from the other two in that a trans-cosmic being is the primary source of truth.
Dimension #5 Method employed (How) when allowing the now is zazen. Here the true self resides and is open…zazen shines the light on self. Rationalism is the “scientific approach,” and is represented in Buddhism to an extent, by the Four Noble Truths. It is like building a case on cause and effect. Prayer-based methodology is speaking the name of the entity in the solicitation of salvation in Theism. In Buddhism, Pure land comes closest to this method through repeating the name of Buddha:
Pure Land school. Advocates of the Pure Land teachings can be identified quite early in Chinese Buddhist history, but Pure Land Buddhism emerged as a major force in the T'ang Dynasty along with Zen. While both arose partially as a reaction against the metaphysical excesses of the philosophical schools, Zen focused on awakening through monastic practice, while Pure Land focused on attaining birth in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitabha through practices that were accessible to lay people. https://pages.uoregon.edu/munno/OregonCourses/WGS352W09/R255_Pure_Land,_Dogen_Zen.html#:~:text=While%20both%20arose%20partially%20as,were%20accessible%20to%20lay%20people.
Dimension #6 Truth! I like “ identification as truth” used by Elliston-roshi in this dimension for Zen. It is bold. It is a transformative experience wherein the idea of “you” becomes the “true-you” that has always existed– it is experientially brought forth. Belief as truth in Theism is wholehearted by definition. If you believe in the entity then everything is planned and purposeful so “IT” will be alright. But I think the difference is in One Bright Pearl (Dogen). https://www.worldhistory.org/article/856/dogens-one-bright-pearl--the-neo-confucian-pattern/
Rationalism is experimenting in that it makes sense to try options— Thomas Edison’s 1000 filaments for the light bulb that didn’t work! Verification by others creates a joint experience and thus a sense of it is the right way.
Dimension #7 Goals pursued in Zen is not an outcome as much as it is an energy, process or steps, and /or practice. Vow has a sense of solemnity about it: A Way of Life. In Theism there is a closeness to this idea of the “living entity” within. A Christian leads a life they believe Christ would live. This generates salvation which is a belief prerequisite to salvation. The rational point of view is as knowledge increases. Chaos will decline as would be the case if we were all “saved.” In Zen Buddhism we also practice as much for others as for ourselves. Notice how Zen is the only approach of three goal-oriented awarenesses, that sees the moment as it arises as complete attainment.
Dimension #8 And in Conclusion! Zen Buddhism Co-Arising is the Universe. https://buddhaweekly.com/understanding-dependent-co-arising-critical-buddhist-practice-great-causes-discourse-maha-nidana-sutta/
It is similar to thinking of atomic energy as an on-going interconnectivity of particles and energies as conditions and variables playing tag with one another..”Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble.” Also important is that Chaos, as might be the name used by rationalists, is rather “unfolding in process,” when seen by Zen practitioners. Creation as the conclusion by Theists is all has been created at once by the entity, which gives change a hard time. God’s way does not evolve. hence creationism versus evolutionism in the rational perspective. Hence change is the rational view and evolution its proof. The Academy Award winning Everything Everywhere All At Once is a demonstration of co-arising.
The RazorBlade of Zen, is sharp and wielded deftly by Hojo-san as he shaves layers of illusion. We will explore the dimension methodology Tuesday night August 22, 2023, beginning at 7:00 PM/EDT. Please join us on Zoom-only: https://zoom.us/j/7096899032?status=success#success PASSWORD: FSZS