Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Zen Buddhism shares with other philosophies and faiths that stress intuition and awareness the ironic condition of desiring to communicate what cannot be communicated. Like the theologies of the Middle Ages, it urges an understanding of true being by a kind of direct insight into one’s own being, but it disdains any intellectual or formalistic methods of achieving that insight. The profession of conviction, then, is largely negative; the emphasis, insofar as discourse is concerned, is not on what can be said but on that on which we must be silent. Zen masters are not lecturers; they are directors who turn the attention of disciples to some natural fact that, properly apprehended, reveals everything. Of those who have made the effort to explain Zen Buddhism, few have been more successful than the Japanese philosopher and professor, D. T. Suzuki, whose Essays in Zen Buddhism (1927, 1933, 1934), The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind (1949), and Studies in Zen (1955) provide the selections collected and edited by William Barrett under the title Zen Buddhism. This volume provides a good introduction to Suzuki’s work and to Zen Buddhism; it deals with the meaning of Zen Buddhism, its historical background, its techniques, its philosophy, and its relation to Japanese culture.