Thursday, October 05, 2006

Engaging Zen Skepticlly, Part II

I find that one of the big problems I'm facing in trying to digest Dr. Austin's work is maintaining an appropriate level of skepticism. I do not wish to be blindly credulous and yet, at the same time, cannot tell if my criticisms are unwarranted or unduly harsh. A big part of this seems to stem from the fact that Zen is, at its core, anti-rational (maybe trans-rational is a better word?). The fundamental truths ostensibly revealed during kensho/satori are ineffable, which would seem to put them outside of the traditional realms of analytic discourse.

However, it should be possible to talk rationally about the practice of Zen apart from its transcendent bits, right? In which case I'm still unconvinced that Dr. Austin is accurately describing what happens during the process of enlightenment. I'm specifically concerned with the property of kensho which Dr. Austin lists as "perfection".

He quotes Alexander Pope, saying that "whatever is, is right". In my mind this seems to imply acceptance of the status quo, ultimately leading to a quietist sort of philosophy. Simultaneously, he claims that enlightenment leads individuals towards right thought and right action. Are these two things compatible? Don't "right thought" and "right action" imply an impetus to correct something which is not perfect?

This goes back to my previous post where I questioned whether Zen isn't fundamentally self-delusion. The fact that enlightened individuals are driven to help others would seem to indicate that the perfection which they experienced during kensho is illusory in some non-negligible sense, for in a perfect world no one would need their assistance, right?

Again, this interpretation could be the result of my ignorance on the subject and/or applying a rational approach to a non-rational discipline. And yet, when I review what I've written, it looks fairly tight; I can't think of any obvious counter arguments.


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