This paper will explore the question of how to understand the nature of perceived ultimacy in Zen Buddhism. This will be achieved through providing a justification for why this question should be of any interest and then hypothesizing about possible implications of the results. Next, the framework that is to be used in categorizing the core beliefs in Zen will be explained and made clear. After this description is complete the author will proceed to fit Zen Buddhism into this framework and will demonstrate that the Zen religion is no exception to the employed framework. Finally the author will describe the perceived ultimacy of Zen Buddhism.
The topic of Zen Buddhism and understanding how it fits into a framework that was designed to describe and compare religions is important because religion has a major impact on the world and to be able to understand and “explore” what the world has to offer is an important aspect of existence as a human being. Some might wonder why Zen Buddhism is important when it is not a major religion in the United States, but perhaps that is the very reason it is so important to understand Zen Buddhism and to be able to describe it in a way that allows one to make comparisons with more familiar religions in a standardized framework. Zen Buddhism in particular is interesting in the setting of the United States because as Americans we have had little experience with Buddhism. Shunryu Suzuki related in the book Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, that Americans start Buddhism with a very pure mind, a beginners mind, which allows us to understand the Buddha’s teaching as he meant them to be understood (138).
Suzuki also states in the book that because of this, hopefully, young Americans have the chance to fi...
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...if he and the world were just created from nothingness (Suzuki 67), this too is a change in how humans normally experience the world. Wherever Zen Buddhism fits in exactly between secular and spiritual is hard to tell, and like Suzuki said perhaps Zen is a religion before religion and the appreciation of our original nature as strange as it might sound to us is even described as “unusual” to Suzuki himself (124). It is clear however that Zen fits into Young’s framework and perhaps with a beginner’s mind one can make use of this and find for themselves the answers to at least part of the questions about their own life.
Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. New York & Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1982.
Young, William A. The World’s Religions Worldviews and Contemporary Issues.
2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 1995.