Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ways of liberation

I'm reading an old Pelican paperback on Zen buddhism (The Way Of Zen by Alan W Watts, still available in case you're wondering) and came accross this resonant quote (p162-3, emphasis mine).

"One must not forget the social context of Zen. It is primarily a way of liberation for those who have mastered the disciplines of social convention, of the conditioning of the individual by the group. Zen is a medicine for the ill effects of this conditioning, for the mental paralysis and anxiety that comes from excessive self-consciousness."

"It must be seen against the backdrop of societies regulated by the principles of Confucianism, with their heavy stress on propriety and punctilious ritual. In Japan too, it must be seen in relation to the rigid schooling required in the training of the samurai caste, and the emotional strain to which the samurai were exposed in times of constant warfare."

"As a medicine for these conditions, it does not seek to overthrow the conventions themselves, but on the contrary takes them for granted - as it easily seen in such manifestations of Zen as the cha-no-yu or 'tea ceremony' of Japan"

Without delving further into the Zen tradition at this point, even superficially it's easy to see the commonalities here with mindful practice as a way of dealing with the complexities of modern life and of re-enchanting the everyday through renewed focus.

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