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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Zen and Popular Culture

Interesting interview with Zenshin Roshi:

In Zen, emptiness is a translation of the Sanskrit term 'shunyata' or 'voidness,' but that does not imply vacuity. When we talk about 'emptiness' or 'nothingness' in Zen, that term really comes from the fact that the essence of Zen is Buddhism, which is grounded in the doctrine of interdependent origination. That is to say that all phenomenon exists in conjunction with all other phenomenon. Consequently, when you try to look at something's ontological structure, that is when you try to define it as an absolute thing in and of itself, it is 'empty' in that what you're seeing is merely the result of your own sensual limitations or epistemological processes. It's not a matter of the thing's real being; it's a matter of the way you perceive it. So, in that respect, we use the term 'emptiness' because nothing has a real validity solely in and of itself, but it is entirely relational.

That a thing's reality is relational, however, does not mean that things are not significant in and of themselves. Things are expressions of reality; they are the manifestations of reality as 'thing,' just as trees are the expression of the forest. The forest in turn is not manifested where there are no trees. Trouble lies in an absolute identification with either the forest or its expression as trees.


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