Thursday, June 04, 2015

Dori: Reason and Rationality in Zen

Dori: Reason and Rationality in Zen Part 1

[I] shall pursue the problem of reason… specifically with respect to dori (or kotowari), one of Dogen’s most favorite concepts, that connotes “truth,” “reason,” “reasonableness,” “justice,” “naturalness,” and so on. Broadly speaking, our concern has to do with reason and rationality in Dogen’s soteriology, which has been grossly neglected in Dogen studies. We may ask why we should bother with the subject in the first place when the issue is in such disrepute in this day and age of postmodernism? Hasn’t the hitherto undisputed hegemony of the Enlightenment and scientific rationalism been relentlessly challenged? In such a contemporary milieu, aren’t we already too familiar with Zen’s unconventional, irrevererent, iconographic temperament that “goes against the grain” of practically every possible cultural habit and trait? And, not surprisingly, has not comparability between Zen and postmodernism been widely exploited by a number of philosophers? All these questions are well taken. Yet, whatever the merits and demerits of postmodernism may be, I am deeply convinced more than ever that no age in human history calls for the genuine understanding and re-vision of reason more urgently than ours.
Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp.100-101


Contemporary works on Dogen, in both the scholarly and traditional community, commonly begin with apologies concerning complications inherent to his writings. Disclaimers citing the profundity of Dogen’s works appear frequently enough that such provisos nearly amount to the total knowledge of Dogen by some. Apparently dissuaded by the ‘enormous effort’ of mastering Dogen’s ‘labyrinthine symbolism,’ many decline the task of personally delving into his writings, settling instead for a summary grasp of ‘Dogen’s Zen’ as presented by the ‘enlightened’ or ‘erudite.’

Unfortunately, this trend not only makes the true vision of Dogen’s writings less well-known, but aids in perpetuating fallacies about Zen; particularly fallacies about Zen’s non-verbal, non-doctrinal, anti-intellectual bent.

Dogen’s writings – and Zen works generally, for that matter – are no less accessible than that of comparable works among the world’s great literature.


To be continued…

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