Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thomas Merton: Zen and Direct Realization

"Zen has always assumed, as one of its basic principles, that the enlightenment of the proficient monk demands a certain freedom with respect to the authority of any canonical text," notes Thomas Merton, the revered Trappist monk. "What the Zen man seeks to realize in himself is a "self-sustaining independence," and here the entire question of religious authority is raised. The aim of Zen is, according to Zenists, simply the aim of Buddhism itself, "the ultimate emancipation from duality.""

"Living by the "basic authority which is the True Self," or metaphysically, in direct contact with the ground reality by "freedom from forms," the Zen man does not resolve all beings into a pure Void," Merton notes, "but rather (he) sees the Void itself as an inexhaustible source of creative dynamism at work in the phenomena that are seen before us and constitute the world around us."

"This world," Merton points out, "is only illusory insofar as it is misinterpreted to fit our prejudices about our limited ego-selves. This simple direct approach to reality, this unabashed apprehension of the One in the Many, of the Void in everyday life and in the ordinary world around us, is the foundation for Zen humanism in the world of today."

[Thomas Merton, "Mystics and Zen Masters," pp. 283-284]

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