Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zen Judaism

The Daodejing /Tao Te Ching was once one of my favorite books. Its minimalism is one aspect of its appeal; you don't really have to believe in anything to relate to it. Daoism is also an institutionalized religion, and as such is quite different from this text taken in abstraction. The other great classic of Daoism taken in abstraction is the Chuang Tzu (or Zhuangzi in the new transliteration). I was a big fan of this too long ago and far away. Ultimately, the world views inscribed therein have their limitations, but are pretty sophisticated for ancient feudal society.

There is also much that needs to be said about the ideology, politics, and duplicity of intellectual elites of both East and West who have reprocessed and imported the philosophies of India, China, and Japan into the modern West. One could discuss for example, the fascist and Nazi sympathies of Indian gurus, or the participation of Zen Buddhists in Japanese fascism. But more generally, there is the conservatism, smugness, and quietism of the comfortable and well-off that tries to convince us that the world is okey-dokey as is; we just need to change our attitude. People who have suffered, on the other hand, don't tend to see things this way.

* * *

The Tao does not speak.
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others.
The Tao is not Jewish.

-- David M. Bader, Zen Judaism: For You, A Little Enlightenment

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