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"Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist" by Hee-Jin Kim


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A review of the book "Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist" by Hee-Jin Kim.

The following (in italics) is simply a cut and paste from my review on Amazon:-

A difficult read and perhaps that is not just a judgement upon my own brain cells! I would have to say that for one like myself who has found that a lot of religion is simply the betrayal of THIS world for some imagined "other", the attraction of Mahayana Buddhism's identification of samsara ( our world of birth and death ) with nirvana has always held the potential to heal and redeem. Dogen, according to Mr Kim's exposition, taught such. The text must be read slowly and carefully - at least, so I found. Yet the text rewards such care and attention. Though myself a Pure Land Buddhist ( or as Mr Kim writes, "Pure Realm Buddhism" ) and Mr Kim draws distinctions between the thought of Dogen and Shinran ( one of the "fathers" of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism ) I found some passages deeply transformative - or as transformative as words/philosophy can be. Also extraordinarily "modern". One of the very best books I have ever read. Thank you.

Just to say that some in the realm of zen disclaim reading and study, citing the "special transmission outside of the scriptures", some only recognising time on the cushion as the single focal point.

But as Ted Beringer writes in his "Zen Cosmology":-

Learning and study, it turns out, is as integral to Zen practice as is meditation (zazen). In the words of Hee-Jin Kim: "The issue was not so much whether or not to philosophize as it was how to philosophize… [The] philosophic enterprise was as much the practice of the bodhisattva way as was zazen"

Beringer sums up:-

Despite having been thoroughly repudiated by the scholarship for decades, the anti-literary fallacy continues to prevail. The pernicious tenacity of this particular false view is seen in the fact that it not only continues to prevail outside the Zen community, but within it as well. As we shall touch on again, in advocating a disdain for learning and study, this fallacy fosters the veneration of anti-intellectualism. By deliberately cultivating a disdain for knowledge and a distrust of language, those that ascribe to such views effectively bar themselves from its only remedy: reason.

I am now re-reading Hee-Jin Kim's book for a third time. As I said in my Amazon review, it is extraordinarily modern, in as much as anyone remotely aware of a need for a new life giving "world-view" that can actually relate to the advances in knowledge over the past few centuries (in the West, and particularly in theoretical physics) will find much to ponder and reflect upon in Dogen's thought.

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