using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : September 2015
DURING THE PAST twenty years there has been an extraordinary growth of interest in Zen Buddhism. Since the Second World War this inter- est has increased so much that it seems to be becoming a considerable force in the intellectual and artistic world of the West. It is connected, no doubt, with the prevalent enthusiasm for Japanese culture which is one of the constructive results of the late war, but which may amount to no more than a passing fashion. The deeper reason for this interest is that the viewpoint of Zen lies so close to the “growing edge” of Western thought. The more alarming and destructive aspects of Western civilization should not blind us to the fact that at this very time it is also in one of its most creative periods. Ideas and insights of the greatest fascination are appear- ing in some of the newer fields of Western science—in psychology and psychotherapy, in logic and the phi- losophy of science, in semantics and communications theory. Some of these developments might be due to suggestive influences from Asian philosophy, but on the whole I am inclined to feel that there is more of a parallelism than a direct influence. We are, however, becoming aware of the parallelism, and it promises an exchange of views which should be extremely stimulating. Western thought has changed so rapidly in this century that we are in a state of considerable confusion. Not only are there serious difficulties of communication between the intellectual and the general public, but the course of our thinking and of our very history has seriously undermined the common-sense assumptions which lie at the roots of our social conventions and institutions. Familiar concepts of space, time, and motion, of nature and natural law, of history and social change, and of human personality itself have dissolved, and we find ourselves adrift without landmarks in a universe which more and more resembles the Buddhist principle of the “Great Void.” The various wisdoms of the West, religious, philosophical, and scientific, Facing the “Great Void” In his preface to the 1957 classic The Way of Zen, ALAN WATTS related Zen to the existential challenges of the time. do not offer much guidance to the art of living in such a universe, and we find the prospects of making our way in so trackless an ocean of relativity rather frightening. For we are used to absolutes, to firm principles and laws to which we can cling for spiritual and psychological security. This is why, I think, there is so much interest in a culturally productive way of life which, for some fifteen hundred years, has felt thoroughly at home in “the Void,” and which not only feels no terror for it but rather a positive delight. To use its own words, the situ- ation of Zen has always been— Above, not a tile to cover the head; Below, not an inch of ground for the foot. Such language should not actually be so unfamiliar to us, were we truly prepared to accept the meaning of “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.” I am not in favor of “importing” Zen from the Far East, for it has become deeply involved with cultural institutions which are quite for- eign to us. But there is no doubt that there are things which we can learn, or unlearn, from it and apply in our own way. It has the special merit of a mode of expressing itself which is as intel- ligible—or perhaps as baffling—to the intellectual as to the illiterate, offering possibilities of communication which we have not explored. It has a directness, verve, and humor, and a sense of both beauty and nonsense at once exasperating and delight- ful. But above all it has a way of being able to turn one’s mind inside out, and dissolving what seemed to be the most oppressive human problems into questions like “Why is a mouse when it spins?” At its heart there is a strong but completely unsentimental compassion for human beings suffering and perishing from their very attempts to save themselves. ♦ From the preface to The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts. © 1957 by Pantheon Books © 1985 by Mary Jane Watts. Published by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFALANWATTS.ORG SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 69