virus: Zen (was Lakoff Lecture)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 14 Mar 1997 10:33:56 -0800 (PST)

> >I have resisted becoming involved in the Zen discussions here, because
> >I don't have time to counter the most egregeous misunderstandings, and
> >little evidence that those proffering them are really interested. I'll
> >take this opportunity now, though, because you seem to be halfway there
> >and open to the idea, but still carry some misconceptions.
> Who is "you"? :-)

Eva-Lise Carlstrom, who wrote the text to which I was replying, and
which I included at the end of my message.

> In any form of Buddhism, everything is basically "skillful means",
> ie just the means to an end, which is enlightenment. That applies
> equally to minimalist Zen "just sitting", supposedly concept-free
> practice, as it does to "maximalist" (?) Tibetan panoplies of gods
> and demons, mind-bogglingly wierd ceremonies, etc.

My differentiation between Zen and the Buddhism was to deflect
criticism of one based on the properties of the other, not to imply
(necessarily) that their goals are different--though I suspect they
are that as well (I don't know; I haven't studied Buddhism, only Zen).

> I don't know whether the implication that Zen is pure while
> Buddhism is cultural baggage, was only in my own mind or not,
> but in any case it's rubbish. Purity is in the mind of the beholder,
> and it is beheld in (other) Buddhist traditions just as in Zen (and
> in other contexts altogether, of course).

"Purity" is a value-judgment, and I wasn't expressing any evaluations
(though I certainly have them). I was making a philosophical reply
to the criticism of Zen on the grounds of Buddhist mysticism by pointing
out that the two really don't have anything to do with each other, even
if they might have the same goals (I do not concede that they do).
Things like karma, noble truths, sutras, pure land, wheel of life, and
such are cultural baggage of various forms of Buddhism. I express no
opinion as to their relative value for achieving whatever goals they
intend--I don't care to spend my own valuable time and brain cells on
them, because I prefer solid philosophy. I only point out that the
practice of Zazen and the experience of Satori has nothing to do with
those things, and are valuable exercises even for a philosopher.

Lee Daniel Crocker <>