This paper will explore the question of how to understand the nature of perceived ultimacy in Zen Buddhism. This will be achieved through providing a justification for why this question should be of any interest and then hypothesizing about possible implications of the results. Next, the framework that is to be used in categorizing the core beliefs in Zen will be explained and made clear. After this description is complete the author will proceed to fit Zen Buddhism into this framework and will demonstrate that the Zen religion is no exception to the employed framework. Finally the author will describe the perceived ultimacy of Zen Buddhism.
The topic of Zen Buddhism and understanding how it fits into a framework that was designed to describe and compare religions is important because religion has a major impact on the world and to be able to understand and “explore” what the world has to offer is an important aspect of existence as a human being. Some might wonder why Zen Buddhism is important when it is not a major religion in the United States, but perhaps that is the very reason it is so important to understand Zen Buddhism and to be able to describe it in a way that allows one to make comparisons with more familiar religions in a standardized framework. Zen Buddhism in particular is interesting in the setting of the United States because as Americans we have had little experience with Buddhism. Shunryu Suzuki related in the book Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, that Americans start Buddhism with a very pure mind, a beginners mind, which allows us to understand the Buddha’s teaching as he meant them to be understood (138).
Suzuki also states in the book that because of this, hopefully, young Americans have the chance to find out what the true way of life is for human beings (138). This is of course what many would argue is one of the greatest quests of human existence. Even when we are presented with answers or guides to the many questions we have about life and to how we should live, as inquisitive animals, we strive to enhance our understanding and so begin to learn that perhaps, ultimately, the answers don’t simply come from outside but also from within us. This is then perhaps the greatest implication of this paper, finding new ways in understanding what the true way of life is for human beings and what the true way of life is for ourselves. In the discussion of Zen Buddhism, William A. Young’s framework’s itself must first be explained and understood.
Young employs a descriptive framework in his book The World’s Religions that is used to understand religion and the ways in which religion plays various roles in human life (Young 12). The framework was developed from the definition of religion he describes in his book. Young defines religion as being, “human transformation in response to perceived ultimacy” (4). This framework developed by Young was a tool of analysis he employed to compare religions through seven questions...