Walden And The Art Of Zen. Speaks Of Henry David Thoreau

1778 words - 7 pages

If I were asked who my favourite Western Zen philosopher was, without anyhesitation, I would declare it to be Henry David Thoreau. Although he knew in translationthe religious writings of the Hindus, it may be unlikely that Henry David Thoreau everstudied the teachings of the Zen Masters. Even then, the insight within his own personalwritings would irrefutably make him master of his own temple. The wisdom found withinThoreau's Walden can be clarified through Zen Buddhist beliefs and ideas as the two seemto typically compliment each other.Where, you might ask, does religion fit into the travelling adventures of HenryDavid Thoreau? Religion has been a part of the literary tradition from the very start.Some of the first books ever produced were handwritten copies of the Bible. Pamphlets,poems, odes, and epics throughout the centuries have continued to reflect religiouscontent. I have also read insightful essays about the hidden Christian Symbolism in A. A.Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh. Well, why not the presence of Zen Buddhism within theteachings of Thoreau's Walden? In accordance with the history of literature, one mightsay 'Why not?'; in accordance with Walden's content, I would say, 'I couldn't see itbeing any other way.'What is Zen Buddhism anyway? In the book Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki says that'Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one's own being, and it points theway from bondage into freedom' (3). In the theory of Zen, our bodies contain a spiritualform of energy. When this energy is consciously tapped, we will be aware of all theunderlying impulses and desires of our heart. This 'freedom' will cause us to experienceKensho, (seeing into one's own nature), thus becoming happier and more loving to thosearound us. To reach the Buddhist goal of becoming one with everything, a person has toembrace 'nothing'. What is meant in the embracing of 'nothing' is that one mustabandon his or her own ego and explore beyond the limits of social conformity. Theproblem that lies in the way of reaching this 'energy' is that most people have suppressedit due to personal and society driven ignorance. When this barrier is overcome, we are intune with the significance and knowledge of life. In his thoughts and in his words,Thoreau has seemed to utilize that energy in Walden, opening his 'third eye' to the worldaround himZen teacher Choa-chou said that, 'Zen is your everyday thought' and Walden is acollection of the everyday thoughts of Henry David Thoreau. Walden is a factual recordof Thoreau's life experiences living alone in a house that he built with his own hands, onthe shore of Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts. Zen suggests that to solve life'sproblems, one must directly implore the elements of personal experience as opposed tobook-knowledge. This approach is known as Jiriki. Jiriki refers to a person's ownattempt to 'attain enlightenment through his or her own efforts'. In Walden, Thoreauoffers the outcomes of his experience to the reader...

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