Walden And The Art Of Zen Essay
, Research Paper
If I were asked who my favorite Western Zen philosopher was, without any
vacillation, I would declare it to be Henry David Thoreau. Although he knew in interlingual rendition
the spiritual Hagiographas of the Hindus, it may be improbable that Henry David Thoreau of all time
studied the instructions of the Zen Masters. Even so, the penetration within his ain personal
Hagiographas would irrefutably do him maestro of his ain temple. The wisdom found within
Thoreau & # 8217 ; s Walden can be clarified through Zen Buddhist beliefs and thoughts as the two seem
to typically congratulate each other.
Where, you might inquire, does faith suit into the going escapades of Henry
David Thoreau? Religion has been a portion of the literary tradition from the really start.
Some of the first books of all time produced were handwritten transcripts of the Bible. Booklets,
verse forms, odes, and heroic poems throughout the centuries have continued to reflect spiritual
content. I have besides read insightful essays about the concealed Christian Symbolism in A. A.
Milne & # 8217 ; s Winnie-the-Pooh. Well, why non the presence of Zen Buddhism within the
instructions of Thoreau & # 8217 ; s Walden? In conformity with the history of literature, one might
state & # 8220 ; Why non? & # 8221 ; ; in conformity with Walden & # 8217 ; s content, I would state, & # 8220 ; I couldn & # 8217 ; t see it
being any other way. & # 8221 ;
What is Zen Buddhism anyhow? In the book Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki says that
& # 8220 ; Zen in its kernel is the art of seeing into the nature of one & # 8217 ; s ain being, and it points the
manner from bondage into freedom & # 8221 ; ( 3 ) . In the theory of Zen, our organic structures contain a religious
signifier of energy. When this energy is consciously tapped, we will be cognizant of all the
implicit in urges and desires of our bosom. This & # 8220 ; freedom & # 8221 ; will do us to see
Kensho, ( seeing into one & # 8217 ; s ain nature ) , therefore going happier and more loving to those
around us. To make the Buddhist end of going one with everything, a individual has to
embracing & # 8220 ; nil & # 8221 ; . What is meant in the embrace of & # 8220 ; nil & # 8221 ; is that one must
abandon his or her ain self-importance and research beyond the bounds of societal conformance. The
job that lies in the manner of making this & # 8220 ; energy & # 8221 ; is that most people have suppressed
it due to personal and society driven ignorance. When this barrier is overcome, we are in
melody with the significance and cognition of life. In his ideas and in his words,
Thoreau has seemed to use that energy in Walden, opening his & # 8220 ; 3rd oculus & # 8221 ; to the universe
Zen teacher Choa-chou said that, & # 8220 ; Zen is your mundane thought & # 8221 ; and Walden is a
aggregation of the mundane ideas of Henry David Thoreau. Walden is a factual record
of Thoreau & # 8217 ; s life experiences populating entirely in a house that he built with his ain custodies, on
the shore of Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts. Zen suggests that to work out life & # 8217 ; s
jobs, one must straight beg the elements of personal experience as opposed to
book-knowledge. This attack is known as Jiriki. Jiriki refers to a individual & # 8217 ; s own
effort to & # 8220 ; attain enlightenment through his or her ain attempts & # 8221 ; . In Walden, Thoreau
offers the results of his experience to the reader in hopes that they excessively will derive
freedom from them.
While populating on the shores of Walden, Thoreau & # 8217 ; s simple life style can about be
summed up with the Zen stating & # 8220 ; Chop wood, carry H2O & # 8221 ; . Thoreau earned his life by
the labor of his ain custodies and considered his life style, & # 8220 ; really natural and pertinent & # 8221 ;
( 728 ) . Thoreau achieved tranquility by agencies similar to those found in Zen Bible.
He writes, & # 8220 ; So many fall, ay, and winter yearss, spent outside the town, seeking to hear
what was in the air current & # 8221 ; ( 736 ) . This is, to me, reminiscent of the Zen koan & # 8220 ; What is the
coloring material of air current? & # 8221 ;
Throughout the pages of Walden, Thoreau seems to praise the simpleness of the
carnal universe that is missing in world. Commenting on endurance, Thoreau states that,
& # 8220 ; None of the beast creative activity requires more than Food and Shelter. . . for non til we have
secured these are we prepared to entertain the true jobs of life with freedom and a
chance of success & # 8221 ; ( 733-734 ) . This simpleness of endurance has been a changeless portion of
Zen life. Master Rinzai, laminitis of the Rinzai Sect of Zen, remarked, & # 8220 ; When hungry, I
eat ; when tired, I sleep. Fools laugh at me. The wise understand & # 8221 ; . Both Thoreau and
Zen faith appear to topographic point animate beings on a higher plane of being for their intuitive
behavior. In Walden & # 8217 ; s Economy, ( or & # 8220 ; doctrine of life & # 8221 ; ) , Thoreau writes,
One husbandman says to me, & # 8220 ; You can non populate on vegetable nutrient entirely, for it
furnishes nil to do castanetss with ; & # 8221 ; and so he sacredly devotes a portion
of his twenty-four hours to providing his system with the natural stuff of castanetss ; walking
all the piece he talks behind his cattle, which, with vegetable-made castanetss,
dork him and his lumbering Big Dipper along in malice of every obstruction. ( 732 )
Irmgard Schloegl & # 8217 ; s book, The Wisdom of the Zen Masters, contains a Zen quotation mark
conveying a similar message on the lift of carnal behavior in life. The citation is
Master Nansen, asked by a monastic, & # 8220 ; Where does he travel who knows what is
what? & # 8221 ; replied: & # 8220 ; He becomes an ox of the monastery protagonist down the
hill, to repay him for his help. & # 8221 ; When the monastic thanked him for his
instruction, the Master added: & # 8220 ; At midnight yesterday, the Moon shone in at
the window. & # 8221 ; ( 69 )
Thoreau was known to hold said, & # 8220 ; Our life is frittered off by item. . . Simplify,
simplify & # 8221 ; . However, this respect of simpleness seemed to conflict with the sentiments of
If one were to follow the advice that Walden give & # 8217 ; s us for life, as Thoreau puts
it, & # 8220 ; God will see that you do non desire societ
y” ( 823 ) . In The Norton Anthology of
American Literature, Hershel Parker, of the University of Delaware remarks that,
& # 8220 ; [ Thoreau ‘s ] life became a refusal to populate by the mercenary values of his neighbors & # 8221 ;
( 709 ) . Henry David Thoreau had no desire for material ownerships. He writes: & # 8220 ; I had
three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to happen that they required to be
dusted daily, when the furniture of my head was all undusted still, and I threw them out in
disgust & # 8221 ; ( 746-747 ) . After all, as Zen maestro Mumon said, & # 8220 ; The hoarded wealths of the house do
non come in by the forepart door & # 8221 ; . Thoreau abandoned the objects that did non ask
the life of his life. Often in life we get new things even though objects still
possessed could make the coveted occupation. Thoreau was uncomfortable with that quality of adult male
articulating that, & # 8220 ; au naturel pess are older than places, and [ one ] can do them make & # 8221 ; ( 739 ) .
This statement is rather similar in idea to a Diogenes quotation mark found in The Little Zen
Companion: & # 8220 ; I threw my cup off when I saw a kid imbibing from his custodies at the
trough & # 8221 ; ( 133 ) . Thoreau believed that money unneeded for the life style of his choosing.
He believed that, & # 8220 ; None can be an impartial or wise perceiver of human life but from the
vantage land of what we should name voluntary poorness & # 8221 ; ( 735 ) . This belief is shared
with the Zen Masterss. Zen text says:
A monastic asked Chao-chou, & # 8220 ; If a hapless adult male comes, what
should one give him? & # 8221 ;
& # 8220 ; He lacks nil, & # 8221 ; answered the Master.
By chew the fating unneeded things, you are left, in bend, with fewer things to worry approximately.
Thoreau & # 8217 ; s ain remark about the society around him was that, & # 8220 ; We worship non the
Graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion & # 8221 ; ( 740 ) . In Walden, Thoreau spins a narrative to exemplify
Madam Pfeiffer, in her adventuresome travels round the universe, from E to
West, had got so close place as Asian Russia, she says that she felt the
necessity of have oning other than a traveling frock, when she went to run into
the governments, for she was now in civilised state, where & # 8212 ; people are
judged of by their apparels & # 8217 ; . ( 739 )
This funny anecdote brings into head an ancient Zen Story,
Affluent givers invited Master Ikkyu to a feast. The Maestro arrived
at that place dressed in mendicant & # 8217 ; s vest. His host, non acknowledging him in this attire,
hustled him off. The Master went place, there changed into his
ceremonial robe of violet brocade, and once more presented himself at his
host & # 8217 ; s doorsill. He was received with due regard, and ushered into the
feast room. There he put his stiff robe on the shock absorber, stating, I expect
you invited the robe since you showed me away a small piece ago, & # 8217 ; and
These were, harmonizing to Thoreau, the & # 8220 ; infantile and barbarous gustatory sensation of work forces & # 8221 ; ( 741 ) . Walden
strongly displays how deep the modus operandi of tradition and conformance are entrenched into
Thoreau believes that the job with society is their dependance on conventional
wont. Men are & # 8220 ; machines & # 8221 ; and & # 8220 ; are so occupied with the factitious attentions and
superfluously harsh labor of life that its finer fruits can non be plucked by them & # 8221 ; ( 730 ) .
Further into Walden, Thoreau comes to the realisation that, & # 8220 ; the life of the civilised people
[ is made ] an establishment, in which the life of the person is to a great extent absorbed, in
order to continue and hone that of the race & # 8221 ; ( 744 ) . It can be seen that Thoreau thinks
that individuality has been lost in civilised adult male. He concludes that civilisation would be
& # 8220 ; Better if they had been born in the unfastened grazing land and suckled by a wolf, that they might
hold seen with clearer eyes the field that they were called to labor in & # 8221 ; ( 729 ) . This may be
related to the ideas of Tao Te Ching, who said & # 8220 ; Act without making ; work without
attempt & # 8221 ; . Tradition may be broken every bit good. In Walden, Thoreau & # 8217 ; s penetration is that & # 8220 ; It is
ne’er excessively late to give up our biass & # 8221 ; ( 731 ) . Social prejudices are shunned in Zen Religion.
There are no separations ; you are one with everything. Thoreau repeats his point by
stating that, & # 8220 ; The finest qualities of our nature. . . can be preserved merely by the most
delicate handling. Yet we do non handle ourselves nor one another therefore tenderly & # 8221 ; ( 730 ) .
Henry David Thoreau is the Maestro and I am the pupil. He genuinely believed in
populating his life instead than blowing it. I believe that he attained Buddhahood by happening the
nature of his ain true being. Using Walden as a vas for his awakened wisdom,
Thoreau would wish everyone to see Kensho and place with their ain true
nature, & # 8220 ; Let every mind his ain concern, and endeavor to be what he was made & # 8221 ; ( 821 ) .
In Thoreau & # 8217 ; s head, life was non constricted by regulations. He boldly states in Walden, & # 8220 ; Here is
life, an experiment & # 8221 ; ( 732 ) . It about seems as if Thoreau had based his ain life on the
instructions of Chinese philosopher Tao-te-Ching:
In brooding, live near to the land.
In thought, maintain to the simple.
In struggle, be just and generous.
In regulating, Don & # 8217 ; t seek to command.
In work, make what you enjoy.
In household life, be wholly present.
Yamada Roshi, great Zen maestro declared that & # 8220 ; The intent of Zen is the flawlessness of
character & # 8221 ; . Keeping that in head, I believe that Walden has secured Henry David
Thoreau & # 8217 ; s topographic point as one of the greatest Zen philosophers.
Schiller, David, trans. and erectile dysfunction. , The Little Zen Companion. New York: Workman, 1994.
Schloegl, Irmgard, trans. and erectile dysfunction. , The Wisdom of the Zen Masters. New York: New Directions Books, 1976.
Wood, Ernest, Zen Dictionary. Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Co. , 1973.