God, Zen and the Intuition of Being:
A Review of a Review

Some reviews - thoughtful but critical - are like invitations to dialogue. The following review by Kakichi Kadowaki, S.J. appeared in Gregorianum Vol. 70, 1989.

"The author is neither a professor of a university nor an academic scholar, but a philosopher who lives deep in a forest far from civilization. His philosophy is based on the vivid experience and deep insight which he has received from such a rich life in a forest.

In the first part he presents a short, but excellent summary of Maritain's metaphysics; this is the most precious part of the book."

So far so good.

"At the beginning of the second part he states his main thesis:  "Zen finds its closest Western parallel in an area that has received the least attention, the metaphysics of St. Thomas." (p. 44).

The partner of his dialogue with Maritain's metaphysics is not the living Zen, but the Zen philosophers, Keiji Nishitani, Masao Abe and Toshihiko Izutsu, whose philosophy might be called a neo-scholasticism of Zen Buddhism. The author ignores the most distinguished philosopher, Kitaro Nishida whose philosophy is based on his own deep Zen experience, but has gone beyond the Zen perspective and has opened a universal horizon, never discovered by the Western philosophers."

I don't think Nishitani, Abe or Izutsu would be happy to hear that what they are talking about is not living Zen. As for Nishida, you always leave somebody out.

"The author does not seem to have had a true Zen experience, for he refers for an excellent Zen introduction to Philip Kapleau's book, The Three Pillars of Zen, who is not however, recognized among the traditional Zen masters, for example, Ryomin Akizuki and Sogen Omori, who was the former president of Hanazono University in Kyoto (Rinzai Buddhist University)."

The Three Pillars of Zen is not about Philip Kapleau as a Zen master, but rather, Yatsutani Roshi, who was a student of Harada Roshi and the teacher of Yamada Roshi, and thus, intimately connected to the Sanbo Kyodan lineage which has played such an important role in bringing Zen into the Catholic Church, and to North America, for that matter. So I will stand by citing the book as a good example of Zen.

"The author also misunderstands the Zen enlightenment, for he fails to understand the "mu" (Nothingness) which entirely transcends the being as existence in Maritain's philosophy. If one reads carefully Nishitani's books, especially Nishida's, one cannot miss the radical difference between the "mu" and being as existence."

There is another possibility. Perhaps the reviewer misunderstands what Maritain means by existence.

"The author's misunderstanding of Zen stands out more clearly in the third part of the book. Zen enlightenment, as he maintains, is a metaphysical insight, which is achieved by the intellect. It is, however, a sort of meta-ethical wisdom, which is based on religious deeds (cf. my article "Ways of Knowing: a Buddhist-Thomist Dialogue," in International Philosophical Quarterly, December 1966, vol. VI, n. 4, pp. 574-595). Such a kind of wisdom cannot find a parallel in Western metaphysics, but only in mysticism, both Christian and Jewish."

Fr. Kadowaki's article makes an important point by underlining the value of knowledge by connaturality in Thomas Aquinas. It is precisely a kind of connatural knowing that I think is at work in Zen, but not the kind of connaturality that operates in Christian mysticism.

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