Thursday 28 May 2015

Reader's Question: Is Zen dangerous to Christians?

Reader's Question: "Is Zen dangerous, as an admixture to a pure Christianity? I've always been attracted by the meditation practice and the idea of unexpected sudden enlightenment through nonrational means, but the insistence on a fundamental unreality (mu) seems nihilistic at best."

My Answer: I think Zen probably is dangerous for Christians, in the sense that it is aiming at something altogether different from Christian goals. 

Zen is aimed at detachment, Christianity aimed at Love - these are very different. 

Zen meditation is aiming at a particular psychological state - Christian meditation at some kind of communion with the divine.   

Having said that, it depends on how seriously Zen is practiced - I could imagine a moderate usage of Zen techniques from time to time would be compatible with an overall Christian life and even potentially helpful in a 'therapeutic' sort of way; but pursued rigorously (and successfully!) Zen clearly is not compatible with Christian theosis: they are two different things pointed in different directions... 



ted said...

As a 10 year meditator, I do take issue with some of your response. Initially, many meditation practices can lead one to a state of repose (and a cool detachment towards the world). But generally, this is just a stage in one's practice. My teacher use to talk about awakening of the mind usually happens first which brings more clarity and wisdom, yet there is still ignorance. But somewhere later on the path an awakening of the heart can ensue where one finds themselves situated in pure love and joy. I think the Christian mystics (Meister Eckhart comes to mind) where on the same track.

Nathaniel said...

Is the Augustine desire for a permanent static-line Union with God similar to the Zen ideal? It seems to entail similar methods (detachment from desires) and end goals (a sort of suppression of self in favor of only God).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nathaniel - It can't be, if God is objectively other-than the one seeking the union. No such goal exists for Zen.