Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, December 31, 2004

A Zen Reaction to Tsunamis

I receivied an e-mail responding to my response to Rob's initial post on the subject of Tsunamis and moral anthropology from Malcom Dean, who follows the Zen tradition.  He first shared this story involving Shunryu Suzuki, the first abbot of Zen Center in San Francisco:

A student, filled with emotion and crying,
implored, "Why is there so much suffering?"

Suzuki Roshi replied, "No reason."

Dean then observed,

"To Western ears this kind of thing can sound cryptic or even cold. To
my mind it is profoundly compassionate and healing, even liberating,
because it speaks to a profound metaphysical principle: evil has no
ontological basis. Had the student asked about a specific event perhaps
Suzuki would have given a different answer, but he or she was asking a
higher-level question and received a higher-level reply: evil,
suffering, is a phenomenon of the relative, created world, a natural
and inevitable phenomenon, but it has no ontological foundation, no
root in the absolute (God) -- in other words, evil and suffering have
no reason, no cause rooted in God. That understanding liberates because
it frees one from spiritual doubt and confusion, even anger. In a world
filled with suffering it makes suffering understandable and therefore
meaningful. Suzuki of course would smile at this kind of long-winded
explication. His teaching technique was pure Zen, the spontaneous snap
that awakens."



Stabile, Susan | Permalink

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