FYSEMR 71D

This seminar explores the rich history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan. We will first consider the emergence of the Zen tradition out of the Buddhist tradition and then explore the full range of its most distinctive features (Zen monastic meditation), cultural practices (painting, calligraphy, and poetry), and radical—even iconoclastic—innovations (such as the use of kōans, which are seemingly nonsensical sayings that defy rationality). We will also critically evaluate some less well-known facets of the Zen tradition, such as gender issues, the veneration of mummified masters, and the question of how Zen was implicated in modern nationalistic movements in Japan during World War II. During the mid-20th century, Zen became a global phenomenon as Zen masters began to move around the world and introduce the practice of Zen meditation to those in search of religious alternatives to Western organized religions, rationalism, and materialism. Zen attracted the attention of writers, musicians, artists, and athletes.  Why did Zen develop such a trans-cultural appeal at that moment in history? Why are there so many books with the title: “Zen and the Art of…..”? Why do so many computer and tech companies have Zen in their names? How has Zen meditation fed into the current “meditation/mindfulness” boom?  These are some of the questions we will explore in this seminar through readings, film screenings, museum viewings, and a visit to a Zen meditation center.