Reimagining Zen in a Secular Age

Charles Taylor and Zen Buddhism in the West


In Reimagining Zen in a Secular Age André van der Braak offers an account of the exciting but also problematic encounter between enchanted Japanese Zen Buddhism and secular Western modernity over the past century, using Charles Taylor’s magnum opus A Secular Age as an interpretative lens.

As the tenuous compromises of various forms of “Zen modernism” are breaking down today, new imaginings of Zen are urgently needed that go beyond both a Romantic mystical Zen and a secular “mindfulness” Zen. As a Zen scholar-practitioner, André van der Braak shows that the Zen philosophy of the 13th century Zen master Dōgen offers much resources for new hermeneutical, embodied, non-instrumental and communal approaches to contemporary Zen theory and practice in the West.

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André van der Braak, Ph.D. (2004), Radboud University Nijmegen, is Professor of Buddhist Philosophy in Dialogue with other World Views at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He published various monographs and articles including Nietzsche and Zen: Self-Overcoming without a Self (Lexington, 2011).
Acknowledgements XI

 1 Beyond Buddhist Modernism
 2 Reimagining Zen in the West
 3 Cross-cultural Hermeneutics
 4 A Secular Age
 5 Outline of This Book

Part 1: Zen and the Immanent Frame

1 Zen Transmissions and Reimaginings
 1 Reimagining Indian Buddhism as Chinese Chan
 1.1 Sudden Enlightenment versus Gradual Cultivation
 1.2 Beyond Language versus within Language
 1.3 Koan Practice versus Silent Illumination
 2 Reimagining Chinese Chan as Japanese Zen
 3 Zen Imaginings in the West
 4 Discussion

2 A Secular Age
 1 Introduction
 2 Fullness
 3 Beyond Subtraction Stories
 4 Disenchantment
 5 The Buffered Self
 6 The Immanent Frame
 7 A Three-Cornered Battle
 8 Discussion

3 Cross Pressures in the Immanent Frame
 1 The General Malaise of Immanence
 2 Enlightenment as a New Form of Fullness
 3 Disenchantment versus Re-enchantment
 4 Beyond Transcendence and Immanence
 5 Open versus Closed Zen Practice
 6 Discussion

Part 2: Zen Modernism

4 Universalization: Zen as Universal Mysticism
 1 The Birth of Buddhism as a World Religion
 2 Universal Zen
 3 Pure Experience
 4 Criticizing the Universality of Pure Experience
 5 Against Perennialism: Criticism of Universal Mysticism
 6 Zen as Non-mysticism
 7 Back to Language: Dōgen’s Mystical Hermeneutics
 8 Zen Meditation as Universal Dharma Practice
 9 Discussion

5 Psychologization: The Zen Experience
 1 Psychologization
 2 Disenchanting the Bodhisattvas
 3 Questioning the Zen Experience
 4 Beyond Religious Experience
 5 Going Beyond Excarnation and the Buffered Self
 6 Dōgen’s Embodied Realization
 7 Discussion

6 The Therapeutic Turn: Zen as Therapy
 1 From Conversion to Healing
 2 The Reaffirmation of Ordinary Life
 3 Zen and the Affirmation of Ordinary Life
 4 Dōgen on the Affirmation of Ordinary Life
 5 The Medicalization of the Moral
 6 Instrumentalization versus No Gain
 7 Discussion

7 The Rise of Expressive Individualism: Zen as Global Spirituality
 1 The Rise of Expressive Individualism
 2 Personal Spirituality versus Communal Religious Practice
 3 Religious Belonging
 4 Zen Belonging in the West
 5 Pure Zen versus Buddhist Zen
 6 Zen Ritual as Communal Practice
 7 Discussion

Part 3: Beyond Zen Modernism

8 Batchelor’s Secular Buddhism
 1 The Search for the Human Buddha
 2 Beyond Karma
 3 Reimagining Enlightenment
 4 Discussion

9 Reimagining Emptiness: Toward a Subtler Language of Fullness
 1 The Kyoto School
 2 Śūnyatā as Zen Fullness
 3 Nishitani and Śūnyatā 201
 4 Hisamatsu and Oriental Nothingness
 5 Masao Abe
 6 David Loy’s New Buddhist Path
 7 Deconstructing Enlightenment: Beyond Transcendence and Immanence
 8 Evolution: A New Enchanted Buddhist Worldview
 9 Ethics: Reimagining the Bodhisattva Path
 10 Discussion

10 Engaging Dōgen’s Zen
 1 Back to Buddhist Scriptures
 2 An Enchanted Zen
 3 Zen Fullness as Ongoing Practice-Realization
 4 From Individual Pure Zen to Communal Bodhisattva Zen
 5 Dōgen’s Shushōgi 227
 6 Repenting and Eliminating Bad Karma
 7 Receiving Precepts and Joining the Ranks
 8 Making the Vow to Benefit Beings
 9 Discussion
 10 The Future of Zen

Religion scholars; philosophers of religion; comparative philosophers; Zen scholars and practitioners of Zen; educated laymen interested in Zen, Buddhism in the West, and spirituality; Zen centers and meditation centers