Schloegl's Wisdom

It is undoubtedly quite difficult for the western mind to even begin to comprehend

the Zen. And yet there is a philosophical economy here. It becomes clear in

Schloegl's portrayal of Master Huyakujo (p 11) with the emphasis described

on manual labor as one of the 'training devices' of the Masters.

While that immediately brings to mind the frightening character of Maoism

especially during the Cultural Revolution of the middle sixties, on which

research scientists were turned out to the fields to grow rice, the enlightened

guide might well smile at western ingenuity in constructing such a clever

but illusory conceptualization or argument.

But that is really not the point. They took Huyakujo's tools (p 11) out of fear

for his health from the labor he engaged in during has advanced years and he

got them returned by refusing to eat when he could not work to grow his own

food: "a day without work is a day without food."

The issue is the question as to what is work and, more precisely, which work

is the 'best' work. Zen might well question any definition of 'best' as the most

productive because that 'reeks' with western notions of value placed on things

which are really mere illusion.

And yet, the problem may be that the master does not understand the western

mind. Schloegl has commented that Zen recognizes the importance of all

knowledge on the fact that human fulfillment is vital since it is only in the

human state that enlightenment may be achievable.

What may be lost or overlooked is the reality of human existence at the

beginning of the 21st century. There are about six billion people on earth,

perhaps half of whom subsist marginally. Given that reality, 'best' can be

identified as that which contributes the most to the human condition and


The matter from there could become complicated in contention, but the point

is simply that what enhances productivity improves the human condition removing

the margin and enabling more people the 'luxury' of seeking enlightenment,

something they have little chance or hope of doing when they live at subsistence

levels. Capitalism may be the Tao!

But capitalism is not about want or greed, which is inevitably likely to be a response

to such a statement. It is about wealth creation which enhances productivity.

It engenders the 'best' work. When the monks took Huyakujo's tools, what they

perhaps should have done was to have given him a lap-top.

They would need to recognize the futility of their desire to be self-supporting, but

then, no Buddhist monk should have a problem quelching desire, right? Yet, were

we to abide Huyakujo's desires, the world could not long support its population

at the level it can currently, or for that matter, even a part of it.

Schloegl at points seems trapped in her desire to reject western culture, values,

and influences as barriers to enlightenment. For instance, it is difficult to understand

how she could miss (p 19-20) that the human heart would not lose any 'uplift' by

sitting down at family dinner, as she suggests. Indeed, what greater 'fountain of love'

might there be? But here, again, Buddhism may be susceptible to the critique

I mentioned in commenting on the Gita. 'Giving up' the illusion of things will bring

us toward enlightenment, if we do not starve on the way. Buddhism may be an

opiate of the masses, as Marx suggested of all religion. It may be seen as a way to

get people to put up with suffering and anticipate a better existence in another

world or existence.

In Schloegl, it is even more direct. Not unlike the monk who objected to his fellow

for having carried a young woman across the river, it may be that she still has not

put down her burden of guilt (p 39). This may be seen for example in the choices

or selections to be read in the book which offer condemnation of 'profit' (the fuel

of that 'best' work mentioned above). But the same contempt of profit is echoed

in the very next story (p 66) about Emperor Kiso's ships, and elsewhere.

I am probably missing something, but I do not know what it is. But why spend forty

years learning to walk on the water when you can take the ferry for a nickel? But

Schloegl does not seem very fond of 'progress:'

"We have tried to better the world, and ourselves, for millennia,
and though we have seemingly succeeded in some things,
in others we are worse off than ever. Every short-term improvement
inevitably throws up its opposite which trips us up." (22)

Oh, really!?

It may be that Schloegl is just too intent on trying to force the round peg

of Zen into the square New Age hole.