Teaching Zen to Americans Open Access

Boykin, Kim (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/g732d9242?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract

Teaching Zen to Americans
By Kim Boykin

Teachers in the Zen Buddhist tradition have used a variety of strategies for
describing Buddhist practice and its relationship to enlightenment or buddhahood. In
examining the stream of Mahayana Buddhist thought and teaching that leads to and
includes Japanese Zen, I find three main varieties of "instrumental" (goal-oriented)
descriptions of Buddhist practice as a means to attain enlightenment: (1) practice as a
means to attain prajña (the wisdom of shunyata, or emptiness); (2) practice as a means to
"uncover" inherent buddha-nature; and (3) practice as a means to "realize" inherent
buddha-nature. I also find a "noninstrumental" description of Buddhist practice as
manifestation or expression of inherent buddhahood-a description exemplified by the
teachings of Dogen. I then focus on descriptions of practice in three classic texts of
American Zen: The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
by Shunryu Suzuki, and Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck.

I argue that all teachers in the Zen tradition, even those who describe practice as
instrumental for attaining enlightenment, are challenging, to one degree or another, an
instrumental orientation to Buddhist practice in particular and life in general--that is, an
orientation of striving to attain a goal--and in the American context, Shunryu Suzuki's
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and Joko Beck's Everyday Zen offer interesting new
pedagogical strategies, challenging the instrumental orientation more strongly than do
most of their predecessors other than Dogen, while also incorporating an instrumental
element that Dogen eschews almost entirely and that is probably important for the
instrumentally oriented Zen student.

Teaching Zen to Americans
By
Kim Boykin
B.A., Vassar College, 1987
M.T.S., Candler School of Theology, Emory University, 1996
Advisor: Wendy Farley, Ph.D.
Advisor: Gary Laderman, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the
James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies of Emory University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in the Graduate Division of Religion
American Religious Cultures
2010

Table of Contents

Contents

1. Introduction

2. "Practice and Enlightenment" in the Asian Development of Zen

3. The Modernization and American Immigration of Zen
4. Philip Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen

5. Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

6. Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen
7. Conclusion


Appendix: Ch'an/Zen Lineage Chart

References

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