ASIAN 325 - Zen: History, Culture, and Critique
Section: 001
Term: FA 2007
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
Requirements & Distribution:
Theme, WorldLit
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course provides an introduction to the religious history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism. Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chan, which is itself a transcription of the Sanskrit word dhyâna, meaning meditation. While meditation is no doubt the backbone of the Zen tradition, this course will highlight the fact that Zen has a number of different faces, including a radical antinomian side that challenged the role of meditation (and all forms of mediation). This course will examine the rich diversity of the Zen tradition as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan, with the first part providing an overview of the historical development of Zen and situating it within the Buddhist tradition that it emerged out of. The second part of the course will challenge and critically evaluate much of what is presented in the first half by exploring some less well known facets of Zen practice that on first glance appear to run counter to what the Zen tradition says about itself. We will explore the role of language in Zen from the enigmatic and abstruse use of koans to questions about why a tradition which took pride in “not being dependent on words” nonetheless produced a voluminous textual record. We will study both the crazy antics of inspired Zen monks and the structured life of Zen monastics and their rituals. Consideration will also be given to why a seemingly iconoclastic tradition like Zen also has a long tradition of venerating its masters, including some that were mummified. Why, we will ask, was Zen appealing to the Japanese warrior class and what has been its role in modern nationalistic movements in Japan? This course is designed to be as much an ongoing critical reflection on the history of the study of Zen as it is about Zen history.

ASIAN 325 - Zen: History, Culture, and Critique
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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