The Anti-Intellectual Fallacy of Zen

Zen and the anti-intellectual fallacy

In direct contradiction to the longstanding notion that Zen was aloof from, or even disparaging of literary and philosophical pursuits, scholarship has shown that such pursuits are actually considered to be essential elements of authentic Zen practice. Learning and study, it turns out, is as integral to Zen practice as is meditation (zazen). In the words of Hee-Jin Kim:

The issue was not so much whether or not to philosophize as it was how to philosophize… [The] philosophic enterprise was as much the practice of the bodhisattva way as was zazen. ~Hee-Jin Kim [Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, Wisdom (2000), p.98]

Despite having been thoroughly repudiated by the scholarship for decades, the anti-literary fallacy continues to prevail. The pernicious tenacity of this particular false view is seen in the fact that it not only continues to prevail outside the Zen community, but within it as well. As we shall touch on again, in advocating a disdain for learning and study, this fallacy fosters the veneration of anti-intellectualism. By deliberately cultivating a disdain for knowledge and a distrust of language, those that ascribe to such views effectively bar themselves from its only remedy: reason.

Excerpt from, Zen Cosmology: Dogen’s Contribution to the Search for a New Worldview pp.2-3