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Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis by Erich…
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Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis

by Erich Fromm, D. T. Suzuki

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The West learning from the East: This fascinating book is an excellent insight into the ancient Asian philosophy of Zen Buddhism. Though at times it is a hard read, the book ultimately rewards the patient reader. For those with little or no prior knowledge of Zen Buddhism this is an eye opener and a very important book in this day and age. Paradoxically the book was written in 1959 at the beginning of the consumer age, since when the Western capitalism has become only more extreme in its pursuit of "success". In the first segment Dr. Suzuki beautifully illustrates the difference between the West and the East through the poetry by the Japanese poet Basho and by the typically Western poet Tennyson. While they both show their admiration for the beauty of nature when they see a flower, they are diametrically different in their relationship to it. Basho sees a small, neglected and rather insignificant flower by the road, unnoticed by other passers by. And he is moved by its unostentatious and unpretentious beauty, in that small flower he sees the whole world, he sees himself, he is one with it. In contrast Tennyson sees the flower, and in order to understand it Tennyson plucks it out and the flower dies. For the Western man to admire something he needs to have it, for him to understand things he needs to desect them and analyse them. The Western man is detached and therefore alienated from nature, the Eastern man is one with nature. This Western orientation creates a duality of subject and object, man and nature. While the Westerners are proud of this detachment from nature calling it objectivity, it is exactly this that makes them alienated from nature and therefore from each other. Eastern tradition understands the world as a whole to be a complex web of relationships and interdependencies. In the latter two segments, Erich Fromm and Richard de Martino try to find the relationship between the Western psychoanalyses and Zen Buddhism. Fromm like Freud believes that "Where there is Id - there shall be Ego" but his method differs from Freud's. Freud and conventional psychology focus on "patients" who come to the psychoanalyst seeking help for their "symptoms" to be removed, which would enable them to function socially. Fromm argues that general alienation that people feel cannot be "cured through the absence of illness but through the presence of well-being". This in itself implies a certain practise of life rather then problem-cure approach, and this brings his psychoanalyses close to Zen Buddhism. In the last segment Richard de Martino talks about ego-consciousness as the highest value that the man is blessed with, but also as his biggest downfall. In a logical and interesting fashion he explains that ego can never be fulfilled, and that every effort by a Man in that respect is not only futile but it increases his alienation with other fellow humans, with nature, with himself. As he says "the problem is not with ego, the problem is ego".
  iayork | Aug 9, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erich Frommprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Suzuki, D. T.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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