The Tao of Zen
by Ray Grigg
Ray Grigg explores Zen Buddhism and its relation to Taoism.
Published by Charles E Tuttle Co. 1994, ISBN 0804819882 [Book]
Taoism? Buddhism? Zen? Zen Buddhism?!?
Ever get lost trying to untangle these terms? Well, you are not alone in the
Ray Grigg's The Tao of Zen provides a valiant effort to untangle the
terms and can help you understand the confusion. The book, in an appropriately indirect
way, also provides a sense of how Tao and Zen can be experienced in everyday life.
The main thesis of the book is provided in preface:
Zen is Taoism disquised as Buddhism. When twelve hundred years of Buddhist
accretions are removed from Zen, it is revealed to be a direct evolution of the spirit of
Taoism. indeed, the literature known as the Lau Tsu and the Chuang Tzu
begins a continuous tradition that can be followed through the Ch'an of China to the Zen
of present day Japan. The formative writings of Taoism are essentially the teachings of
The Tao of Zen is organized into two parts:
Part I Taoism and Zen: The Historical Connections
Part II Taoism and Zen: The Philosophical Similarities
Part I provides a well balanced history of how we arrived at the apparent
oxymoron contained in the term 'Zen Buddhism'. Ray Grigg uses a combination of ancient
texts, quotes from academic commentators, and his own knowledge of the subject to explore
his thesis in a clear and accessible writing style.
Part II provides a close comparison of key concepts as they are understood and
practiced in Zen and Taoism. The terms are:
Always the author is mindful that both Zen and Taoism appear to defy
Using words is risky for processes that distrust words. Therefore, any
exploration of Taoism and Zen must offer the caveat that anything that can be said about
them is incomplete, misleading, and largely wrong. Since there is no wordlessness without
words, no selflessness without self, no softness without hardness, any word that is used
also implies its opposite. Any resolution of opposites must still include those opposites.
Any oneness requires the recognition of separateness, and any wholeness requires the
recognition of parts. So Taoism and Zen are systemless systems that include both the is
and is-not; the Way is both known and not-known. One uttered word of explanation is wrong,
but silence is not enough. (Page 185).
If silence is not enough for you, The Tao of Zen can provide much
insight into Zen and Taoist philosophies.
Reviewed by Greg Dixon
Book reviewed by
Tuesday, July 6, 1999
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