-------- Original Message --------
From: Joel Weishaus <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [Fwd: Re: Fw: Altruism -- does it exist?]
To: Institute for Psychological Study of the Arts <[log in to unmask]>
> -------- Original Message --------
> From: Mary Ellen Elkins <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Fw: Altruism -- does it exist?
> To: Institute for Psychological Study of the Arts <[log in to unmask]>
> Hi, Chad,
> From what I understand, the Buddhist Zen concept of loss of the
> does not mean "loss" in the Western sense of the word: as absence.
> Instead, the process of consciousness to which Zen practice aspires is an
> enlargement of the self through empathy, an enlargement that embraces the
> other, the whole, an enlargement in which one 'becomes' a part of the
> In that sense, the loss of the self would be, in the Western sense, a
> of the narrowness of the self. I don't know whether Zen asserts that such
> conscious can be achieved ultimately. My understanding is that the aim of
> Zen is a process of consciousness that is aimed at developing empathy or,
> Don Carveth has pointed out, Agape.
> I hope no one will mind if I quote from my late husband, Andrew
> chapter on the poetry of Jane Hirshfield, in which he explicates the
> connection of her body of poetry to Zen philosophy. Jane Hirshfield, had
> studied in a Zen monastery for eight years (I believe 8 is correct) before
> beginning her career as a poet:
> "Thus is Hirshfield's concept of love and desire built upon her
> understanding of the relationship betweeen the human and the place outside
> the human: the world itself is 'a single fabric' of which we are all
> threads attaining our identity within the whole, while our identity gives
> the whole its beauty, a fabric bound together by one element, love or
> desire, that shares the fabric's basic characteristic of inclusiveness
> without boundaries."
> I would add that southwest, Pueblo Native American religion also
> espouses the belief in a oneness that unites being and non-being.
> So, in Zen, altruism is an act of love for oneself, it is an act of
> conservation, as one is a part of the whole that benefits.
With all due respect, this is a completely wrong understanding of Zen
Zen doesn't aim to enlarge the self, or ego, but to detach from it. One
doesn't become part of the whole, but, disengaged from the ego. One _is_ the
Agape is a Christian concept, not a Buddhist one.
I'm not sure what is meant by empathy here, as to be empathetic there must
be a subject and an object. From a Zen point of view, there's no subject;
thus, who is there to be empathetic? There is no object; thus, what is there
to be empathetic with? There is also no altruism. Although compassion
organically arises, there's certainly no "love for oneself"!
One misunderstands other spiritual practices when one tries to understand
them using the concepts, the language, of one's own. As I'm sure most people
here know, this is an old problem in Religious Studies, anthropology, and
other disciplines that call for objectivism.