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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The West learning from the East, June 22, 2000
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This review is from: Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (Paperback)
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".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, December 1, 2013
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This review is from: Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (Paperback)
One of my favorite books. A brilliant and seminal study of the relationship between these twin paths to self-awareness. A must read for all thinking people. Here's to world peace through individual happiness, as the Buddhisys say!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wanted more, February 12, 2014
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Would have preferred the book to have infinite pages. However, This is impossible. Fromm is a must read for those whose hobby is psychoanalytic literature.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit dated, but worth your time even today, January 25, 2006
This review is from: Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (Paperback)
Fromm took 3 of 11 papers from an August 1957 workshop in Mexico (expanding his own). Suzuki's paper (76 pp.= 44% of book) was fascinating & profound. He explores differences between East & West exemplified in poetry, attitudes towards silence, etc. His observations were illustrative, but not entirely accurate due to great variations within East & West. His exposition seems to indicate that Japan is more INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, & perceptive in Myers-Briggs typology) whereas the West (as others have noted for the U.S.) is more ESTJ (extroverted, sensate=detail oriented, thinking, judgmental). But, this is not true for the French--his case is overstated. Interestingly, some of his examples parallel the West (depending on your definition of West). For example, he says, "Lao-Tse portrays himself as resembling an idiot." The Sufis, however, do also-see Idries Shah's book, "Wisdom of the Idiots." Also, his spiral model matches that of modern Western mystics [also John Suler says "p. 217: "Wachtel (1977) suggested that the therapeutic process is a spiral." & Lama Govinda in his Abidhamma book describes it as well]. He does, however, note Zen similarities to St. Augustine etc. Most importantly, his elucidation of the Unborn, Cosmic Unconscious, or `The true man of no rank' is essentially a metaphysical extrapolation of Jung's Self. Indeed, he is consistent quite with Jung-e.g. p. 25: `To know thyself' is to know thy Self' (of course, Jung wrote an introduction to a Suzuki book!). His description of Zen's view of Self & God is refreshing & enlightening. Also, he says p. 9, `responsibility is logically related to freedom and in logic there is no freedom, for everything is controlled by rigid rules of syllogism. But he does seem anti-machine & perhaps anti-science. Science is not logic-limited as is philosophy, however. I think Suzuki would dislike Madhyamaka philosophy but not General Systems Theory. Some of this (1957) paper is dated--as Fromm points out, making unconscious material conscious does not necessarily cure a patient, & as Boucher, Tsomo, et al have shown, Zen masters moving West have succumbed to temptation. Nonetheless, Suzuki's lengthy but valuable quotations from Rinzai were worth the cost of the book. Despite some dated material, I'd give the chapter 5 stars.

Fromm's chapter (65 pp. 38%) was an inconsistent mixture of dazzling insight & maddening oversight. His humanistic psychology would make more sense (& coincide more with Suzuki) if it included Jung's collective unconscious rather than emphasizing repression. Though I agree that p. 91 "Well-being is possible only to the degree to which one has overcome one's narcissism, to the degree to which one is open, responsive, sensitive, awake, empty (in the Zen sense)," he could use some knowledge of the Philosophy of Science & Knowledge Management-but he WAS writing in 1960. The 3 authors have little understanding of science (but this is common even today!): data is non-rational; science is not a function of Aristotelian logic; context is more important than information; only knowledge (not information) is meaningful...They criticize what they do not understand. Fromm seems to think that society drives consciousness (perhaps he's an extrovert?) & falls into the trap of non-awareness/filtering he describes. Yet he quotes Suzuki p. 120 that Zen's method `consists in putting one in a dilemma, out, of which one must contrive to escape not through logic indeed but through a mind of higher order' in other words, a higher Level of Abstraction. I couldn't agree more. He also agrees with Suzuki's spiral model--p. 128 "return to innocence is possible only after one has lost one's innocence." Jack Engler stated "you have to be somebody before you can become nobody" in Molino's "The Couch & the Tree." But, Fromm absurdly states p. 133 "Like all terminological questions, it is not of great importance." Languaging is at the heart of communications problems--translations of ancient works, understanding different cultures, et al. While he has a point that p. 134: "What Bucke describes as cosmic consciousness is, in my opinion, precisely the experience which is called satori in Zen Buddhism," we cannot know how similar they are. We cannot know if, looking at the same blue object at the same time, two people have an identical experience of blue. How same is same? In modern Information Technology, two identical objects are called instances in order to differentiate them. They are identical, but also different. Scientists have address many things (usually from a practical perspective) unbeknownst to psychoanalysts, philosophers, or religionists,.

De Martino's short chapter (30 pp. 18%) begins with an interesting observation on what it is to be human--pp. 142-3 "The infant is not yet human; the idiot never quite human; the `wolf-child' only quasi-human; the hopeless psychotic perhaps no longer human...ego consciousness which ordinarily 1st appears between the ages of 2 & 5 in a child born of human parents & reared in a human society." Unfortunately, it quickly degenerates into a negative depiction of ego as subject/object (angst-ridden, melodramatic, & perhaps self-projective). He's anti-transitive (with object); pro intransitive (no object), IMHO disagreeing with the spiral model. How would he react to Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) [my Knowledge Management and Information Technology (Know-IT Encyclopedia [...] & modern Object-Relations Theory of psychology? He provides a romanticized, stereotypical & overly philosophical description of Zen IMHO--talking ABOUT rather than OF it--but states: p. 171 "This, in my limited understanding is the relation of Zen Buddhism to the human situation." His point of view focuses on: p. 153 "The intrinsic existential plight of the ego" & concludes that p. 154 "It is not that the ego has a problem, but that the ego is the problem." I think not. IMHO, the ego is a developmental abstraction in the throes of emergence, a new psychological paradigm in a chaotic (though temporary) state of adjustment--the psychological & metaphysical birth pangs of the Zen Unborn, the Dzogchen Ground of Being.
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Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis
Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Paperback - June 1970)
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