Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reader's Reponse: Taking Refuge in the Path

Here is an anonymous reader's response to this recent post, which consisted of an excerpt from an essay by Slavoj Zizek (whose name is frequently appearing here lately). The excerpt asked questioned the use of the "noble lie" in politics.

A longtime Zen friend writes:

You've raised a big question. It's too early in the morning for me to write really coherently about it, but I would point you first to the article "Noble Lie" in Wikipedia. Next, to the writings of Leo Strauss, a great interpreter of Plato and political philosophy in general (I know that Strauss is often called the father of the neocons but I think that is a big mistake—for my part, reading him led me to look for someone like Dae Soen Sa Nim).

In the Republic, Plato's Socrates, to be very brief, makes a distinction between dialectic, the search for truth (we might call this Dharma); and rhetoric, which is what he says rules in politics. Politics is the realm of opinion, not of truth, because that is the realm that most people live in.

Well, I see that this could be easily misinterpreted. Also I should say at this point that Strauss stressed that Plato's dialogues were like plays, not treatises—Socrates is only one character, he says different things to different people at different times. Just as you can't say that Shakespeare himself necessarily believed that "life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,"—something said by a particular character who had committed certain bad actions—you can't ascribe to Plato the statements of any one character in the dialogues. Instead, the dialogues are like kong-ans—one could say they pose questions in order to get us to practice. But they do raise a big question: what is the relationship of philosophy (which I see as very close to if not the same as Dharma) to politics.

I know you've taken a view on this in your writings. Your view seems to be rooted in the problems we are having at present. In Dae Soen Sa Nim's view, stated more fully at the beginning of the Compass of Zen, the world is like a fruit which not so long ago was ripe (very good taste, you could get anything) but now is becoming very very rotten. Dae Soen Sa Nim's response to this was—inside the fruit there are seeds, "don't-know" seeds. I don't profess to understand exactly what he meant, but I know he did say that in the future many bad things would happen but if we practice and find these seeds we can help ourselves, we can help many people. He did not say we could reverse the awful karma of the whole world which is presently appearing.

Well I'm just raising some lines of investigation here—I don't pretend to have any answers. I am suggesting the the questions you raise are not so easily answered.

Hope this makes some sense.

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