Monday, October 26, 2009

so much for the Desert Fathers ...

"The day of the Desert Fathers is forever gone and we are waiting for a new sun to rise above the horizon of egotism and sordidness in every sense."
- D.T. Suzuki, from Zen and the Birds of Appetite, p. 115


  1. Can't help thinking of the rising sun image in terms of Suzuki's fierce Japanese nationalism

  2. Beth, I don't know the context in which he said this, but even though the "day" of the Desert Fathers may be gone, I believe their wisdom endures. Perhaps the new sun could be seen as the spreading of this wisdom, the amazing way, really, that the knowledge of contemplative prayer, the contemplative life, Zen, meditation, etc., has spread to the laity over the last several decades, to people who for the most part have had to develop interior silence without the benefit of the exterior silence and seclusion that the Desert Fathers had.

  3. Gunter, you obviously know a lot more about Suzuki than I do. I just know of him through Merton.

    Gabrielle, I probably put that quote of D.T. Suzuki in there out of context and as a way to be somewhat provocative. It is part of a "dialogue" of essays between Suzuki and Merton that appears in the back of ZEN AND THE BIRDS OF APPETITE. The Desert Fathers were the beginning point of dialogue between Merton and Suzuki, Merton sending Suzuki a copy of his WISDOM IN THE DESERT book, and noting how similar these solitary men and women were to the Zen monks of the East.

    You are absolutely right that their wisdom endures and is the very foundation of many (most?) monastic orders.

    I think (again, this is all my own interpretation) that Suzuki is pointing toward the Unknown that each person must venture into, in contemplative (or Zen) prayer. The way that he was saying this was by saying that you cannot only mimic a spiritual way of those that came before, you must also find and set out on your own path, a way that no one before you has ever gone.

    (It's all rather reminiscent of Merton's words on the day he died - where do we go from here, from here on out, it's every man on his own ...)

    Thank you so much for your comment, Gabrielle.


The Stuff of Contemplation (Joan Chittister)

Thomas Merton, Trappist, died December 10, 1968 Thomas Merton entered the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardstown, Kentucky, at the age of twenty-s...