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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2014 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 75 revieWs but ultimately he cannot be known. Commenting on “The Whiteness of the Whale,” a central chapter of the novel, Herman views the “blind wall” of the white whale as representing shunyata (emptiness), which is “beyond white” and is only the colorless. To attempt to grasp shunyata through philosophical deliberation is a fool’s errand at best, and at worst a path toward destruction. Ishmael realizes, as Ahab does not, that it is better to immerse oneself in experi- ence and become intimate with the mys- tery than to strive to know what cannot be known. In that way, we can live in harmony with ourselves and the world. And we can survive the disasters that befall the likes of Ahab. This, in broad outlines, is Herman’s argument. Generally speaking, that argument is coherent, nuanced, and thorough, though it is most persuasive when presented in exploratory terms and least when it is most schematic. When, for example, Herman likens the whale- ship to a monastery and the seamen’s labors to samu (work practice), we can readily see how it might be plausible. But when he compares the three mates of the Pequod to the “faith, doubt, and determination” of Zen teachings, reduc- ing Melville’s complex novel to a Zen allegory, the skeptical reader is likely to be less convinced. Such questions notwithstanding, Herman’s pioneering, discerning, and engrossing study of Moby-Dick might well be a model for future studies of Western fiction from the perspective of Zen teachings. Suitable subjects might include the novels and stories of Hemingway, Beckett, Salinger, Somerset Maugham, Kazuo Ishiguro, Peter Mat- thiessen, Ruth Ozeki, and, not least, Cormac McCarthy, whose fierce direct- ness and severe economy of means evoke that “savagery beyond savagery” that Ishmael associates with “true religion” and Daniel Herman, apropos of the “savage” Queequeg, identifies as “pre- cisely” the spirit of Zen. PACIFICZEN.ORG JOHN TARRANT AUTHOR OF BRING ME THE RHINOCEROS AND THE LIGHT INSIDE THE DARK LONG RETREATS 2015 WINTER SUMMER FALL OPEN MIND RETREATS 2015 SPRING SUMMER FALL JANUARY 10-17 JULY 1-6 OCTOBER 17-24 MARCH 5-8 JUNE 4-7 AUGUST 20-23 like us watch us learn with us 866.339.4198 dharmacrafts.com Sign Up online for Emails! New products . Sales . Teachings Request a Catalog Key code BDA DharmaCraf ts Meditation Cushions Buddhist Statues Bells & Gongs Jewelry & Gifts Zen Garden THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES since 1979