ZEN AND THE COMIC SPIRIT by M. Conrad Hyers

ZEN AND THE COMIC SPIRIT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hyers writes that enlightenment in Zen is a spontaneous non sequitur, a leap to a plane of being that is beyond seriousness, beyond sanctity and profanity: freedom (from dogma, intellect, self, situation) is laughter. Humor is not just an embellishment: it is of the essence in Zen. The master is a buffoon, who, recognizing that ""reality cannot be pinned down,"" nevertheless finds a reality in hilariously celebrating that fact. He degrades the holy (smashing idols, irreverently parodying himself) and elevates the mundane (haiku). Ambiguity permeates his pronunciamentos, which he then turns on their heads. His purpose is to lead his pupil to see the foolishness of the wheel of bondage and the absurdity of the question of meaning (""What, after all, is the 'point' or function or value to be assigned to the little wild flower. . . ?"") Zen is akin to the comic spirit in its intuitive nature, its immediacy, its incongruities, its surprise, its carefreeness, its bliss. Drawing on anecdotes, haiku and painting, Hyers conveys both the profoundly religious and the childlike modest perspective of Zen. His analogies to Western theories of comedy are critical, never forced. Insofar as Zen can be portrayed in a book -- and Hyers expresses reservations about containing a ""wordless"" experience in words -- he has managed to do so.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1974
Publisher: Westminster