Hesychasm and Zen

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  • Yugen
    • Jun 2024

    Hesychasm and Zen

    Dear all,
    I have been exploring the link between martial arts, buddhism, and zen for some time. I have also noticed in another thread some discussion of how the hands are held while sitting shikantaza. The position of the hands (right over left or left over right) is similarly debated in Uechiryu karate in the closed gate posture which concludes several kata.

    I have returned to some exploration of Russian martial arts - I studied sambo years ago, and have delved a bit into the philosophy of systema - which appears to be profoundly influenced by links to Russian Orthodoxy and the practice of hesychasm. Being Eastern (Greek) Orthodox by birth and culture, I find this relationship fascinating, as I have studied the desert fathers of the sinai and their writings. What shikantaza and hesychasm have in common is the belief that one has all one needs - i.e., one does not need to look beyond themselves for grace, answers to the big questions, or enlightenment. The differences originate in the fact that hesychasts subordinate themselves to God, while the issue of God is not [necessarily] central to the practice of zen. Viewed dogmatically, there are many more differences. Thomas Merton was quick to notice these differences in his travels to Asia.

    Is anyone here familiar with hesychasm, or Orthodox monasticism? Orthodox Christians have been quick to point out differences between hesychasm and zen - On the one hand, the differences are dogmatic and significant, on the other, they seem forced. Any experiences or observations?

    I ask because I observe how different my practice of zen is from my own cultural background as an Orthodox Christian (and I do mean cultural - it is all-encompassing in a Greek family) - or is it really when one considers the practice and routine of Monks on Mount Athos?

    Sorry as this thread is all over the place - I suppose I am interested in people's experience in comparing/contrasting eastern orthodox monasticism / hesychasm with zen buddhist shikantaza.

  • disastermouse

    Re: Hesychasm and Zen

    Subordinating oneself to god would seem to be antithetical to the idea that one 'has all one needs'.


    • Marina S
      • Nov 2007
      • 17

      Re: Hesychasm and Zen

      Hi Alex,

      I sent you a message in response to your post. Hope you received it.


      • robert
        • Aug 2008
        • 88

        Re: Hesychasm and Zen

        Hello friends,

        I'd be interested in hearing more about this too, as I also come from a Greek Orthodox background. Gassho,
        Robert's website