Posted inVideos

Going Back To The Source: Classical Philosophy and Zen {VIDEO Clip}

December 1, 2014

This is the 4th short video clip (3:58) from the conversation between Stephen Batchelor and Henry Shukman, on June 4, 2014, at the Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico on “Going Back to the Source.” 

The entire talk’s video (1:03:15) can also be viewed on our YouTube channel.

Their dialogue covers : Eastern and Western thought, the great doubt, dismantling of knowing, ancient greeks and buddhism, zen and classical philosophy, seeing with clarity, humanist enlightenment in the west, roots of being human, Zen’s transitional phase, like mindedness, sharing an identity with everything that lives, and releasing our reactivity. In their view, we arrive at the single source from many paths.

In this clip Stephen and Henry talk about “… Philosophy and the essence of Zen …” … Henry captures this in the simple, yet profound words of Master Sosan: “All you do in this practice is discard opinions.”

==== ==== ===== ====

Henry Shukman: We don’t really have very elaborate practices in Zen. You know, there’s no visualization, there’s no mantras, there’s no gradual practice, actually. We don’t build it up step-by-step. We actually—we sort of go cold turkey: we’re thrown on the cushion and “be still” and, you know, “see what happens.”

In fact Master—who was it?—Master Zuigan, you know, he was asked “How are the stages of practice ordered?” He said, “they’re not ordered.” And the monks said, “Why are they not ordered?” And he said, “Because there are not stages of practice.” It’s all right here, now.

There’s nothing more to be found than just this.

And, yet, can we actually sort of receive this or have we got so many opinions about it? I mean the third Chinese ancestor, Sosan, you know, he said, “All you do in this practice is discard opinions.”

You know, discard opinions pro and con, basically. That’s all you do. That’s all there is to be done. And so this, actually, what you were just saying about—I forget your word, but sort of cessation of reactivity, dropping reactivity.

Stephen Batchelor: Yeah, the fading away, the dropping of reactivity.

Henry Shukman: Right, right. Well, this is exactly what Sosan is talking about in the “Shin Jin Mei,” his famous poem on having faith in mind.

There’s just mind itself. Experience of consciousness itself is it.

Now I don’t know whether I’m—what, this is exactly the moment to, but I want to just point out something that struck me as quite remarkable as somebody who comes from a rather classical educational background. I grew up studying Latin from the age of nine and Greek from the age of eleven and started a PhD on Homer, which I never finished, but Plato actually talked about the destroying of hypotheses. Just getting rid or, you know, doing away with hypotheses—theories or hypotheses or what we might call “views of how things are, which is rather interesting, that there, too, in Greek philosophy, which was much more practical in a sense than modern philosophy, you know.

It’s all about how to live, finding how to be happy, essentially, or at least how to be at peace, we might say how to be at peace with the way things are.

Even there, which somehow I was certainly schooled to think of as rationalist while something like Zen was very much not rationalist, it was kind of crazy, mystical stuff, you know, as opposed to the cornerstone of Western rationalism, you know. But, actually, remarkably—

Stephen Batchelor: It’s already there.

Henry Shukman: It’s already there.

==== ==== ===== ====

Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. Click here for his Full BIO.

Henry Shukman is head teacher at Mountain Cloud Zen Center. Click here for his full BIO.

This video clip is from : Going Back to the Source : A conversation with Stephen Batchelor and Henry Shukman, Produced by Chris Hebard, Filmed by Luke Fitch (, copyright

This conversation, and the video, is presented by Stillness Speaks in association with Tricycle and Mountain Cloud Zen Center.

Full transcript of the conversation can be found at Tricycle by clicking here.

footer support banner image

Support Mountain Cloud

You can show your gratitude for Mountain Cloud events, retreats, podcasts and other teachings by making a one-time gift, or by becoming a supporting member.

Donate to Mountain Cloud Become a Member