As Zen Replaces the Id...


D.T. Suzuki and the Unconscious

D. T. Suzuki was one of Japan's foremost authorities on Zen Buddhism, and is credited with bringing Zen to the West in the first half of this century. He was befriended by and influenced many well known figures of the time, including C. G. Jung, Erich Fromm, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Arnold Toynbee, Gabriel Marcel, and Herbert Read. This is a quote from Suzuki's lecture at the Autonomous National University of Mexico, Department of Psychoanalysis Conference, August 1957:

"The unconscious in its Zen sense is, no doubt, the mysterious, the unknown, and fo r that reason unscientific or antescientific. But this does not mean that it is beyond the reach of our consciousness and something we have nothing to do with. In fact it is, on the contrary, the most intimate thing to us, and it is just because of this intimacy that it is difficult to take hold of, in the same way as the eye cannot see itself. To become, therefore, conscious of the unconscious requires a special training on the part of consciousness." (Erich Fromm, D.T. Suzuki, and Richard DeMartino, Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, 1970.)

This FORUM topic:

  • How do you feel about Suzuki's claim that the unconscious can be brought to the surface by training the conscious?

  • Comments on recent FORUMS...

    02/11/98 02:20:54
    Name: Ashley Murphy
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    02/10/98 07:58:07
    Name: Scott
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    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): I don't know


    02/08/98 08:49:25
    Name: Debbie My URL: Visit Me
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    FORUM (if you are s haring your views on a forum topic): Suzuki quote

    I think the phrase "special training" needs to be further examined. Suzuki also speaks about not "wiping blood off with blood" which is what happens when the "mind" that needs to be seen is the one conducting the inquiry.

    02/05/98 22:41:56
    Name: rob
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    It's an intelligent way of saying nothing. Eastern thinking appears to be so deep and complex on the surface, but once you examine it with a We stern eye, you usually find linguistic jumble. I think they sometimes pride themselves in their ability to not make sense. Suzuki's claim is no exception. How can you tell when your unconscious has risen to the surface? And what happens if you eat mex ican food? Can intestinal gas help your unconscious rise? Talk to me in terms of behavior! That I can underst nd. Ciao.

    01/26/98 18:12:23
    Name: scott My URL: Visit Me My Email: Email Me Student Status/Affiliation: webbew FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Suzuki

    test... sorry... a new topic is in the works!

    01/25/98 03:28:48
    Name: H ASAF
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    unconsciouse is like an infinite space containing infinite possibilties depending on the capacities of approaching consciouse mind. what we have today in terms of our civilization and individual self development is the realized form of that great reservo re within us. This unfoldin process is ever present and with our consciouse mind we are in advantagiouse position to accelerate this process thus fullfilling the basic purpose of our existancetion/x-hd ?pk

    01/19/98 03:00:10
    Name: buster
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    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): suzuki's dictum

    I have heard, from an unimpeachable source, that the only unconscious are those who ascribe to an unconscious.

    01/12/98 03:16:32
    Name: georges kristolaitis My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): zen replaces the id

    To become conscious of the unconscious does require effort and persistence a nd also training or use of method. However, this by itself is not sufficient to achieve success. It is also necessary to become "free of" or detached from one's own mind, both t e conscious and unconscious. Once this is done, the contents of both "mind s" are there but of no overwhelming importance. One is then left with "not much at all." but I have found that nothingness is yet so full. In a sense both the conscious and uncon sious mind are not of any great importance. However, training may help on e to grasp the "contents" and then put them aside so that one can be.

    01/03/98 03:11:47
    Name: Rubin Baronian
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    I am in agreement with D.T.S. 's statement about the unconscious being b rought to ths surface. I have the book of collection of talks at the mentioned psych. conference at U. of Mexico in the 50's. Will reread it when I find it in one of my moving boxes. p>
    01/02/98 14:11:33
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    01/01/98 09:22:38
    Name: Rudy Harderwijk My URL: Visit Me
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    Com ments:
    From the little I understand of Buddhist philosophy, the statement of Suzuki is entirely correct. Buddhism does not present any "subconsciousness" in the mind, simply because the mind is more or less defined as being "consciousness" or "knowing". From a personal point of view, I feel that the search in the hidden parts of my own mind during meditation (secretly hoping for some kind of enlightenment) is like looking for a needle in a haystack in the dark. Occasionally a flash of light shows me what I'm doing; but even if I never discover the needle, I do certainly move a lot of hay around... So, as the hidden parts of my mind are part of my own mind, I just need to take the time and the proper method (meditation) to find for them, who else could do that for me? Love & Light and an enlightening 1998!

    12/28/97 21:00:34
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    Name: Christopher Carter
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    I am a Zen student and a therapist. Zen is the only way I have found to do tr uly useful inner work.

    12/19/97 15:38:29
    Name: Mark Adams
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    "Wherever you go, there you are."

    12/18/97 02:37:55
    Name: Kat Foraker My URL: Visit Me
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    This web site is really well done.

    12/17/97 04:10:25
    Name: buster My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Suzuki's Dictum

    If training means stepping back to observe the ways of one's consciousness, I would not disagree. However, the use of the word "training" has too many positive connotations, and is misleading.

    12/13/97 02:07:37
    Name: Valerie Stansfield My URL: Visit Me
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    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Suzuki

    Yes, the contents of Uncons can become cons and it does take training - but not just religious meditation practice. The Buddhists, etc have developed a technology but it is quite arduous. With more knowledge of mind/brain mechanisms we are more able to xplore, to learn various w ays of accessing more than we usually pragmatically need.

    12/04/97 22:55:53
    Name: Scott Sumner My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Suzuki's Comment

    L ike the pupil trying to see the eye, the conscious mind seeks to grasp the entire mind. Zen training does not (as someone put it) create schitzophrenia. Rather, Zen meditation teaches one to quiet the random thoughts from the unconscious by acknowledgin g them and learning not to dwell on them. It is not "buddha" replacing the "superego". Zen most certainly does not teach a form of control over the subconscious, but a way to avoid being controlled by it. When you have learned to train your conscious m ind to trace the inception and flowering of unconscious into conscious thought, you recog ize from where these seemingly random impulses come. You accept the unconscious impulse for what it is, then you can choose, consciously, to ignore or follow this i mpulse. The key is to acknowledge the unconscious thought for what it is. That requires a special training of the conscious mind.

    12/03/97 19:43:23
    Name: Rachel Martinez My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me Student Status/Affiliation: freshman at U of MN, psych major
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Zen

    I feel that humans have a tendency to identify only with what is concrete and tangible, and believe that nothing exists beyond these limits. I disagree. I feel that much of the human mind is left undiscovered by the individual, and that the mind carries great potential and mystery. So I agree with Mr. Suzuki's claim that discovery of the unconscious mind comes through training of the conscious mind. By learning about how to get in touch with ourselves, our spirituality and mental capabilities, mind powe and potential can be accessed, and greater peace of mind can be achieved.

    12/02/97 10:58:44
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    I am not a student of psychology, but I,d like to open up my mind to psychology.

    11/28/97 05:00:54
    Name: Stephen Regan

    .....The presence of Zen as a group mind has forced us into spending every hour trying to bring our mind back into it's natural focus and self center. This is neurosis. To lose this battle could result in schizophrenia where the mind is divided in half. I would speculate that this is a good description of the tran ition from depression era Germany to Fascist Germany. This Fascism is a face schism or a face behind a face. In that case Hitler's.....If Zen is a totalitarian system that takes hold by parasiting in people's psyche, it would be propitious for us to have look at Freud and his world: early 20th century Eur ope. It is very interesting to note right up front that the "founding father" of modern psychology appeared out of the same conditions that produced Nazi Germany. By examining Freud's description of the syche we will have an excellent model for understanding the conditions preceding a totalitarian takeover of a modern society. This is just a short look to stimulate some inquiry by experts in psychology. .....This in Germany led to development of the superman complex called Nazism. It is the introduction of this second center in the form of an archetype being; the superman; which paves the way for the formation of totalitarianism. The ego itself is formed as an opposing self center against this imposition.....We have in our current society just the same psyche (Freudian model) that Europeans had before WW 2 and there is in our presence a new and very obscure organization offering a super being as the "true nature" of human beings. his superman is the buddha of Zen. We have the "superego" of this "buddha" already in our mind and it is inexorably moving toward complete control of our society and our citizens. I am witnessing the degradation of the right to se f determination before my eyes and people are stopped from bringing this matter forward. Psychiatry in particular has a total blindness to this issue and sit is one of the major reasons Zen has gotten this far. I think it is safe to say they are suffering some mind control. It is really up to the average American to take responsibility for insuring our freedom. Totalitarianism does not abate by itself. It has to be brought into the daylight. Our freedom and health depend on Zen being unmasked as a master race.

    11/28/97 00:43:06
    Name: skip albright
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    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): zen replaces id

    allmind is unconscious untill actively and seriously sought how can we tell one from the other til we know what our mind is??

    11/25/97 23:57:37
    Name: Clifton Hyatt
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    11/24/97 11:25:31
    Name: Kim Abildskov Hansen

    I Love you!

    11/22/97 20:48:57
    11/20/97 02:40:03
    Name: David
    My Email: < a href="">Email Me Student Status/Affiliation: Graduate Student
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Zen

    It is possible to in tegrate the conscious and unconscious through the practice of Buddhist/Taoist meditation, qigong, and tai ji quan. I study tai ji and am a student of psychology. I have been taught that as mental activity and sensual instincts identify nirvana and samsar a are already inherently unified."When the mind is pure, the buddha-land is simultaneously pure." Great idea for a web site!

    11/13/97 15:09:35
    Name: James Gay My Email: Email Me Student Status/Affiliation: Thinker

    I couldn't agree more with Mr. Suzukis topic. As someone who has spent many, many years practicing Zen and psychotherapy I have pursonally experience many awakanings of the unconcious.

    11/08/97 18:08:20
    Name: Bruno Pinaud
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    My thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute!

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