, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 323-325
Date: 14 Feb 2012

Review of Leesa S. Davis, Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism: Deconstructive Modes of Spiritual Inquiry

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The relationship between Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta is quite curious. Their worldviews are very different, of course – in fact too different, because they seem to be mirror images of each other: no-self (anatta) vs. all-Self (atman = Brahman), conditionality vs. the Unconditioned, impermanence vs. the Immutable, and so forth. Given their common denial of any ontological duality between self and other, one wonders whether their opposed conceptual systems might actually be different attempts to describe the same nondual experience. If Brahman has no characteristics of its own, and sunyata has no characteristics of its own, then what distinguishes pure Being from pure non-being?

Leesa Davis’s superb book explores this possibility by comparing the methods and spiritual practices of Advaita and Zen. She shows how both traditions use very similar techniques to subvert and deconstruct dualistic patterns of thinking and experiencing, in order to reveal a nondual way of knowing that Zen and Ad ...