Meister Eckhart, Zen, and Heidegger

This episode compares and contrasts Meister Eckhart’s general thoughts and themes with ideas from both Zen Buddhism and Martin Heidegger. It is the fourth and final installment of our recent series on Meister Eckhart.  The first three episodes are at the following links. Letting Go: Meister Eckhart & Overcoming Dualism (Episode 016) / Meister Eckhart & Detachment: Contemplative Knowledge (Episode 017) / Meister Eckhart & Chasing the Merchants from the Temple (Episode 018)

I. Meister Eckhart’s “Jesus Went into the Temple” sermon & its similarities to Heidegger and Zen

First, Eckhart tells us that we must still the voices in the temple in order to hear Jesus. This, in fact, is an allegory for quieting the soul in order to listen to God. We can see similarities here to Heidegger’s poetic disposition. The poet waits on Being to show itself. In both cases, we are dealing with the need to remove limited thinking and concepts from one’s mind.

Furthermore, the mystical union with God for Eckhart has its corollary in Zen. This is not merely in both the approach of emptiness and of not pursuing practice for gain. It is also in what Shunryū Suzuki called “right thinking.” It is about freeing oneself from a relative, limiting mind.

After describing some of these correspondences, I give a summary passage of Eckart’s thought.

II. Secondary literature recommendations for comparisons between Meister Eckhart, Zen, and Heidegger

I then mention and describe several important works in this area of comparative philosophy. The work of John Caputo and David Loy are excellent places to start. For those who can read German, Shizuteru Ueda’s work on Eckhart is uniquely informative. Ueda’s contrast of Eckhart and Zen on the basis of negation is thought-provoking.

III. Heidegger’s “other thinking”

Finally, Heidegger’s inspiration for his other thinking came, in large part, from his reading of Eckhart. It came also from his engagement with Buddhist thinking, particularly from the Zen tradition. We then listen to and discuss a clip from Heidegger’s 1963 television interview with a Thai Buddhist monk.

Additional links and resources

Martin Heidegger Talks Philosophy with a Buddhist Monk on German Television (1963)

UEDA, SHIZUTERU “Nothingness” in Meister Eckhart and Zen Buddhism

Loy, David. Nonduality. (PDF scan of book from author’s own website; 42.5MB)

Angelus Silesius – The Rose

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