1 January 2005

Looking at Faber through another lens.

“In India two amusing figures are used to characterize the two principle types of religious attitude. One is “the way of the kitten”; the other, “the way of the monkey.” When a kitten cries “meow,” its mother takes it by the scruff of the neck and carries it to safety; but as anyone who has ever traveled in India will have observed, when a band of monkeys come scampering down from a tree and across the road, the babies riding on their mothers’ backs are hanging on by themselves. Accordingly, with reference to the two attitudes: the first is that of the person who prays, ‘Oh, Lord, O Lord, come and save me!’ and the second of one who, without such prayers or cries, goes to work on himself. In Japan the same two are know as tariki, ‘outside strength,’ or ‘power from without,’ and jiriki, ‘own strength,’ or ‘effort from within.’ And in the Buddhism of that country these radically contrasting approaches to the achievement of enlightenment are represented accordingly in the two apparently contrary types of religious life and thought.” — “Myths to Live By,” Joseph Campbell

While tariki is akin to Christianity, jiriki, is akin to Zen, “the way of self-help, own-doing, inner energy, which neither begs nor expects aid from any deity or Buddha … (it) works on its own to achieve what is to be achieved.”

“Zen is a form of religion, if one may call it as such, with no dependence on God or gods, no idea of an ultimate deity, and no need even for the Buddha — in fact, no supernatural references at all.”

“The first and foremost aim of Zen, consequently, is to break the net of our concepts — which is why it had been termed by some a philosophy of ‘no-mind.’”

And in direct relation to what Faber is saying in his book on the psychology of religious belief, “Zen holds to the realization that life and the cause of life are antecedent to meaning; the idea being to let life come and not name it. It will then push you right back to where you live — where you are and not where you are named” … to the time when you didn’t know your name.

In short, to the place that existed before we had a chance to form all those memories lost to infantile amnesia. It would seem that Zen seeks a unique cure the problems associated with the early care-giver situation. I am not saying I understand how it works; I am not saying I plan to become a Zen monk; I simply find it interesting in light of what Faber says about the roots of belief — and of how the East sought to cure the problem in ways different from those employed in the West.

All of which can be boiled down to one simple question: Are you a kitten or a monkey?

Related articles: Faber: The Psychology of Religious Belief
Are You A Kitten or A Monkey?The Psychology of Religious Belief IIFaber so FarI don't recall posing for these pictures!Faber: Art and Religion

©jonfobes 2005