Dōgen on language and experience

André van der Braak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Understanding Zen views on language and experience from a philosophical hermeneuti-cal point of view means conceiving such an understanding as a merging of horizons. We have to explicate both the modern Western secular horizon and the medieval Japanese Zen horizon. This article first describes how Charles Taylor’s notion of the immanent frame has shaped Western mod-ernist understanding of Zen language and experience in the twentieth century. Zen language was approached as an instrumental tool, and Zen enlightenment experience was imagined as an ineffa-ble “pure experience.” More recent postmodernist approaches to Zen language and experience have stressed the interrelatedness of language and experience, and the importance of embodied approaches to experience. Such new understandings of language and experience offer not only new perspectives on Dōgen’s “Zen within words and letters” and his embodied approach to enlightened experience, but also an expanded view on what it means to understand Dōgen.

Original languageEnglish
Article number181
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalReligions - An Open Acces Theology Journal
Issue number3
Early online date10 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Dōgen
  • Em-bodiment
  • Experience
  • Immanent frame
  • Language
  • Philosophical hermeneutics
  • Zazen


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