Perhaps a better title for this book would be “Two Hirsute Gentlemen Glare At Each Other Over Vast Philosophical Differences”.
Comparing Zen and Western Philosophy is something quite fascinating – and incredibly difficult. The author – Masao Abe – is probably one of the few people to be competent to write a book on the subject; a Zen bhuddist who has extensively studied the great western thinkers.
This book is immensely valuable because – as dry and repetitive as it is – Abe has had to consciously and clearly explain not just Zen and Bhuddism, but also the entire course of western philosophy and Christianity. Thus, the bulk of the book is Abe simply explaining say the ideas of Kant and the ideas of Dogen; the differences between the two are self evident.
The result is a surprisingly good book for learning about Christianity, the greats of western philosophy and bhuddism itself. The differences and similarities are well laid out – belaboured might be a better term – but all in all, this is a great introduction to many topics.
Abe himself foresees a truely global religion that mixes bhuddism and christianity. He is hopeful for a profitable dialogue between East and West. Indeed, he finds it very necessary for the human race. And it’s hard to disagree with him.
Abe is a theologian. While his grasp of philosophy is broad, I detected weakness on sociological and historical subjects. Read this book as an introduction to further studies.