A Letter from Eastern Philosophy to America

I have chosen Dogen Kigen (1200 – 1253) as my eastern philosopher. I have however changed the parameters of the assignment a bit to bring contemporary issues into focus. I have written Kigen’s letter to his pupil as if they were alive today. In the letter, I will speculate as to Kigen’s opinion, based on his philosophy, on the current condition of the United States of America concerning the War on Terror. In the assignment description, I could find anything that would specifically prohibit this approach. I believe that by taking advantage of current issues the philosophies of this particular Japanese philosopher will become applicable and understandable.

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The Way is far from the Americans. They live in a world that they do not understand. Through their not understanding they wish to control, a false control that is established through force and intimidation; rather than through the normal channels of the Way. They wish to work against the natural flow of Tao and indulge in the mirage of self-protection. As I have told you in the past their, “minds go racing about like horses running wild in the fields, while [their] emotions remain unmanageable like monkeys swinging in the trees” (Moore-Bruder, 2005, 528). They wish to live in the delusion of control while all the while controlling nothing, not even themselves.

The United States operates under strictly defined views. They view themselves as good and right; whereas, they view the Muslim terrorists that attached them on 9/11 as bad and wrong. These categories only arise out of ignorance. This ignorance is counter to the Tao. The Americans must come to understand that these categories are the predictable antecedent to the violence that overtook them on 9/11. The United States in their state of ignorance, while trying to control the uncontrollable, attempted to escape Tao through violence and rigid categories. Do not think that the Muslim extremists are any better off. They enforce the same violence and rigid categories on their worldview as well. It is a never-ending cycle that locks its parties out of the universal Self. As I have explained in the past it is only through the realization and implementation of Tao in our lives that we can escape the cycle of categories. Remember my words: “To plow deep but plant shallow is the way to a natural disaster. When you help yourself and harm others, how could there be no consequences?” (Moore-Bruder, 2005, 527). Some would ask, “How did the United States harm others?”

The United States harmed others through its categorical rhetoric of violence and suppression. This harm can be amply understood in the United State’s reaction to 9/11. The American’s practice of the “Lesser Vehicle” showed brightly on that day. They did not understand the event for what it was. It was the very manifestation of the Tao. When faced with extraneous circumstances one must simply accept them for what they are, the Way. Everything happens the way it is supposed to so any attempt to circumvent the Way is like a blind man’s attempt at running. He will only stumble over his own feet in an attempt to control what he cannot even see.

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Now Johan let us turn our discussion away from 9/11 and take a close look at the subsequent attack of Iraq. This act represents the very pinnacle of fear and ignorance. They could not apprehend the people that were directly responsible for 9/11 so they attached a lesser foe under the pretense that the lesser foe is the greater foe. Johan, in the United State’s vain quest for control they sent an army big enough to conquer even China into Iraq. The fear of the loss of control is indeed extremely great among the Americans. They sent many troops to topple the lesser foe while only sending a few to destroy the greater foe, the ones directly responsible. The Tao would never include such a slanted bias. Indeed Tao does not include any bias whatsoever, only balance. At the end of the day, what have the American’s accomplished? They have not caught the greater foe or completely topple the Iraqi regimes or controlled anything, not even themselves. All they have accomplished is the deepening of the world’s categorical hate for them and their categorical hate of everyone else. Truly the hole they have dug for themselves has been deepened.

Let me leave you with some comforting words:

Jade becomes a vessel by carving and polishing. A man becomes humane by cultivation and polish. What gem has highlights, to begin with? What person is clever at the outset? You must carve and polish, train and cultivate them. Humble yourselves and do not relax your study of the Way” (Moore-Bruder, 2005, 527).

Do not think the Americans lost forever. They have simply lost their way down the dark tunnel. We must be the light that leads them out of the darkness; the Way.


Moore-Bruder, (2005), Philosophy: The power of ideas, sixth edition. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Publishing.

Paper Topic

Write an informative 700-1050-word letter in the persona of one Eastern philosopher to one of his pupils. In the letter, describe your chosen philosopher’s viewpoints concerning one of his philosophies. If needed, cite secondary sources according to APA guidelines to help you.


One thought on “A Letter from Eastern Philosophy to America

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