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The Four Alternatives And The Five Categories
There are, according to Zen, the four classes of religious and
philosophical views, technically called the Four
Alternatives,[FN#201] of life and of the world. The first is 'the
deprivation of subject and the non-deprivation of object' that is to
say, the denial of subject, or mind, or Atman, or soul, and the
non-denial of object, or matter, or things--a view which denies the
reality of mind and asserts the existence of things. Such a view was
held by a certain school of Hinayanism, called Sarvastivada, and
still is held by some philosophers called materialists or
naturalists. The second is the 'deprivation of object and the
non-deprivation of subject'--that is to say, the denial of object, or
matter, or things, and the non-denial of subject, or mind, or
spirit-a view which denies the reality of material object, and
asserts the existence of spirit or ideas. Such a view was held by
the Dharmalaksana School of Mahayanism, and is still held by some
philosophers called idealists. The third is 'the deprivation of both
subject and object'--that is to say, the denial of both subject or
spirit, and of object or matter-a view which denies the reality of
both physical and mental phenomena, and asserts the existence of
reality that transcends the phenomenal universe. Such a view was
held by the Madhyamika School of Mahayanism, and is still held by
some religionists and philosophers of the present day. The fourth is
'the non-deprivation of both subject and object'--that is to say, the
non-denial of subject and object--a view which holds mind and body as
one and the same reality. Mind, according to this view, is reality
experienced inwardly by introspection, and body is the selfsame
reality observed outwardly by senses. They are one reality and one
life. There also exist other persons and other beings belonging to
the same life and reality; consequently all things share in one
reality, and life in common with each other. This reality or life is
not transcendental to mind and body, or to spirit and matter, but is
the unity of them. In other words, this phenomenal world of ours is
the realm of reality. This view was held by the Avatamsaka School of
Mahayanism, and is still held by Zenists. Thus Zen is not
materialistic, nor idealistic, nor nihilistic, but realistic and
monistic in its view of the world.
[FN#201] Shi-rya-ken in Japanese, the classification mostly made use
of by masters of the Rin Zai School of Zen. For the details, see
Ki-gai-kwan, by K. Watanabe.
There are some scholars that erroneously maintain that Zen is based
on the doctrine of unreality of all things expounded by Kumarajiva
and his followers. Ko-ben,[FN#202] known as Myo-ye Sho-nin, said 600
years ago: Yang Shan (Kyo-zan) asked Wei Shan (I-san): 'What shall
we do when hundreds, thousands, and millions of things beset us all
at once?' 'The blue are not the yellow,' replied Wei Shan, 'the long
are not the short. Everything is in its own place. It has no
business with you.' Wei Shan was a great Zen master. He did not
teach the unreality of all things. Who can say that Zen is
[FN#202] A well-known scholar (1173-1232) of the Anatamsaka School
Besides the Four Alternatives, Zen uses the Five Categories[FN#203]
in order to explain the relation between reality and phenomena. The
first is 'Relativity in Absolute,' which means that the universe
appears to be consisting in relativities, owing to our relative
knowledge; but these relativities are based on absolute reality. The
second is 'Absolute in Relativity,' which means Absolute Reality does
not remain inactive, but manifests itself as relative phenomena. The
third is 'Relativity out of Absolute,' which means Absolute Reality
is all in all, and relative phenomena come out of it as its secondary
and subordinate forms. The fourth is 'Absolute up to Relativity,'
which means relative phenomena always play an important part on the
stage of the world; it is through these phenomena that Absolute
Reality comes to be understood. The fifth is the 'Union of both
Absolute and Relativity,' which means Absolute Reality is not
fundamental or essential to relative phenomena, nor relative
phenomena subordinate or secondary to Absolute Reality--that is to
say, they are one and the same cosmic life, Absolute Reality being
that life experienced inwardly by intuition, while relative phenomena
are the same life outwardly observed by senses. The first four
Categories are taught to prepare the student's mind for the
acceptance of the last one, which reveals the most profound truth.
[FN#203] Go-i in Japanese, mostly used by the So-To School of Zen.
The detailed explanation is given in Go-i-ken-ketsu.
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