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The Law Of Balance In Life
It is also the case with human affairs. Social positions hig...

Shakya Muni And The Prodigal Son
A great trouble with us is that we do not believe in half the...

The Sermon Of The Inanimate
The Scripture of Zen is written with facts simple and familia...

Zen After The Restoration
After the Restoration of the Mei-ji (1867) the popularity of ...

Zen After The Downfall Of The Ho-jo Regency
Towards the end of the Ho-Jo period,[FN#90] and after the dow...

Idealism Is A Potent Medicine For Self-created Mental Disease
In so far as Buddhist idealism refers to the world of sense, ...

Thing-in-itself Means Thing-knowerless
How, then, did philosophers come to consider reality to be un...

Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis
In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to re...

Decline Of Zen
The blooming prosperity of Zen was over towards the end of th...

The Bad Are The Good In The Egg
This is not only the case with a robber or a murderer, but al...

The World Is In The Making
Our assertion is far from assuming that life is now complete,...

The Betterment Of Life
Again, people nowadays seem to feel keenly the wound of the ...

No Need Of The Scriptural Authority For Zen
Some Occidental scholars erroneously identify Buddhism with t...

Poetical Intuition And Zen
Since Universal Life or Spirit permeates the universe, the po...

Great Men And Nature
All great men, whether they be poets or scientists or religio...

There Is No Mortal Who Is Non-moral Or Purely Immoral
The same is the case with the third and the fourth class of p...

Man Is Both Good-natured And Bad-natured According To Yan Hiung
According to Yang Hiung and his followers, good is no less re...

Our Conception Of Buddha Is Not Final
Has, then, the divine nature of Universal Spirit been complet...

Everything Is Living According To Zen
Everything alive has a strong innate tendency to preserve its...

The Four Alternatives And The Five Categories
There are, according to Zen, the four classes of religious an...




The Irrationality Of The Belief Of Immortality








Occidental minds believe in a mysterious entity under the name of
soul, just as Indian thinkers believe in the so-called subtle body
entirely distinct from the gross body of flesh and blood. Soul,
according to this belief, is an active principle that unites body and
mind so as to form an harmonious whole of mental as well as bodily
activities. And it acts through the instrumentality of the mind and
body in the present life, and enjoys an eternal life beyond the
grave. It is on this soul that individual immortality is based. It
is immortal Self.
Now, to say nothing of the origin of soul, this long-entertained
belief is hardly good for anything. In the first place, it throws no
light upon the relation of mind and body, because soul is an empty
name for the unity of mind and body, and serves to explain nothing.
On the contrary, it adds another mystery to the already mysterious
relationships between matter and spirit. Secondly, soul should be
conceived as a psychical individual, subject to spacial
determinations--but since it has to be deprived by death of its body
which individualizes it, it will cease to be individuality after
death, to the disappointment of the believer. How could you think
anything purely spiritual and formless existing without blending
together with other things? Thirdly, it fails to gratify the desire,
cherished by the believer, of enjoying eternal life, because soul has
to lose its body, the sole important medium through which it may
enjoy life. Fourthly, soul is taken as a subject matter to receive
in the future life the reward or the punishment from God for our
actions in this life; but the very idea of eternal punishment is
inconsistent with the boundless love of God. Fifthly, it is beyond
all doubt that soul is conceived as an entity, which unifies various
mental faculties and exists as the foundation of individual
personality. But the existence of such soul is quite incompatible
with the well-known pathological fact that it is possible for the
individual to have double or treble or multiple personalities. Thus
the belief in the existence of soul conceived by the common sense
turns out not only to be irrational, but a useless encumbrance on the
religious mind. Therefore Zen declares that there is no such thing
as soul, and that mind and body are one. Hwui Chung (Ye-chu), a
famous disciple of the Sixth Patriarch in China, to quote an example,
one day asked a monk: Where did you come from? I came, sir, from
the South, replied the man. What doctrine do the masters of the
South teach? asked Hwui Chung again. They teach, sir, that body is
mortal, but mind is immortal, was the answer. That, said the
master, is the heterodox doctrine of the Atman! How do you, sir,
questioned the monk, teach about that? I teach that the body and
mind are one, was the reply.[FN#183]


[FN#183] For further explanation, see Sho-bo-gen-zo and
Mu-chu-mon-do.

Fiske, [FN#184] in his argument against materialism, blames the
denial of immortality, saying: The materialistic assumption that
there is no such state of things, and that the life of the soul ends
accordingly with the life of the body, is perhaps the most colossal
instance of baseless assumption that is known to the history of
philosophy. But we can say with equal force that the common-sense
assumption that the life of soul continues beyond the grave is,
perhaps, the most colossal instance of baseless assumption that is
known to the history of thought, because, there being no scientific
evidences that give countenance to the assumption, even the
spiritualists themselves hesitate to assert the existence of a ghost
or soul. Again he[FN#185] says: With this illegitimate hypothesis
of annihilation the materialist transgresses the bounds of experience
quite as widely as the poet who sings of the New Jerusalem with its
river of life and its street of gold. Scientifically speaking, there
is not a particle of evidence for either view. This is as much as
to say there is not a particle of evidence, scientifically speaking,
for the common-sense view of soul, because the poet's description of
the New Jerusalem is nothing but the result of the common-sense
belief of immortality.


[FN#184] 'The Destiny of Man,' p. 110.

[FN#185] 'The Destiny of Man,' pp. 110, 111.






Next: The Examination Of The Notion Of Self

Previous: Enlightenment Implies An Insight Into The Nature Of Self



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