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The Spiritual Attainment Of The Sixth Patriarch
Some time before his death (in 675 A.D.) the Fifth Patriarch ...

Life And Change
A peculiar phase of life is change which appears in the form ...

Do Thy Best And Leave The Rest To Providence
There is another point of view which enables us to enjoy life...

Nature And Her Lesson
Nature offers us nectar and ambrosia every day, and everywher...

Where Then Does The Error Lie?
Where, then, does the error lie in the four possible proposit...

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

Idealistic Scepticism Concerning Religion And Morality
Similarly, it is the case with religion and morality. If we ...

Real Self
If there be no individual soul either in mind or body, where ...

The Law Of Balance
Nature governs the world with her law of balance. She puts t...

The Second And The Third Patriarchs
After the death of the First Patriarch, in A.D. 528, Hwui Ko ...

The Next Step In The Mental Training
In the next place we have to strive to be the master of our b...

The Absolute And Reality Are But An Abstraction
A grain of sand you, trample upon has a deeper significance t...

Buddha Dwelling In The Individual Mind
Enlightened Consciousness in the individual mind acquires for...

Man Is Bad-natured According To Siun Tsz
The weaknesses of Mencius's theory are fully exposed by anot...

The Third Step In The Mental Training
To be the lord of mind is more essential to Enlightenment, wh...

Bodhidharma's Disciples And The Transmission Of The Law[fn#31]
[FN#31] For details, see Chwen Tang Luh and Den Ka Roku, b...

Bodhidharma And The Emperor Wu
No sooner had Bodhidharma landed at Kwang Cheu in Southern Ch...

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

The Development Of The Southern And Of The Northern School Of Zen
After the death of the Fifth Patriarch the venerable Shang Si...

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

Where Does The Root Of The Illusion Lie?

Now let us examine where illusion lies hidden from the view of these
religionists. It lies deeply rooted in the misconstruction of
reality, grows up into the illusive ideas of appearances, and throws
its dark shadow on life. The most fundamental error lies in their
construing reality as something unknowable existing behind

According to their opinion, all that we know, or perceive, or feel,
or imagine about the world, is appearances or phenomena, but not
reality itself. Appearances are 'things known as,' but not 'things
as they are.' Thing-in-itself, or reality, lies behind appearances
permanently beyond our ken. This is probably the most profound
metaphysical pit into which philosophical minds have ever fallen in
their way of speculation. Things appear, they would say, as we see
them through our limited senses; but they must present entirely
different aspects to those that differ from ours, just as the
vibration of ether appears to us as colours, yet it presents quite
different aspects to the colour-blind or to the purblind. The
phenomenal universe is what appears to the human mind, and in case
our mental constitution undergoes change, it would be completely

This argument, however, is far from proving that the reality is
unknowable, or that it lies hidden behind appearances or
presentations. Take, for instance, a reality which appears as a ray
of the sun. When it goes through a pane of glass it appears to be
colourless, but it exhibits a beautiful spectrum when it passes
through a prism. Therefore you assume that a reality appearing as
the rays of the sun is neither colourless nor coloured in itself,
since these appearances are wholly due to the difference that obtains
between the pane of glass and the prism.

We contend, however, that the fact does not prove the existence of
the reality named the sun's ray beyond or behind the white light, nor
its existence beyond or behind the spectrum. It is evident that the
reality exists in white light, and that it is known as the white
light when it goes through a pane of glass; and that the same reality
exists in the spectrum, and is known as the spectrum when it goes
through the prism. The reality is known as the white light on the
one hand, and as the spectrum on the other. It is not unknowable,
but knowable.

Suppose that one and the same reality exhibits one aspect when it
stands in relation to another object; two aspects when it stands in
relation in two different objects; three aspects when it stands in
relation to three different objects. The reality of one aspect never
proves the unreality of another aspect, for all these three aspects
can be equally real. A tree appears to us as a vegetable; it appears
to some birds as a shelter; and it appears to some worms as a food.
The reality of its aspect as a vegetable never proves the unreality
of its aspect as food, nor the reality of its aspect as food
disproves the reality of its aspect as shelter. The real tree does
not exist beyond or behind the vegetable. We can rely upon its
reality, and make use of it to a fruitful result. At the same time,
the birds can rely on its reality as a shelter, and build their nests
in it; the worms, too, can rely on its reality as food, and eat it-to
their satisfaction. A reality which appears to me as my wife must
appear to my son as his mother, and never as his wife. But the same
real woman is in the wife and in the mother; neither is unreal.

Next: Thing-in-itself Means Thing-knowerless

Previous: An Illusion Concerning Appearance And Reality

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