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An Illusion Concerning Appearance And Reality
To get Enlightened we must next dispel an illusion respecting...

Life Change And Hope
The doctrine of Transcience never drives us to the pessimisti...

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

The Irrationality Of The Belief Of Immortality
Occidental minds believe in a mysterious entity under the nam...

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

Hinayanism And Its Doctrine
The doctrine of Transience was the first entrance gate of Hin...

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

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

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

The Creative Force Of Nature And Humanity
The innate tendency of self-preservation, which manifests its...

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

The First Step In The Mental Training
Some of the old Zen masters are said to have attained to supr...

Zen Is Iconoclastic
For the followers of Bodhidharma, however, this conception of...

Difficulties Are No Match For The Optimist
How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put a...

Zazen And The Forgetting Of Self
Zazen is a most effectual means of destroying selfishness, th...

The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
Philosophical pessimists[FN#214] maintain that there are on e...

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

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

Zen Under The Toku-gana Shogunate
Peace was at last restored by Iye-yasu, the founder of the To...

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

Zen Is Not Nihilistic

Zen judged from ancient Zen masters' aphorisms may seem, at the first
sight, to be idealistic in an extreme form, as they say: Mind is
Buddha or, Buddha is Mind, or, There is nothing outside mind,
or, Three worlds are of but one mind. And it may also appear to be
nihilistic, as they say: There has been nothing since all eternity,
By illusion you see the castle of the Three Worlds; by
Enlightenment you see but emptiness in ten directions.[FN#194] In
reality, however, Zen[FN#195] is neither idealistic nor nihilistic.
Zen makes use of the nihilistic idea of Hinayana Buddhism, and calls
its students' attention to the change and evanescence of life and of
the world, first to destroy the error of immutation, next to dispel
the attachment to the sensual objects.

[FN#194] These words were repeatedly uttered by Chinese and Japanese
Zenists of all ages. Chwen Hih (Fu-dai-shi) expressed this very idea
in his Sin Wang Ming (Shin-o-mei) at the time of Bodhidharma.

[FN#195] The Rin-zai teachers mostly make use of the doctrine of
unreality of all things, as taught in Prajnya-paramita-sutras. We
have to note that there are some differences between the Mahayana
doctrine of unreality and the Hinayana doctrine of unreality.

It is a misleading tendency of our intellect to conceive things as if
they were immutable and constant. It often leaves changing and
concrete individual objects out of consideration, and lays stress on
the general, abstract, unchanging aspect of things. It is inclined
to be given to generalization and abstraction. It often looks not at
this thing or at that thing, but at things in general. It loves to
think not of a good thing nor of a bad thing, but of bad and good in
the abstract. This intellectual tendency hardens and petrifies the
living and growing world, and leads us to take the universe as a
thing dead, inert, and standing still. This error of immutation can
be corrected by the doctrine of Transcience taught by Hinayana
Buddhism. But as medicine taken in an undue quantity turns into
poison, so the doctrine of Transcience drove the Hinayanists to the
suicidal conclusion of nihilism. A well-known scholar and believer
of Zen, Kwei Fung (Kei-ha) says in his refutation of nihilism:[FN#196]

If mind as well as external objects be unreal, who is it that knows
they are so? Again, if there be nothing real in the universe, what
is it that causes unreal objects to appear? We stand witness to the
fact that there is no one of the unreal things on earth that is not
made to appear by something real. If there be no water of unchanging
fluidity, how can there be the unreal and temporary forms of waves?
If there be no unchanging mirror, bright and clean, bow can there be
the various images, unreal and temporary, reflected in it? If mind
as well as external objects be nothing at all, no one can tell what
it is that causes these unreal appearances. Therefore this doctrine
(of the unreality of all things) can never clearly disclose spiritual
Reality. So that Mahabheri-harakaparivarta-sutra says: All the
sutras that teach the unreality of things belong to the imperfect
doctrine (of the Shakya Muni). Mahaprajnya-paramita-sutra says The
doctrine of unreality is the entrance-gate of Mahayana.

[FN#196] See the appendix, chap. ii., 'The Mahayana Doctrine of

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