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Buddha The Universal Life
Zen conceives Buddha as a Being, who moves, stirs, inspires, ...

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

Retribution In The Past The Present And The Future Life
Then a question suggests itself: If there be no soul that su...

Life And Change
Transformation and change are the essential features of life;...

Three Important Elements Of Zen
To understand how Zen developed during some four hundred year...

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

Where Does The Root Of The Illusion Lie?
Now let us examine where illusion lies hidden from the view o...

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

Personalism Of B P Bowne
B. P. Bowne[FN#204] says: They (phenomena) are not phantoms o...

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

True Dhyana
To sit in Meditation is not the only method of practising Zaz...

Enlightened Consciousness Is Not An Intellectual Insight
Enlightened Consciousness is not a bare intellectual insight,...

Introduction Of Zen Into China By Bodhidharma
An epoch-making event took place in the Buddhist history of C...

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

The Fifth And The Sixth Patriarchs
Tao Sin transmitted the Law to Hung Jan (Ko-nin), who being e...

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

The Parable Of The Robber Kih
Chwang Tsz (So-shi) remarks in a humorous way to the followi...

The Eternal Life As Taught By Professor Munsterberg
Some philosophical pessimists undervalue life simply because ...

The Progress And Hope Of Life
How many myriads of years have passed since the germs of life...

Change As Seen By Zen
Zen, like Hinayanism, does not deny the doctrine of Transienc...




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
Nihilism.'






Next: Zen And Idealism

Previous: The Awakening Of The Innermost Wisdom



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