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The Establishment Of The Rin Zai School Of Zen In Japan
[FN#67] The Lin Tsi school was started by Nan Yoh, a pr...

The Mystery Of Life
Thus far we have pointed out the inevitable conflictions in l...

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

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

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

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

Each Smile A Hymn Each Kindly Word A Prayer
The glorious sun of Buddha-nature shines in the zenith of Enl...

Zen In The Dark Age
The latter half of the Ashikaga period was the age of arms an...

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

A Sutra Equal In Size To The Whole World
The holy writ that Zen masters admire is not one of parchment...

Man Is Neither Good-natured Nor Bad-natured According To Su Shih
The difficulty may be avoided by a theory given by Su Shih ...

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

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

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

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...

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

The Theory Of Buddha-nature Adequately Explains The Ethical States Of Man
This theory of Buddha-nature enables us to get an insight int...

Sutras Used By Zen Masters
Ten Dai failed to explain away the discrepancies and contradi...

Universal Life Is Universal Spirit
These considerations naturally lead us to see that Universal ...

The Parable Of A Drunkard
Now the question arises, If all human beings are endowed with...




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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