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Buddhism

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

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

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

Zen After The Downfall Of The Ho-jo Regency
Towards the end of the Ho-Jo period, and after the downfall o...

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

Idealistic Scepticism Concerning Objective Reality
But extreme Idealism identifies 'to be' with 'to be known,' a...

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

The Courage And The Composure Of Mind Of The Zen Monk And Of The Samurai
Fourthly, our Samurai encountered death, as is well known, wi...

Let Go Of Your Idle Thoughts
A famous Zenist, Mu-go-koku-shi, is said to have replied ...

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

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

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

The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
Philosophical pessimists maintain that there are on earth ma...

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

Buddha Is Unnamable
Give a definite name to Deity, He would be no more than what ...

Bodhidharma's Disciples And The Transmission Of The Law
For details, see Chwen Tang Luh and Den Ka Roku, by Kei Z...

The Honest Poverty Of The Zen Monk And The Samurai
Secondly, the so-called honest poverty is a characteristic of...

Enlightened Consciousness
In addition to these considerations, which mainly depend on i...

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

How To Worship Buddha
The author of Vimalakirtti-nirdeca-sutra well explains our at...




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." In
reality, however, Zen 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.


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.

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:

"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."


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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