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

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

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
For details, see Chwen Tang Luh and Den Ka Roku, by Kei Z...

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

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

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

The Ancient Buddhist Pantheon
The ancient Buddhist pantheon was full of deities or Buddhas,...

The Characteristics Of Do-gen The Founder Of The Japanese So To Sect
In the meantime seekers after a new truth gradually began to ...

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

The Law Of Balance In Life
It is also the case with human affairs. Social positions hig...

The Beatitude Of Zen
We are far from denying, as already shown in the foregoing ch...

Zen And Idealism
Next Zen makes use of Idealism as explained by the Dharmalaks...

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

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

Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis
In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to re...

The Usual Explanation Of The Canon
An eminent Chinese Buddhist scholar, well known as Ten Dai Da...

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

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

Pessimistic View Of The Ancient Hindus
In addition to this, the new theory of matter has entirely ov...




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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