Zen And Idealism

Next Zen makes use of Idealism as explained by the Dharmalaksana

School of Mahayana Buddhism.[FN#197] For instance, the Fourth

Patriarch says: Hundreds and thousands of laws originate with mind.

Innumerable mysterious virtues proceed from the mental source. Niu

Teu (Go-zu) also says: When mind arises, various things arise; when

mind ceases to exist, various things cease to exist. Tsao Shan

(So-zan) carried the point so far that he cried out, on hearing the

bell: It hurts, it pains. Then an attendant of his asked What is

the matter? It is my mind, said he, that is struck.[FN#198]

[FN#197] Appendix, chap. ii., 'The Mahayana Doctrine of


[FN#198] Zen-rin-rui-shu.

We acknowledge the truth of the following considerations: There

exists no colour, nor sound, nor odour in the objective world, but

there are the vibrations of ether, or the undulations of the air, or

the stimuli of the sensory nerves of smell. Colour is nothing but

the translation of the stimuli into sensation by the optical nerves,

so also sounds by the auditory, and odours by the smelling.

Therefore nothing exists objectively exactly as it is perceived by

the senses, but all are subjective. Take electricity, for example,

it appears as light when perceived through the eye; it appears as

sound when perceived through the ear; it appears as taste when

perceived through the tongue; but electricity in reality is not

light, nor sound, nor taste. Similarly, the mountain is not high nor

low; the river is not deep nor shallow; the house is not large nor

small; the day is not long nor short; but they seem so through

comparison. It is not objective reality that displays the phenomenal

universe before us, but it is our mind that plays an important part.

Suppose that we have but one sense organ, the eye, then the whole

universe should consist of colours and of colours only. If we

suppose we were endowed with the sixth sense, which entirely

contradicts our five senses, then the whole world would be otherwise.

Besides, it is our reason that finds the law of cause and effect in

the objective world, that discovered the law of uniformity in Nature,

and that discloses scientific laws in the universe so as to form a

cosmos. Some scholars maintain that we cannot think of non-existence

of space, even if we can leave out all objects in it; nor can we

doubt the existence of time, for the existence of mind itself

presupposes time. Their very argument, however, proves the

subjectivity of time and space, because, if they were objective, we

should be able to think them non-existent, as we do with other

external objects. Even space and time, therefore are no more than


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