The Four Alternatives And The Five Categories





There are, according to Zen, the four classes of religious and

philosophical views, technically called the Four

Alternatives, of life and of the world. The first is 'the

deprivation of subject and the non-deprivation of object' that is to

say, the denial of subject, or mind, or Atman, or soul, and the

non-denial of object, or matter, or things--a view which denies the

reality of mind and asserts the existence of things. Such a view was

held by a certain school of Hinayanism, called Sarvastivada, and

still is held by some philosophers called materialists or

naturalists. The second is the 'deprivation of object and the

non-deprivation of subject'--that is to say, the denial of object, or

matter, or things, and the non-denial of subject, or mind, or

spirit-a view which denies the reality of material object, and

asserts the existence of spirit or ideas. Such a view was held by

the Dharmalaksana School of Mahayanism, and is still held by some

philosophers called idealists. The third is 'the deprivation of both

subject and object'--that is to say, the denial of both subject or

spirit, and of object or matter-a view which denies the reality of

both physical and mental phenomena, and asserts the existence of

reality that transcends the phenomenal universe. Such a view was

held by the Madhyamika School of Mahayanism, and is still held by

some religionists and philosophers of the present day. The fourth is

'the non-deprivation of both subject and object'--that is to say, the

non-denial of subject and object--a view which holds mind and body as

one and the same reality. Mind, according to this view, is reality

experienced inwardly by introspection, and body is the selfsame

reality observed outwardly by senses. They are one reality and one

life. There also exist other persons and other beings belonging to

the same life and reality; consequently all things share in one

reality, and life in common with each other. This reality or life is

not transcendental to mind and body, or to spirit and matter, but is

the unity of them. In other words, this phenomenal world of ours is

the realm of reality. This view was held by the Avatamsaka School of

Mahayanism, and is still held by Zenists. Thus Zen is not

materialistic, nor idealistic, nor nihilistic, but realistic and

monistic in its view of the world.





Shi-rya-ken in Japanese, the classification mostly made use

of by masters of the Rin Zai School of Zen. For the details, see

Ki-gai-kwan, by K. Watanabe.





There are some scholars that erroneously maintain that Zen is based

on the doctrine of unreality of all things expounded by Kumarajiva

and his followers. Ko-ben, known as Myo-ye Sho-nin, said 600

years ago: "Yang Shan (Kyo-zan) asked Wei Shan (I-san): 'What shall

we do when hundreds, thousands, and millions of things beset us all

at once?' 'The blue are not the yellow,' replied Wei Shan, 'the long

are not the short. Everything is in its own place. It has no

business with you.' Wei Shan was a great Zen master. He did not

teach the unreality of all things. Who can say that Zen is

nihilistic?"



A well-known scholar (1173-1232) of the Anatamsaka School

of Mahayanism.





Besides the Four Alternatives, Zen uses the Five Categories

in order to explain the relation between reality and phenomena. The

first is 'Relativity in Absolute,' which means that the universe

appears to be consisting in relativities, owing to our relative

knowledge; but these relativities are based on absolute reality. The

second is 'Absolute in Relativity,' which means Absolute Reality does

not remain inactive, but manifests itself as relative phenomena. The

third is 'Relativity out of Absolute,' which means Absolute Reality

is all in all, and relative phenomena come out of it as its secondary

and subordinate forms. The fourth is 'Absolute up to Relativity,'

which means relative phenomena always play an important part on the

stage of the world; it is through these phenomena that Absolute

Reality comes to be understood. The fifth is the 'Union of both

Absolute and Relativity,' which means Absolute Reality is not

fundamental or essential to relative phenomena, nor relative

phenomena subordinate or secondary to Absolute Reality--that is to

say, they are one and the same cosmic life, Absolute Reality being

that life experienced inwardly by intuition, while relative phenomena

are the same life outwardly observed by senses. The first four

Categories are taught to prepare the student's mind for the

acceptance of the last one, which reveals the most profound truth.





Go-i in Japanese, mostly used by the So-To School of Zen.

The detailed explanation is given in Go-i-ken-ketsu.





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