Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis


In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to refer to

the central problem of Zen or Enlightenment, whose content it is

futile to attempt to explain or analyze. We must not explain or

analyze it, because by doing so we cannot but mislead the reader. We

can as well represent Enlightenment by means of explanation or

analysis as we do personality by snapshots or by anatomical

operations. As our inner life,
directly experienced within us, is

anything but the shape of the head, or the features of the face, or

the posture of the body, so Enlightenment experienced by Zenists at

the moment of their highest Samadhi[FN#178] is anything but the

psychological analysis of mental process, or the epistemological

explanation of cognition, or the philosophical generalization of

concepts. Enlightenment can be realized only by the Enlightened, and

baffles every attempt to describe it, even by the Enlightened

themselves. The effort of the confused to guess at Enlightenment is

often likened by the Zenists to the effort of the blind who feel an

elephant to know what it looks like. Some of them who happen to feel

the trunk would declare it is like a rope, but those who happen to

feel the belly would declare it is like a huge drum; while those who

happen to feel the feet would declare it is like the trunk of a tree.

But none of these conjectures can approach the living elephant.

[FN#178] Abstract Contemplation, which the Zenists distinguish from

Samadhi, practised by the Brahmins. The author of 'An Outline of

Buddhist Sects' points out the distinction, saying: Contemplation of

outside religionists is practised with the heterodox view that the

lower worlds (the worlds for men, beasts, etc.) are disgusting, but

the upper worlds (the worlds for Devas) are desirable; Contemplation

of common people (ordinary lay believers of Buddhism) is practised

with the belief in the law of Karma, and also with disgust (for the

lower worlds) and desire (for the upper worlds); Contemplation of

Hinayana is practised with an insight into the truth of Anatman

(non-soul); Contemplation of Mahayana is practised with an insight of

Unreality of Atman (soul) as well as of Dharma (thing); Contemplation

of the highest perfection is practised with the view that Mind is

pure in its nature, it is endowed with unpolluted wisdom, free from

passion, and it is no other than Buddha himself.