Dualism In Early Buddhism

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Dualism In Early Buddhism



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The Unconscious in Early Buddhism?

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Ultimate reality consists in enacting the morally-inflected nonduality of wisdom and compassion. But, as noted earlier, Chan also came to represent itself as. And this suggests that the relationship among truth, language and communication in Chan may confound some common Western philosophical expectations. As is suggested by the abundant references to canonical texts found in Chan master discourse records, announcing that Chan involves a special transmission biechuan beyond the scope of scriptural teachings jiaowai does not necessarily call the value of textual transmission into question. But it does point to the possibility of a form of communication that directly indexes or indicates zhi the human heartmind without either standing upon or erecting li words and letters as conveyances for knowledge.

But chuan also has the connotation of spreading through a process of conduction. Heat can be transferred from one place to another by convection as high energy particles or objects move into a space of lower energy ones. But heat can also spread without any particles or objects changing location. Conduction is energy flowing as a function of vibrational resonances among adjacent particles or objects and is measured not in terms of amounts of energy transferred, but rather rates of transfer. In Chan, knowledge is not something that can be bequeathed. Truth is not a function of propositional coherence or of a correspondence between propositions and reality. Truth is the enactment of liberating relationality—a truing of relational dynamics. Chan teachings are—at least ideally—improvised in effective and always situated response to actual needs and concerns.

The monk continued probing. How do you teach them? If Chan teachings can include contradictory statements and such gruesome acts as killing a cat, what is to prevent the truth of nondualism from spurring an antinomian erasure of the boundaries not only between sense and nonsense, but also between the moral and immoral? Whether or not raising a finger actually brings about a liberating turn in a teacher-student encounter is not a function of the action or the intention behind it, but of what it means relationally. When Zhu Di returned, the boy informed him how things had gone while he was away and Zhu Di asked him to demonstrate how he had responded to the visitors.

The boy raised his finger, which Zhu Di promptly severed with a knife. As his attendant fled in pain, Zhu Di called out his name. When the boy stopped and turned, Zhu Di raised his finger. Chan teaching is not something conveyed by words or gestures; it consists in direct relational transformation. It still can be asked, of course, how one knows what direction of relational transformation is truly liberating or what interventions are appropriate in any given situation. This epistemological concern is not one, however, that Chan endorsed. On the contrary, the general Chan view has been that asking the epistemological question is perhaps the single most pernicious form of distraction from embarking wholly upon the path of Chan practice.

But he also noted that being without-thinking can be sustained even as thoughts are arising and passing away so long as one refrains from forming attachments, calculating outcomes and taking up fixed positions. In short, being without-thinking is being single-mindedly present in unwavering attentiveness. In an iconic encounter between Mazu and his teacher, Nanyue Huairang — , Mazu has an awakening after pointing out to Huairang that he cannot make a mirror by rubbing together a stone and a clay roofing tile, only to be asked why he then thinks it is possible to make himself into a Buddha by sitting on a meditation cushion.

To become a Buddha, Huairang avers, simply act as a Buddha. Epistemological worries are potentially endless detours of often fervently justified disengagement—detours predicated on the separating out of a questioning subject and a questioned object or environment. Seeing from the Chan path is seeing completely. From the perspective of Chan practice, the merits of cutting off conceptual craving and calculation are immediately evident. But claiming no-thought and unquestioning participation as norms can be seen as promoting unreflective and potentially uncaring and unjust actions, as well as generating liabilities for authoritarian abuse.

Given that ethics seemingly requires reasoned reflection on how to realize the good life as persons and as communities, is Chan finally un-ethical or anti-ethical? If there is really nothing to seek or attain, as so many Chan masters have averred, and if enlightenment is not so much a substantive change as it is a gestalt shift, is this not to simply leave untreated and likely worsening all of the ills and injustices plaguing us? There is little in Chan literature that could plausibly warrant positioning Chan wholly within any one of the standard Western categories of consequentialist, deontological and virtue ethics, or, for that matter, within such alternatives as communitarian or care ethics.

Chan literature is notoriously silent about the kinds of questions to which ethics typically offers answers. The mainstream of Western ethics takes the individual, decision-making agent as the basic unit of concern, and a primary concern is to develop a universally applicable method of arbitrating among the often disparate interests of individual agents, establishing rationally-guided means to determining and practically realizing the meaning of the good life. Chan nonduality shifts concern from individual agents to relationality, and in particular to the kind of relationality that fully manifests our original Buddha-nature.

In this sense, the basic method of Chan ethics might be thought to be emulation—a method of deliberately acting as the Buddha did. As the example of Zhu Di and his attendant makes strikingly evident, the method of Chan is not to imitate or mimic the behavior of either past or present exemplars. Rather, it is to exemplify ourselves the dramatic clarity and relational virtuosity of bodhisattvas who are able, in any situation whatsoever to bring about a liberating inflection of ongoing relational dynamics. If Chan ethics involves emulation, it is emulation of something like an improvisational style rather than mastery of a specific deliberative or behavioral repertoire.

It can be said, then, that freedom is a primary ethical value in Chan. But Chan freedom is not identified with the exercise of control or choice; neither is it rooted in rational determinations of whether a given course of action is good or will have good results. That is, freedom is not associated with independence which is imaginable only in ignorance of the interdependence and interpenetration of all things , nor is it conceived essentially as a property of individual agency.

In keeping with the bodhisattva ideal, freedom consists in embodying superlative capacities-for and commitments-to realizing the conditions for relating freely : the improvisational expression of relational virtuosity oriented toward the resolution of conflict, trouble and suffering. Chan ethics is not a function of living in accord with predetermined means-to and meanings-of the good, but rather of improvisational genius—a creative marriage of fluid vigilance and unwavering care: an ethics of ever-intensifying appreciative and contributory virtuosity.

This, of course, is a distillation of Chan ideals. Extant evidence is that life within Chan monastic communities was conducted in adherence with the disciplining precepts of Buddhist ordination, and that interactions with the lay community were for the most part consistent with prevailing moral and social norms. Chan rhetoric notwithstanding, Chan practice seems to have been more norm-respecting rather than norm-eliding. Yet, when Niaokou extols sharing the good, he is not referring to some fixed or predetermined ideal or attribute. Chan ethics is thus not a knowing-that something is or will be good, but rather knowing-how to extend the horizons of virtuosity in ways deemed valuable by others on this distinction, see Varela And this knowing-how is not an intellectually-attained method, but rather the result of embodied, relationship-attuning practice.

With this in mind, it is interesting to note that among its signal achievements Chan came to include the Chan Rules of Purity Chan jinggui , attributed to Baizhang — , which established a comprehensive code of conduct for Chan monastics. Even in the radical Hongzhou lineage, living in accordance with these rules was seen as essential to holding open the circuit of mutual contribution that made the privilege of monastic life possible. Guishan Lingyou — , for example, explicitly urges monks in his community gratefully and with a lofty and peaceful spirit to repay the kindnesses of their parents, their donors, the emperor and the Buddha, without whose offerings they would not have the opportunity to realize Chan awakening Guishan jingce , T.

The emphasis on bodily comportment is crucial. As the Pali and Sanskrit texts of the Vinaya division of the Buddhist canon make clear, the norms of Buddhist monastic life were not arrived at in an a priori or purely rational fashion, but rather in situated response to tensions arising within the early monastic community and in its interactions with the rest of society. This situational approach to the development of norms for conduct and demeanor resonated well with indigenous Chinese approaches to ethics. These standards are, of course, behavioral. But more importantly, these standards are also qualitative—standards of intention, attitude and energy as they pertain to relational enhancement. Ethics is ultimately inseparable from aesthetics.

Understood in this context, monastic discipline provides a basic grammar for living as persons-in-Buddhist-community. An intimation of what this means is presented in this beautifully crafted passage in the discourse records of Mazu. Buddhas are capable of authoritative personhood ren. Having realized kind wisdom and the excellent nature of opportunities and dangers, you can break through the net of doubts snaring all sentient beings. Not leaving behind any obstructing traces, they are like phrases written on water. But given its affirmation of Buddhist teachings about karma and the role of values and intentionality in shaping experience, Chan might just as well be seen as constructivist. Philosophically, Chan presents itself as an enigma.

At the same time, Chan had profound impacts culturally. In China, Chan ideals of personal vitality and responsive virtuosity found ongoing visual expression in calligraphy and painting, and literary expression in poetry. And as Chan spread to other parts of East Asia, these ideals came also to be infused into the performance arts of music, tea ceremony and drama.

The distinctive ways in which Chan wedded nonduality or metaphysical ambiguity with a moral aesthetics of improvisation opened real possibilities for imagining presence as already liberating. The nature of the relationship between the enigmas that Chan presents philosophically and the cultural productivity of its personal and aesthetic ideals remains open. In East Asia, exploring that openness historically proved to be a powerful means of addressing the predicament of culture and the discomforts of cultural difference. In this new global context, engaging in philosophical conversation with Chan signals distinctive opportunities for exploring the means-to and meanings-of truly intercultural philosophy.

Introduction 2. History 3. Chan and the Nature of Reality 4. Truth and the Nature of Knowledge and Language in Chan 5. Ethical Dimensions of Chan 6. Introduction Buddhist thought and practice are said to have emerged out of sustained practical commitment to discovering and nullifying the roots of human suffering. History Chan coalesced over the course of several centuries of sustained and reflexive engagement with the meaning of being both Chinese and Buddhist.

In the Platform Sutra attributed to Huineng, he insists that meditation is the embodiment ti of wisdom, and wisdom is the functioning yong of meditation. Platform Sutra, 13—17 To see our own original nature is to see that true suchness and thinking are as intimately related as the bodily structure of a horse and its customary activities. But, as noted earlier, Chan also came to represent itself as a special transmission outside the teachings jiaowai biechuan ; not established upon words and letters buli wenzi ; directly pointing to the human heartmind zhizhi renxin ; seeing nature and becoming a Buddha jianxing chengfo.

Ethical Dimensions of Chan From the perspective of Chan practice, the merits of cutting off conceptual craving and calculation are immediately evident. Saddhatissa trans. Reprint, Taibei: Xinwenfeng chuban gongsi, — Xu zangjing , Supplement to the Buddhist Canon. Secondary Sources Adamek, Wendi L. Ames, Roger T. Broughton, Jeffrey L. Cleary, Thomas and J. Heine, Steven and Dale S. Hershock, Peter D. McRae, John R. Varela, Francisco J. Wawrytko, Sandra and Wang, Youru eds. Academic Tools How to cite this entry. Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database. This is a method of meditation predicated on the belief that the Zen practitioner engages in the practice in the midst of the original enlightenment.

This is because they both follow the same practice of sitting meditation. The practitioner follows these adjustments in the order mentioned when he or she begins. When concluding a sitting session, the procedure is reversed so that he or she can return to an everyday standpoint. We now briefly explain these three steps in the order mentioned. To do so, the practitioner needs to have a proper diet, engage in appropriate physical exercise, and avoid forming habits contrary to nurturing a healthy mind-body condition. Specifically, however, when Zen mentions the adjustment of the body, it has in mind seated meditation postures. There are two postures which Zen recognizes: the lotus-posture and the half-lotus posture. A long Zen tradition takes them to be effective for stilling the mind and dissolving various psychological complexes and psychosomatic disorders.

However, if a lay practitioner cannot at first assume these postures, they can be substituted initially by sitting on a chair with the spine straight, as it can bring about a similar effect. The adjustment of the body is necessary for the practitioner in order to experience the practical benefits of doing meditation. The benefits of Zen meditation are closely tied to the practice of breathing. In this exercise, the practitioner counts an in-coming breath and an out-going breath.

Before counting the breath, the practitioner breathes in through the nostrils and breathes out through the mouth a couple of times. Then one starts counting breaths, but this time breathing in through the nostrils and breathing out through the nostrils. The breath count is performed while performing an abdominal breathing: one brings in air all the way down to the lower abdomen, and breathes out from there. For this reason, it must be done in a place where there is ample ventilation. A key to performing breathing exercises successfully is just to observe the in-coming and out-going breath. Though these are simple instructions, they are difficult to execute because the neophyte tends to become distracted.

Present concerns, worries, fears, and past memories often surface. If one wants to make progress in meditation, this is one of the first things that the practitioner must learn to overcome. We now turn to the psycho-physiological meaning of the breathing exercise. Ordinarily, we breathe sixteen to seventeen times per minute, which we do unconsciously or involuntarily. This is because under ordinary circumstances, breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system.

Neurophysiologically, the center where breathing is controlled is found in the hypothalamus, in the mid-brain. The autonomic nervous system is so-called because it functions independently of our will. Zen breathing is a shift from unconscious, involuntary breathing to conscious, voluntary breathing. This means that Zen meditation is a way of regulating the unconscious-autonomic order of our being. Psychologically, counting the breath trains the unconscious mind and neurophysiologically, it trains the involuntary activity of the nerves that control the function of the various visceral organs.

Here we find a reason why Zen recommends abdominal breathing. Nerves are bundled in the upper part of the abdominal cavity, and the abdominal breathing exercise stimulates this bundle. As it does so, parasympathetic nerves still the mind. This point is significant in learning to control emotion. Ordinarily, we are told to control our emotion by exercising our will. This is, for example, what Kant recommends. This method works to a certain extent, but we expend our energy unnecessarily in exercising our will. Think of a situation where one tries to submerge a ball in water. When the size of the ball is relatively small, this can be accomplished with little effort.

But as the size of the ball becomes larger, it becomes increasingly difficult. There comes a time then when one can no longer hold them down. Consequently, one may end up exploding in various ways, ranging from personal fits to violent social crimes. On the other hand, if we observe a person in a peaceful state, the breathing is deep, smooth, slow, and rhythmical. Zen breathing has a way of naturally heightening the positive correlation between the activity of the autonomic nervous system and emotion. Neurophysiologically, it happens that the center where breathing is regulated and the region where emotion is generated coincide.

This means that the conscious breathing psychologically affects the pattern of how one generates emotion, and at the same time it also has a neurophysiological effect on how the autonomous activity of the unconscious is regulated. We will now move on to the third step involved in meditation. Once the bodily posture and the breathing are adjusted, the practitioner next learns to adjust the mind. This means that the practitioner consciously moves to enter a state of meditation.

In so doing, the practitioner learns to disengage him- or herself from the concerns of daily life. That is to say, one tries to stop the operation of the conscious mind. In other words, it is practically impossible to stop the mind by using the mind. Instead, Zen tries to accomplish this by the immobile bodily posture and the breathing exercise.

In this connection, it will be informative to know how the practitioner experiences breathing as he or she deepens meditation. We can identify three basic stages: initially the practitioner can hear the audible sound of the in-coming and out-going breaths. This is followed by the second stage in which he or she can feel the pathway of the in-coming and out-going breaths. In the third stage there is no more feeling of the in-coming and out-going breaths. When this occurs, the practitioner can settle into a deeper meditational state. Also, it is significant to note that as the practitioner enters a deeper state of meditation, the interval between inhalation and exhalation is prolonged, i.

These are mostly things of concern that have occupied the practitioner in the history of his or her life, or things the practitioner has consciously suppressed for various reasons. Initially, the practitioner experiences recent desires, anxieties, concerns, ideas, and images that have surfaced in his or her daily life. A psychological reason that the practitioner experiences these various things is due in part to the fact the practitioner has lowered the level of conscious activity, by assuming the meditation posture, and doing the breathing exercise. This mechanism is the same as when one has a dream at night.

When the level of consciousness is lowered, the suppressive power of ego-consciousness weakens, and consequently the autonomous activity of the unconscious begins to surface. However, these desires, images and ideas are distractions insofar as meditation is concerned. This is because in meditation you must learn to focus your awareness on one thing. One must learn just to observe without getting involved in them. That is, one must learn to dis-identify oneself with them. In the process of deepening meditation, one can roughly identify three distinct stages: the stage of concentration, the stage of meditation, and the stage of absorption. In the stage of concentration, the practitioner concentrates, for example on the lower abdomen, establishing a dualistic relationship between the practitioner who is concentrating and the lower abdomen that is the focus of concentration.

This dualistic relationship is broken gradually as the practitioner moves into the stage of meditation. The activity of the ego-consciousness is gradually lessened, and the barriers it sets up for itself are gradually removed. There will be no separation or distancing between an object of the mind and the activity of the mind itself. As the practitioner repeats this process over a long period of time, he or she will come to experience a state in which no-thing appears. No-mind does not mean a mindless state. Nor does it mean that there is no mind. It means that there is no conscious activity of the mind that is associated with ego-consciousness in the everyday standpoint.

In other word, no-mind is a free mind that is not delimited by ideas, desires, and images. No-mind is a state of mind in which there is neither a superimposition of ideas nor a psychological projection. That is, no-mind is a practical transcendence from the everyday mind, without departing from the everydayness of the world. Since then, various Western philosophers have attempted to capture human nature with this goal in mind by using ego-consciousness as a starting point as well as a destination in philosophy.

See Yuasa , — For this reason, Zen contends that physical nature and human nature must be sought in an experiential dimension practically trans-descending, and hence transcending, the standpoint of ego-consciousness. As a result, paradoxes, contradictions, and even what appears to be utter nonsense abound in Zen literature. Therefore, we can say that Zen is an anti-philosophy in that it is not a systematization of knowledge built on the use of a discursive mode of reasoning anchored in the alleged certainty or transparency of ego-consciousness, one that follows an epistemological paradigm built on an ego-logical, either-or, dualistic mode of knowing.

This standpoint, as mentioned in the foregoing, relies on the discursive mode of reasoning to understand reality, while presupposing an ego-consciousness as the standard referential point. From this perspective for example, a distinction between the outer and inner worlds emerges, using a sensory perception as the point of reference. One of the salient characteristics of this standpoint is that the world appears to be dualistic in nature, that is to say, it recognizes two and by implication, many things to be real.

Epistemologically speaking, Zen observes that this renders opaque, or at best translucent, the experiential domains beyond the sensible world as well as ego-consciousness, both either taken naturalistically or by means of theoretical speculation. The inability to go beyond these experiential domains occurs because ego-consciousness is physiologically rooted in the body and psychologically in the unconscious. This points to a philosophically important consequence. This logic thinks it reasonable to divide the whole into two parts when knowing or understanding reality. That is, when this logic is applied to the whole, it compels the user of this logic to choose, reasonably in the mind of the user, one part, while disregarding the other part s as irrelevant or meaningless.

It prioritizes one part at the expense of the other part s , while celebrating the exclusion. It champions one-sidedness in cognition and judgment as the supreme form of knowing and understanding reality. However, Zen thinks that this prioritization, this exclusion, violates a cardinal principle of knowing, for knowledge of anything demands an understanding of the whole. Either-or logic fails on this account. For example, if one maintains that the mind is real, one disregards the body as unreal, yielding an idealist position. On the other hand, if one thinks the body is real, it disposes of the mind in the same way, favoring materialism as true and real, which is presupposed, for example, by natural science.

Either position commits itself to reductionism. Here, questioning this practice and the consequences it entails, Zen instead speaks of mind-body oneness, an holistic perspective, as it abhors one-sidedness. Zen finds that these two things impose on the epistemological subject a structuring that is framed dualistically and either-or ego-logically, as mentioned in the foregoing.

Accordingly, this structuring unknowingly frames things to appear dualistically and either-or ego-logically to the epistemological subject, while extending the paradigm to itself for self-understanding as well as things other than itself in the same manner. Consequently, the subject stands opposed either to the outer world e. Moreover, Zen notes that the subject cannot by definition become the object or vice versa, for they are distanced from each other either really or ideally. When one attempts to know her from the everyday standpoint, one relies on the language she speaks and her body language.

Here one cannot know her in toto , let alone the destiny of her life-history, because she is shielded from an observer by the spatial-temporal density of her being. Zen maintains that the situation created by assuming this epistemological paradigm is not ideal, or real, for that matter. An either-or logic ignores this interdependence, in part because it operates within a conceptual and linguistic space with the assumption that there is no temporal change.

This assumption enables a thinker to establish the law of identity, namely that A remains the same with itself, or identical with itself. With this recommendation, Zen maintains that mind and body, I and others, I and nature ought to be experienced as one by those who remain in the everyday standpoint. Otherwise, Zen fears that the practitioner will fall into one-sidedness, in which the knowledge claim ends up being partial, imbalanced, and even prejudiced. This is because Zen thinks the practitioner cannot achieve this negation simply by following either-or logic, or for that matter by following the intellectual process of reasoning, because both logic and reasoning intrinsically involve two things, for example, the thinker and the thought.

In other words, in the eyes of Zen, these methods lack consideration for the concreteness and immediacy of lived experience. This is in keeping with a general method of teaching in Buddhism, i. This complication is further compounded by the differences in the personality of Zen masters. To properly respond to this question, Zen thinks it important to determine whether it is posed with a practical concern or a theoretical concern in mind. The difference allows a Zen master to determine the ground out of which this question is raised, for example, to determine if the inquirer is anchored in the everyday standpoint or in a meditational standpoint. Why does Zen insist on this?

In so doing, the monk relativizes Buddha-nature qua being, while contrasting and opposing it with non-being. Buddha-nature is not something that the dog can have or not have ; Buddha-nature is not something contingent. Nor do I expect you to reply that the dog both has and does not have buddha-nature. Nor do I expect you to reply that the dog neither has nor does not have buddha-nature. How do you respond to this? An appeal to discriminatory thinking based on the standpoint of [ego-]consciousness is of no use either.

It is also unacceptable to appeal to bodily action, let alone to engage in a mere verbal exchange. Do not swallow it where something is generated. This is, no doubt, an existential challenge to Zen practitioners, and so they make an all-out effort, staking life and death, because it guarantees them an embodiment of truth and freedom. In order to get an idea of this experience from a contemporary point-of-view, or from outside of Zen tradition, one may also consider out-of-body experiences. It points to a practical transcendence from the everyday either-or, ego-logical, dualistic standpoint.

In light of the outer-inner distinction Zen interprets the non-dualistic experience to mean that the distinction has been epistemologically collapsed, as it arises in such a way to respond to the dualistic perspective from which the outer and the inner worlds appeared. Conceptually, Zen takes this holistic perspective to mean the de-substantialization and de-ontologization of any two polar concepts, such as one and many, being and non-being, universal and particular, absolute and relative, transcendence and immanence, and birth and death.

They are thrown into a holistic context of an interdependent causal series. For if thing-events designated by these terms are endowed with self-nature, they cannot enter into the series; what enters such a series is only an accidental attribute or property. According to the substantialistic or essentialistic ontology, nothing can really change. For example, criminals who want to correct their criminal behavior cannot change themselves if being a criminal is the essential characterization of their being.

This would pose an insurmountable challenge, if not impossibility, to a correction officer at a prison. This question points to an examination of the epistemic structure of how knowledge operates in Zen experience. Although it is lengthy, we quote it in full in order to provide a sense of how a Zen dialogue unfolds:. Suppose that there is a clear, transparent mirror. If it does not face a thing, no image is reflected in it. To say that it mirrors an image means that because it faces something, it just mirrors its image.

The disciple asks: If it does not face any thing, is there or is there not a reflection in the mirror? The master replies: That the mirror reflects a thing means that it always mirrors regardless of whether it is facing or not facing a thing. The disciple asks: If there is no image and since you do not give an explanation, how can all beings and nonbeings become an issue? Now when you say that it always mirrors, how does it mirror? The master replies: When I say that the mirror always mirrors, it is because a clear, transparent mirror possesses an original nature as its essential activity of always mirroring things.

The master replies: it sees no-thing.

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