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The Basis of Buddhist Philosophy


BUDDHIST philosophy is based on the experience Buddha had about twenty-five centuries ago. To understand, therefore, what Buddhist philosophy is, it is necessary to know what that experience was which Buddha had after six years' hard thinking and ascetic austerities and exercises in meditation.

We generally think that philosophy is a matter of pure intellect, and, therefore, that the best philosophy comes out of a mind most richly endowed with intellectual acumen and dialectical subtleties. But this is not the case. It is true that those who are poorly equipped with intellectual powers cannot be good philosophers. Intellect, however, is not the whole thing. There must be a deep power of imagination, there must be a strong, inflexible will-power, there must be a keen insight into the nature of man, and finally there must be an actual seeing of the truth as synthesized in the whole being of the man himself.

I wish to emphasize this idea of "seeing." It is not enough to "know" as the term is ordinarily understood. Knowledge unless it is accompanied by a personal experience is superficial and no kind of philosophy can be built upon such a

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shaky foundation. There are, however, I suppose many systems of thought not backed by real experiences, but such are never inspiring. They may be fine to look at but their power to move the readers is nil. Whatever knowledge the philosopher may have, it must come out of his experience, and this experience is seeing. Buddha has always emphasized this. He couples knowing (ñāṇa, jñāna) with seeing (passa, paśya), for without seeing, knowing has no depths, cannot understand the realities of life. Therefore, the first item of the Eightfold Noble Path is sammādassana, right seeing, and sammāsankappa, right knowing, comes next. Seeing is experiencing, seeing things in their state of suchness (tathatā) or is-ness. Buddha's whole philosophy comes from this "seeing," this experiencing.

The experience which forms the basis of Buddhist philosophy is called "enlightenment-experience," for it is this experience of enlightenment which Buddha had after six years of hard thinking and profound reflection, and everything he taught afterward is the unfolding of this inner perception he then had.

What then was this enlightenment-experience?


Roughly speaking, we can say that there are two ways of approaching this question: What is the enlightenment-experience Buddha had? One is objective and the other subjective. The objective approach is to find out the first rationalized statements ascribed to Buddha after the experience and understood as forming the basis of his teaching. That is, what did he first teach? What was the main thesis he continued to preach throughout his life? This will be to discover what characteristically constitutes the Buddhist teaching as distinguished

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from that of the rest of the Indian thinker The second approach, called subjective, is to examine Buddha's utterances reflecting his immediate feelings after the experience of enlightenment. The first approach is metaphysical whereas the second is psychological or existential. Let us start with the first.

What is universally recognized as Buddhist thought regardless of its varieties of interpretation is the doctrine of anattā or anātman, that is, the doctrine of non-ego. Its argument begins with the idea: (1) that all things are transient as they are composites (skandha or khandha) and go on disintegrating all the time, that there is nothing permanent; and (2) that there is therefore nothing worth clinging to in this world where every one of us is made to undergo all kinds of sorrow and suffering. How do we escape from them? Or, how do we conquer them? For we cannot go on like this. We must somehow find the way out of this torture. It was this feeling of fear and insecurity individually and collectively that made Buddha leave his home and wander about for six long years seeking for a way out not only for himself but for the whole world. He finally discovered it by hitting upon the idea of non-ego (anattā). The formula runs thus: 1

All composite things (sankhāra) are impermanent. When a man by wisdom (pañña) realizes [this,], he heeds not [this world of] sorrow; this is the path to purity.

All composite things are sorrowful. When a man by wisdom realizes [this], he heeds not [this world of] sorrow; this is the path to purity.

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All things (dhammā) are egoless. When a man by wisdom realizes [this], he heeds not [this world of] sorrow; this is the path to purity.

The one thing I wish to call to the readers' attention is the term "wisdom," paññā, or prajñā in Sanskrit. This is a very important term throughout Buddhist philosophy. There is no English equivalent for it. "Transcendental wisdom" is too heavy, besides it does not exactly hit the mark. But temporarily let "wisdom" do. We know that seeing is very much emphasized in Buddhism, but we must not fail also to notice that seeing is not just an ordinary seeing by means of relative knowledge; it is the seeing by means of a prajñā-eye which is a special kind of intuition enabling us to penetrate right into the bedrock of Reality itself. I have elsewhere 2 given a somewhat detailed account of prajñā and its role in Buddhist teachings, especially in Zen Buddhism.

The doctrine of non-ego not only repudiates the idea of an ego-substance but points out the illusiveness of the ego-idea itself. As long as we are in this world of particular existences we cannot avoid cherishing the idea of an individual ego. But this by no means warrants the substantiality of the ego. Modern psychology has in fact done away with an ego-entity. It is simply a workable hypothesis by which we carry on our practical business. The problem of the ego must be carried on to the field of metaphysics. To really understand what Buddha meant by saying that there is no ātman, we must leave psychology behind. Because it is not enough just to state that there is no ātman if we wish really to reach the end of sorrow and to be thus at peace with ourselves and with the world at large. We must have something positive in order to see ourselves

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safely in the harbor and securely anchored. Mere psychology cannot give us this. We must go out to a broader field of Reality where prajñā-intuition comes into play.

As long as we wander in the domain of the senses and intellect, the idea of an individual ego besets us, and makes us eternally pursue the shadow of the ego. But the ego is something always eluding our grasp; when we think we have caught it, it is found to be no more than a slough left by the snake while the real ego is somewhere else. The human ego-snake is covered with an infinity of sloughs, the catcher will before long find himself all exhausted. The ego must be caught not from outside but from within. This is the work of prajñā. The wonder prajñā performs is to catch the actor in the midst of his action, he is not made to stop acting in order to be seen as actor. The actor is the acting, and the acting is the actor, and out of this unification or identification prajñā is awakened. The ego does not go out of himself in order to see himself. He stays within himself and sees himself as reflected in himself. But as soon as a split takes place between the ego as actor and the ego as seer or spectator, prajñā is dichotomized, and all is lost.

Eckhart expresses the same experience in terms of Christian theology. He talks about Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and love. They sound unfamiliar to Buddhist ears but when they are read with a certain insight we will find that "the love with which he [God] loves himself" is the same as the prajñā-intuition that sees into the ego itself. Eckhart tells us: "In giving us his love God has given us his Holy Ghost so that we can love him with the love wherewith he loves himself. We love God with his own love; awareness of it deifies us." 3 The

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[paragraph continues] Father loving the Son and the Son loving the Father--this mutual love, that is, love loving itself is, in Zen terminology, one mirror reflecting another with no shadow between them. Eckhart calls this "the play going on in the Father-nature. Play and audience are the same." He continues:

This play was played eternally before all natures. As it is written in the Book of Wisdom, "Prior to creatures, in the eternal now, I have played before the Father in an eternal stillness." The Son has eternally been playing before the Father as the Father has before his Son. The playing of the twain is the Holy Ghost in whom they both disport themselves and he disports himself in both. Sport and players are the same. Their nature proceeding in itself. "God is a fountain flowing into itself," as St. Dionysius says.

[paragraph continues] Prajñā-intuition comes out of itself and returns to itself. The self or ego that has been constantly eluding our rationalized scrutiny is at last caught when it comes under prajñā-intuition which is no other than the self.

Buddhists generally talk about the egolessness (anattā or anātmya) of all things, but they forget that the egolessness of things cannot really be understood until they are seen with the eye of prajñā-intuition. The psychological annihilation of an ego-substance is not enough, for this still leaves the light of prajñā-eye under a coverage. Eckhart says, "God is a light shining itself in silent stillness." (Evans, p. 146.) As long as our intellectually analytic eye is hotly pursuing the shadow of Reality by dichotomizing it, there will be no silent stillness of absolute identity where prajñā sees itself reflected in itself. Eckhart is in accord with the Buddhist experience when he proceeds: "The Word of the Father is none, other than his understanding of himself. The understanding of the Father

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understands that he understands, and that his understanding understands is the same as that he is who is understanding. That is, the light from the light." (Ibid., p. 146.)

The psychological analysis that cannot go further or deeper than the egolessness of the psychological ego fails to see into the egolessness of all things (dharma), which appears to the eye of prajñā-intuition not as something sheerly of privative value but as something filled with infinite possibilities. It is only when the prajñā-eye surveys the nature of all things (sarvadharma or sabbe dhamma), that their egolessness displays positive constructive energies by first dispelling the clouds of Māyā, by demolishing every structure of illusion, and thus finally by creating a world of altogether new values based on prajñā (wisdom) and karuṇā (love). The enlightenment-experience therefore means going beyond the world of psychology, the opening of the prajñā-eye, and seeing into the realm of Ultimate Reality, and landing on the other shore of the stream of samsāra, where all things are viewed in their state of suchness, in the way of purity. This is when a man finds his mind freed from everything (sabbattha vimuttamānasa), 4 not confounded by the notions of birth-and-death, of constant change, of before, behind, and middle. He is the "conqueror" to whom The Dhammapada (179) gives this qualification:

He whose conquest nobody can conquer again,
Into whose conquest nobody in this world can enter--
By what track can you trace him,
The awakened, of infinite range, the trackless?

Such an awakened one is an absolute conqueror and nobody

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can follow his tracks as he leaves none. If he leaves some, this will be turned into the means whereby he can be defeated. The realm where he lives has no limiting boundaries, it is like a circle whose circumference is infinite, therefore with no center to which a path can lead. This is the one Zen describes as a man of anābhogacaryā ("an effortless, purposeless, useless man"). 5 This corresponds to Eckhart's man of freedom who is defined as "one who clings to nothing and to whom nothing clings" (Evans, p. 146). While these statements are apt to suggest the doctrine of doing-nothing-ness we must remember that Buddhists are great adherents of what is known as the teaching of karuṇā and praṇidhāna, to which the reader is referred below.


When "the egolessness of all things seen with prajñā6 which makes us transcend sorrows and sufferings and leads to "the path of purity," is understood in the sense herein elucidated, we find the way to the understanding of the lines known as "hymn of victory."

The hymn is traditionally ascribed to Buddha who uttered it at the time of his enlightenment. It expresses more of the subjective aspect of his experience which facilitates our examination of the content of the enlightenment. While the egolessness of things is Buddha's metaphysical interpretation of the experience as he reflected upon it, the hymn of victory echoes his immediate reaction, and we are able to have a glimpse into the inner aspect of Buddha's mind more directly than through the conceptualization which came later. We can

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now proceed to what I have called the second approach. The hymn runs as follows:

Looking for the maker of this tabernacle
I ran to no avail
Through a round of many births;
And wearisome is birth again and again.
But now, maker of the tabernacle, thou hast been seen;
Thou shalt not rear this tabernacle again.
All thy rafters are broken,
Thy ridge-pole is shattered;
The mind approaching the Eternal,
Has attained to the extinction of all desires. 7

This is Irving Babbitt's translation, the lines of which were rearranged according to the original Pali. Incidentally, I wish to remark that there is one point in it which is unsatisfactory from my point of view. This is the phrase, "the mind approaching the Eternal." The original is "visankhāragataṃ cittaṃ." This means "the mind released from its binding conditions." "Approaching the Eternal" is the translator's own idea read into the line. Henry Warren, author of Buddhism in Translations, translates it "this mind has demolition reached," which points to nihilism or negativism, while Babbitt's translation has something of positive assertion. The difference so conspicuous in these two translations shows that each interprets the meaning according to his own philosophy. In this respect my understanding, which is given below, also reflects my own thought as regards the significance of Buddhist teaching generally.

The most essential thing here is the experience that Buddha had of being released from the bondage in which he had been

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kept so long. The utmost consciousness that filled his mind at the time of enlightenment was that he was no longer the slave to what he calls "the maker of the tabernacle," or "the builder of this house," that is, gahakāraka. He now feels himself to be a free agent, master of himself, not subject to anything external; he no longer submits himself to dictation from whatever source it may come. The gahakāraka is discovered, the one who was thought to be behind all his mental and physical activities, and who, as long as he, that is, Buddha, was ignorant, made him a slave to this autocrat, and employed Buddha--in fact anybody who is ignorant of the gahakāraka--to achieve the latter's egocentric impulses, desires, cravings. Buddha was an abject creature utterly under the control of this tyrant, and it was this sense of absolute helplessness that made Buddha most miserable, unhappy, and given over to all kinds of fears, dejection, and moroseness. But Buddha now discovers who this gahakāraka is; not only does he know him, but he has actually seen him face to face, taken hold of him at work. The monster, the house-builder, the constructor of the prison-house, being known, being seen, being caught, ceases at last to weave his entrapping network around Buddha. This means what the phrase "visankhāragataṃ cittaṃ" means, the mind freed from the bondage of its conditioning aggregates (sankhāra).

We must however remember that the gahakāraka is not dead, he is still alive, for he will be living as long as this physical existence continues. Only he has ceased to be my master; on the contrary, I am his master, I can use him as I wish, he is ready now to obey my command. "Being free from the tyranny of its binding conditions" does not mean that the conditions no longer exist. As long as we are relative existences

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we are to that extent conditioned, but the knowledge that we are so conditioned transcends the conditions and thus we are above them. The sense of freedom arises from this, and freedom never means lawlessness, wantonness, or libertinism. Those who understand freedom in this latter sense and act accordingly are making themselves slaves to their egotistic passions. They are no longer masters of themselves but most despicable slaves of the gahakāraka.

The seeing of the gahakāraka therefore does not mean the "seeing of the last of all desire," nor is it "the extinction of all desires." It only means that all the desires and passions we are in possession of, as human beings, are now under the control of one who has caught the gahakāraka working out his own limited understanding of freedom. The enlightenment-experience does not annihilate anything; it sees into the working of the gahakāraka from a higher point of understanding, which is to say, by means of prajñā, and arranges it where it properly belongs. By enlightenment Buddha sees all things in their proper order, as they should be, which means that Buddha's insight has reached the deepest depths of Reality.

As I have said before, the seeing plays the most important role in Buddhist epistemology, for seeing is at the basis of knowing. Knowing is impossible without seeing; all knowledge has its origin in seeing. Knowing and seeing are thus found generally united in Buddha's teaching. Buddhist philosophy therefore ultimately points to seeing reality as it is. Seeing is experiencing enlightenment. The Dharma 8 is predicated as ehipassika, the Dharma is something "you come and see." It is for this reason that sammādassana (sammādiṭṭhi in Sanskrit) is placed at the beginning of the Eightfold Noble Path.

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What is the gahakāraka?

The gahakāraka detected is our relative, empirical ego, and the mind freed from its binding conditions (sankhāra) is the absolute ego, Atman, as it is elucidated in the Nirvāna Sūtra. The denial of Atman as maintained by earlier Buddhists refers to Atman as the relative ego and not to the absolute ego, the ego after enlightenment-experience.

Enlightenment consists in seeing into the meaning of life as the relative ego and not as the absolute ego, the ego after enlightenment-experience.

Enlightenment consists in seeing into the meaning of life as the interplay of the relative ego with the absolute ego. In other words, enlightenment is seeing the absolute ego as reflected in the relative ego and acting through it.

Or we may express the idea in this way: the absolute ego creates the relative ego in order to see itself reflected in it, that is, in the relative ego. The absolute ego, as long as it remains absolute, has no means whereby to assert itself, to manifest itself, to work out all its possibilities. It requires a gahakāraka to execute its biddings. While the gahakāraka is not to build his tabernacle according to his own design, he is an efficient agent to actualize whatever lies quiescently in the Atman in the sense of the Nirvāna Sūtra.


The question now is: Why does the absolute Atman want to see itself reflected in the empirical Atman? Why does it want to work out its infinite possibilities through the empirical Atman? Why does it not remain content with itself instead of going out to a world of multitudes, thereby risking itself to

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come under the domination of sankhāra? This is making itself, as it were, a willing slave of the gahakāraka.

This is a great mystery which cannot be solved on the plane of intellection. The intellect raises the question, but fails to give it a satisfactory solution. This is in the nature of the intellect. The function of the intellect consists in leading the mind to a higher field of consciousness by proposing all sorts of questions which are beyond itself. The mystery is solved by living it, by seeing into its working, by actually experiencing the significance of life, or by tasting the value of living. 9

Tasting, seeing, experiencing, living-all these demonstrate that there is something common to enlightenment-experience and our sense-experience; the one takes place in our innermost being, the other on the periphery of our consciousness. Personal experience is thus seen to be the foundation of Buddhist philosophy. In this sense Buddhism is radical empiricism or experientialism, whatever dialectic later developed to probe the meaning of enlightenment-experience.

Buddhist philosophy has long been wrongly regarded as nihilistic and not offering anything constructive, But those who really try to understand it and are not superficially led to misconstrue such terms as demolition, annihilation, extinction, breaking up, cessation, or quiescence, or without thirst, cutting off lust and hatred, will readily see that Buddha never taught a religion of "eternal death."

"Eternal death," which is sometimes regarded as the outcome of the Buddhist idea of egolessness, is a strange notion making no sense whatever. "Death" can mean something only when it is contrasted to birth, for it is a relative term. Eternal

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death is squaring a circle. Death never takes place unless there is a birth. Where there is birth there is death; where there is death there is birth; birth and death go together. We can never have just one of them, leaving out the other. Where there is eternal death there must be continuous birth. Where eternal death is maintained there must be a never-ceasing birth. Those who talk about total annihilation or extinction as if such things were possible are those who have never faced facts of experience.

Life is a never-ending concatenation of births and deaths. What Buddhist philosophy teaches is to see into the meaning of life as it flows on. When Buddhists declare that all things are impermanent, subject to conditions, and that there is nothing in this world of samsāra (birth-and-death) which can give us the hope for absolute security, they mean that as long as we take this world of transiency as something worth clinging to we are sure to lead a life of frustration. To transcend this negativistic attitude toward life we must make use of prajñā which is the way of purity. We must see things with the eye of prajñā, not to deny them as rubbish but to understand them from an aspect closed to ordinary observers. The latter see nothing but the impermanence or transiency or changeability of things and are unable to see eternity itself that goes along with time-serialism which can never be demolished. The demolition is on our side and not on the side of time. Buddha's enlightenment-experience clearly points to this. The ridgepole smashed and the rafters torn down all belong to time-serialism and not to eternity which suffers no kind of demolition. To imagine that when serialism is transcended eternity goes out of sight as if it were something relatively coexistent with time is altogether an erroneous way to interpret Buddha's utterance.

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[paragraph continues] It really requires the prajñā-eye to see into the "sankhāra-freed mind," which is in fact no other than Eckhart's eye: "The eye wherein I see God is the same eye wherein God sees me: my eye and God's eye are one eye, one vision, one knowing, one love." Time is eternity and eternity is time. In other words, zero is infinity and infinity is zero. The way of purity opens when the eye sees inwardly as well as outwardly-and this simultaneously. The prajñā seeing is one act, one glimpse, one cittaḳsāna which is no cittaḳsāna. Unless this truth is seen with prajñā-intuition, the "hymn of victory" will never yield its full meaning. Those who read it otherwise cannot go beyond negativism or nihilism.

The following from Eckhart will shed much light:

Renewal befalls all creatures under God; but for God there is no renewal, only all eternity. What is eternity?--It is characteristic of eternity that in it youth and being are the same, for eternity would not be eternal could it newly become and were not always. 10

"Renewal" means "becoming" which is "transiency." What is eternal never knows "renewal," never grows old, remains forever "youthful," and transcends "demolition" or "annihilation" of all kinds. Enlightenment is to know what this "eternity" is, and this knowing consists in "knowing eternity-wise his [God's] is-ness free from becoming, and his nameless nothingness" 11 Eckhart is quite definite in giving us what kind of God he has in mind in this matter of knowing and not knowing:

Know'st thou of him anything? He is no such thing, and in

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that thou dost know of him anything at all thou art in ignorance, and ignorance leads to the condition of the brute; for in creatures what is ignorant is brutish, If thou wouldst not be brutish then, know nothing of the unuttered God.--"What then shall I do?"--Thou shalt lose thy thy-ness and dissolve in his his-ness; thy thine shall be his mine, so utterly one mine that thou in him shalt know eternalwise his is-ness, free from becoming: his nameless nothingness. 12

[paragraph continues] Eckhart's God of nameless nothingness is in Buddhist terms no other than the egolessness of all things, the sankhāra-free mind, and the cessation of all cravings.


In this connection I think it is opportune to say a few words about the negative statements liberally used in Buddhist and other texts dealing with problems of ultimate reality. I may also touch a little on the frequency of paradoxical propositions used to express a certain experience popularly known as mystic.

Considering all in all, there are two sources of knowledge, or two kinds of experience, or "two births of man" as Eckhart has it, or two forms of truth (satyā) according to the upholders of the "Emptiness" doctrine (śūnyavāda). Unless this is recognized we can never solve the problem of logical contradiction which when expressed in words characterizes all religious experiences. The contradiction so puzzling to the ordinary way of thinking comes from the fact that we have to use language to communicate our inner experience which in its very nature transcends linguistics. But as we have so far no means of communication except the one resorted to by followers of Zen Buddhism, the conflicts go on between rationalists

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and so-called mystics. Language developed first for the use of the first kind of knowledge which was highly utilitarian, and for this reason it came to assert itself over all human affairs and experiences. Its overwhelming authority is such that we have almost come to accept everything language commands. Our thoughts have now to be molded according to its dictates, our acts are to be regulated by the rules it came to formulate for its own effective operation. This is not all. What is worse is that language has now come even to suppress the truth of new experiences, and that when they actually take place, it will condemn them as "illogical" or "unthinkable" and therefore as false, and finally that as such it will try to put aside anything new as of no human value.

The Sūnyatā school distinguishes two forms of truth (satyā): (1) samvṛitti of the relative world and (2) paramārtha of the transcendental realm of prajñā-intuition. When Buddha speaks of his enlightenment in the Saddharmapuṇd*arīka Sūtra ("Lotus Gospel"), he describes his experience as something which cannot be comprehended by any of his followers because their understanding can never rise up to the level of Buddha's. It is another Buddha who understands a Buddha, Buddhas have their own world into which no beings of ordinary caliber of mentality can have a glimpse. Language belongs to this world of relativity, and when Buddha tries to express himself by this means his hearers are naturally barred from entering his inner life. While in the Lankāvatāra Sūtra we are told of many other Buddha-countries where Buddha-activities are carried on by means other than mere language, for instance, by moving hands or legs, by smiling, by coughing, by sneezing, etc. Evidently Buddhas can understand one another by whatever means they may employ in conveying

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their inner acts, because they all know what they are through their experience. But where there are no such corresponding experiences, no amount of technique one may resort to will be possible to awaken them in others.

In Aśvaghoṣa's Awakening of Faith reference is made to two aspects of Tathatā ("Suchness") one of which is altogether beyond speaking or writing, because it does not fall into the categories of communicability. Language here has no use whatever. But Aśvaghoṣa continues: if we did not appeal to language there is no way to make others acquainted with the absolute; therefore language is resorted to in order to serve as a wedge in getting out the one already in use; it is like a poisonous medicine to counteract another. It is a most dangerous weapon and its user has to be cautioned in every way not to hurt himself. The Lankāvatāra is decisive in this respect:

. . . word-discrimination cannot express the highest reality, for external objects with their multitudinous individual marks are non-existent, and only appear before us as something revealed out of Mind itself. Therefore, Mahāmati, you must try to keep yourself away from the various forms of word-discrimination. 13

Word-discrimination belongs to the samvṛitti, to things of the relative world, and is not meant for communicating anything that goes beyond this world of numbers and multiplicities. For here language ceases to be supreme and must realize that it has its limitations. Two of the three kinds of knowledge distinguished by Eckhart are of the samvṛitti, whereas the third corresponds to the paramārtha. To quote Eckhart:

These, three things stand for three kinds of knowledge. The

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first is sensible. The eye sees from afar what is outside it. The second is rational and is a great deal higher. The third corresponds to an exalted power of the soul, a power so high and noble it is able to see God face to face in his own self. This power has naught in common with naught, it knows no yesterday or day before, no morrow or day after (for in eternity there is no yesterday or morrow): therein it is the present now; the happenings of the thousand years ago, a thousand years to come, are there in the present and the antipodes the same as here. 14

The first two kinds apply to the world of senses and the intellect where language has its utmost usefulness. But when we try to use it in the realm where "the exalted power of the soul" has its sway it miserably fails to convey the activities going on there to those whose "power" has never been "heightened" or enhanced to the level indicated by Eckhart. But as we are forced to make use of language inasmuch as we are creatures of the sense-intellect, we contradict ourselves, as we see in Eckhart's statements just quoted. In this respect Eckhart and all other thinkers of Eckhart's pattern go on disregarding rules of logic or linguistics. The point is that linguists or logicians are to abandon their limited way of studying facts of experience so that they can analyze the facts themselves and make language amenable to what they discover there. As long as they take up language first and try to adjust all human experiences to the requirements of language instead of the opposite, they will have their problems unsolved.

Eckhart further writes:

The just man serves neither God nor creature: he is free; and the more he is just the more he is free and the more he is freedom itself. Nothing created is free. While there is aught above

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me, excepting God himself, it must constrain me, however [great]; even love and knowledge, so far as it is creature and not actually God, confines me with its limits. 15

Let us first see what linguistics would say about this statement. Its reasoning may run something, like this: "When Eckhart expresses himself as 'a free man' he is irresistible and wonderful, but he still recognizes God as he confesses 'excepting God.' Why, we may ask, has he to make the exception of God instead of asserting his absolute freedom above all things small and great? If he has to consider God, he cannot be so free as he claims to be?" These objections hold good indeed so far as our logical analysis does not extend beyond language and its values. But one who has an Eckhartian experience will very well understand what he really means. And what he means is this: a man is free only when he is in God, with God, for God and this is not the condition of freedom, for when he is in God he is freedom itself; he is free when he realizes that he is actually himself by forswearing that he is in God and absolutely free. Says Eckhart:

I was thinking lately: that I am a man belongs to other men in common with myself; I see and hear and eat and drink like any other animal; but that I am belongs to no one but myself, not to man nor angel, no, nor yet to God excepting in so far as I am one with him. 16

In the latter part of the same sermon, Eckhart adds: "Ego, the word 'I,' is proper to none but to God himself in his sameness." This "I" is evidently referred to in another sermon entitled "The Castle of the Soul" as "a spark," "a spiritual light."

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From time to time I tell of the one power in the soul which alone is free. Sometimes I have called it the tabernacle of the soul; sometimes a spiritual light, anon I say it is a spark. But now I say: it is neither this nor that. Yet it is somewhat: somewhat more exalted over this and that than the heavens are above the earth. . . . It is of all names free, of all forms void: exempt and free as God is in himself. 17

Our language is the product of a world of numbers and individuals of yesterdays and todays and tomorrows, and is most usefully applicable to this world (loka). But our experiences have it that our world extends beyond that (loka), that there is another called by Buddhists a "transcendental world" (lokauttara) and that when language is forced to be used for things of this world, lokottara, it becomes warped and assumes all kinds of crookedness: oxymora, paradoxes, contradictions, contortions, absurdities, oddities, ambiguities, and irrationalities. Language itself is not to be blamed for it. It is we ourselves who, ignorant of its proper functions, try to apply it to that for which it was never intended. More than this, we make fools of ourselves by denying the reality of a transcendental world (lokottara).

Let us see how impossible it is to bring a transcendental world or an "inner power" onto the level of linguistic manageability.

There is something, transcending the soul's created nature, not accessible to creature, non-existent; no angel has gotten it for his is a clear 18 nature, and clear and overt things have no concern with this. It is akin to Deity, intrinsically one, having naught in

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common with naught. Many a priest finds it a baffling thing. It is one; rather unnamed than named, rather unknown than known. If thou couldst naught thyself an instant, less than an instant, I should say, all that this is in itself would belong to thee. But while thou dost mind thyself at all thou knowest no more of God than my mouth does of colour or my eye of taste: so little thou knowest, thou discernest, what God is. 19

What "a baffling thing" this "something" or "somewhat" is! But it is no doubt a light and if you can get a glimpse into it even "less than an instant" you will be master of yourself. Plato describes the light in the following words: It is "a light which is not in this world; not in the world and not out of the world; not in time nor in eternity; it has neither in nor out." 20 Linguistically considered, how could a thing be said to be "neither in the world nor in out-of-the-world"? Nothing can be more absurd than this. But, as Eckhart says (Evans, p. 227), when we transcend time (zit), body (liplicheit), and multiplicity (manicvaltikelt), 21 we reach God, and these three things are the very principle of linguistics. No wonder that when things of the lokottara try to find their expression through language, the latter shows every trace of its shortcomings. This is the reason why Zen Buddhism strives to avoid the use of language and quite frequently denounces our shortsightedness in this respect. Zen does not object to language just for the sake of opposition, it simply realizes that there is a field in which our words fail to communicate events taking place there. One of the statements Zen is always ready to make is: "No depending on words." Yengo, commentator of

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the Hekigan-shu ("Blue Rock Collection"), a work of the Sung dynasty, thus remarks:

Bodhidharma observing that the Chinese minds are matured enough to accept teachings of Mahāyāna Buddhism came over here [China] via the southern route and started to prepare the people for "the transmission of mind-seal." He said, "I am not going to build up a system of thought which depends on letters or words. I want straightforwardly to direct you to the Mind itself and thereby to see into the Buddha-nature and attain Buddhahood. When Zen is understood in this way, we shall be able to attain freedom. Let us not therefore follow the way of letters of any kind, let us take hold of Reality in its nakedness. To the question of Wu the Emperor of the Liang, Bodhidharma simply answered, "I do not know, your Majesty!" When Eka, who became the second patriarch of Zen in China, confessed that he could not locate the Mind, Bodhidharma exclaimed, "There, I have your Mind pacified!" In all these situations which confronted him, Bodhidharma just faced them without hesitation, with no prepared answers concocted beforehand, he had nothing premeditated or deliberately schematized in his concept-filled mind. With one swing of the sword he cut asunder every obstacle that lay in our way, thereby releasing us from the fetters of linguistic discrimination. We are now no more to be troubled with right and wrong gain and loss." 22

The following mondo 23 will demonstrate how free Zen is in dealing, for instance, with the ultimate problem of being:

A monk asked Daizui Hoshin of the T’ang dynasty: "I am told that at the end of the universe a great fire takes place and everything is destroyed. May I ask you whether or not, 'this' also shares the fate?"

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Daizui replied, "Yes, it does."

The monk went on, "If this is the case, it must be said that 'this' follows others."

Daizui: "Yes, it does."

The same question was later asked of another master whose name was Shū. Shū the master answered, "No, it does not." When he was asked "Why not?" the master replied, "Because it identifies itself with the whole universe."

From the logical linguistic point of view the two Zen masters defy each other and there is no way to effect a reconciliation. One says "yes" while the other says "no." As long as the "no" means an unqualified negation and the "'yes" an unqualified affirmation, there is no bridge between the two. And if this is the case, as apparently it is, how can Zen permit the contradiction and continue the claim for its consistent teaching, one may ask. But Zen would serenely go its own way without at all heeding such a criticism. Because Zen's first concern is about its experience and not its modes of expression. The latter allow a great deal of variation, including paradoxes, contradictions, and ambiguities. According to Zen, the question of "is-ness" (isticheit) is settled only by innerly experiencing it and not by merely arguing about it or by linguistically appealing to dialectical subtleties. Those who have a genuine Zen experience will all at once recognize in spite of superficial discrepancies what is true and what is not.


Before I come to another utterance to be ascribed to Buddha at the time of his enlightenment-experience I cannot refrain from considering the problem of time. This is also closely related to linguistics and the Eckhartian treatment of the

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creation-myth. As Augustine confesses, we can also say that God "mocks at man" when the question of time confronts us. It is one of the subjects of discourse we must "familiarly and knowingly" take up. "And we understand when we speak of it, we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another."

What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain it to one who asketh, I know not: yet I say boldly that if nothing passes away, time past were not; and if nothing were coming, a time to come were not; and if nothing were, time present were not. Those two times then, past and to come, how are they, seeing the past now is not, and that to come is not yet? But the present, should it always be present, and never pass into time past, verily it should not be time, but eternity. If time present (if it is not time) only cometh into existence, because it passeth into time past, how can we say that either this is, whose cause of being is, that it shall not be; so, namely, that we cannot truly say that time is, but because it is tending not to be? 24

Time is really an eternally puzzling problem, especially when it is handled at the level of linguistics. As far as linguistics is concerned, the best way to approach the question will be as Eckhart suggests, to consider human beings born "between one and two. The one is eternity, ever alone and without variation. The two is time, changing and given to multiplication." 25 Following this line of thought, Eckhart goes on to say in another sermon on "poverty":

. . . therefore, I am my own first cause, both of my eternal being and of my temporal being. To this end I was born, and by virtue of my birth being eternal, I shall never die. It is of the nature of this eternal birth that I have been eternally, that I am

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now, and shall be forever. What I am as a temporal creature is to die and come to nothingness, for it came with time and so with time it will pass away. In my eternal birth, however, everything was begotten. I was my own first cause as well as the first cause of everything else. If I had willed it, neither I nor the world would have come to be! If I had not been, there would have been no god. There is, however, no need to understand this. 26

Whatever Eckhart might have meant by the statement, "There is, however, no need to understand this," it is impossible from the purely linguistic point of view "to understand" the interpenetration or interfusion of time and eternity as described here. Primarily the two concepts, time and eternity, are irreconcilable, and however much dialectical skill one may employ, they can never be brought peacefully together. Eckhart and all other thinkers and non-thinkers may try all their arts to convince us of "the truth," but as long as we are on this side of the stream, we cannot be expected to understand it. This is perhaps what Eckhart means when he says there is no necessity for achieving the impossible. What then does he wish us to do? What he wishes is to turn away from linguistics, to shake off the shackles of "time and matter and multiplicity" and to plunge right into the abyss of nameless nothingness. For it is at the very moment of the plunge that the experience of enlightenment takes place and the understanding comes upon us. "I am that I was and that I shall remain now and forever. Then I receive an impulse which carries me above all angels. In this impulse I conceive such passing riches that I am not content with God as being God, as being all his godly works, for in this breaking-through I find that God and I are both

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the same. Then I am what I was, I neither wax nor wane, for I am the motionless cause that is moving all things." 27

When this--regarding my self--is understood, we shall also be led to understand what Augustine says about God: "God is doing today all that shall be done in the thousands upon thousands of years of the future--if the world is to last so long--and that God is still doing today all he ever did in the many thousands of years of past." 28

Now, both Eckhart and Augustine ask, "What can I do about it if anyone does not understand that?" or "If these words are misconstrued, what can one who puts their right construction on them do about it?" 29 To this, Eckhart answers consolingly: "If anyone does not understand this discourse, let him not worry about that, for if he does not find this truth in himself he cannot understand what I have said--for it is a discovered truth 30 which comes immediately from the heart of God." 31 The only thing that is left for us to do will be to follow Eckhart's advice and pray to God: "That we all may so live as to experience it eternally, may God help us! Amen."


The Zen way of treating the problem of time will be partly glimpsed from the following story which contrasts significantly with the linguistic analysis:

Tokusan (790-865), on his way to Taisan, felt hungry and tired and stopped at a roadside teahouse and asked for refreshments. The old woman who kept the house, finding that Tokusan was a great student of the Diamond Sūtra, said: "I have

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a question to ask you; if you can answer it I will serve you refreshments for nothing, but if you fail you have to go somewhere else for them." As Tokusan agreed, the woman proposed this: "In the Diamond Sūtra we read that 'The past mind is unattainable; the present mind is unattainable; the future mind is unattainable'; and so, what mind do you wish to punctuate?" (Refreshments are known in Chinese as t’ien-hsin or ten-jin in Japanese, meaning "punctuating the mind," hence the question.) Tokusan was altogether nonplused and did not know how to answer. He had to go without anything to eat. 32

Taking refreshments takes place in time. Out of time there is no taking of anything. The old teahouse keeper now asks the traveling monk what time he will use for recuperating from fatigue when, according to the Sūtra, no time, past or future or present, is "obtainable." When there is no time how can one accomplish anything? As far as thought is concerned, that is, where language is supreme, no movement of any sort is possible in this life, and yet the strangest fact is that we keep on living in the fullest sense of the term. The old lady is not a metaphysician, nor is she at all interested in metaphysics. But when she saw how inextricably the young man was involved in verbalism and in its intricate complexities she wanted to rescue him, hence the question. And sure enough he never thought of this possibility. Finding himself in the midst of contradiction, he knew not how to clear himself out of the trap which was of his own construction. He had to go without his refreshments.

Zen is very much interested in the problem of the absolute now-moment, but its interest is more along the practical line

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and not in its dialectics. Therefore, as in Ummon's "sermon" on "the fifteenth day of the month," the Zen masters want to have us "say a word" (ikku or i-chü in Chinese). The saying is not necessarily uttering any sound, it is acting of some kind. In Eckhart's term, the trick is to insert "the soul's day" into "God's day" (Blakney, p. 212). God's day is characterized as containing all time in the present now-moment [in eime gegenwürtigen nu]. 33 To God, "a day, whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday." We, of another kind of day where yesterday is yesterday and one thousand years is one thousand times more than a year, either to the past or to the future, cannot have God's day operative in our everyday living. But if we do not somehow succeed in making "was" or "will be" turn into "is," we cannot have peace of mind, we cannot escape from dread, which is a topic current among existentially minded modern men. They must somehow have "the refreshment" served. To have and yet not to have must really be the cause for worry and anxiety.

I will quote a Zen sermon 34 to show how it differs from those sermons given by Eckhart, though it treats the same subject of time and eternity and the basic ideas do not differ so widely as they superficially appear. The Zen sermon was given by Daitō the national teacher (1282-1337) of the fourteenth century who was the first abbot of the Daitoku monastery, Kyoto. A Zen sermon generally begins with a mondo between the master and one of the disciples when the sermon proper is very short consisting of about a dozen lines rhetorically composed. The occasion was a New Year's Eve. When Daitō the

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master appeared in the Dharma Hall, a disciple came forward and proposed the following question:

"The new does not know that the old is already gone while the old does not know that the new is already come, The new and the old have not made acquaintance with each other. Thus they stand in opposition all over the world. Is this the state of affairs we greet on all side?"

The master said, "All over the universe." 35

The monk continued, "When the world has not yet come into existence, 36 how do we find a passage to it?"

The master: "We fold the hands before the monastery gate."

The monk: "Anything further?"

The master: "We burn incense at the Buddha Hall."

The monk: "I understand that, anciently, Hokuzen roasted the big white bullock 37 that used to roam at the monastery courtyard and gave a feast to his monks to celebrate this memorable occasion. I wonder what kind of feast we are going to get this New Year's Eve?"

The master: "When you chew it fine, it tastes sweeter than honey."

The monk: "In this case we of the Brotherhood will appreciate your generosity."

As the monk bowing began to step back the master said, "What a fine golden-haired lion!" 38

The master now gives his regular sermon: "The old year passes away this evening. Let things go that are to go and

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grow old. The new year is ushered in at this dawn. Let things come that are to come and be renewed. The new and the old are intermingled in every possible way, and each of us enjoys himself as he pleases. Causes and effects go on in time-sequence, and everywhere activities in every form manifest themselves freely and autonomously. Thus we observe the peak of Mount Ryūho magnificently towering to the sky, while the monastery gate opens to a field limitlessly expanding. This is not altogether due to the peaceful time alone we now enjoy under the wisely governing reign. It is in the order of things that the spirit of universal friendliness pervade all around us. At this moment what lines shall I quote for your edification?"

The master struck the seat with his hossu and said, "The December snows filling up to the horizon make all things look white, while the spring winds blowing against the doors are still severely cold."

According to the lunar calendar, the thirtieth day of the twelfth month (December) is the end of winter and as soon as twelve o'clock is struck spring is ushered in. Hence Daitō's reference to December snows and spring winds. They are both there: the winter snows do not melt away when spring starts. The spring breeze passes over the same old winter snows. The old and the new are mingled. The past and the present are fused. The imaginary line of season exists only in human language. We for some practical purposes distinguish seasons. When this is once done one season must definitely start in such and such time of the year. While the snow lies white, it does not make haste to greet spring and the wind does not wait for winter to make way for it. The old continues on to the new and the new is ready to join the old. Zen's absolute present is probably not so inaccessible as Eckhart's.

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It is now time, after these lengthy excursions, to come back to the original topic and see if we cannot get once more into the subjective approach to Buddha's experience of enlightenment. The experience cannot merely be designated as a kind of feeling and thus done away with as if this designation exhausted all the contents of enlightenment. For, as I understand it, the enlightenment cannot be said to be devoid of any noetic elements which yield to a certain extent to a linguistic and intellectual treatment. The feeling of enlightenment has something profoundly fundamental and gives one a sense of absolute certainty and finality which is lacking in the ordinary kind of feeling we generally have. A feeling may occasionally give one the sense of exaltation and self-assurance, but this will after a while pass away and may leave no permanent effect on the being of one who has the experience. The enlightenment feeling on the other hand affects the whole personality, influencing his attitude toward life and the world not only morally and spiritually but in his metaphysical interpretation of existence as a whole. Buddha's experience was not just a matter of feeling which moves on the periphery of consciousness, but something awakened in the deepest recesses of a human being. In this sense only is his utterance recorded in the Vinaya and the Majjhima Nikāya and elsewhere to be understood. In the gāthā already quoted above from The Dhammapada (vv. 153, 154), something similar to the one below is noticeable, but the positive and dynamic aspect comes forward more strongly and conspicuously in the following: 39

I have conquered and I know all, p. 68
I am enlightened quite by myself and have none as teacher.
There is no one that is the same as I in the whole world where there are many deities.
I am the one who is really worth,
I am the most supreme teacher.
I am the only one who is fully enlightened.
I am tranquillized.
I am now in Nirvana. 40

This victory song is expressive of the supreme moment of the enlightenment-experience which Buddha had. In the first verse depicting the discovery of the gahakāraka (house-builder) and the demolition of his handiwork, we see the negative aspect of Buddha's experience, while in the second one dealing with the exalted feeling of victory, the realization of the highest knowledge (prajñā) and the consciousness of one's own value as he is, we see its positive aspect coming out in full view.

The consciousness of conquest such as was awakened in the mind of Buddha at the time of enlightenment cannot be regarded as the product of a self-conceit which is often cherished by minds tarnished with schizophrenia and the wielders of political or military powers. With him however whose ego-centered desires have been shattered to pieces the consciousness of victory rises from the deepest sources of being. So the feeling of conquest is not the outcome of a struggle of powers

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belonging to the low level of existence. The enlightenment-experience is the manifestation of a higher power, a higher insight, a higher unification. It is beyond the sphere of relative consciousness which is the battleground for forces belonging to the same order. One force may temporarily proclaim its victory over another, but this kind of victory is sure before long to be superseded by another. This is in the nature of our relative consciousness. Enlightenment is the experience a man can have only when a higher realm of unification is revealed, that is, when the most fundamental basis of identification is reached.

The enlightenment-experience, therefore, is the one which we can have only when we have climbed up to the highest peak from which we can survey the whole field of Reality. Or we can say that it is the experience which is attained only when we have touched the very bedrock which sustains the entire system of multiple worlds. Here is the consciousness of intensive quantity to which nothing more could be added. All is fulfilled, satisfied; everything here appears to it such as it is; in short, it is a state of absolute Suchness, of absolute Emptiness which is absolute fullness.

Buddhist philosophy, therefore, is the philosophy of Suchness, or philosophy of Emptiness, or philosophy of Self-identity. It starts from the absolute present which is pure experience, an experience in which there is yet no differentiation of subject and object, and yet which is not a state of sheer nothingness. The experience is variously designated: in Japanese it is sono-mama; in Chinese it is chih mo, sometimes tzu-jan fa-erh (Japanese: jinen hōni); there are many technical names for it, each denoting its specific features or characters as it is viewed in various relationships.

In fact, this Suchness, or "is-ness" (isticheit) in Eckhart's

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terminology, defies all characterization or denotation. No words can express what it is, but as words are the only instrument given us human beings to communicate our thought, we have to use words, with this caution: Nothing is available for our purpose; to say "not available" (anupalabda in Sanskrit and pu k’o tê in Chinese) is not to the point either. Nothing is acceptable. To say it is, is already negating itself. Suchness transcends everything, it has no moorings. No concepts can reach it, no understanding can grasp it. Therefore, it is called pure experience.

In pure experience there is no division between "ought" and "is," between form and matter or content, and therefore there is no judgment in it yet. There is the Christ who says "I am before Abraham was," or God who has not yet uttered his fiat. This is Buddha who, according to The Dhammapada (179), is the anantagocara ("one whose limits are infinite"), the apada ("the pathless"), whose conquest can never be conquered again and into whose conquest nobody in this world can enter, and who is where there is no track leading to it. If it were a Zen master, he would demand that you show your face, however ugly it might be, which you have even before your birth into this world of multiplicities.

The Buddhist philosophy of Suchness thus starts with what is most primarily given to our consciousness-which I have called pure experience. But, in point of fact, to say "pure experience" is to commit oneself to something already posited somewhere, and thus it ceases to be pure. The Dhammapada reflects this thought when it designates the starting point of Buddhist philosophy as trackless (apada), unboundable (anantagocara), abodeless (aniketa), empty (śūñña), formless (animitta), delivered (vimokkha). In psychological terms, it

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is described thus: sorrowless (vippamutta), released on all sides (sabbaganthappahīna), fearless (asantāsin), without craving (vītataṇha). These psychological terms are apt to be very much misunderstood because they point to negativism when superficially and linguistically interpreted. But I will not dwell upon this here.

One thing that must be noted in this connection is that pure experience is not pure passivity. In fact there is nothing we can call pure passivity. This does not make sense and does not lead us anywhere. As long as passivity is also an experience, there must be one who experiences passivity. This one, this experiencer, is an actor. Not only is he an actor, but he is a knower, for he is conscious of experiencing. Pure experience is not an abstraction or a state of passivity. It is very much active, and creative. Eckhart voices this idea when he states: "In this sense thy unknowing is not a defect but thy chief perfection, and suffering thy highest activity. Kill thy activities and still thy faculties if thou wouldst realize this birth in thee." 41

Another thing I should like to emphasize in this gāthā of conquest is that Buddha calls himself "all-conqueror" and also "all-knower," showing, that his victory is absolute and that his knowledge is not at all fragmentary. He is omniscient as well as omnipotent. His experience has something noetic and at the same time something conative or affective, reflecting the nature of Reality itself which consists in prajñā and karuṇā. As regards prajñā, which is sometimes translated as "transcendental wisdom," I have written about it elsewhere. Therefore I shall speak here about karuṇā. Karuṇā corresponds to love.

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[paragraph continues] It is like the sands on the Ganges: they are trampled by all kinds of beings: by elephants, by lions, by asses, by human beings, but they do not make any complaints. They are again soiled by all kinds of filth scattered by all kinds of animals, but they just suffer them all and never utter a word of ill-will. Eckhart would declare the sands on the Ganges to be "just" (gerecht), because "the just have no will at all: whatever God wishes it is all one to them, however great the discomfort may be." 42

The just are so firmly devoted to justice and so wholly selfless that whatever they do, they regard neither the pains of hell nor the joys of heaven. . . . To the Just person, nothing is so hard to bear or so painful as anything opposed to justice, that is to say, as not feeling impartially the same about everything that happens. 43

"Justice" savors a great deal of legalism contrary to the idea of love. But when, as Eckhart interprets it, justice is considered from the affective point of view as meaning "impartiality," "sameness," "universality," or "all-embracing," it begins to approach the Buddhist idea of karuṇā. I may add that Mahāyāna Buddhism further developed the idea of karuṇā into that of praṇidhāna or pūrvapraṇidhāna and made each one of the Bodhisattvas an incarnation of a certain number of praṇidhāna, for example, Amitābha has forty-eight praṇidhāna, Samantabhadra has ten, and Kṣitigarbha also has ten. Praṇidhāna is generally translated as "vow" or "fervent wish" or "prayer," or simply "the will," but these English terms do not convey the full meaning of the Sanskrit as it is used in the Mahāyāna. Roughly speaking, we may interpret praṇidhāna 

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as love specified or itemized or particularized and made applicable to each practical situation in which we may find ourselves in the course of an individual life. Amitābha has his Pure Land where he wants us to be born; Mañjuśrī is the Bodhisattva of prajñā and whoever comes to him will be rewarded with an amount of transcendental wisdom.

This being the case, we will see that "the destruction of desires or cravings (taṇhānam khayam) so much emphasized in the teaching of earlier Buddhism is not to be understood negativistically. The Buddhist training consists in transforming tṛiṣṇā (taṇhā) into karuṇā, ego-centered love into something universal, eros into agape.

When Jōshu (778-897) was asked, "Could Buddha cherish any desires (kleśa)?" he answered, "Yes, he decidedly has." The questioner demanded, "How could that be?" The master replied, "His desire is to save the whole universe."

One day Jōshu had another visitor who asked, "I hear so much of the stone bridge reputed to be on one of the sites in your monastery grounds. But as I see it, it is no more than an old log. How is that?"

The master said, "You see the log and don't see the stone bridge."

"What is the stone bridge, then?" the visitor demanded.

The master's answer was, "It permits horses to pass and also asses to pass."

Someone's praṇidhāna is too rickety for safe crossing whereas the other's is strong and broad, allowing anything to pass over it safely. Let taṇhā be destroyed but we must not forget that it has another root which reaches the very ground of being. The enlightenment-experience must realize that, though ordinarily Buddhists are more or less neglectful in bringing out

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the karuṇā aspect of the experience. This is due to their being too anxious and therefore too much in a hurry to destroy all the obstacles lying on the way to enlightenment, for they know that when this is accomplished what is to come therefrom is left to itself as it knows full well how to take care of it. When the devastating fire is extinguished the forest will not wait for any external help but will resume its biological functions by itself. When a man is shot by a poisonous arrow the first thing to do is to remove it before it is embedded too deeply into the flesh. When this is done the body will heal the wound by its own power of vitality. So with human passions, the first work is to destroy their root of ignorance and egoism. When this is thoroughly accomplished, the Buddha-nature which consists in prajñā and karuṇā will start its native operation. The principle of Suchness is not static, it is full of dynamic forces.


Let me finish this study on Buddha's enlightenment-experience by quoting another from Daitō Kokushi's Sayings. In Japan and China Buddha is recorded to have attained his enlightenment on the morning of December the eighth. After a period of deeply absorbed meditation he happened to look skyward and there he noticed the morning star shining brightly. This at once caused something like a flash of lightning to pass through his consciousness, which put a final stop to his quest for the truth. He felt as if all the burden which he had been carrying dropped off his shoulders and a long sigh of relief came out of his being. The Zen Buddhists are specially mindful of remembering this event and a commemoration always takes place on December the eighth.

When Daitō the national teacher appeared in the Dharma

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[paragraph continues] Hall, a monk came out of the rank and started a series of questions:

"The record has it that the Bodhisattva attained enlightenment today and that since then he is known as Tathāgata. But what took place in his mind when he saw the morning star? What did he understand?"

The teacher replied: "Thoroughly clean! Utterly blank!"

The monk: "Even when there is one speck of dust in your eye, does it not make you see all kinds of imaginary flowers in the air?"

Teacher: "Don't be too talkative!"

Monk: "Would you approve my going on along this line?"

Teacher: "You ask my staff which knows better than I."

Monk: "Things are going on today just as they did in the past; why refuse to approve my case?"

Teacher: "It's only because there still is a dualism."

Monk: "If not for this remark I should surely have missed your point."

Teacher: "You beat me with your argument."

Monk: "When one is genuinely sincere one has nothing to be ashamed of."

Teacher: "There are many like you." 44

Daitō the national teacher then gave a short sermon:

The moon is clear and serene,
The stars are shining bright.
No Śākyamuni is here,
And whose enlightenment are we talking about?

He now held his staff up straight and declared: "It is piling filth over filth."


38:1 The Dhammapada, translated by S. Radhakrishnan (Oxford University Press, 1951), verses 277-9, pp. 146-7. I do not, however, always follow him in my quotations in this book.

39:2 Studies in Zen (London: Rider and Company, 1955), pp. 85-128.

40:3 Evans, pp. 147 ff.

42:4 The Dhammapada, verse 348, p. 167.

43:5 Studies in the Lankāvatāra Sūtra, pp. 223 ff.

43:6 "Sabbe dhamma anattā’ ti yadā paññāya passati."

44:7 The Dhammapada, pp. 153-4. (Published by Oxford University Press, 1936.)

46:8 Dhamma in Pali. It has a multiple meaning and is difficult to render it uniformly. Here it stands for Truth, Reality, Norm.

48:9 "O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him." (Psalms, 34:8.)

50:10 Evans, p. 246.

50:11 Pfeiffer, p. 319. "Du mit ime verstandest ewicliche sine ungewordene istikeit under sine ungenanten nihtheit."

51:12 Evans, p. 246.

53:13 Lankāvatāra Sūtra, translated by D. T. Suzuki (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1932), p. 77.

54:14 Evans, p. 228.

55:15 Ibid., p. 204.

55:16 Ibid., p, 204,

56:17 Ibid., p. 37.

56:18 "Ein luter wesen" in German. Luter means "intellectually or analytically clear and distinct," opposed to what may be called "metaphysically indefinite."

57:19 Evans, pp. 204-5.

57:20 Quoted by Eckhart, Evans, p. 205.

57:21 Pfeiffer, p. 296.

58:22 A more or less modernized interpretation given to Yengo's terse and loosely knit Chinese.

58:23 Literally, "question and answer."

60:24 St. Augustine, Confessions, Book XI, 14.

60:25 Evans, p. 134.

61:26 Blakney, p. 231.

62:27 Evans, p. 221.

62:28 Blakney, p. 72.

62:29 Ibid., pp. 72, 73.

62:30 "Ein unbedahtiu warheit" (Pfeiffer, p. 284), that is, a truth not premeditated but spontaneously coming to mind.

62:31 Blakney, p. 232.

63:32 Studies in Zen, p. 126.

64:33 Pfeiffer, p. 265.

64:34 From the Sayings of Daitō Kokushi.

65:35 The original literally has, "The thirty-three heavens and the twenty-eight constellations."

65:36 Literally, "When the firework has not yet been cracked."

65:37 "The white bullock" is the symbol for the Highest Reality.

65:38 This is a more or less ironical remark on the part of the master.

67:39 The Vinaya, I, p. 8. The Majjhima Nikāya (translated by Lord Chalmers, published by Oxford University Press), 26, p. 12.

68:40 It will be interesting to note that we have another gāthā in The Dhammapada, v. 353, which also echoes the same sentiment as the one here quoted from another source. It is possible that they are from one and the same original source. The Dhammapada one runs thus:

I have conquered all, I know all, in all conditions of life I am free from taint. I have left all, and through the destruction of thirst I am free. Having by myself attained specific knowledge, to whom can I point as my teacher?

71:41 Evans, p. 14. "This birth" in this sermon means "the newborn Being" or "the child of man turned into the child of God." It also means "hearing of the Word" which is revealed to "one who knows aright in unknowing."

72:42 Blakney, p. 179.

72:43 Ibid.

75:44 These questions and answers may sound somewhat enigmatic to most of our readers. A full explanation will be given elsewhere on a more opportune occasion.

Next: III. ''A Little Point'' and Satori