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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Truth vs Delusion
Mood:  lyrical
Topic: Zen

Aristotle is possibly Ancient Greece's greatest philosopher, even though he got a lot of his "science" wrong.

    In China, within the Chinese Ch'an (Japanese: Zen) tradition, the greatest is, of course, Hui-neng (Japanese: Eno) -- the Sixth Patriarch of the Southern School of Chinese Zen (emphasizing "instantaneous enlightenment"), who lived in the seventh and eighth centuries.

    According to T. P. Kasulis, in his article entitled TRUTH AND ZEN, "... Aristotle and Hui-neng agree on one crucial issue: the major cause of falsehood is our mistaken interpretations of what appears. The world is not fundamentally illusory: it is our own delusions that prevent us from seeing the way things are."

    The Zen practitioner seeks consciousnessly to disassociate himself (herself) from his (her) delusions -- via unpolluted no-thinking ("wu-nien") -- and thus, removed of these delusions, to "awaken" by seeing into one's own mind -- into one's own primal nature or original nature or "original face" ("pen-hsing").

    And the process is, apparently, not a one-time or one-off matter. The Japanese -- in their unique way of re-engineering anything (in the reverse engineering sense, perhaps?) -- came to the conclusion that there can be more than one "awakening" episodes, and that the initial "awakening" episode or episodes (called "kensho"; "kenshos") should not be construed as "final enlightenment". After one or more "kenshos", there can follow eventually (which could mean a long period of time after a kensho episode or a series of kensho episodes) the final "awakening" or "liberation", which the Japanese calls "satori" or "dae-kensho", this being the big "nirvana" or "enlightenment" experience of the historical Buddha, who was the "Shakyamuni" (the "muni", or venerable teacher, of the Shakya clan) Siddhartha Gautama.

    About 150 years after Hui-neng, the Chinese Zen Master Lin-chi (Japanese: Rinzai) founded a dominant line of transmission named after him, but still of the Southern School persuasion of "instantaneous enlightenment" that Hui-neng/Eno had established. As one of Hui-neng's spiritual descendants, Lin-chi emphasizes the "true person" ("chen-ren") and speaks of "no position" ("wu-wei") rather than Hui-neng's no-thinking ("wu-nien"). Hence, to Lin-chi, the ideal to strive for is the "true person of no position", echoing Chuang-tzu's "There must first be a true person before there can be true knowledge."

    The "true person" is one of Chuang-tzu's common designations for the sage who acts spontaneously, responsively, and without contrivance. In this respect, we can understand Hui-neng's "no-thinking" ["wu-nine'] as a state of responsive awareness in which one is not self-consciously putting one's experience into static conceptual frameworks. In any case, Lin-chi expressly states that the true person represents the spontaneous functioning at the basis of all human activity ... and the mode in which intention and act are inseparable.

      -- T. P. Kasulis, "TRUTH AND ZEN"

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Posted by paul.quek at 6:18 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008 9:16 AM EST

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