Awareness Bound and Unbound: Buddhist Essays by David R. Loy (State University of New York Press) review pending
Essays from the singular experience of Buddhist social critic
and philosopher David R. Loy on classic and contemporary concerns.
What do we need to do to become truly comfortable—at one—with our
lives here and now? In these essays, Buddhist social critic and
philosopher David R. Loy discusses liberation not from the world,
but into it. Loy’s lens is a wide one, encompassing the classic and
the contemporary, the Asian, the Western, and the comparative. Loy
seeks to distinguish what is vital from what is culturally
conditioned and perhaps outdated in Buddhism and also to bring fresh
worldviews to a Western world in crisis. Some basic Buddhist
teachings are reconsidered and thinkers such as Nagarjuna, Dogen,
Eckhart, Swedenborg, and Zhuangzi are discussed. Particularly
contemporary concerns include the effects of a computerized society,
the notion of karma and the position of women, terrorism and the
failure of secular modernity, and a Buddhist response to the notion
of a clash of civilizations. With his unique mix of Buddhist
philosophical insight and passion for social justice, Loy asks us to
consider when our awareness, or attention, is bound in delusion and
when it is unbound and awakened.
“These essays, each one in its own right, are extremely thought-provoking. The various topics addressed are indeed significant, timely, and crucial toward understanding events and situations in our contemporary global scene.” — Ruben L. F. Habito, author of Experiencing Buddhism: Ways of Wisdom and Compassion
Table Of Contents:
|Introduction: Myth Broken and Unbroken
1. Awareness Bound and Unbound: On the Nature of Attention
2. Language Against Its Own Mystifications: Deconstruction in Nagarjuna and Dogen
3. Dead Words, Living Words, Healing Words: The Disseminations of Dogen and Eckhart
4. Zhuangzi and Nagarjuna on the Truth of No Truth
6. Dying to the Self that Never Was
7. The Dharma of Emanuel Swedenborg
8. The Karma of Women
9. The West Against the Rest? A Buddhist Response to The Clash of Civilizations
10. Terrorism as Religion: On the Identity Crisis of Secularism
Double Exposure: Cutting across Buddhist and Western Discourses by Bernard Faure, translated by Janet Lloyd. (Cultural Memory in the Present Series: Stanford University Press) (cloth) In some ways, this book seems quite different from other publications by Bernard Faure, including several books that were also translated from French such as Visions of Power (1996) and Will to Orthodoxy (1997), which have a specific focus on the practice of Chan or on gender issues in Buddhism. Double Exposure deals with broad, wide-ranging philosophical themes concerning Buddhist thought set in comparative contexts with Western intellectual history since the Enlightenment, especially continental European philosophy. Faure is well known from previous works for his extensive explorations of poststructural theory in examining historical and doctrinal buddhological issues. Clearly, however, this book was intended primarily not for Buddhist studies scholars but for an audience of French intellectuals and cultural critics, encompassing, but also more diverse, than the academic community, who wish to understand how the discourse of Buddhism pertains to, yet remains distinct, from their own recent history of thought. Rather than citing a particular set of poststructural thinkers to illuminate Buddhism, Faure does the converse and uses Buddhism to make key points about the development of Western thought.
At the same time, Double Exposure is consistent with and an extension of Faure's earlier books in that it tracks the role of the twofold or double in its various manifestations, both in Buddhist thought and in methodological approaches to interpreting Buddhism. Faure is endlessly fascinated by and delights in exposing the fact that the Buddhist tradition, which claims to espouse a standpoint of nondualism, invariably and inevitably divvies up reality into an endless series of polarities and paradoxes regarding the apparent oppositions or contradictions between the realms of nirvana and samsara, karmic causality and transcendence of karma, ultimate and mundane reality (or two levels of truth), and sudden and gradual enlightenment. He asserts, "the history of Buddhism ... seems to be governed by what Bergson, in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, suggested calling the 'law of dichotomy,' a law which apparently brings about a realization, by a mere splitting, of tendencies which began by being two views, so to speak, of one and the same tendency" (p. 124).
In addition to Bergson, Faure cites classical notions like the Platonic division between the ideal form and the world of concrete forms, the two-faced Roman god Janus who rules over past and future, and the Manichean split between good and evil. Faure also emphasizes more recent French thinkers and scholars, including Emile Beneviste, Nayla Farouki, Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Henri Micheaux, among others, who, in probing the "diabolical" sense of truth versus error (which are considered eternal contraries in Western thought, especially Christianity), are useful for discussing parallels and differences with Buddhism. _Double Exposure_ also examines interpretive debates about whether Buddhism should be seen as epitomizing agnosticism versus mysticism, pragmatism versus supernaturalism, or rationalism versus mythology, as well as conflicts in using the method of psychology as opposed to anthropology and the impact of hidden, or not-so-hidden, Orientalist and reverse Orientalist tendencies. Perhaps the best organized chapter in the book is "The Major Schools" (chapter 5), which offers a quick but insightful overview of early Buddhist realism, Yogacara idealism, the Madhyamika middle way, and Chan's compromise between immanence and transcendence. The most imaginative section is "External Thought" (chapter 8), which delves into a vast array of topics. These range from Tantric sexuality as a form of spiritual energy and Diderot's view of the perpetual shifting of ordinary thought to Zongmi's image of the bright pearl as a metaphor for sudden realization compared with Paul Claudel's own pearl metaphor in _Conversations dans le Loir-et-Cher_ which evokes a gradual path of self-understanding.
I think Faure's main aim in all his many publications is to explore and expose the wedges, gaps, and inconsistencies, without making a judgment other than to underscore that what is said by the tradition may well not be what is done. Or, to give the situation a different spin, we may find that held within the doing there is revealed a double of the saying, as with the practice of ritual iconography that at once reflects and contradicts the iconoclastic conceptualization. Additional images of doubleness are Wittgenstein's duck-rabbit which has the beak of the former and the ears of the latter, and M. C. Escher's distinctive recursive imagery, both of which indicate the kaleidoscopic intertwining of seemingly contrary perspectives.
Where does this leave us, hopelessly chasing after our tail? According to Faure's presentation in this book, the way out of the square of contradiction is to encircle it endlessly, as with the magic circle of the _mandala_ or the circular form traced out on the ground by Kant, "out of which one could not step on pain of being ruled out of the game" (p. 47). This condition also resembles both the Heideggerian hermeneutic circle in which we acknowledge that our conclusions often precede investigation and the ancient junkenpo game that is still popular in Japan of rock-paper-scissors. Or, according to a story told by Georges Didi-Huberman, there is the "vicious pseudocircle" (p. 138) in saying that a tightrope dancer does not fall because of the balancing pole and the pole does not fall because of the dancer.
Faure might have also included the final section of the Tsurezuregusa by Kenko, in which a father admits he is bested by his inquiring son, who drives him "into a corner" with a series of queries about the Buddha, to which the father, after a number of regressions, finally retorts, "I suppose [the first Buddha] fell from the sky or else he sprang up out of the earth."[Essays in Idleness, trans. Donald Keene (Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1981, p. 201.] I think Faure would agree, it must be one or the other, or perhaps a combination of the two.
Reviewed for H-Buddhism by Steven Heine, Florida International University. Published by H-Buddhism@h-net.msu.edu (December, 2004)
Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy: Tsongkhapa’s Quest for
the Middle Way by Thupten Jinpa (Routledge Curzon) It is
said that when Tsongkhapa (1357‑1419), Tibet's foremost religious reformer and
one of its greatest philosophers, finally arrived at the perfect “middle view,”
he experienced a powerful surge of admiration and devotion for the Buddha. This
combination of deep reverence and insight, together with a profound sense of
joy, that followed this breakthrough in Tsongkhapa's philosophical thinking
inspired him to compose one of the most eloquent praises to the Buddha ever
written in Tibetan? In perfectly metered poetry, Tsongkhapa celebrates the
Buddha's teachings on the principle of dependent origination and expresses his
deep appreciation to the Buddha for having taught this profound truth. At the
heart of Tsongkhapa's inner exultation is also a sense of wonder and amazement
at the convergence between what appear to be two contradictory natures of things
‑ their lack of intrinsic existence on the one hand, and their coming into being
by means of dependent origination on the other. This study seeks to articulate,
as far as is possible in contemporary language, Tsongkhapa's insight into this
Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy offers an astounding
clear summation of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka (
In addition to the above, years of training in the fundamental theories and practices of Tibetan Buddhism, including studying the major Buddhist philosophical schools and, especially, initiation into the central debates of the continuing, living tradition, provide a monk with a unique context. For example, he learns to be aware of (a) the key passages that are traditionally seen as problematic for an exegesis of Tsongkhapa, (b) areas of thought that point to a need for deeper philosophical enquiry, and (c) issues that are of central importance in understanding the points of divergence between Tsongkhapa and his predecessors. Perhaps most importantly, a classical monastic approach encourages a monk to cultivate an appreciation for Tsongkhapa's philosophy as part of a continuing lineage of thought. This ensures that, psychologically at least, a student's approach to studying Tsongkhapa's thought does not become such that `the lineaments of his masks [are] discernible imperfectly, but the mental events that accompanied the composition of the text are even more inscrutable.
Given this background, it should not come as a surprise that a significant perspective that Jinpa brings to bear upon his study of Tsongkhapa is what might be called in anthropological terms “a native's point of view.” This means to read Tsongkhapa, as it were, from within his own writings and inherited philosophical and intellectual legacies. This approach results in a more sympathetic reading of the material at hand than that generally employed by traditional Western academic scholars. Furthermore, contrary to what many textual theorists of the post‑modern age recommends, Jinpa has accorded greater priority to the place of the author when determining the meaning of his works. For example, Jinpa gives priority to Tsongkhapa's own intended meaning and the stated motivations that underlie his philosophical enterprise. We are encouraged to listen to him when he says that he is arguing for a specific thesis. More importantly, as the traditional Geluk exegesis of Tsongkhapa suggests, Jinpa makes the fundamental assumption that there is a systematic approach in Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka thought and that it contains a high degree of cohesion and completeness. This does not mean that one rules out a priori any inconsistencies, gaps, and so on in his thinking. It does mean, however, that Jinpa invites us to believe there is an overall framework of intended coherence in Tsongkhapa's thought and to take it seriously.
The second perspective that Jinpa brings to
Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy is what we can call the
“contemporary philosopher's point of view.” The significance and merits of this
have been made more than evident to Jinpa as a result of his studies at
In practical terms, approaching Tsongkhapa's thought from the perspective of comparative horizons primarily involves bearing in mind two key methodological questions:
(1) Does Tsongkhapa's thought suggest answers to perennial philosophical questions that continue to vex us even in our time? (2) Does it push us to extend the horizons of current Western intellectual and philosophical paradigms?
Even with these questions in mind Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy is not a comparative study. Rather it is a reconstruction Tsongkhapa's thought, articulating it in contemporary language in the most coherent way. This activity of reconstruction must, in fact, precede any process of systematic comparison, for a genuine comparative study involves (to borrow Richard Robinson's term) “multi‑system” comparisons – that is, comparisons between systems of thought that are purported to be complete in themselves. Thus, Jinpa avoids comparing specific aspects of Tsongkhapa's thought with specific aspects of Western thought in order to maintain a clear focus on elucidating and understanding the basic material of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka thought.
Once again, in the context of how to avoid obscuring Tsongkhapa's text with heavily laden interpretations, Jinpa also addresses the question of how the works of Tsongkhapa's Tibetan critics should appropriately be treated. Here, Jinpa chose not to go into the details of these Tibetan polemics, apart from addressing a few specific objections that seem to require serious discussion. Delving too deeply into this critical literature would divert attention from the development of the main line of thought. This is again a methodological choice adopted in order not to clutter this study with peripheral details that are irrelevant to our main purpose. Nevertheless, where he sees that these critical views may help sharpen our understanding of the distinctiveness of Tsongkhapa's reading of Madhyamaka, he does not hesitate to bring them into the debate.
Similar methodological considerations have also informed my
treatment of the enormous Geluk commentarial literature on Tsongkhapa,
especially the large corpus of yig cha
(textbooks) of the individual colleges of the Geluk monasteries. As a graduate
One further consideration relates to the current historical
coincidence of Tibetan Madhyamaka studies. Given that a great deal of modern
Western scholarship on Tibetan Madhyamaka has been based on the writings of
later Geluk thinkers, there is often the danger of reading Tsongkhapa's
philosophy as articulated in contemporary Western language almost exclusively
through the lens of the later Geluk presentation of Madhyamaka. In fact, there
may be the danger of committing the methodological error of assuming that
Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka equals Geluk Madhyamaka. The simple reason why the two
cannot be equated is that the latter includes an enormous body of diverse
commentarial literature that, although rich and illuminating in its own right,
is distinct from Tsongkhapa's writings. Tsongkhapa belongs to what Ruegg
describes as the “classical period” of Tibetan Buddhism, a
In Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy, Jinpa endeavors to ground all interpretations in Tsongkhapa's own works so that, to the extent possible, the story of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka philosophy is told through Tsongkhapa's own voice, albeit in a contemporary idiom. Jinpa also seeks to arrive at an understanding of Tsongkhapa's thought through reading and cross‑referencing all of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka writings, a basic requirement when one reads the thought of any philosopher, Western or Tibetan. From the standpoint of critical Western scholarship, a significant consequence of reading Tsongkhapa's own words free of later scholastic interpretations is that it allows us to remain more sensitive to issues of development and change in Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka thoughts Jinpa indicates places where he sees such a developmental process taking place, by comparing Tsongkhapa's earlier and later writings on the same themes. This developmental approach may surprise some of Jinpa’s fellow Tibetan Madhyamikas and even to some Western scholars of Geluk Madhyamaka as well, who tend to accept the traditional Geluk scholastic view that Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka thought emerged en bloc rather than gradually, over time. In that this direct (that is, free of later scholastic interpretation) reading of Tsongkhapa represents a crucial methodological principle here, the present study can be regarded as based almost exclusively on primary literature, and is likely to contribute substantially to a normative reading of Tsongkhapa's own Madhyamaka.
Tsongkhapa was one of the most careful of all Tibetan writers; in particular, the philosophical works of his so‑called `later period' reflect a tremendous sophistication and subtlety in his use of language. Elegance, clarity, and economy of words are the hallmarks of Tsongkhapa's philosophical writing. Furthermore, as a noted poet, Tsongkhapa was also sensitive to the poetic dimensions of the written word. For example, the prose of his masterpiece Essence of Eloquence is endowed with a natural rhythm that allows it to be easily read aloud as a recited literary piece.
Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy is likely to appeal principally to three groups of readers: Western‑trained philosophers, both professionals and students who may or may not have a background in Buddhist studies; specialists in Tibetan Buddhist studies, both professionals and students; and general readers who are interested in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, including, of course, practicing Buddhists.
Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy consists of five parts. The introduction, deals with issues of method and context. Most of the various methodological considerations that underlie this study of Tsongkhapa's thought were addressed in this review. In exploring the historical and intellectual context of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka, Jinpa endeavors to discern the various points of divergence between Tsongkhapa and his Tibetan predecessors. An important aspect of this task has been to identify Tsongkhapa's key qualms with respect to early Tibetan views of the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness. Given that many of these qualms pertain to issues and debates that are central to Tibetan philosophy as a whole, this task can be seen as providing a brief overview of Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka view itself.
Next Jinpa describes Tsongkhapa's philosophical method, his Tsongkhapa's attempt to define the scope of dialectical analysis in Madhyamaka reasoning. It demonstrates that underlying his extensive explication of Madhyamaka philosophical analysis is Tsongkhapa's deep concern with delineating clearly the parameters of Madhyamaka reasoning, in a way that such reasoning could not be mistakenly used to negate everything, especially not ethics and religious activity. In examining Tsongkhapa's understanding and application of the Madhyamaka dialectic, this study attempts to remain sensitive to his forms of argumentation and logical analysis, as well as to his use of rhetoric, all of which are so crucial to Tsongkhapa's style of philosophizing. For Tsongkhapa methodology is an integral part of his philosophy.
Following this summary of Tsongkhapa's philosophical method, Jinpa explores Tsongkhapa's critique of the self and his assertion that the final meaning of the Buddha's teaching on “no‑self” needs to be understood in terms of the Madhyamaka's rejection of intrinsic existence. Following the steps of Buddhist argumentation against selfhood, central to the thought of Tsongkhapa is the analysis of the concept of intrinsic existence, a concept that is categorically and vehemently rejected by Tsongkhapa. Jinpa presents Tsongkhapa's actual application of Madhyamaka reasoning to questions pertaining to the existence and identity of the self. Together, Tsongkhapa's philosophical methodology and rejection of the self offer an in‑depth presentation of what can be called the “deconstructive” aspect of Tsongkhapa's philosophy.
Jinpa goes on to make a systematic presentation of Tsongkhapa's “constructive” theory of persons as it is understood in contemporary Western philosophical discourse. By addressing such issues as personal identity, individuation, continuity, I‑consciousness, memory, and so on, Jinpa explores Tsongkhapa's answers to the basic question of who or what is a person. This second dimension of Tsongkhapa's thought is critical, if he is to be regarded as consistent with his fundamental concern of ensuring that Madhyamaka reasoning does not result in nihilism. Thus, Jinpa shows how Tsongkhapa accords a meaningful level of reality to the self and the world while at the same time adhering to the deconstructive reasoning of the Madhyamikas. Together, these considerations demonstrate that, unlike many other Buddhist thinkers, Tsongkhapa maintains a non‑reductionist model of personal identity.
Finally, Jinpa concludes by addressing the ontological
question. In what sense, according to Tsongkhapa, can persons and the world be
said to exist? In addressing this question, Jinpa presents the framework of
Tsongkhapa's nominalist ontology and explores the concept of reality that
emerges from Tsongkhapa's deconstructive and reconstructive approaches to self
and persons. The various conclusions pertaining to the epistemological and
ontological questions of self are reviewed within the context of Buddhist
soteriology. In this way, Jinpa deals with the central issues concerning the
relationship between critical reasoning, no‑self, and religious experience as
perceived by Tsongkhapa. The study concludes with comments on some key areas of
Tsongkhapa's philosophy that require further research.
Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy is a first-rate monograph on the philosophy of Tsongkhapa's
Madhyamaka, that is both introductory and substantive enough to subtly reorients
all future Tsongkhapa interpretations and studies in English language. Highly
Nothingness and Emptiness: A Buddhist Engagement With the Ontology of Jean-Paul Sartre by Steven William Laycock (SUNY: State University of New York Press) This sustained and distinctively Buddhist challenge to the ontology of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness resolves the incoherence implicit in the Sartrean conception of nothingness by opening to a Buddhist vision of emptiness. Rooted in the insights of Madhyamika dialectic and an articulated meditative (zen) phenomenology, Nothingness and Emptiness uncovers and examines the assumptions that sustain Sartre's early phenomenological ontology and questions his theoretical elaboration of consciousness as "nothingness." Laycock demonstrates that, in addition to a "relative" nothingness (the for-itself) defined against the positivity and plenitude of the in-itself, Sartre's ontology requires, but also repudiates, a conception of "absolute" nothingness (the Buddhist "emptiness"), and is thus, as it stands, logically unstable, perhaps incoherent. The author is not simply critical; he reveals the junctures at which Sartrean ontology appeals for a Buddhist conception of emptiness and offers the needed supplement.
Excerpt: But there is our sagacious avian companion, the merle perched observantly au pont, who will not be deceived. The enigmas we have sensed-the interpenetration of temporality and the timeless, transparency and reflection, self and selflessness, presence and absence, light and dark, appearance and reality, the visible and the invisible-are patterns of reciprocity, entwinement. The lotus is the site of manifold crossings and recrossings. Its being, then, is that of the chiasm, the abyssal locus, the "interrogative space; of the chi, the X, the determinable indeterminate, the enigma. The pages that unfold before you are, in the spirit Merleau-Ponty's (1969) posthumous deposit, The Visible and the Invisible, mindful of the chiasm, and therefore unsympathetic with the dualizing tendencies, however rarified, of Sartre's thinking. And they are no less imbued with wonder at the miraculous blossoming of enlightened mindfulness, and dedicated to the Buddha's liberating and unobtrusive envisionment. I offer, at this site of wonder, a sustained meditation on Buddhist meontic phenomenology.
But our purpose is not the simple rejection of Sartrean ontology. Sartre said of his relationship with Merleau-Ponty that "[a]lone, each of us was too easily persuaded of having understood the idea of phenomenology. Together, we were, for each other, the incarnation of its ambiguity" (1965, 159). Sartre and Merleau-Ponty form of themselves a chiasm, a framework of reciprocal encroachment, or in an idiom to be cultivated, a dyad of "seemings," each (we shall assume) wholly compatible with the landscape of phenomenality, neither required by it. The strategy adopted here is rather a specification of that developed in Mind as Mirror (cf. Laycock 1994): namely, the effort to keep logical alternativity, the incompatibility of the two "seemings'' alive while remaining mindful of their failure of adequation (untruth). Immanence thus receives into itself the wedge of inconsonance, and cracks open, rendering up the smooth identity of being and appearing and becoming thus transcendent. Paradoxically, then, the confrontation of Sartrean immanentism (consciousness is as it appears to itself to be) beside the Merleau-Pontyan view that "a sufficient reduction leads beyond the alleged transcendental `immanence; " that immanence explodes into the transcendence of interpenetration, "the Ineinander of the spontaneities . . ." (1969,172), in full awareness of the lack of preferability between the two views, culminates in a preference for the Merleau-Pontyan vision of omni‑transcendence.
The ontology of Sartre's great "essay;" his magnificent assay, his extraordinary venture, Being and Nothingness, rests upon his phenomenology like a book upon a shelf, like a bust upon a pedestal. It offers a reconstruction, a patterning, of phenomenological intuition which "makes sense" of these insights, which transforms isolated glimmers into systemic illumination. The possibility of reconfiguring the pieces of the puzzle to form a different image argues only against the necessity, not the wisdom, of Sartre's vision. But we must, from the outset, declare a different sense of the bond uniting phenomenology and ontology. While we shall not pursue the Heideggerian path of conflating the two, it will be clear that the pedestal rests upon the bust as much as the bust upon the pedestal.
If "[o]ntology is the interrogative word of adoration in the ear of Sige the Abyss" (Burke 1990, 83), then phenomenology is the paradoxical reply. "Paradox no longer marks a deficiency; it becomes the evident sign, that which reveals the indissoluble relation between the question and the response" (Le paradoxe ne margue plus une defuience; il dmient le signe Mdent, le rwdlateur de (indissoluble relation entre la question et la reponse) (Timmermans 1990, 298). Ontology‑not question, but questioning‑precedes the ontic: the phenomenal presence (the "thingness" in Bunan's word) of the response invoked. Response‑presence, the ontic‑is called forth by ontology; and phenomenology interrogates this deposition. Ontology, if you will, is the earnest, ingenuous, unsuspecting wonderment of the earth's first child at the dawn of Being. But before the first few curious beams break the horizon, there are the still and timeless hours of the night. As Bataiue instructs us, "night . . . is nothing, there is nothing in IT which can be felt, not even finally darkness" (Bataille 1988,124‑5). The earth‑child's capacity for boundless wonder is predicated upon another illimitable: the intimate recollection of eternal night- a night, not of terror or despair, not of nihilistic abandon, but of a maternal embrace so deeply enveloping as to dissolve the glaring, angular projections of detail into the gloaming, and finally into a nightfall of openness and unimpeded acceptance.
Phenomenology, with its epoche, its suspension of assent, is the movement of suspicion, the wariness (awareness) of a mind acquainted with error, aware that the sun's effulgence can blind no less than heal the wounds of ignorance, and unwilling to substitute enthusiasm for truth. As "[t]here is no absolute error" (Merleau‑Ponty 1988, 38), there is also, on the conceptual plane, no unqualified absolution from error. Ontology marvels at presence. It communes directly, without reservation, with the splendid suchness (tatthata) of the lotus. Phenomenology investigates the roots of this exhibition, the "how?" of appearing, leading us thus in the direction of emptiness (sunyata) Ontology and phenomenology, the lotus and the chiasm, interpenetrate, illustrating of themselves both chiasmatic reciprocity, Inein and ersein, and lotus-like integrity and fullness. There is no interrogation without positive deposition, no suspicion without a moment of childlike acceptance, no suspension without commitments to suspend. But equally, there is no lotus without roots, no phenomenal display without conditions, no "thus" without a "how."
Sartre would find in this intercoupling of wondering acceptance and vigilant interrogation the very condition for selfdeception. "To believe is to know that one believes, and to know that one believes is no longer to believe. Thus to believe is not to believe any longer because that is only to beheve-this in the unity of one and the same non-thetic selfconsciousness . . :' (1971,114). Self-deception is grounded in the instability of a commitment permeated by the nonpositional awareness of this commitment, an awareness which, inasmuch as openness is also a questioning, tinctures the commitment with a certain "questionableness.' If Sartre has, indeed, disclosed the infrastructure of selfdeception, then the chiasmic embrace of ontological receptiveness and phenomenological suspicion participates in bad faith. We shall have to see, however, whether unstable conviction is the recipe for self-deception, whether the interpenetration of wonder and wariness amounts to "the inner disintegration of my being" (116), and, moreover, whether Sartre's assumption of unquestionable givenness which supports an overhanging ontology is not, in another sense, deceived.
A Buddhist phenomenological ontology would sacrifice
neither the innocent nor the wary, neither the immediate resonance of
com/passion nor the dispassionate clarity of wisdom, neither the tranquility
(samatha) of absorption nor the insight (vipassana) of genuine discernment-so
long, that is, as they are balanced (samma) ), and in this sense, "right." In
the words of that consummate distillation of supreme wisdom (prajna paramitd),
the sutra (thus, suture) of the palpating, compassionate‑wise heart‑mind
(hrdaya), "[f]orm is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than
form; form is not other than emptiness" (Lopez 1988, 19). And as Lopez reminds
us, "[t]here is a critical difference between form being empty and form being
emptiness. . ." (58). It is, finally, this fathomless insight of the Heart, the
crux, the crossing, the chiasm, a Buddhist phenomenological ontology is
concerned to plumb.
He who holds that nothingness Is formless, flowers are visions, Let him enter boldly! -Gido (1325-1388)
Mind as Mirror and the Mirroring of Mind: Buddhist Reflections on Western Phenomenology by Steven W. Laycock (SUNY: State University of New York Press) Rooted in the insights of Madhyamika dialectic and an articulated Zazen phenomenology, this study uncovers and examines the methodological presuppositions undergirding the work of Husserl, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty and calls into serious question certain of the most fundamental assumptions of the Western phenomenological tradition regarding the nature of mind. Mind as Mirror and the Mirroring of Mind presents, for the first time, a searching and distinctively Buddhist challenge to the Western phenomenologies--a challenge, that is, to grow beyond the settled alternative assumptions that the mind either is or is not mirror-like in its experience of phenomenal reality.
Excerpt: Were consciousness essentially crystalline, the grime of its sullied exterior would be adventitious. Sartre sees that a crystalline consciousness befouled by manifest indistinctness is a "contradictory composite" since "an absolute interiority never has an outside" (1972, 84). Tsung-mi (780-841 C.E.) draws a similar inference.
The mind . . . is like a crystal ball with no colour of its own. It is pure and perfect as it is. But as soon as it confronts the outside world it takes on all colours and forms of differentiation. This differentiation is in the outside world, and the mind, left to itself shows no change of any character. Now suppose the ball to be placed against something altogether contrary to itself, and so become a dark‑coloured ball. However pure it may have been before, it is now a dark coloured ball, and this colour is seen as belonging from the first to the nature of the ball. When shown thus to ignorant people they will at once conclude that the ball is foul, and will not be easily convinced of its essential purity. (cf. Suzuki 1981,17)
In Mind as Mirror and the Mirroring of Mind criticized the phenomenologies of the West for abandoning presuppositionless insight and succumbing to a "metaphysics of experience" exactly by making the decision which Tsung‑mi demands. Do we have here qualitative pervasion or unsullied openness to quality? Is consciousness merely translucent, retaining thus a certain phantom opacity available to reflective inspection or is it the case, in words which bespeak the transparentist strand of Sartre's early thought, that "[a]Il is clear and lucid in consciousness. . ." (1972, 40), that consciousness "is all lightness, all translucence" (42), and that the least hint of opacity "would divide consciousness . . . would slide into every consciousness like an opaque blade" would "tear consciousness from itself;" and would thus be "the death of consciousness" (40)? In reflection, is there "something"-however rarified, ectoplasmicto see or is it rather the case that to see consciousness at all is precisely to see through it, the leveraged surmountings which we call "reflection" thus collapsing immediately into prereflective naiveté. To decide the issue one way or the other is to surpass experience toward presupposition, to abandon phenomenology for metaphysics. And "the distinction between experience and reason is not given in experience or reason itself" (Puligandla 1985, 17). Phenomenological rigor binds us to the recognition that qualitative pervasion is phenomenally indistinguishable from openness to quality, a crystal intrinsically befouled is indistinguishable from pure colorless crystal offering no impedance to the darkness which it transmits.
We cannot-qua phenomenologists-come to Tsung-mi's decision.
But then it was not as a phenomenologist, but as one who would whisper "the
interrogative word of adoration in the ear of . . . the Abyss," as one, that is,
whose childlike wonder was granted the response of presencing, that Tsung-mi
himself came to this decision. Lines from Holderlin's "Vom Abgrund nemlich . .
." bespeak a similar commitment:
. . . my heart becomes undeceiving crystal by which the light is tested . . .
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