Sunyata—At The Root Of Being—bwinwnbwi

 

“It is not that the self is empty, but that emptiness is self; not that things are empty, but that emptiness is things…
On the field of sunyata, each thing is itself in not being itself, and is not itself in being itself.”—Nishitani

Existentialism And Mysticism concluded
Jan. ’78

“All things that are in the world,” according to Nishitani,
“are linked together, one way or the other. Not a
single thing comes into being without some relationship
to every other thing. Scientific intellect thinks here in terms of
natural laws of necessary causality; mythico-poetic imagination
perceives an organic, living connection; philosophic reason
contemplates an absolute One. But on a more essential level, a system
of circuminsession has to be seen here, according to which, on the
field of sunyata, all things are in a process of becoming master and
servant to one another. In this system, each thing is itself in not
being itself, and is not itself in being itself. Its being is illusion
in its truth and truth in its illusion. This may sound strange the
first time one hears it, but in fact it enables us for the first time
to conceive of a force by virtue of which all things are gathered
together and brought into relationship with one another, a force
which, since ancient times, has gone by the name of “nature” (physis).

“To say that a thing is not itself means that, while continuing to be
itself, it is in the home-ground of everything else. Figuratively
speaking, its roots reach across into the ground of all other things
and help to hold them up and keep them standing. It serves as a
constitutive element of their being so that they can be what they are,
and thus provides an ingredient of their being. That a thing is itself
means that all other things, while continuing to be themselves, are in
the home-ground of that thing; that precisely when a thing is on its
own home-ground, everything else is there too; that the roots of every
other thing spread across into its home-ground. This way that
everything has of being on the home-ground of everything else, without
ceasing to be on its own home-ground, means that the being of each
thing is held up, kept standing, and made to be what it is by means of
the being of all other things: or, put the other way around, that each
thing holds up the being of every other thing, keeps it standing, and
makes it what it is. In a word, it means that all things ‘are’ in the
‘world.’” (Religion and Nothingness p.149)

To be sure, the sunyata reality referred to here by
Nishitani is not your typical fair. No wonder the very idea of
mysticism generates so much controversy, especially among academics!
But, this nothingness of the mystics, on some level at least, found its way into the
existentialism of European philosophy. And, as far as the “reality of Mysticism” goes, I would only defer to what Dr. Folkart said on the very first day of class:

“The claim to that other reality cannot be merely stated; its credibility
must come through a direct experience of it.”

Postscript to the above post (a bit different from yesterday): As Douglas Hofstadter would say, I’m jumping out of the system here—errr jumping out of my story. In the next few sentences I’m going to structure the philosophies of Sartre and Nishitani in terms of symbolic structure — a symbolism for reality, life, and reason. I’m jumping out of my story because I believe that this post (on Nishitani) and yesterday’s post (on Nishitani and Sartre) are embedded in a vocabulary rich enough for me to suggest that we live in a universe that can be symbolized thusly: Let ~~b, or being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is represent reality. Reality grows in complexity until it becomes alive, or, in other words, ~~b reality liberates ~bb, i.e., life. Increasing complexity continues to move life forward until, once again, at a sufficient level of complexity, life liberates reason, which, in turn, liberates “civilization.” Bottom line here is that when Nishitani talks about sunyata he is talking about the reality of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is; and when Sartre says, “the human project, suspended in nothingness, projects the self ceaselessly outside of itself,” he is also talking about sunyata,– the sunyata of a higher dimension, i.e., a higher dimension of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this new dimension, ~bb represents Sartre’s for-itself consciousness, which, in turn, is discovered embedded in b~b, i.e., aesthetic continuum/nature. In the aesthetic continuum/nature one discovers emotions, beauty and truth—the medium where confirmation of scientific hypotheses occur (physical events).In other words, Nishitani’s sunyata is not inconsistent with Sartre’s for-itself consciousness, or the ego/nothingness that condemns man/woman to freedom; it’s just that in Sartre’s being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is “the human project, suspended in nothingness, projects the self ceaselessly outside of itself,” while in Nishitani’s being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is “the being of each thing is held up, kept standing, and made to be what it is by means of the being of all other things: or, put the other way around, that each thing holds up the being of every other thing, keeps it standing, and makes it what it is.”

In a word, it means that “all things that are in the world are linked together, one way or the other.”

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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6 Responses to Sunyata—At The Root Of Being—bwinwnbwi

  1. frizztext says:

    all things that are in the world are linked together, one way or the other…
    – at least I’m glad to be linked with your blog!

  2. ElizOF says:

    Ditto… I second that 🙂

  3. bwinwnbwi says:

    Zen Effects The Life Of Alan Watts,” by Monica Furlong

    “What is found when man no longer resists life from behind the barrier of his person? Because the Buddha denied the existence of any ‘self-nature’ in the person, the Hinayana takes this to mean that there is no Self at all. The Mahayana, on the other hand, considers that a true Self is found when the false one is renounced. When man neither identifies himself with his person nor uses it as a means of resisting life, he finds that the Self is more than his own being; it includes the whole universe. The Hinayana, realizing that no single thing as such is the Self, is content with the realization…But the Mahayana couples this denial with an affirmation; while denying the existence of Self in any particular thing, it finds it in the total interrelatedness of all things . Thus Enlightenment is to deny the self in the castle, to realize that Self is not this person called “I” as distinct from that person called “You,” but that it is both “I” and “You” and everything else included. (p. 56)

    While re-reading “Zen Effects The Life Of Alan Watts,” by Monica Furlong (2001)—the above passage jumped out at me as helpful in explaining the b~b~bb symbolism. In Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism the question of self is treated differently. In terms of the symbolism of b~b~bb, in Hinayana Buddhism, the self may be understood as ~b of ~bb in b~b~bb, while in Mahayana Buddhism, the self may be understood as ~~b—the Affirmative Ideal of everything– including the “I” and “You.”

  4. bwinwnbwi says:

    Like in my comment above, where I interpreted the Hinayana (Theravada) and Mahayana Buddhist concepts of “self nature” in terms of the symbolism of b~b~bb, in like manner, I believe, this same symbolism speaks to very important scientific and mathematical discoveries of the last century.

    Here’s a quick summary of how b~b~bb identifies our human experience. Let ~~b, or being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is represent reality. Reality grows in complexity until it becomes alive, or, in other words, ~~b reality liberates ~bb, i.e., life. Increasing complexity continues to move life forward until, once again, at a sufficient level of complexity, life liberates reason, which, in turn, liberates the “the negative space of ~bb, i.e., the space of the human experience of the aesthetic continuum.

    Einstein discovered the objective limit of the aesthetic continuum, the space/time context of the aesthetic continuum, with the confirmation of his General Theory Of Relativity. Bottom line here is that when Nishitani talks about sunyata he is talking about the reality of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, which in turn, after it has evolved into what Sartre calls, “the human project, suspended in nothingness, (which) projects the self ceaselessly outside of itself,” is able to use human reason to imagine, experiment and confirm the existence of the objective limits of our space-time existence.

    But, there is another limit, the limit put on reason itself, i.e., the limit identified by Kurt Gödel’s mathematical theorems. Sartre’s for-itself consciousness, or the ego/nothingness that condemns man/woman to freedom, the freedom that projects the self ceaselessly outside of itself, is captured mathematically in Gödel’s limitative theorems. In this higher dimension of sunyata, the dimension of ~bb, the dimension represented by Sartre’s for-itself consciousness, when pushed to its objective limit, takes the form of mathematical truths that address themselves in terms of consistency and incompleteness. Below, think of ~~b, the synchronic boundary that supports “all that is” and “all that can we can know” as the “out yonder” that motivated both Einstein and Gödel to achieve their magnificent accomplishments. (It is hoped that the below quotes from the book, “Incompleteness, The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel,” by Rebecca Goldstein, 2005, are expected to elucidate this idea).

    Einstein: “It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the “merely personal,” from an existence which is dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned like a liberation…The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of the given possibilities swam as highest aim half consciously and half unconsciously before my mind’s eye…The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has proved itself as trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it.” (Incompleteness, The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, by Rebecca Goldstein, 2005, p. 42)

    Gödel, like Einstein, is committed to the possibility of reaching out, pace the positivists, beyond our experiences to describe the world “out yonder.” Only since Gödel’s field is mathematics, the “out yonder” in which he is interested is the domain of abstract reality (the reality discovered within ((~bb) of (b~b~bb)). His commitment to the objective existence of mathematical reality is the view known as conceptual, or mathematical, realism….For Gödel mathematics is a means of unveiling the features of objective mathematical reality, just as for Einstein physics is a means of unveiling aspects of objective physical reality. Gödel’s understanding of what we are doing when we are doing mathematics could be rendered in words echoing Einstein’s credo: “Out yonder there is this huge world, which exists independently of us human being and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking.” Only here the “out yonder” is to be understood as an even further remove from the subject of experience, with his distinctly human point of view. The “out yonder” is out beyond physical space-time; it is a reality of pure abstraction, of universal and necessary truths, and our faculty of a priori reason provides us—mysteriously—with the means of accessing this ultimate “out yonder,” of gaining at least a partial glimpse of what might be called “extreme reality.” (Rebecca Goldstein, 2005, p. 44-45)

    Gödel’s theorems, then, appear to be that rarest of rare creatures: mathematical truths that also address themselves—however ambiguously and controversially—to the central question of the humanities: what is involved in our being human? They are the most prolix theorems in the history of mathematics. Though there is disagreement about precisely how much, and precisely what they say there is no doubt that they say an awful lot and that what they say extends beyond mathematics, certainly into metamathematics and perhaps even beyond.. In fact, the metamathematical nature of the theorems is intimately linked with the fact that Encyclopedia of Philosophy stated them in (more or less) plain English. The concepts of “formal system,” “undecidable,” and “consistency”…are metamathematical concepts whose explication (which will eventually come) is not rendered in the language of mathematics. Gödel’s conclusions are mathematical theorems that manage to escape mere mathematics. They speak from both inside and outside mathematics. This is yet another facet of their distinct fascination, the facet seized upon in yet another popular book, Douglas Hofstadter’s Putlizer-prize-winning Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. ((Rebecca Goldstein, 2005, p. 26)

  5. bwinwnbwi says:

    “Gödel was even receptive to the suggestion that his incompleteness theorems had consequences in the mystical, or at least religious, sphere. In a letter to his mother on 20 October 1963 he remarked with regard to an article that she had sent him, and which he had not yet read, concerning the implications of his work: ‘It was something to be expected that sooner or later my proof will be made useful for religion, since that is doubtless also justified in a certain sense.’……..Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem tells us that any consistent formal system adequate for the expression of arithmetic must leave out much of mathematical reality, and his second theorem tells us that no such formal system can even prove itself to be self-consistent.”
    (Rebecca Goldstein, Incompleteness, The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, 2005, p. 192.)

    “The formalists had tried to certify mathematical certitude by eliminating intuitions. Gödel had shown that mathematics cannot proceed without them. Restricting ourselves to formal syntactic considerations will not even secure consistency. But these mathematical intuitions that cannot be eliminated and cannot be formalized: what are they? How do they come to be available to the likes of us? We are once again thrown up against the mysterious nature of mathematical knowledge, against the mysterious nature of ourselves as knowers of mathematics. How do we come to have the knowledge that we do? How can we?”
    (Rebecca Goldstein, Incompleteness, The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, 2005, p. 198-199.)

    From above: “But these mathematical intuitions that cannot be eliminated and cannot be formalized: what are they?”

    Matter/energy obeys mathematical laws while ideas, perceptions and emotions do not—here’s why: In terms of structure (freedom’s dialectic), the ~b of ~bb, at the level of b~b~bb, is the source of meaningful symbol creation, which, in turn, opened the door to the creation of language, myth, religion, art, and theoretical knowledge. Structurally, b~b~bb allows for the confirmation/rejection of scientific hypothesizes while it also separates scientific knowledge from caring aesthetic values, i.e., the reduction of goodness, love, and beauty to stimulus/response mechanisms (the ~b of ~bb at the level of b~b~bb structure ). Thus, the strength and resolve necessary to create a better world is not found in analysis and calculation; rather, it is found in the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty, and truth—the aesthetic component of our experience (the b~b of b~b~bb structure—which, in you and me, is the divine made manifest!)

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