Sunyata—At The Root Of Being—bwinwnbwi

Reposted From October 13, 2011

“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

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 above 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: As Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel Escher and Bach) 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, the above means that “all things that are in the world are linked together, one way or the other.”


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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One Response to Sunyata—At The Root Of Being—bwinwnbwi

  1. 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.”

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