About eastern philosophy & its diff between western thou

Care to talk about eastern philosophy, for or against it?

Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen etc.,

According to me( what I had read and seen),
eastern thoughts are consistent throught their 6000+ years of history. Atleast consistent in their core ideology. Whereas, western thoughts, logic, christianity etc., are new philosophies which dates back jus’ to 2500+ years of human history.

When Natives of Europe were still barbarians, east had the most floruishing empires and civilizations of the world. Plus western thoughts mostly based on logic ( which gives a great tool for reasining) finds many inconsistencies in Nature, bcos that is the nature of the world around us.

So with rationality( which is alone is not enough for persuing eastern thoughts), I wonder why western people have not realised the TRUTH present in eastern thoughts?


Western religion tell you how God (or at least his representatives: who, it must be said, may not have quite such ultruistic motives) instructs you to behave in order to achieve eternal bliss.

Eastern religions give you suggestions and illustrations on how to behave in order to improve your lot in subsequent lives, thereby working towards eternal bliss.

Yeah I agree, that eastern philosophies guide us through many lives to attain eternal bliss, which we achieve through re-incarnation.

But when west meets east, there will be a discussion about re-incarnation. One cannot digest the fact of having an eternal hell, for his/her sins in life.

What I wanted to say is that, people find many inconsistencies, ironies in Christianity itself, because they try to reason it out, when one cannot reason faith. Inconsistencies are abound in nature(, if they are to be considered inconsistencies )( According to relativity, classical logic and common-sense are not applicable to the phenomenon of light – and the only thing science can do is to rely upon mathematical formulas which quantitatively correct the misconceptions and faulty predictions of classical physics)

So why the fuss about inconsistencies in religion and discussions on it?

The tao that can be named is not the eternal tao

The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth; the named was the mother of the myriad creatures.


6.52 We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer.

6.54 There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.

preface: What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.


A monk asked Kyorin, "what is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West? Kyorin said, “Sitting long and getting tired.”

Nansen came to see Hyakujo Osho. Jo said, “Is there any Dharma that the holy ones have not preached to the people?” Nansen said, “There is.” Jo said, “What is this Dharma that has not been preached to the people?” Nansen said, “it is not mind, it is not Buddha, it is not things.” Jo said, “you have preached.” Nansen said, “I am like this, what about you?” Jo said, “I am not a man of great wisdom, how can i tell if there is preaching or no preaching?” Nansen said, “i dont follow you.” Jo said, “i have talked quite enough for you.”


A monk said to Joshu “i have just entered this monastery. Please teach me.” “Have you eaten your rice porridge?” asked Joshu. “Yes i have,” replied the monk. “Then you should wash your bowl,” said Joshu.

I think this is a perfect example of the reason people in the West haven’t ‘discovered the truth’ of Eastern thought. So many times when I try to discuss eastern philosophy with someone, they absolutely refuse to speak plainly. Maybe it’s because I’m too impatient, dull-witted or clever to bother trying to pull meaning from what they say, or maybe it’s because they are too caught up with their own self-image as a guru on a mountain to speak plain English, but whatever the reason, there’s a huge communication break down. Many people in the West, even critically thinking people, tend to think of ‘Eastern religion’ as a bunch of profound-sounding koans and gobbledegook.

I don’t want to sound mean or anything, your topic has merit to it, but there are some corrections I’d like to make to your dating scheme. Western philosophical thought may have reached farther back than 2500 BCE as the Jewish calender is dated this year at 5765. As for Easter philosophical thought, I’m not exactly sure when Hinduism sprung up but I’ve last read that it’s somewhere between 4500 BCE and 5000 BCE.

Well, if it makes you feel any better, im a westerner, so i’ll type out what mumon has to say on this koan:

Mumon’s verse:

Endevouring to interpret clearly,
You retard your attainment.
Dont you know that flame is fire?
Your rice has long been cooked.

On a similar theme John Cage in Indeterminancy recited this little parable:

‘Two monks were walking when they came upon a woman trying to cross a stream. Seeing her in difficulty, one monk approached her and carried her across. An hour later his companion, who could no longer hold his discomfort, said to the first monk, “why did you carry her across the stream, you know it is forbidden for us to touch women!” The first monk replied, “put her down. I already did an hour ago.”’

Much easier to comprehend than the wash your bowl koan, but a similar message none the less. The trouble however was already elucidated by the second koan. Zen teaching is never about giving you the way. Its not a set of directions on enlightenment so to speak. The key to understanding it is not in the koan. Koans arent riddles to be solved, (the notion of solving - intellectually - is precisely the tangle which zen attempts to guide you through). The koan is a functional device to help you navigate the apparent dead ends of dialectic thinking. If i can preach for a moment - and so get it totally wrong - the truth of zen is found in absolute samadhi. [a quick definition scoured from the interweb: ‘being in the state of undifferentiated Beingness’]. Zen unlike western philosophy isnt the reflexion on being. This can make it deeply frustrating to the analytic mindset, but its parrallels with some of the more extreme religious influenced continental philosphy (authenticity, i/thou, the face to face, hospitality etc), are certainly there. And ready to be explored. Indeed having just read up a little on the kyoto school it seems there has been a certain degree of mingling going on in the past 50 years or so.

However, i caution you on my reading. Ive only started playing with zen for about 3 or 4 months now, if my reading doesnt satisfy then hopefully someone more nuanced than i will take up the reigns and tease out the philosophy of zen.

Of course, the sitting long and getting tired is a personal favourite. I encourage you to think on it.

In addition, heres a rather concise explication of zen:

A monk asked, ‘according to Vimalakirti, one who wishes for the pure land ought to have his mind purified; but what is the purified mind?’ Answered the zen master: ‘When the mind is absolutely pure you have a purified mind, and a mind is said to be pure when it is above purity and impurity. You want to know how this is to be realized? Have your mind thoroughly void in all conditions, then you will have purity. But when that is attained, do not harbour any thought of it, or you get non-purity. Again, when this state of non-purity is attained, do not harbour any thought of it, and you are free of non-purity. This is absolute purity.’

The problem with this is that if understood it leaves out the mystical. The shown in effect becomes the saying; (or in levinasian terms, just to confuse matters, the saying becomes the said).

Zan in a sense doesnt make sense to be fixed on things. If you understood why our rice ‘has long been cooked’ from earlier or why the monk had already ‘put her down’, then you can probably see why it’s inimical to ‘the said’ (levinas). Yet to recognise that an encounter at all takes place, there must be something shared. The I-Thou, necessarily becomes the I-It. Dialectic thought always brings up such problems. Not the least of which ‘whence the I?’

Zen’s response then might be this:

Kyogen Osho said, “It is like a man up in a tree hanging from a branch with his mouth; his hands grasp no bough, his feet rest on no limb, someone appears under the tree and asks him ‘what was the meaning of bodhidharma’s coming from the west?’ If he does not answer, he fails to respond to the question. If he does answer he will lose his life. What would you do in such a situation?”

To speak ‘the truth’ of the thing is to betray it, to not speak of it is to betray it. Thus, where lies knowledge in all this?

 I'm pretty stuck in my analytic ways, so yes, zen is deeply frustrating to me. If I can be analytic for a moment about such things, though, zen seems to me to attempt to deny or discredit rational or analytic thought, while at the same time, offering nothing in it's place- the ideal doesn't seem to be a different kind of thinking, but rather, [i]not thinking[/i]. I guess the idea that thinking hard about problems is the way to proceed is an assumption that I had to make before I even begun looking at philosophy. Also, this thread began with the question "Why can't people see the truth of eastern religion?" Well, if zen is a way and not an idea or ideas, there is no truth to see.

hehe! if i was being cheeky id say you certainly understand absolute samadhi, now you need to cultivate positive samadhi in order to grasp it.
To again quote - though this time not a koan you’ll be relieved, but a reading from the blue cliff records. Let me (someone else) explain:

“Samadhi is the ever renewed continuation of the present, which is the very nature of being. Being is formless (absolute) but appears every moment (positive). Being extends in every direction and is immortal. being is in perpetual motion. All things flow. You live in Samadhi, you die in Samadhi.”

Sounds a little wishy-washy of course, but should help to understand why i say you (as i), am missing out of that second aspect of zen.
There is no reflexion on Being.

So it is right to say it is a Way. Its also not in any way inimical to say there is no truth; given that ‘truth’ in the sense you use it is of course an attachment to things - i.e. distinction. Its also right to say it is not thinking. In fact heres a very direct koan (though a little understanding and patience and you’ll see that all koans are very direct - they arent as twisty evasions as us western philosophers think they are) from the gateless gate:


[size=100]Of course its the exact same problem that Buber has in the I-Thou. How to convey the immediacy and truth of the relationship without interrupting its essential imminence (the I-It - knowledge as an object to possess). Its the same problem too for levinas when he tries to convey the idea of saying without falling into objective fixed language - the said. Or in his earlier work, of encountering the face of the other without representing it only to its role in ones ownmost projects.

All of these ultimately depend and hinge upon a turning: an opening out to the other, an ethical facing of ones responsibilities (and indeed choices thereof) in order that we might listen. It also concerns a turning in the priorities of the reader. A brief encounter with Otherwise than being usually results in the reader dismissing the work as “sheer and total nonsense”. Yet their primary concern is not to ones projects - though heideggerians might disagree - but to ones responsibilities. Jouissance or ‘the present at hand’ (the world as it is for ourselves - the world of the object in its most objectified), is not the goal of these philosophies, this is merely the consequence of a world already made meaningful through the relation to ones ownmost projects. Their aim instead is only the opening outward. Its of course correct to throw a book like OTB away and call it nonsense. There is no real logical structure to the work, it rarely if at all makes a coherent argument. And most disturbingly of all it happily and somewhat nonchalantly contradicts parts from its own body. But this is to miss possibly its most important aspect: the saying - the opening outward - coupled to the disruption and challenge posed by the wholly otherwise. Its maybe then not the right challenge to zen to argue that its truth is meaningless because it has no relationship to the world. For although this may be true to some extent, its truth in its own sphere is measured in its relationship to samadhi: a non-reflective encounter with Being - immanance - coupled to the transcendence of the encounter itself. The truth of za zen then, if i can be so trite is the following:

When sitting sit. When standing stand. Above all, dont wobble.

Naturally, i hope you understand im not trying to refute your points, they appear to me to be bang on target - and this i hope is backed up by the various koans ive posted. Nor am i trying to justify or explain ‘the truth’ of zen (not the least of reasons being that i dont undertsand it either). Im simply intrigued by it. Im also intrigued by the parallels (right spelling this time!) with the ethical side of phenomenology. As for your final point that if it is a way and not an idea that there cannot therefore be a truth to see, i refer you to the theme of the first koan:

A monk asked Kyorin, "what is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West? Kyorin said, “Sitting long and getting tired.”

when you see, make sure to look. :wink:[/size]

I’m not used to this sort of discouse, so there’s things I understand and things I don’t. What you’re saying though, about certain aspects of the zen being nonsense literally, but still serving their purpose leads me to a question; where is the middle ground between Eastern and Western philosophy that even allows them to be compared? Is asking “Why don’t western philosophers realize the truth of zen” a bit like asking “Why don’t western economists realize the truth of dancing?” I mean sure, an economist/philosopher may or may not understand zen/dancing, but do we err to put one in terms of the other?

academic philosphers often have distain for eastern philosophy. I personally think it has its place in, espicially, moral philosophical debates. But really logically speaking it does lack the insight western philosophy has developed.

Fascinating, beautiful stuff none the less.

And what is this “TRUTH present in eastern thoughts”? Can you name a few?

And I might add that there indeed may be truths in eastern thoughts, but if it cannot be communicated or demonstrated, then there is no difference from nonsense, or lies, or fairy tales.

Heres Four:

All life is suffering
Desire is the cause of suffering
Through the ceasation of suffering we attain nirvana
We transcend suffering through following the eight-fold path

Seriously though, unless your initial coment was meant to show that neither is prioritised (‘the fairy tale’ and ‘the truth’ which designates it as a fairy tale), then ive no idea how the four noble truths will satisfy you either :smiley:

I think the misunderstanding comes maybe from the way im presenting it. Not only in the fact that im merely a few months in to reading (independently - so no help from a zen master for me) on the subject, but also in the possibility (though its far from my own mind), that zen in some way offers a competing way for doing the same thing.

Zen is not in competition with epistemology. Its not trying to offer a ‘better way’ of studying ‘truth’. Its ‘truth’ is both rational and irrational (from that which designates it as such - hello wittgenstein!)

The problems you have with zen i assure you i also share. Its awkward to pin down, and when pinned down its ‘truth’ becomes little more than self-reinforcing principles. But this is what happens when you hold zen to account on our own terms and through our own projects. For instance could zen even make sense if it were grounded on a critique of its own project? A critique of being? when the aim is to attain being? When you really listen to zen (instead of telling it how it should be) you do find that it is as complex, as vital, and as rational as any western philosophy. Hopefully if ive explained it clearly some of those koans should now be a little more perceptible and INTUITIVELY rational as opposed to straight forward nonsense.

Again though, another koan on the second noble truth and the problem of intellection in zen.

If you understand clarity to mean enlightenemnt, and you understand that one can also become attached to ‘being enlightened’ then maybe the koan is a nice story to help sum up the problems of limits. In asking his students if they understood or not, joshu was asking if any of them were aware of the problem in his statement - did they too value and understand the mind that had no attachments. He does not have this clarity because he does not possess or hold on to it. Yet this letting go is of itself an act of attachment.

Letting go, holding on.

How to communicate that which refuses to be communicated? Through recognising that communication is the barrier to being - the reflexion on being. Thus the critique offered by the monk - that joshu is still attached - is part of the dualistic thinking which joshu was trying to bring his monks out of. This again is the sudden turning - the jolt of expectations - which is the very basis and heart of the koan in rinzai zen.

Joshu could have just said: you cannot reflectively understand Being without at once possessing ‘being’ and making it an object for yourself.

But how this makes any more sense is beyond me. There was after all very good reasons why kant always used noumena in a negative sense (to delimit the boundaries of phenomena) - and so never ascribed positive aspects to it (though it should be added, my kant is super-weak, i do therefore stand to be corrected). How can you know youve attained being unless you ‘know’ it. And how can you ‘know it’ without already being aware of it? (the meno?) .

I think then this is in-part a response to uccisore. Zen is not inimical to western philosophy since its problems are ours too. It does not simply say ‘have faith you will attain being’ as some might suspect. Its methods for encountering being are highly rational, they are consistent and ultimately and most importantly, they are meaningful - they have sense. Yet its this absurd desire to attain that which lies beyond attainment which ultimately depends upon faith. Yet faith is of course much like Wittgensteins ladder. Useful only to climb the flagpole of zen, but once there one should understand that the flagpole never had any significance. One should then walk from it.

The Way is the path to enlightenment, yet this too must be transcended. One does not simply conceive of the idea of moving on, one simply does. This is the way.

Again though, im hoping im not being misunderstood. Im not trying to say abandon philosophical rigour, put down your logic and verificationism and listen to the one true way. Im no acolyte. I wont put a pox on your house if you dont believe me. Im trying only to convey it to the very best of my own incredibly humble abilities. Dont mistake me for an authority on the subject. Hopefully someone will come to explain the sutra’s - somthing i havent even touched on - or even the teaching of the buddha himself. My interest right now is expressly in the encounter with Being. This makes it very compatible with my studies in phenomenology (NB. Which i havent looked at for some two years or so - so excuse the rustiness :stuck_out_tongue:).

I guess uccisore, the response would be to change the question slightly. Why dont western economists realize the truth of dancing? should probably read, ‘why dont western economists just dance?’
For zen, there is really no truth independent of the activity. By this i dont mean its simply meaningless. I mean the importance is placed on praxis, not on analysis. One either dances or one does not. In assessing ones dancing, the roshi will of course ask questions to confirm whether dancing took place. But the truth comes from ones own dancing. Did you really dance, or were you only trying to dance?

Returning then to the all pervasive koan: the answering of the koan allows the roshi for instance to ascertain whether you have attained absolute and positive samadhi through very careful appreciation of the purpose for which the koan was set. It is rigorous in that sense, for contradiction with the way reveals that one is still stuck in the world of dualism. A series of questions will usually catch out people who have intellectually understood samadhi from those who follow the way. So again, there are methods of verification. Though whether the object it verifies is meaningful at all is still something that one on this side of the stream must take on (or refuse on) faith.

Yuxia, you are right, zen is an incredibly beautiful thing to look at and appreciate, but this looking at, this appreciating, is of course inimical to zen. (unless of course you mean pure looking - ie. a looking from no-point). The idea of an ‘insight’ would of course be contested by the zen student. What you maybe mean is that it lacks the philosophical rigour of philosophy. In this you would be right. But then, philosophy lacks the scientific rigour of science, science lacks the ecclesiastical rigour of religion etc etc. Its a cheap shot of course, but its valid none the less.
What ive been trying and hopefully succeeding in stressing is that there is a rationale to zen. Its just a little quirky if you try to map philosophical (and by this i probably mean analytical philosophical) rigour onto it. In so doing, you invariably take away the very things that makes it zen: its ethical opening outward and its encounter with being.

The middle ground between zen and western philosophy is maybe also a little complex. From an objective standpoint, I dont believe there to be one. It seems that the two intersect at places, and split at others. There appears to be no unifying synthesis. But this is probably how it should be. For then the question comes, from which objective standpoint can we say it is synthesised?

Of course, if you have studied your continental philosophy you’ll no doubt see that the methods and problems thrown up by the encounter with zen reflect the relationship and encounter with Being: Disruption, listening, possession, and the ethical. Again, the intersect; again however zen might ask why they dont just shut up talking about being, and simply be? “Dasein” means unfortunately nothing in zen.

Encounter/abandonment. This is the way of dialogue. We must always step away from the encounter to make sense of it. Yet we must always be prepared to resume the encounter in order that our pre-conceptions be challenged. In the face-to-face it is myself that is put at stake in the encounter with the face of the other. For the other, (to be truly other), must speak from outside of my own projects; she must throw down an ultimate challenge to those very projects. In so doing she calls us to authenticate/account for ourselves in the face of Being. This is an ethical call: for we might refuse it so much as engage in it. Thus in similar light, Zen throws down the same challenge to western philosophy. Not because its superior, not because its more philosophical, or more rational. But only because it is outside. This is the importance of zen in western philosophy. It is the importance of dialogue in the face to face. It is the ethical response which ultimately determines whether zen had anything to say. It is the determination whether it is something to be encountered sincerely, or merely a beautiful object to behold.

Why are these truths?

How do I know they are?

As they stand they are merely assertions. I too can assert the converse, eg all life is joy, sin is the cause of suffering, etc etc.

How do I tell a lie from a truth?

hehe! as i said before. You wont find them satisfactory and for the very reasons ive already given:

how about this then:



What use then of a truth independent of zen understanding in zen?

Zen lives and dies by its relationship to pure being. It is not trying to prove objectively the truth, for the truth of zen is experienced. Again, you will be right to ask from what standpoint… but this misses the point. Zen is wiley, its also going to make no sense if you keep coming at it from reflectional accountability. The truth in itself is unnecessary, in fact, its downright meaningless to zen. The truth is only meaningful in its use. Its use being the alleviation of suffering through the escape from desire (attachment), and thus the encounter with Being.
Again, make no bones about this, im no authority on this subject. I stand to be corrected, but i sincerely believe that ‘objective’ grounds arent as important as you think they are. For ‘objective’ points to a space outside of absolute samadhi.

Now in a sense THIS would be a nonsense. :smiley: A philosophy which believes that you can objectively observe absolute samadhi? if all is unified, then what of the position from which you observe? However, this being said, Zen isnt about the attainment of enlightenment in and for itself (see previous koans), so how to communicate the incommunicable? This is the problem of zen. But its also the problem of any philsophy which attempts to transcend its own methods. How can Buber tell where the I-Thou was an authentic encounter with the Other? How can Levinas know where the turning away from the face-to-face began and ended? Your question belongs to a tradition of radical scepticism which is yet to be decided. Ultimately all philsophy grounds itself on a ‘because it is’ conclusion. Scepticism however has yet to be silenced, even when Wittgenstein in on certainty showed (admirably) that there must be a certainty before one can doubt, for doubting implies meaning, and meaning implies certainty. He did not however argue that the certain was always certain, only that for the doubter it was none the less held - within - the particular teaching from which it came.

The doubter learned to use things before she learned to assess their objectivity.

Just as you teach the child to sit in the chair, so you ‘teach’ them to encounter being. The system lives in and through itself. It reinforces itself.
Why enlightenment? because enlightenment brings escape from samsara. Why escape from samsara? because samsara is the home of suffering. Why escape suffering? to attain enlightenment.


Yet the truth of the four noble truths are in themselves not particularly important. They offer a guideline to attain Being, they arent the grounding of it. Thus the sense of truth again should be read differently. The truth in zen should be seen in the same spirit as the rest of the philosophy: as a crucial aspect of the way, but not the way itself. In answer then to your question with possibly the least satisfactory answer i think you’ll ever receive:

how do i tell lie from truth?

(Hume: treatise on human nature)


I hope thats clear now

Are you writing in English? I dont understand what you wrote.

Again I can barely make out what you are trying to say. But if you are saying the “truth” is revealed only to those that somehow can “see”, then it is something not for everyone, and there is no point for those not so gifted with the “seeing” or the “experiencing” to try to understand you or the subject, and it is certainly irrelevant and inconsequential to us, for we must and do just get on with life without these “truths”; and certainly we cannot be “blamed” for not able to see the “truths”.

Thats what you believed, and certainly you can believe anything you want to believe, but if you are trying to persuade me to believe what you believe than merely telling me what you believe, no matter how sincerely, is not good enough. For a start I need to know why you believe what you believe, and then I need to ascertain whether it makes sense, from within my presuppositional framework, and if it does not then you must convinced me why I should adopt a different presuppositional framework, if any, within which it may make sense.

But if you say that having notions like presuppositional frameworks and all that are nonsense and meaningless in zen, then you tell how I make sense of zen. If you tell me what I see is not what I see, what I speak is not what I speak, etc etc, then you must explain to me what do you mean by see and see or speak and speak. If you say it cannot be explained, then i say that whatever your wisdom is and whatever potential contribution you may have for mankind’s benefit is moot, inaccessible, indifferent, and as good as non existent. It is like me living over a pot of gold under my house, but generations after generations living in that house never realised it, and it makes no difference to our livelihood in the house.

So if I have wisdoms and truths and I believe that these will benefit you and I care that you benefit from them, then the onus in on me to communicate and make you understand what these wisdoms and truths are, and in a manner that you can understand as you have understood things all along, ie I put myself in your shoes and make you see things the way you see it. I will make it as easy as possible for you to understand and not deliberately leaving it hard and unintelligible. Then either you are not sincere about the truths and wisdoms, or you yourself never understood it enough to explain it.

This is my test for whether you have understood a thing comprehensively: explain the thing so that a child understands it. If you can you have understood it, otherwise, not.

There is no problem. Anything that cannot be communicated is of no greater value than nonsense and can be treated as such without any consequences whatsoever; and there are more profitable things in life to pursue then trying to make sense of gobbledegook.

So zen go solve its problem first, before it tries to solve anyone’s problem, much less the world’s.

Yes, that it reinforced what I knew, namely that it is utter nonsense.


How amusing! You dismiss a whole field of eastern philosophy because you can find no satisfactory explanation in YOUR terms. Here’s a clue.
Eastern philosophy doesn’t concern itself with your understanding of my understanding. It is all about you grasping your own understanding. To the extent that you come to the party with a whole collection of precepts you will never have the AHA! experience.

All of the eastern philosophies speak of emptying out the mind in order to be receptive. To become able to see directly, not through any particular set of colored glasses, yours or mine.

Utter nonsense? What ever you say, have it your way.


I swear you completely misunderstand what ive said. Nevertheless let me recap (so that a child can understand :stuck_out_tongue: ).

I am not trying to convince you of the truth of zen
I am not trying to provide you with explicit grounds of the truth of zen
Finally, every single point youve raised ive acknowledged already. You really are just hitting in open goals.
My interest in zen isnt as a means to replace philosophical rigour, it is instead exactly what it says: an interest in zen.

So lets get to your points.

Im sure i was quite clear when i said “what use of a truth independent of zen understanding IN zen”. In fact i believe myself to have been awfully concise (for a change).

Translation: Zen is concerened with the attainment of being not with discussing the attainment of Being. As such a truth for its own sake (i.e. one entirely concerned with the discussion on attaining being as opposed to one involved in the actual attainment of being) is irrelevant. Zen has no need of ‘truths’ or certainties independant of simply Being. This is why i prefaced the statement with the quote by kant. It is to emphasise that within a system, the meaning of an expression must be bound to the purpose for which the expression is intended. A truth for its own sake - one concerned with the discussion on being - is redundant and needless. For in Zen, the ‘truth’ gains its meaning through its application. As the late great wittgie remarked:

Again, why this explanation would satisy you is also beyond me. I expect it to not do so, and make no apologies for that.

Secondly, again you are under the illusion that im posing a challenge. That im somehow asking you to look for the ‘real’ truth, as opposed the ‘mediocre’ truth that philosophy lives in. I have made no such statement. Yuxia is of course absolutely right, zen is a beautiful thing to behold, but if you want to get to material facts of things and use them in a coherent and sensible way, then maybe zen doesnt have that scientific rigour you desire.
If pushed to make a choice on the matter (regarding verification for instance), between say zen and formal logic, i’ll probably side with the law of the excluded middle. But im not pushed to make a choice, and neither, contrary to your beliefs, are you. Zen’s concern, its object of knowledge so to speak, is totally unique. Although its methods for attaining it are both rational and consistent, its object is the very problem which you are attempting to ‘solve’. The search for that which is beyond words - even beyond the search itself - seems quaint, ridiculous and maybe even a giant waste of time. But lets turn to philosophy for our answers: In kantian terms, we are locked in phenomena, and as such cannot talk about the noumena meaningfully. Is then the noumena “not an object of knowledge”?

What on earth could this question possibly mean? How could you positively ascribe any quality to the noumena without it becoming phenomena? What then is the point of kant even mentioning it? To delimit the phenomena? why? to show a limit? then why even mention a limit? what meaning does a limit have if it cant be transcended? To put another way: from which standpoint outside the limit can you see the boundary? Does the stating of a boundary mean that the boundary has already been transcended? But this cant make sense, so again: what purpose in mentioning it?

Boundaries are tricky things to navigate. They dont particularly make much sense precisely because if you are irrational enough to attempt to transcend them, you must both speak from this side of the limit, and also from the other side: from a point beyond the limit. Yet since the limit exists precisely because there is no point outside of it, it makes it something of a nonsense to say you are searching for something beyond it. Im sure you’ll agree, (not the least of reasons being that this is ultimately your point (if i understand correctly)).
Again, you have to understand im not disagreeing with you. Zen is a nonsense to the sheen of icy cold truth. But once more, what use of truth independant of zen, IN zen?

Indeed! The point isnt to find an objective meister-truth to oversee all philsophy/rigour, but to appreciate it from how its language is used. Let me put it this way: you could come up with a grand unifying scheme; a final perfect system of truth underlying the mess of zen. You could take it to a roshi and say, master i have your system, now you can see the truth of zen in all its purity. He will no doubt thank you, but ask why you’ve stopped doing your zazen. Then he will put it on the shelf as a momento. Something maybe beautiful to behold, but ultimately meaningless. For even if there was such a truth that i could present to you, it would be irrelevant. It would be a layer on top of being. One more thing to add to the discussion on being; one more thing taking you further away from being. It would not in fact be ‘the truth’ of zen at all.

Heres a question then. Suppose you are me. You understand that the truth of zen is related to its encounter with pure being. You also understand that ipso facto it cannot be the ‘discussion’ on this encounter. Someone asks you to explain the truth of zen, what could you say that couldnt contradict this ‘truth’? Again, we come back to a koan already posted - for zen has already encountered this problem; it understands entirely its irrational complexities:

I dont post these up you know to go - ‘oooh! look! koan!’ :laughing: - but because they are always pertinent to the (dare i say), ‘philosophical’ discussion on zen. They make a crucial point about its own reflexive awareness of its own epistimic problems. And they do so precisely to show the student that there is no satisfactory answer to be gleaned from an intellectual encounter with the problem.

Now fourthly, onto belief. Once again youre under the misapprehension im trying to persuade you of some ultimately true ‘truth’. Im not. Im not trying to convince you of anything at all. If i’m trying to do anything remotely in that sphere, then my object is only to elucidate zen (as i conceive it), and my ‘project’, if there is one, is to show some interesting points where zen and western philosophy intersect, and of course some points where they part ways. That they do ‘part ways’ (and often violently so) does not however make me think that i was mistaken in believing there to have been an intersection. Such a claim doesnt follow. That there is no formal truth to zen independant of its own subjective grounds does not make me think that the work is meaningless. Nonsense, (according to the presuppositional frameworks which designate it as such) maybe, but meaningless? certainly not.

Now to the issue of making sense of zen. Ive said it once, but i’ll say it again: sit long, get tired. Again, i dont know what else to tell you on the matter. The meaning has been consistent throughout, I dont belive ive contradicted myself. But to satisfy you i’d have to do exactly that. What youre asking for, and i assume are getting increasingly frustrated by my inability to serve it up, is an epistemology of zen? but once again what on earth could that be to zen other than an ornamental decoration? Sit long get tired. It doesnt try to hide its message, but says it quite plainly. Zen is to be. Stop talking about it. And yet here i do just that. Again, yet one more contradiction: explicating the inexplicable that one should understand the object of zen which is not in fact an object. Simple, ne?

As for understanding: I thought i was making it clear enough for children to understand. I didnt hide behind anything, everything is laid out before you. But i make no apologies for the complexity of the subject matter. Now both Yuxia and Uccisore understood that there maybe was little to discuss on the matter precisely because they followed what ive said. You too have followed what ive sad - the only difference is you seem to be disturbed that its of no concern to zen whether it is logical enough for you, and thus is entirely unconcerned with whether it convinces you or not. As i said from the start, im trying to convince you of nothing. Nor am i posing an ultimate challenge to your presuppositional frameworks. My interest is to establish intersections, and points where it breaks away. To test zen so to speak through its own rigour. Can you say just anything at all in zen? no, you cant. Why not? because some things ultimately betray the truth of zen. You cant hold that you have found enlightenment by observing being. Such a statement makes no sense at all in zen. But it could make sense to someone whose intention is to systematise zen, or to someone who had grasped the intellectual aspect of zen. (* NB. they would be wrong btw :stuck_out_tongue:*)

The fact that there are statements that cannot be meaningfully made in zen, shows that there must therefore be a sense to zen. There are in fact rules to zen and indeed a truth to adhere to. Your problem seems to be that if its rules arent the same ones that you follow (your “presuppositional framework”) then it cant make sense. As if somehow the last word on sense is imbued in your framework. Yet in spite of your claim, it continues to make sense. It makes sense precisely because there are means to falsify it.

Look back at the koans. They set out the rules and limits of what can meaningfully be said in zen. They also pose the problem of how to unsay what has been said (a nod and a wink to levinas). Again, not just anything can be said. One cannot hold that one has intellectually solved a koan. For the purpoose of it is to bring you away from that very intellection.

Now ive explained what happens. One tests ones answers with the roshi, the roshi will fire a series of questions to attempt to push you into an a contradiction with the way, and thus establish whether in fact you have found the answer at all, or merely intellectually grasped it.
The point is to separate authentic being from the conception of being. The test is to establish which of the two the monk inhabits. A further test is to establish whether you are simply attached to being. Now to try and cleave a distinction between intellectual understanding and intuitively grasped understanding let me come back to a previous koan: How for instance do you respond to the the koan of joshu and the meeting?

Say one word of zen and you show your enlightenment. But what to say?
That is the precise purpose of the koan.

Engo has this advice:


[size=100]That ive already explained the meaning of the koan (cf 2 posts ago) shows that ive understood it. That i cannot think what to say, shows that i have not yet grasped it.

This is where the koan, and sitting long and getting tired, (zazen) come into play. Its not enough to understand what the problem is. One must also know how to respond to it. That is what the roshi tests. Yet in understanding what the problem is, i can see the rules which make it meaningful: why it is in fact a problem, and not just an empty phrase. Thus i have the sense, and if you like, ‘the truth’ of the situation before me.

Im of course now getting a little exhausted thinking so much on so little food, so im off to eat If you think there is anything more to say on the matter then i’ll be happy to continue. However, i doubt this post is any less gobbledegook, so im sure you’ll still feel that zen has nothing to say to you.

Also, one final contradiction. After one attains enlightenemnt, attachment and detachment become irrelevant - belonging as they are to dualistic thought. Thus the monk returns to the world precisely to help others in any way ‘the sufferer’ sees fit (though mainly through labour). So its not quite the self-absorbed ivory tower philosophy you think it is. Its aim isnt to attain enlightenemnty for its own sake, but to help in the reduction of suffering. To directly suffer for others so to speak.[/size]

Well if it is all about what you exprienced privately and something you cannot communicate, then there is no point trying to talk about it, is there? It is a private party for people who are initiated.

In my terms? Yes, if you want to talk to me.

If you talk to me in terms I cannot understand, then by definition, thats nonsense.