Zen Buddhism and Existential Phenomenology (Pt. II)

From: joedees@bellsouth.net
Date: Sun 24 Nov 2002 - 20:54:35 GMT

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    For EP, perception is the realization of sense experience; this realization of its facticity as a phenomenon involves the imposition of a significance to this realization. Since one is part of the perceived, this meaning is both (and correlatively) externalized and internalized. This is another aspect of Being-in-the-World as a correlative -- authentic perception of the world involves the creation of meaning for one's perception(s). Since Dasein is temporally finite, this meaning is of necessity contingent, not absolute. The fact of human meaning's contingency does not, however, detract from its world-referential structure; it simply establishes that structure as a point-of-view (in geometry, a point occupies no space yet possesses position). Perception, therefore, is not only valid, it also comprises the ground for the manifestation of Care. The realization of its particularity, however
    (absence of universal god's eye world-view), entails the further realization of its incompleteness. Thus possibility outstrips actuality even in perception and choices are perpetually being made in the inposition of meaning (determination as negation of alternatives). These choices still reflect the imposed-upon, and are relational to them, and gain further validity (in the sense of multiplicity of shared perspectives) from corroboration; shared perception and shared meaning are less contingent than their solitary apprehension and creation. The existential leap is an outgrowth of the phenomenological apprehension of the lived world tempered bynthe reflective realization of its contingent nature as interpretive. In Zen, this leap is analogous to Satori. The preceding exposition upon EP and perception is intuitionally encapsulated in the Zen statement, "When I bagan to study Zen, mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers; when I thought I understood Zen, mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers; but once I came to full knowledge of Zen, mountains were once again mountains and rivers were one again rivers". These mountains and rivers, however, possess a deeper and less na´ve meaning after Satori.


    In EP, language is the "means by which" and the "condition without which" of intersubjectivity. Language is the meaning of corroboration and the common ground by which expression is achieved
    (not FROM whichthat would be the Being-in-the-World interpenetrated by the Being-of-the-World). The danger is in confusing the sign
    (word) with what it signifies or refers to in the world; this mistake places the primary importance falsly upon the means rather thatn the end
    (corroboration of phenomena and the differing yet similar perspectives concerning them). Zen sees a deeper problem. The use of language tends to falsely dualize a separate reality of language even before this
    'reality' becomes an inauthentic primordial (which is EP's concern). To say, for instance, "This is a stick" is to linguistically separate "This" and
    "stick" both by the use of two different descriptive terms and by the use of a mediating (therefore bifurcating) relational term, for to state the identity of the "two" is to implicitly acknowledge the necessity of such an equivalence. Koans are linguistic guards against this kind of thing; among other things, they expose words for the 'entrapping tools' they are. By using words against themselves through the direct apprehension of their ambiguity and absurdity rather than by the multiplication of their semiotic web (as self-defeating (chuckle!) gesture), Zen makes admirable use of William of Occam's dictum that simplest is best.


    There is no metaphysical study in EP; any 'metaphysics' is actually ontology, the study of the structures underlying existence and experience. The thing independent of Dasein's lived world is eschewed as a purposeless study in that things are not existent in and of themselves, but are dependent, as phenomena, upon our imposition of meaning into our perceptions. Transcendentals (unapprehended - not apparent or immanent) are not of the phenomenal world
    (phenomenon - what appears to perception). In the same way, the concept of a personal deity is a pseudoleap possessing not even contingent support from the phenomenal field. It is an unsupported article of belief, not an extrapolation from knowledge. The very concept of such a deity as having a persona or any human-derived attributes is an illegitimate anthropomorphization(humanity creating gods in its own image - even to determination of sex). The Zen perspective on metaphysics is well reflected in the shocking (to the believer) statement which is the title of a book by Sheldon B. Kopp; "If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him". My interpretation of this statement is , "If an ideology or metaphysics strives to render the lived world into an appendage of the transcendental, eschew it". Sheldon's equivalent is a different way of saying the same thing, and appears on the front cover of his book. As he puts it,
    "No meaning that comes from outside of ourselves is real. The Buddhahood of each of us has already been attained. We need only recognize it. A grown-up can be no one's disciple, for the most important things that each of us must learn no one else may teach us." The apprehension of a God in Zen is western wishful thinking. This is one of the most significant goals of Zen - to help people to learn to stand on their own two feet.


    There is much work to be done in the field of comparative philosophy, and one of the richest comparisons still to be made in depth
    (although both D.T. Suzuki and Stephen Batchelor have substantially addressed it) is that of Zen and EP. We have barely scratched the surface within this preliminary study, but we shall nevertheless risk a few imporessions on their conjoint future. EP is an intellectual revolt against the sterile intellectualism of the scientistic formalist who threatens to destroy subjectivity by objectifying everything; Zen is an intuitional revolt against the transcendental mysticism of the everyday Hindu. They seem to be on converging paths. Why? The two could be naturally complementary, as are the intellectual and intuitional aspects of the brain. This complementarity is, however, not the final stage if such is the case, for as the individual is the synthesis of the two as a concrete bearer of reality, so would the truth each is in its own way approaching be found between them. Zen already involves intellection, and EP intuition. This truth is lived - they agree on this. The continuation of the present convergence would thus most likely involve dynamic interpenetration. Both of them are growing more popular as they converge. This would suggest that their respective zeniths of popularity - or the points at which they are each appropriated by the greatest number of individuals as ways to the understanding of life - will coincide with their synthesis in a Hegelian sense (with the truths of each prteserved within their commin supercession). That this is perhaps better understood as synthesis in F.S.C. Northrup's terminology rather than in Hegel's is a realization to which one comes when one contemplates the number of various schools of thought comprising each of them. Not the two, but the many converge. This involution cannot help but stimulate evolution, and as yet unsupposed insights which will at the same time be widespread and readily accessible. The effect snowballs, the East and West rush towards their appointed meeting, and - purely subjectively - I nod, smile, and perhaps even applaud a little. Such a fertile playground is grist for the mill of a future synthecizer in the spirit of Aristotle, Kant and Hegel, and the revolutions themselves are temporally closer as time goes on. The next cannot come soon enough for me.


    "What we cannot speak anout", says Wittgenstein, "we must pass over in silence'> What we can speak of, we must and will, and the only way to find out is to try, replies EP. Zen answers that we cannot speak about the foundations from which the speakers themselves spring except imperfectly and incompletely. At that moment, the silence casts light upon, rather than passes over, this primordiality. EP might just agree already; or so Albert Camus seems to be saying. In the beautiful words of an intuitive intellectual:

    "The secret I am seeking lies hidden in a valley full of olive trees, under the grass and the cold violets, around an old house that smells of wood smoke. For more than twenty years I rambled over that valley and others resembling it, I questioned mute goatherds, I knocked at the doors of deserted ruins. Occasionally, at the moment of the first star in the still bright sky, under a shower of shimmering light, I thought I knew. I did know, in truth. I still know, perhaps. But no one wants any of this secret; I don't want any myself, doubtless; and I cannot stand, apart from my people. I live in my family, which thinks it rules over rich and hideous cities built of stones and mists. Day and night it speaks up, and everything bows before it, which bows before nothing: it is deaf to all secrets. Its power that carries me bores me, nevertheless, and on occasion its shouts weary me. But its misfortune is mine, and we are of the same blood. A cripple, likewise, an accomplice and noisy, have I not too shouted among the stones? Consequently, I strive to forget, I walk in our cities of iron and fire, I smile bravely in the night, I hail the storms, I shall be faithful. But perhaps someday, when we are ready to die of exhaustion and ignorance, I shall be able to disown our garish tombs and go and stretch out in the valley, under the same light, and learn for the last time what I know."

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