Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reality (1) Reason, which pervades through the Universe

At the end of the last research of Buddhism, we have arrived at the problem what Reality is in Buddhism. And about such a problem Buddhism usually insists that it is difficult for us to explain Reality with words. Because Reality is so inclusive, so wide, so complicated, so direct, and so forth. Therfore in Shobogenzo we find a Chapter, which entitled "INMO, or It," (29) which suggests something difficult to describe with words. The word "INMO" is a Chinese colloquial word, which means "it" or "that" implying something ineffable.
But in Buddhism the meaning of word "ineffable" does never suggest some kind of mysticism, or vagueness, but it suggests Reality itself in front of us, which includes so holy, so miscellaneous, so complicated, and so direct things and phenomena in front of us. Therefore I think that it is also very addiquate for us to explain Reality relying upon the meathod of the Four Philosophies.
And about such a problem we can find a very excellent book, which explains the true meaning of Buddhist philosophy, in the Ancient India, called Mulamadhyamakakarika (from here I would like to call it MMK) by Nagarjuna. MMK is constructed from 27 chapters, and in the 1st Chapter, we can find the 1st Verse, as follows.

"Not Subjectivity, never Objectivity, not the both, but never unreasonable.
The phenomena are just recognized, and (the concept) "existences" do never exist anywhere, they are completely nothing."

This suggests that the Subjectivity, or what is considered in our brain, does not exist as Reality, and the Objectivity, or what is perceived through our sense organs, also does not exist as Reality. In other words what we think in our brain is not Reality, and what we perceive through our sense organs is never Reality. And those two sentences insist that the Idealistic Philosophy is not true, and the Materialistic Philosophy is not true. But Reality is never unreasonable.

And in the second Verse MMK said.

"The Four Reliable Facts are Reason, the External World, the Present Moment,
And just Reality like God. And the Fifth Reliable Fact does never exist at all."

Reading this Verse, I noticed Nagarjuna's so strong confidence in his Buddhist Philosophy, and I have accepted his Buddhist Belief so strongly. Nagarjuna insisted that the Reliable Facts, or Reality, are just four, that is, Reason, the External World, the Present Moment, and Reality itself. And he never confirmed the existence of the fifth one.
I think that his first viewpoint of Reality, which is considered on the Basis of the Four philosophies, may be the Reason, which pervades throughout the Universe. For example, a person A thinks about 1 + 1, it might be 2, and a person B thinks about 1 + 1, it might be also 2. And so we have to think the existence of the facts that 1 + 1 = 2 always exist everywhere in the Universe, and it is completely impossible for us to deny the existence of such a simple fact in the Universe at all. In such meaning, it is completely impossible for me to deny the Real Existence of Reason through the Universe at all first.

9 Comments:

Blogger Justin said...

I think that Nagarjuna is a very important Buddhist philosopher. He challenges the popular misconception that Buddhism is 'anti-rational' - rationalism can be a powerful tool, although it is never reality. I'm working through the MMK myself, trying to understand the concept of the emptiness of emptiness/the emptiness of dependent origination/the emptiness of impermanence.

If 'everything is impermanent', then this is self-refuting since it means that impermanence is only temporary or if impermanence is permanent, again there is a contradiction since then not everything would be impermanent. This sort of self-contradiction of a universal statement is not uncommon in philosophy. This is where we reach the limits of thought and language and have to abandon them. Nagarjuna sees dependent origination/impermanence as empty of inherent existence. I'm trying to understand what this really means.

6:23 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

Where can you find dependent origination and impermanence in this real world?

You might say - look that flower has died - it is proof of impermanence. But in our real instantaneous existence it is a flower that is dead. It is not 'impermanence.' It's true nature is ineffable.

You cannot find concrete representations of philosophical concepts because they are abstract, exist only in the mind and have no concrete existence. This methodology is used to attempt to explain the great complexity of our existence but ultimately, it cannot. This is the paradox of Buddhist study and the reciprocal function of zazen. The realised universe can be done, it can be indicated but it cannot adequately be described.

This is one meaning of Nagarjuna's primary and encapsulating teaching of 'the relinquishing of all views.'

8:32 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Justin said...

Thanks floating weed.

Hmmm... impermanence (etc) is not an entity, it is just an abstraction. There is no permanence for it to exist in opposition to. It has no reality independent of that which is impermanent. It has existence only as the multitude of impermanent, empty things.

Sounds about right...

form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form. So too are feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness.

By the way there's another interesting discussion on Nagarjuna also going on here:

9:27 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Justin said...

The translation of the second verse of the MMK that I have (Garfield) reads:

There are four conditions: efficient condition [causality]:
Percept-object condition [objects that cause percepts]; immediate condition [intermediary events in causal chain];
Dominant condition [purpose], just so.
There is no fifth condition.

11:27 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Justin said...

Garfield translates the first verse as:

Neither from itself nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a cause,
Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.


This is a classic negative tetralemma on dependent origination

11:33 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Erik said...

2 more translations of the first 2 verses just for fun :

First is Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso

Verse 1 :

Not from self not from other,
Not from both, nor without a cause:
Things do not arise
At any place, at any time

Second is Michael Luetchford

Verse 1 :

Things do not come into existence from self or from others,
nor from a combination of both.
Yet things are not without a cause.

Verse 2 :

The four conditions are : causal, objective, immediate, and universal.
There is no fifth condition.

1:48 AM, February 02, 2006  
Blogger Jinzang said...

The Four Reliable Facts are Reason, the External World, the Present Moment, And just Reality like God.

The four conditions come straight from abhidharma. There's not much I understand about them. But the last one, ishvara, though literally translated as god, is more usually translated as dominant. Dominant refers to one of the six sense powers. The idea is that dharmas are percepts, so a sense power is necessary for their arising.

12:24 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Justin San, For Floating Weed San, For Erik San, For Jinzang San

Thank you very much for your opinions about Mulamadhymata-karika (from here MMK) by Nagarjuna. But I was much surprised that your researching methods of MMK are completely different from mine. Because in my case I read the original text of MMK direxctly, relying upon the Sanskrit-English Dictionary, especially by Moniel-Williams, and I have translated it totally into English already. It has taken about 20 years, and the draft is being rewrited by my disciple Brad Warner, and so the translation may be published in this year.

For example, our translation of Verse 1. and 2.in the Chapter 1. of MMK, are as follows.

MMK. Chapter 1.
Verse 1.
[(The reliable facts are) not the subjecyive (thoughts), not the objective (sense stimuli), not a mixture of the two, but never unreasonable at all.
Phenomena are just recognized as they are, and the concept of existence never exists anywhere, it is just non-existence.]

Verse 2.
[The four reliable facts sre reason, the external world, the present moment,
And reality, that is, this world, which seems to be similar to God. A fifth reliable fact never exists really at all.]

I expect that our Buddhist researchs with you will continue more and more.

11:42 AM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Jinzang San

At the top of your comment you have showed my translation of MMK, Chapter 1., Verse 2.directly, therefore, if it is possible, I would like to know the route, through which you could get it.

10:13 AM, April 19, 2006  

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