Tyler Jones
    André I don't think this is completely correct, but hits on an important and subtle point that I am not particularly qualified to address. JT talks about +A and -A expressions of emptiness, and the importance post-anatta of both the non-conceptual development of realization and the integrating with arising concepts development, that is, investigating how concepts of self arise in real time (I guess one could call this post equipoise) is a development independent of resting in non-conceptual equipoise. He has also said the closest thing in Tibetan Buddhism to total exertion is Tsongkhapa's view, which emphasizes the conventional existence of things arising according to dependent origination, so this is related to Tsongkhapa vs Freedom From Extremes territory. Seeing as you favor Freedom From Extremes, it doesn't surprise me that you make the above point 😉. Soh, do you have anything to say about this matter?

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Soh wrote:

Yes, as John Tan basically said before, Dogen's experience of just sitting is not just anatta but require dependent origination.

So if we just remain non conceptual and do not penetrate into the view of dependent origination, it is not easy to experience the Maha total exertion.

Ted Biringer is able to bring this out, the +A aspect, quote:

"To clarify, and emphasize the crucial point, since the existence of ‘A’ can only be discerned by its contrast with the existence of ‘not-A’, the existence of ‘A’ is dependent on the existence of ‘not-A’ – therefore, the existence of ‘A’ is inclusive of the existence of ‘not-A’ and vice versa. In other words, the whole of existence-time (uji) that is not explicit in/as ‘A’ is and must be implicit in/as ‘A’ – hence, the reality of ‘A’ is constituted of both what is ‘A’ and what is ‘not A.’ Therefore, ‘A’ (and by extension, any particular dharma) is a manifestation of the whole universe, total existence-time. This vision of dharmas – as particular forms of/as the totality of space-and-time (uji; existence-time) – is explicitly asserted and graphically presented by Dogen’s teachings on the ‘self-obstruction’ or ‘total exertion’ of ‘a particular dharma’ (ippo gujin)."



More recent writings by Ted Biringer (the only thing I could criticize about Ted Biringer is that he seems to focus exclusively on the +A aspect and not the -A aspect, so he does not seem to appreciate the 'unreal', 'illusory' understanding of the emptiness of phenomena, which ironically is also taught in Diamond Sutra):

Ted Biringer
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:27 am

Emptiness and the Diamond Sutra

Post by Ted Biringer »

If there is one teaching that is peculiar to Buddhism alone among all the world’s religions, I would say it is the principle of sunyata (Voidness or Emptiness). If I were to choose one doctrine among others that best represents the core of Buddhism, I would also choose the principle of sunyata. If someone were to further ask me what is the Buddhist doctrine that is most difficult to explain and comprehend, most misunderstood and misrepresented, I would again say it is the principle of sunyata.
Garma C.C. Chang, The Buddhist Teaching of Totality, p.64

The vast significance and central importance of emptiness in Zen can be seen in two of its often repeated axioms, ‘All things are essentially empty’ and ‘Emptiness is the true nature of all things.’ ‘All things are essentially empty’ means all things are empty of selfhood, all dharmas lack independent existence. ‘Emptiness is the true nature of all things’ means emptiness is the reality or essential nature (ontology) of all the various things, beings, and events (i.e. the myriad dharmas).

Contrary to widespread notions, to be empty does not mean to be unreal, nonexistent, or provisional, nor does it mean that variety, plurality, and uniqueness are delusory or illusory, as if the myriad dharmas were ‘made up of’ or ‘reducible to’ one uniform or homogeneous essence or substance. I stress this point because prospective Zen interpreters have historically demonstrated a tendency for presenting distorted notions about emptiness. Such distortions usually amount to a privileging of emptiness (essence, reality) over form (appearance, manifestation). Such privileging is caused and perpetuated by false presuppositions consistent with dualism. Briefly, this happens when the form (appearance) and emptiness (reality) of dharmas are conceived and treated as independent realities. When form and emptiness are conceived of as separate, distinct realities, they become subject to comparisons of superiority and inferiority. Naturally, emptiness, being envisioned as uniform, universal, and pure is seen and treated as superior to form, which is envisioned as variable, particular, and disparate. Such fallacies concerning emptiness and form spawn teachings and practices that foster quietism and detachment, many of which can be seen thriving in the present day.

From at least as early as its Sixth Ancestor, Huineng (638-713 C E), Zen has been closely associated with the prajna-paramita sutras – the most comprehensive treatment of emptiness (sunyata) in the Buddhist literature. According to Zen lore, Huineng realized enlightenment simply upon hearing a prajna-paramita scripture, the Diamond Sutra, recited in the street. Huineng’s record, the Platform Sutra, proclaims the supreme vision of the Diamond Sutra, promising enlightenment not only to those that practice its teachings, but even to those that simply memorize it.

Numerous subsequent Zen records make frequent use of the Diamond Sutra’s methodology to present the wisdom of emptiness, that is, insight into the nondual nature of reality. The gist of the Diamond Sutra’s methodology can be expressed by the formula A is not-A, therefore A is A; not-A is A, therefore not-A is not-A. In other words, form is emptiness (i.e. not-form), therefore form is form; emptiness is form (i.e. not-emptiness), therefore emptiness is emptiness.

The basic reasoning of this can be understood by envisioning ‘A’ as a particular dharma, and ‘not-A’ as everything else in the universe. With this it can be seen that thinking, speaking, or acting in relation to ‘A’ requires one to distinguish what is ‘A’ from what is ‘not-A’ – thus it is seen that the existence of ‘A’ presupposes (i.e. is dependent on) the existence of ‘not-A.’ By the same reasoning, the existence of ‘not-A’ is seen to presuppose the existence of ‘A.’

To clarify, and emphasize the crucial point, since the existence of ‘A’ can only be discerned by its contrast with the existence of ‘not-A’, the existence of ‘A’ is dependent on the existence of ‘not-A’ – therefore, the existence of ‘A’ is inclusive of the existence of ‘not-A’ and vice versa. In other words, the whole of existence-time (uji) that is not explicit in/as ‘A’ is and must be implicit in/as ‘A’ – hence, the reality of ‘A’ is constituted of both what is ‘A’ and what is ‘not A.’ Therefore, ‘A’ (and by extension, any particular dharma) is a manifestation of the whole universe, total existence-time. This vision of dharmas – as particular forms of/as the totality of space-and-time (uji; existence-time) – is explicitly asserted and graphically presented by Dogen’s teachings on the ‘self-obstruction’ or ‘total exertion’ of ‘a particular dharma’ (ippo gujin).

The Zen practitioner that focuses their attention on dharmas in accordance with the Diamond Sutra’s methodology is enlightened to (i.e. sees, knows, experiences) the truth that dharmas are dharmas by virtue of their being particularities – that is, by their existing as some-thing differentiated from every-thing. Experiencing the world through the perspective presented by the Diamond Sutra, the practitioner is made intimately aware of the fact that reality only and always consists of particular (part-icular) instances of total existence-time – apart from specific manifest phenomena (i.e. dharmas) there is no existence or time.

Thus, it is accurate to say that, to experience (epistemology) existence (ontology) is to distinguish something from everything; if something is not distinguished from everything, nothing can be experienced. By applying ourselves to the Diamond Sutra’s methodology we first come to discern that the existence of a particular dharma is dependent on the existence of everything ‘other than’ that dharma. Next, we come to discern that the existence of everything ‘other than’ that dharma is dependent on the existence of that dharma. Proceeding along these lines, we come to discern how each dharma inherently presupposes (contains, includes) every ‘other dharma’ and all ‘other dharmas.’

In sum, the Diamond Sutra presents (makes present) the dynamic interdependence of form and emptiness by demonstrating that ‘form’ is essential to, therefore inclusive of ‘emptiness’ (and vice versa).


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    Ted Biringer
    Posts: 12
    Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:27 am

    Seeing your nature is Zen

    Unread post by Ted Biringer »

    Bodhidharma said:

    Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.
    ~Trans. Red Pine

    In Zen ‘seeing your nature’ is initiated and realized through practice-enlightenment grounded in Zen/Buddhist doctrine and methodology. Doctrine and methodology are nondual (not-two). Doctrine informs methodology, methodology authenticates doctrine. Zen doctrine presents (makes present) the truth of our nature, Zen methodology allows us to experientially verify that truth.

    Zen/Buddhism employs myriad teachings and practices in its mission to save all beings – to help them see their nature. All these doctrines and methods have one thing in common; they direct us to our own experience here and now. They do so because beside our experience nothing exists – experience is existence, existence is experience. Understanding this truth through teachings allows us to verify it in practice. To verify the nondual nature of experience and existence is to know (i.e. be enlightened to the truth) that whatever is true of experience is true of existence (and vice versa).

    To clarify the nondual nature of experience and existence, Zen commonly employs the traditional system of examining the nature of consciousness (experience) in ‘six modes.’

    Briefly, this traditional system recognizes consciousness as functioning in six distinct modes, each of which is constituted of a sense organ, a sense field, and a sense capacity.1 The six sense organs, together with the six sense fields, and the six sense capacities constitute the elements or realms of the human sensorium,2 which Buddhism calls the ‘eighteen dhatus’ (realms). From the Zen/Buddhist perspective the sensorium constitutes the totality of existence-time.

    The six modes of consciousness are eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, and mind-consciousness. Each of these consciousnesses is recognized as an inherent capacity to discern – thus actualize (i.e. make actualize)3 – the ‘type’ or ‘kind’ of phenomena (i.e. dharmas) belonging to its particular mode. For example, dharmas that are discerned/actualized visually are ‘objects of eye-consciousness,’ dharmas that are experienced/appear audibly are ‘objects of ear-consciousness,’ and so on. In this manner each and all the myriad dharmas are experienced/appear in/as one or more of six types of phenomena; sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and thoughts. Thus each and all dharmas are recognized as ‘objects of consciousness.’ In other words, ‘the myriad dharmas’ is everything experienced and ‘everything experienced’ is the myriad dharmas – existence only and always consists of particular sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and thoughts that are seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, and thought by particular sentient beings in/as existence-time.

    Thus the traditional Buddhist division of consciousness into six modes clearly and simply reveals how all things, beings, and events are and must be phenomena, spatial-temporal forms of consciousness. When dharmas are seen as ‘objects of consciousness’ dharmas are recognized as both ‘what’ sentient beings are sentient of, and ‘what’ makes sentient beings sentient. Seen as what makes sentient beings sentient, dharmas are seen to be the very source and fabric of sentience, consciousness itself, life itself. Again, Zen affirms, to exist is to be experienced; to be experienced is to exist.

    By assimilating the truth of this (through learning, practicing, verifying, and actualizing it), we naturally enhance and refine our capacity for the transmission of wisdom. By clearly seeing that our self (i.e. our existence) is our world (i.e. our experience), we recognize the universe (the totality of self/other) is an unceasing activity of self-expression – one’s self is realized by one’s world, and one’s world is realized by one’s self:

    So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me.
    Shobogenzo, Zenki, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

    In sum, ‘what’ a sentient being is (ontology) is ‘what’ a sentient being is sentient of (epistemology). Sentience is consciousness, consciousness is only and always someone (self) conscious of something (other) – apart from a self and an other ‘consciousness’ is meaningless:

    When speaking of consciousness of self and other, there is a self and an other in what is known; there is a self and an other in what is seen.
    Shobogenzo, Shoaku Makusa, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

    As long as we are not hindered by the wrong view that thought is independent of reality the nondual nature of thought is easy to verify. Verification is only and always realized through our own seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking here-now. Therefore, we needs only to simply, but sincerely, focus on our own experience – of a self and a world here-now – to recognize that all ‘objects of consciousness,’ not only thoughts, are our nature. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, as well as thoughts are only and always experienced in, as consciousness (our nature here-now).

    In practice-enlightenment you see that just as no thoughts are experienced/appear independent of your mind, no forms, sounds, flavors, fragrances, or feelings are experienced/appear independent of your mind. In making the effort to sincerely observe this over time, you cannot fail to suddenly or gradually awaken to the truth that the crash of thunder and barking of a dog (objects of ear consciousness) are no more or less ‘objects of consciousness’ than are imagined train whistles and voices in dreams (objects of mind consciousness) – ‘you’ are your sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations and your thoughts, and they are you.

    Seeing (experiencing) your nature (existence) is Zen (being awake to reality). Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.


    Notes: 1. The six sense organs are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body (tactile sense), and mind. The six sense fields are sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects (touchables), and thoughts. The six sense capacities are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking.
    2. sensorium
    noun sen•so•ri•um \sen-ˈsȯr-ē-əm\
    : the parts of the brain or the mind concerned with the reception and interpretation of sensory stimuli; broadly: the entire sensory apparatus
    3. In Buddhism, sensing and actualizing are not two different things – we do not have sense capacities because there are things to sense, there are things to sense because we have sense capacities. For a good overview of this see Buddhist Phenomenology, Dan Lusthaus, pp.52-82

    Ted Biringer
    Posts: 12
    Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:27 am

    The Role of Criticism in Zen

    Unread post by Ted Biringer »

    After the Socratic aphorism, we might say that an unexamined Zen is not worth living—but then, in the same breath, add that an unlived Zen is not worth examining.
    Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen, p.10

    Do not misunderstand Buddhism by believing the erroneous principle ‘a special tradition outside the scriptures.’
    Eihei Dogen, Shobogenzo, Bukkyo

    Clyde’s recent post – in defense viewtopic.php?f=69&t=34161 – got me thinking about the place and significance of criticism within the realm of learning and study in Zen practice.

    In recent decades our knowledge of Zen has greatly improved – and greatly altered – our understanding of it. New discoveries, advances in technology and methodology, and more extensive research have revealed much that was formerly unsuspected. As a result, whole new avenues of study have opened up. For example the scholarship confirming the continuity between the Zen koan literature of China and the works of Eihei Dogen (until recently explicitly denied) has led to new understandings of both the koan literature and Dogen’s works.

    While newly established facts are crucial, of perhaps even greater significance are the toppling of fallacies – some of which had been sustained for decades or even centuries. For example, both eastern and western scholarship has obliterated the nearly universally accepted fallacies postulating Zen’s anti-literary, anti-philosophical stance. In contradiction to longstanding notions of Zen as aloof from, or even disparaging of literary and philosophical pursuits, scholarship has shown that such pursuits are and have been essential elements of authentic Zen practice. Learning and study, it turns out, is as integral to Zen practice as is meditation (zazen). As the great Dogen scholar Hee-Jin Kim puts it in one place:

    The issue was not so much whether or not to philosophize as it was how to philosophize… [The] philosophic enterprise was as much the practice of the bodhisattva way as was zazen.
    Hee-Jin Kim, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, Wisdom Publications; 3 Revised edition (January 1, 2000), p.98

    Nevertheless, anti-literary, anti-philosophical fallacies concerning Zen continue to thrive not only outside the Zen community, but within it as well. Why is this? It seems to me that Thich Nhat Hanh offers us a clue:

    If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that when the truth comes and knocks on our door, we won't want to let it in.
    Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the
    Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra
    , Parallax Press (November 24, 1964), p.6

    We human beings seem to have a propensity to ‘cling’ or become attached to our own views. I think this is why the crucial importance of an accurate understanding of knowledge (epistemology), commonly treated in terms of the Buddhist notion of ‘right views’, has been a defining characteristic of Buddhist thought since its very beginning. It is no mystery why fallacies denigrating learning and study have been and continue to be so pernicious. By deliberately cultivating a disdain for knowledge and a distrust of language, those that ascribe to such views effectively bar themselves from its only remedy: learning and study. The significance of this is clear; our understanding of Zen teaching functions as the very foundation of our Zen practice – that is, the way we think, speak, and act in the world.

    The emphasis in Buddhism on accurate knowledge (or ‘right views’) harmonizes with the great insight from which Buddhism developed. Crystallized in the Four Noble Truths, this insight reveals that bondage to suffering (dukkha) has its cause in ignorance or delusion about the true nature of reality. To be deluded about reality is to be inherently incapable of thinking, speaking, or acting in a manner harmonious with reality. To think, speak, or act in conflict with reality naturally results in suffering. Accordingly, enlightenment – seeing the true nature of reality – is the Buddha Way or Way of Zen; the Way to liberation from suffering.

    Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Delusion is the presence of distorted knowledge. Ignorance is relatively easy to remedy – the ignorant need only be acquainted with right knowledge. Delusion, however, is more pernicious – the deluded must recognize and acknowledge the fallibility of their current views before they can even begin to be receptive to right knowledge. Accepting that one’s own views are invalid is inherently difficult. The measure of this difficulty is proportional to the depth of attachment with which a view is held. No beliefs are prone to deeper attachment than those concerning one’s own knowledge about the nature of reality.

    In sum, the presence of wrong views (delusion) is a great barrier to enlightenment; liberation from suffering. Accordingly, the great Zen scholars as well as the great Zen masters devoted much time and energy criticizing fallacies. Indeed, such criticism was part and partial to their practice of Zen.


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    Post by Ted Biringer »

    Seems a bit quiet in here - let's see if anyone wants to talk about Existence-Time (uji)

    In Zen time and existence are not two different things; time is always existence-and-time, existence is always existence-and-time. This view is most clearly and comprehensively demonstrated in Shobogenzo’s development and use of the term ‘uji.’ Dogen fashioned this term by combining two terms; ‘u’ (existence) and ‘ji’ (time) into the single term ‘uji’ (existence-time, or time-being). The point that seems most significant here is that existence and time are never separate from each other; each is an essential element of the other – no dharmas exist independent of time, and there is no time independent of dharmas. This notion of existence-time is central to Zen’s vision of reality, thus is presupposed in all Zen expressions.

    Hee-Jin Kim brings the crucial significance of this notion to light in a comment from his discussion of the aptly titled ‘Uji’ fascicle of Shobogenzo:

    Dogen’s whole thesis in this regard was crystallized in the following: “As we realize with the utmost effort that all times (jinji) are all existence (jin’u), absolutely no additional dharma remains.” In other words, existence-time subsumed space and time totally and exhaustively.
    Hee-Jin Kim, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, p.150

    In short, each and every particular thing, being, and event (i.e. dharma) is an intrinsic and essential element of total time, and each and every moment or duration of time is an intrinsic and essential element of total existence – hence each and every particular dharma is a manifestation of the whole universe, and the whole universe is manifest in and as each and every particular dharma. In Dogen’s words:

    Let us pause to reflect whether or not any of the whole of existence or any of the whole universe has leaked away from the present moment of time.
    Shobogenzo, Uji (Trans. Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)

    Accordingly, in Zen expressions the terms ‘existence,’ ‘time,’ and ‘existence-time’ are synonymous.


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