Association Kan Jizai

"To Study the Way is to study ourselves
To study ourselves is to forget ourselves
To forget ourselves is to be at one with all existences"
Master Dôgen

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Neither this nor the opposite

The sutras and other Buddhist scriptures are full of contradictory statements such as « neither knowledge nor non-knowledge », « neither born nor not born », « neither finished nor unfinished ». These rather disconcerting terms are far from being idiosyncratic linguistic forms or academic plays on words, they on the contrary encourage us to go beyond the confines of discursive thought. The latter always uses as a basis the reality which is contrary to what it conceives.

Thus, for instance, we cannot conceive of « good » without reference to « evil », « dark » without reference to « light », « beautiful » without reference to « ugly », « finished » without reference to « unfinished ».

If there were only darkness we would not be able to name it or understand it because there would be no experience of its opposite, namely light, which would allow us to characterise darkness.

This is valid for all statements, whether practical or theoretical. Any statement within discourse is in essence dual. This is precisely what makes it unable to articulate ultimate reality since the latter, being all inclusive, admits of no contrary in its definition.

This being so, the two possibilities available to those who still want to rely on language to express the ineffable and the unthinkable are to resort to metaphors and/or to aporias through simultaneous negation of one thing and of its opposite, for instance « neither born nor not born », « neither finished nor unfinished » etc.

The follower is encouraged to thus go beyond dualistic thought in the way in which happenings in his life are understood. Instead of hastily considering events as « good » or « bad », he or she may perhaps consider problems which may occur in life as opportunities to spiritually move forward. The peacock is a traditional symbol of this approach because it grows and feeds on berries which are poisonous for other species. It is from this standpoint of beyond « good » and « bad » / « happy » « non happy » that I'd like to say « Happy New Year ».

Gérard Chinrei Pilet (January 2015)

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