Home Psychology Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in early Twentieth-Century German Thought
Two: Dialogical Ethics and Zen Buddhist Ethics The concrete and the other
One key ethical personalist criticism of Buddhism and Zen, evident in different degrees in Rosenzweig and Buber, is that the personalist concern with the concreteness of things and ordinary human ethical life must, in the end, be sacrificed to the ideal of awakening that undoes and overcomes concreteness, diversity, and individuality. One of Buber’s commentators remarked in this fashion: “Although in the case of Zen, they seem to pay serious attention to the Concrete, but it is not the attention for the sake of the Concrete, but merely an expedient to attain to ‘Satori’ (Enlightenment), if I understand correctly"50 This reading, as well as those of other critics of the idea of Zen “unity” inspired by Buber’s ethical prioritization of the interpersonal I and thou that they perceive to be lacking in Zen, introduces a distinction and duality between the concrete and awakening that is uncharacteristic of Zen.51 Satori ('^9 , Ch. wu '^) is not a separable goal or end independent of the mundane ordinary life in which awakening occurs. It might be more appropriately described, to tentatively employ Western philosophical language adopted from Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment, as purposiveness without a purpose. Awakening is purposefully pursued and cultivated, but it is not a purpose, goal, or end that can be actually cultivated or achieved. Awakening constitutes “one mind” (—Th Ch. yixin; Jp. isshin) with the real, signifying “seeing into one’s own nature” (МЙ, Ch. jianxing; Jp. kensho) and recognizing the nexus of emptiness and concrete fullness of things in their own suchness or thusness (Skt. tathata; Ch. zhenru Ж$П). Zhen Ж indicates the real and ru what is so as it is so, such that the
emptiness of awakening is not nothing, in the Western ontotheological sense, but the encounter with and mindfulness of reality just as it is.
The Indian Buddhist notion of tathata signifies in Zen Buddhist discourses the interdependent uniqueness of particular things revealed in their unsacred secularity and familiar ordinariness, which is the site where the encounter with the sacred takes place. According to the Hongzhou lineage (^^1'1ж) in Tang dynasty China, “ordinary mind is the Way” (pingchang xin shi dao
and “this mind is the Buddha” (shixin shi fo ^A'^"№).52 Mazu Daoyi —
(709-788) described how “though the dharma is not attached to anything, every phenomenon one has contact with is thusness.”53 The Japanese Soto (WM, Ch. Caodong) Zen master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) illuminated how
mindfulness within the ordinary and everyday is the perfection of Zen meditation (МШ, Ch. zuochan; Jp. zazen). It is in this context where the Zen focus on concreteness and singularity as part of the interdependent nexus of reality becomes apparent and the ethical and interpersonal dimension of Zen, “ethical” in the immanent this-worldly sense of the Way (dao) as an ethos, can be situated.
The “ordinary mind” addressed by Chan/Zen Buddhism as the site of awakening is the matter in question. This mind’s self-awakening signifies in one depiction of it: “no intentional creation or action, no right or wrong, no grasping or rejecting, no terminable or permanent, no profane or holy... Now all these are just the Way: walking, abiding, sitting, lying, responding to conditions, and handling matters.”54 The self-manifestation of things is expressed in Dogen’s discussion of the self-blossoming of the world as it is and in its suchness or the liberation and non-abiding of things as an abiding in their own phenomenal expression.55 This is not an ontological claim about enlightenment that steps beyond and transcends things and others; it is an ethical claim concerning how one encounters and, in the encounter, responsively relates to human others and the dynamic and interactive blossoming and happening of things.
There is consequently genuine concreteness in Zen awakening. Indeed, being at one with the concreteness and flow of the world might be the very reason for the other more serious suspicion: Can there be a genuine ethical self and other as ethical other in Zen? Or does Zen cultivate de-individuated robots and kamikaze, who do not fear their own death or killing others, as Koestler maintained?
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