Hui Neng to Heidegger


‘Seeing’ is not to be interpreted literally. What happens if you do?

The dominant East-Asian [Sino-Korean-Japanese] flavor of C’han-Zen was given to it by its 6th Chinese patriarch, Hui-neng [638-713 CE] and his ‘Platform-Sutras‘ [T’an-cheng].

From the first Nothing is!’ roared Hui neng.

[The story goes that the illiterate Hui-neng awoke to this conviction upon hearing the Diamond Sūtra recited just once at a public-square.]

A recent, widely-publicized survey solemnly titled: ‘The Most Important Unresolved Question Of All Time’, came up with Martin Heidegger’s celebrated query [itself, a variation on Aristotle’s ‘ti on’]:

Why is there Something and not Nothing?’

Very helpful. Smart people say the darnedest things.

[Did Hui Neng mean ‘Nothing’ as in Absolute Absence? Or did he mean ‘Nothing’ as a reified ontological presence? The T’an-cheng is 1,500 years old. The answer is not clear, but his emphatic declaration is.]

If the Universe was entirely pink, I will never know it to be so. For me to see the pink, there has to be a touch of purple somewhere. A spot of not-pink so that I can see the pink.

There has to be a minimum of two colors showing in order for me to see one color. I see a red apple only in relation to a ‘not-red apple’, only in relationship to the ‘not-red appleness’ surrounding it.  [A simple version of the much-mauled Buddhist ‘Doctrine of Dependent Designation’ also called ‘The Principle of Co-Dependence’.]

And one more thing. I need to be able stand apart from this red-apple, this pink and purple Universe in order to see that indeed this is a red-apple, to see that indeed the Universe is pink and purple. I need, in other words to be an ‘Independent and Separated Observer’.

When Professor Heidegger affirms a ‘Something’, he simultaneously affirms two other things. The division of ‘Something’ and ‘Not-Something’.  And the affirmation of his presence as an ‘Independent and Separated Observer’.

I get back home, look out the window and there she is. My ancient jalopy posing as a car. I See. Therefore I Am. 

The big question of course is what is this ‘Himself’ that Dr. Heidegger simultaneously affirms. If you stop-short of Shūnyam and claim to ‘See’ something, you will slip into the track of one of two widely followed schools.

The limiting to the ‘Principle of Co-Dependence’ will take you on the track to Shūnyathā, a later derivative term to Shūnyam. The insistence on claiming a ‘Seer’ will put you on the track to popular Vedantha and the posit of a ‘Witnessing, Immaculate and Pure, ‘True-Inner Self’.

[See the numerous later Posts on Shūnyathā, Àdvaitha Vedantha, the notion of ‘Form’ in Classical Logic et al.]

‘Sight’ and ‘Thought’ and ‘Voice’ [Vox; ‘In the beginning was the Word‘] are for most of us our most personal possessions. But you will need to work through the whole list.

‘I Have, therefore I Am’ for the confirmed consumerist. ‘I Love, therefore I Am’ for the debutante romantic. You can play with this list for a long time. See the early Post: Cogito Ergo Sum

From the ‘I am Aware [Conscious], therefore I am’, very popular in Vedanthic circles to the Biblical: ‘I Am that I Am’ [ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh; Exodus].

In philosophical circles variations proliferate [George Berkeley et al]. ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?’ Modern Academic Philosophy considers this a question of exceptional nuance.