Co-Dependence: Hui Neng to Heidegger


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.

Anything I spot is only spotted in relationship to what it is not. 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.

‘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.

Cut once; get two. A pair is the first and minimal unit of division, the elemental DNA, the fundamental building block, of every Man-Made Model.

Shūnyam is not about the usual binaries of True and False or Right and Wrong. Absence and Presence. Emptiness and Fullness. Null and Whole, ‘Being’ and Consciousness. These are inexact but intuitively helpful beginning conceptual pointers that exit the scene once their work is done.

But in a necessarily Binary World, the Principle of Co-Dependence applies: Anything I spot is only spotted in relationship to what it is not. Any and all reference to Shūnyam is always as reference to the indivisible pair: ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’. The terminal ‘Binary’ clutch.

If you don’t come to terms with the ‘Principle of Co-Dependence’, leave it unrecognized, it will enter your terminus implicitly and surreptitiously. 

The limiting to the ‘Principle of Co-Dependence’ prior to a proper sighting of ‘True Nothing’ will place 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’.