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Thread: Reality

  1. #1


    I am reading Keiji Nishitani's Religion and Nothingness (for about the fifth time since I don't understand it). Nishitani was a member of the Kyoto School of Philosophy. His definfition of reality is beautiful, and for me, encompasses our practice..... I wanted to share it with you. What are your reactions?

    “....a great harmony among all things in the universe that brings them into being and sustains them in mutual dependence and cooperation, a mystical order that rules over all things so that God can be seen in the most trivial of things. In other words, reality constitutes that perspective whereby we can see within each individual thing, in its course of changes and ultimately its inevitable death, its essential relationship and harmony with all other things in the universe. Reality realizes itself in us when we not only see the universe according to this perspective, but actively take it up in our practices of living, behaving and becoming a harmonious being in relationship with all other things...

    Note that Nishitanti acknowledges the existence of God (he follows his teacher Nishida Kitaro's definition of God: 'the spirit of unity at the center of the universe').... this is interesting in light of Gustav Ericsson's comments in the special zazenkai this week that his relationship to Christianity was eased when he focused on reframing the use of language in his interpretation of concepts.

    This is amazing stuff.

    Deep bows
    Last edited by Yugen; 06-27-2013 at 05:41 PM.

  2. #2
    That is a beautiful paragraph, Yugen. I guess he is pointing at interdependence (and pratitya samutpada/dependent origination) which is a great thing to recognise. Understanding that each action does not just have an immediate effect but sends out ripples along all the other connected threads might lead to more thinking about how inter-related everything is. In the modern world everything is divided so much into specialisms which operate under their own parameters that interdependence is not always considered. Thus the effect of the economic system on social issues and the environment is often cast to one side and how many people consider that buying cheaper goods often means that the producers will be paid less and the health and safety requirements probably relaxed a little? Also, on positive note, a smile or one good turn can change another person's day for the better with further knock on effects.

    Yes, 'to see the world in a grain of sand' is great but to also just to really see the grain of sand. You have obviously just shared one part of Nishitani so I wouldn't want to judge him on that alone but just as each individual thing contains everything so everything manifests as each individual thing. Does he deal with that side of the coin too? I wonder too about 'reality realizes itself in us when...'. This seems to have echoes of the manifestation of myriad things in Genjo koan but don't the myriad things manifest in us whether we realise them or not? Each moment perfectly whole as it is? Perhaps he is talking about the understanding itself?

    Thank you so much for sharing your passion for this text, Yugen. Much appreciated.


  3. #3
    Such beautiful words to sit with.

    To me, reality is also how one can see life without adding anything to it. No emotions or memories or hopes. Just things as it is. Only then we can see the universe with free eyes and are able to understand all links and interdependence all things have.

    Thank you, brother.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  4. #4
    "Reality" is one of those inclusive absolutes (there is nothing but reality) that disappears neatly up its own backside, and involves the endless ingathering of loose ends the more precisely it is defined. Still, it is satisfying to define reality and then behold it. It is a very strong mental reflex. With that in mind, here is a definition of reality that feels good and true to me: Reality is this stream of experiencing. This stream of experiencing has the nature of unobstructed free-play, and a feeling tone of Joy. Joy is non-obstruction and free-play, the sheer exuberance of free unfolding. Even when seemingly eclipsed by suffering, the very suffering is itself is only this stream of Joy.

    "Energy is eternal delight"

    Thank you for the subject , Yugen.

    Gassho, Daizan
    Last edited by RichardH; 06-28-2013 at 12:12 AM.

  5. #5
    Thank you, Yugen.

    Perhaps sometimes we need the wordy philosophy of folks like Nishida and Nishitani and D.T. Suzuki ... and sometimes we need someone like Shunryu Suzuki to remind us (as posted on another thread today) ...

    There should not be any particular teaching.
    Teaching is in each moment...


    "The secret of Zen is just two words: not always so."

    People think that Zen Teachings can never be understood "intellectually". Sometimes they can and sometimes they cannot ... like "love" can be both thought about, expressed in poignant essays or Shakespeare's poems, yet needs to be felt and experienced wordlessly too. In fact, too much of one extreme or the other ... words or wordless ... is not as rich as a proper mixing of each.

    One point about Nishida and Nishitani is that (like D.T. Suzuki), they were early 20th century figures who were intent on defending or apologizing for (or raising up) Zen, Buddhism and Japanese culture in general to foreigners. They were trying to offer a defense or praise of Buddhist ideology and Japanese culture in the face of Christianity, Western values and modernism. They (our Nishijima Roshi did this too) were also students of Western philosophy trying to explain Buddhism and Zen to Westerners by using Western philosophical and religious concepts and terminology. This may be where their use of terms such as "God" came in, because they were trying to speak to Christians or were feeling a kind of "inferiority complex" about Christianity and "the West" common in Japan in the years leading up to WWII. However, some members of the Kyoto School also sincerely felt common ground with or attraction toward Christianity.

    For probably much more information on this topic of the "Kyoto School" of philosophy than anyone here needs ...

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2013 at 02:44 AM.

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