Colin McNaughton for “Hegel & the Clash of Ideals”, 21st Feb. 2003

Contradiction: East and West. Can a bridge be built across difference to forge a new type of politics/spirit within the conditions of post-modernity?

We are standing upon stolen Aboriginaland that was stolen from the Kulin nation. If this recognition is to be more than mere platitudes of a benefactor of the conquering of both a people and land then it must by necessity confront our most basic notions of being-in-the-world, which is something that at least in part shall be addressed in this discussion.

My actual area of research is attempting to develop a dialogue between the revolutionary philosopher Karl Marx and the Zen Buddhist monastic, Dogen Zenji.

In this discussion though I am going to focus upon the work of philosopher, Georg Hegel. As many comrades in the room would attest to deeply appreciate the implications of Marx at a philosophical level we must engage in class struggle in both the social and philosophical realms and this includes coming to some appreciation Hegel. Which are as I understand it one of the inspirations of this type of continuing series of Hegel seminars. I do not pretend to be a Hegel or indeed a scholar of Marx for what I will be suggesting is for many adherents blasphemy of the highest order, but I am attempting to draw upon Hegel in order better appreciate Marx and take him into not-yet imagined terrain.

It is reasonable to ask what could these vastly different thinkers have to do with creatively responding to the conditions we find ourself in? Furthermore, how could their relationship impact upon how we both understand and relate to the emancipatory impulse? Emancipation is essentially a movement from a condition of un-freedom into a condition of freedom. In Buddhist terminology this is expressed as a movement from samsara to nirvana, or a world of suffering to a world beyond suffering; in Marxist language this dynamic takes us from capitalism to communism or from a class to a classless society. At the heart of this transition must be a certain understanding of and relationship to contradiction, for how else can something which is not become something which is? In discussing emancipation it is useful to recognise that the historical left is born of the very civilization it is criticising, and like the master class that it often wishes to both critique and overthrow, is often just as narrow and arrogant as the master in its basic assumptions. In challenging injustices of globalization, which at root are a product of western culture, the historical left in the main doggedly refuses, to learn from other cultures. The question, can and has been asked, is the emancipatory project emanating from the west just another insidious form of imperialism? If we wish to create an inclusive form of globalisation, do we not have to learn how to dialogue with and learn from the other? And in the process rupture the power relationships that frame the self/other dualism that is one of the very foundation of oppression?

Hegel’s philosophy is foundational, that is, his most basic assumption is that being mirrors thought and the possibilities for emancipation can or will be revealed by a process of building or constructing. For Dogen, there is no foundation to truth or knowing, but this impermanence rather than being a source of anxiety is where liberation lies. For Dogen, the struggle to liberate the many beings is a process of paring back or of letting go to reveal and settle in the nothingness that cannot be named. In this way the different understandings of emancipation, East and West can be appreciated; for the West liberation is about building up and for the East it is about destruction or letting go. The intention of both my research and this discussion is to attempt simultaneously to both re-invent and un-invent the emancipatory imagination that is capable of bridging the differences of east and west, politics and spirit.

What I will be suggesting is that we must go beyond the Cartesian perspective of either / or in regard to knowledge to recognise that when something is good, more of the same is not necessarily better and the inverse also seems true. Hegel’s essential contribution to a discussion of the emancipatory imagination is the manner in which we can develop an inclusive social ethics and this is a glaring weakness of Dogen’s way. Conversely, Dogen’s insights into the impermanent nature of the self reverberates endlessly and without trace and this dimension is Hegel’s fundamental weakness. What is being attempted is a both and neither method (or non-method) that is able to prioritise neither the creative or destructive urge, whilst keeping both in relationship to each other, what Gadamer refers to as ‘a fusion of horizons’. This discussion shall focus on how Hegel and Dogen understand the nature of the self and how these relations inform their appreciation of contradiction which in turn frames their comprehension of the emancipatory impulse. Then we shall briefly examine some of the implications this relationship can teach us about the possibilities within alliance type of politics within the latest stage of imperialism, globalisation.

This attempt to hold the contradictory emancipatory impulses of creation and destruction lies at the very heart of the development of a non-dualistic theory/practice, which I will call planetary thinking. From the outset I accept that at many levels I will fail in this endeavour. But failure to achieve a goal is no failure, for in the journey much can be learnt and unlearnt. In the journey we are embarking upon practice precedes the theory. My intention is not to discuss what could or should be but rather to recognise what is happening and begin the process of forging and share the tools and practices so as to be able to work more creatively wherever we find ourselves.

Now I wish set the cat among the pigeons to suggest that the social movements committed to forms of ecological and social justice are also unacknowledged repositories of spirituality. My interest is not so much is attempting to explore why largely secular social movements should engage with spiritual traditions and practices but rather why and how they already are — though they may not be aware of this dynamic. This relationship is not a one-way street; the desire to go beyond the limited notions of the self and justice are one in the same. There is no separation between the material and the spiritual. Let me explain. Western religious traditions and institutions are in various states of decline and edging towards forms of regressive fundamentalism. Religions within capitalist modernity were offered a choice; either align with the state and it’s ruling interests and do not involve yourselves in the economic and political issues of the day, or be wiped out. In order to survive religions have expunged themselves of their spiritual essence; either to come to the defence of the state and/or descend into other-worldly pursuits. Not surprisingly this compromise meant that religious institutions stopped talking to masses of people. And these religious refugees, with levels of spirit left intact, created traditions that responding more directly to their needs and aspirations — the social movements.

Before we engage in an attempted dialogue between Hegel and Dogen we must make some preliminary observations that will facilitate, indeed allow the dialogue to occur. It is important to both recognise and be mindful that in the west the realms of religion and philosophy were separated due to the ascendancy of science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Whereas in the so-called East there is no such division, thus what we might consider religion, philosophy or science are not so readily compartmentalised. A way to understand why the East and West are not yet talking is to examine the distinction and relationship of awareness and experience. Implicit within this discussion lies the hidden history of the separation between East and West, politics and spirit yet lying dormant are the possibilities for their communion. Hegel’s dialectical exposition is grounded in an understanding of human experience. This experience is fundamentally cognitive, that is, the meaning of experience is gained through the thoughts of a subject regarding an object. Now I acknowledge that Hegel is much more sophisticated and subtle than this very instrumental Cartesian type of expression implies, but what is being suggested is that Hegel remains trapped within the limitations of thought and the conceptualising mind. Dogen’s relationship to awareness is confronting to western philosophy, not because he is abstract or points to some obtuse principle, but rather because he is so concrete and stretches to breaking point the very rules of grammar, and thus the very parameters of how and who it is that reflects upon the world. D.T. Suzuki enters this discussion by making a valuable contribution through exposing both the relationship and differentiation of the Sanskrit terms prajna and vijnana, which are essentially two ways of knowing. The vi — prefix of vijnana signifies ‘separation or differentiation’. Hence vijnana refers to knowing that functions by discriminating one thing from another (Loy, 1988, 136). Vijnana is basic to dualistic thinking and translates into English as experience, that knowing which is predicated on a subject/object separation. What we call experience establishes itself in memory, and is in essence the experience of human finitude. What is more, as Gadamer suggests, experience is not science, but it is a necessary condition of it. In contrast the pra — prefix of prajna means ‘being born or springing up’ — presumably referring to a more spontaneous type of knowing in which the thought no longer seems to be the product of a subject but is experienced as arising from a deeper non-dual source (Loy, 1988, 136). Prajna is concerned with direct or unmediated knowing and translates as awareness, that is, it is non-dualistic. It is important to recognise that this distinction between different ways of knowing/being is also found within Western philosophy, stemming from Jakob Boehme, through Kant and on to Heidegger. Suzuki makes a valuable observation that,

Prajna goes beyond vijnana. We make use if vijnana in our world of the senses and the intellect, which is characterised by dualism in the sense that there is one who sees and there is the other that is seen — the two standing in opposition. In prajna this differentiation does not take place: what is seen and the one who sees are identical; the seer is the seen and the seen is the seer (Loy, 1988, 135).

Prajna is both pre-cognitive and pre-ontological and in terms of imagery this type of knowing is often associated with a flash of lighting. In contrast, vijnana is both cognitive and ontological and as an image is thoughts linking up in a series and is the basis of what we would commonly refer to as rationality or reason. At his juncture there are two essential elements that need to be elucidated which frame the dialogue between Dogen amd Hegel . Firstly, prajna and vijnana or awareness and experience are not separated realms of existence, if and when they become separated and not brought back into a state of unification we have lost our way. Vijnana cannot work without having prajna behind it; parts are parts of the whole; parts never exist by themselves, for if they did they would not be parts be parts — they would cease to exist (Loy, 1988, 136). Secondly, vijnana without prajna becomes sterile, so non-dual prajna without vijnana is often blind (Loy, 1988, 161). It is the manifestations of these dynamics that we are essentially addressing in the proposed dialogue between Dogen and Hegel, for both thinkers and their respective traditions have consistently prioritised either awareness or experience to the detriment of the other and we are through necessity beginning to seek the foundations of some sort of balance. The paradoxical but essential claim we might make that is central to this thesis is that, non-duality as a way of being-in-the-world is not counter-posed to duality; rather it is a movement beyond the duality between duality and non-duality. What I am arguing is that Hegel is fundamentally a philosopher of vijnana and Dogen a practitioner of prajna or un-mediated awareness. This thesis intends to demonstrate that these foci so reconceptualized reveals not a parting of the ways of East and West but rather demonstrates their inter-dependence and the possibilities for communion, that can offer both a cross-fertilization and re-vitalisation of the emancipatory impulse within both traditions and potentially reveal something similitaneously both ancient and new.

Before we embark upon a reading of Hegel, we should be aware that there are two major traditions of this task. The first is the metaphysical view of Hegel, such a reading places Hegel’s squarely in the tradition of classical metaphysics. This is in accord with Heidegger’s broadly ‘onto-theological’ interpretation of Hegel wherein onto-theology refers to the equation of Being, God and logos and not surprisingly this reading often draws on and into theological discussions. As a broad generalisation Hegel in this view does not offer the categories of his logic as mere ‘hermeneutic devices’ but as external forms, moments or aspects of the Divine Mind (Absolute Idea). The other predominant reading is the non-metaphysical / non-theological view of Hegel. This view was popularised by Klaus Hartmann in his pioneering article, ‘Hegel, a non-metaphysical view’ (Hartmann, 1988) and draws upon an observation Frederick Engels made that Marx is concerned primarily with Hegel’s method rather than his system. This reading of Hegel has much currency especially within Marxist circles.

Hegel is a western post-enlightenment thinker, that is, his thought is a response to the interventions of Rene Descartes, who substantiated a rift between the idea and god, from which emerged the basis of modern subjectivity and the scientific method. Descartes dictum cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, is grounded in an anxiety which is framed by an either/or question that goes to the very heart of the western enlightenment process and its mode of thinking; either there is some basic foundational constraint or we are confronted with intellectual and moral chaos. Hegel’s philosophy is an attempt to respond to this anxiety.

For Hegel, it is the Phenomenology that lays the foundations for both his method and system by critiquing and enveloping all other forms of knowledge into this system that is leading towards the Absolute and Absolute knowing. The beginning of science is based upon the result of consciousness’s experience which commences with ‘sense certainty’ and is completed in forms of spirit which Hegel calls absolute knowing: art, religion and philosophy.

In a key passage of the Phenomenology Hegel suggests that,

the dialectical movement that consciousness carries out in regard to itself, both in regard to its knowledge and to its object, in as much as it is new true object emerges from this is actually what is called ‘experience’ (Gadamer, 1975, 318).

What constitutes the self that has this experience? In his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Hegel writes,

In myself, I as infinite am against or in contrast with myself as finite, and as a finite consciousness I stand over and against my thought as infinite. I am the feeling, the perception, the idea alike of this unity and this conflict, and am what holds together the conflicting elements, the effort put forth in this act of holding together, represent the labour of heart and soul to obtain mastery over this opposition...I am the conflict, for the conflict is just this antagonism...I am both combatants, and am the strife itself, I am the fire and the water which touches each other, and am the contact and union of what flies apart (19??, volume 1, 64).

For Hegel it is the ‘I’ that thinks and this ‘I’ includes a relationship to the Absolute, which is both the source and what we are searching for. John Caputo makes an interesting observation that Hegel’s Geist, which can be translated as spirit or mind is actually a form of transcendental subjectivity, and constructed to insulate man (sic) from his finitude, and is able to become god-like through the relationship to absolute knowledge. In this way Hegel’s view of the self is firmly planted within the conventions of both western philosophy and theology.

Hegel writes in the Logic,

...for the ego, this immediate consciousness of self, at first appears to be itself both an immediacy and also something much more familiar to us than any other idea; anything else known belongs to the ego, it is true, but is still a content distinguished from it and therefore contingent; the ego, on the contrary is the simple certainty of its own self. But the ego as such is at the same time also concrete...(Hegel, 1969, 75-76).

To aid us in unpacking what Hegel is getting at here it may be first valuable to explain what Hegel means by the concrete. Hegel’s dialectical method of inquiry moves from the abstract to the concrete. In coming to understand Hegel’s method the concrete cannot be the starting point for inquiry for it is made up of many internal relations, in which,

the relations contained in something concrete in a synthetic unity, is necessary only in so far as it is not just a given but is produced by the spontaneous return of the moments back into this unity (Hegel, 1969, 75).

In other words the process of becoming concrete in itself creates other dimensions that inform its concrete-ness. The abstract as it cannot be broken down into any constituent parts, must be the beginning, because we ‘may not presuppose anything’ (Hegel, 1969, 70). Hegel relates this process of abstraction to the ego that is concrete and he recognises that in this process the ego must be disrupted,

this is the absolute act through which the ego purges itself of its content and becomes aware of itself as an abstract ego (Hegel, 1969, 76).

What Hegel is attempting to do here is suggest that thought in the abstract is the ground for knowing. If there is a thought, be it abstract or concrete does this not imply a thinker? What then constitutes this thinker? This is why I would contend that at root Hegel remains a philosopher of experience for his understandings and relationships to the world are founded in the assumption that thought and being are mirrors of each other. I will contend that when Hegel’s philosophy comes into contact with the practitioners of awareness such as Dogen the limitations associated with his assumptions regarding the self begin to unravel.

Hegel, in accord with western philosophy up until Heidegger, generally avoids the challenge of awareness and as such Hegel suggests that a foundation of science is thought reflecting upon itself, and that the knowing subject can not intrude on the known and that categories are no mere determination of reflection, but rather they claim to grasp the order of reality in the form of a statement. Hegel remains trapped within conceptualisation and this is both a strength and weakness, though I would suggest we new more subtle ways of being able to both appreciate and tease out the implications in Hegel’s method and system. Let us now address the question of contradiction within Hegel’s system more directly. The beginning of the Logic poses the essential problems of the Hegelian logic: the beginning with the idea of Being, the identity of it with Nothing, and the synthesis of the two opposed ideas of Being and Nothing, called Becoming. For Hegel, it is here science must begin. It must be pointed out though that the starting point for Hegel’s method is thinking’s relationship to pure being; as they are mirrors of each other. Pure being is the logical beginning and in and of itself does not exist, it is a device of pure abstraction. This foundation is self-evident for Hegel, ‘the ground, the reason, why the beginning is made with pure being is the pure science of logic is directly given in the science itself’ (Hegel, 1969, 72). Pure being though does not exist in isolation, as Hegel observes,

As yet there is nothing and there is to become something. The beginning is not pure nothing, but a nothing from which something is to proceed...the beginning contains both being and nothing, unity of being and nothing, or is non-being — at the same time being (Hegel, 1969, 73).

Or furthermore, ‘what the truth is, is neither Being nor Nothing, but on the contrary, that Being does not now pass over into Nothing nor Nothing into Being, but rather has already passed over’ — a transition, accordingly, which has taken place already. Being and Nothing exist solely as passing over or transition itself, as Becoming (Gadamer, 1971, 89). Thus Being and Nothing are more to be treated as analytic moments in the concept of Becoming...However, by virtue of their undifferentiatedness, Being and Nothing are only different in the pure and full content of the concept of Becoming.

As Hegel remarks,

‘One has acquired great insight when one realizes that being and non-being are abstractions without truth and that the first truth is Becoming alone’ (XIII 306).

In this elucidation Hegel has captured the essence of the germ that gives birth to western post-enlightenment thinking and the modern project; ‘there is nothing and there is to become something’, being is becoming. Being is becoming is the essence of western thinking that informs our experience of our selves and the world. This notion of the self is becoming, which is the Promethean urge, and is the resultant initiation of activity to overcome the pain of contradiction. ‘Ought’ is the Promethean desire. For Hegel, the truth of being is becoming.

Hegel begins to develop his speculative logic systematically...pure being is in relationship to nothing and yet nothing is something. Nothing is not simply nothing. To think of nothing is to think of something (ie. nothing) and in thinking of nothing we are thinking of the indeterminate so ‘nothing is, therefore, the same determination or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being’ (Hegel, 1969,82). It is this something of nothing that creates the contradictory tension which gives rise to becoming. If it already existed, if it was already determined, then it would not be pure being at all. So for Hegel,

the negative is equally a positive; whatever is contradicted is not reduced to a zero, to an abstract nothingness, but essentially to the negation of its particular concrete; in other words such a negation is not a complete negation but the negation of the determinate thing which is being dissolved, and therefore a determinate negation. The result being a determinate negation has a content; it is a new concept, having been enriched by its contains the other but is also more than the other, it is their unity (Hegel, 1969, 69).

It is through comments like these that we can usefully characterise Hegel’s dialectic method as a triad between the thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis, that moves from the abstract to the concrete and unfolds towards the absolute. The creative dynamic underpinning Becoming (or the synthesis) is the negation, which is the contradiction implicit in being. This comprehension of being can only arise if nothing is treated as a thing. Treating nothing can only be a thing if the self is treated as a thing and not a process. Hegel’s understanding of nothing is fundamentally grounded in his view of the self, thus his nothing is a relative nothingness. That is, the self can know nothing and/or itself.

For Hegel, it is from these basic premises that categories begin to determine, that is, the most abstract works itself up to the concrete. This process for Hegel is a mirror of being’s movement searching for the Absolute. For Hegel, contradiction is the force that drives this process. For Hegel contradiction is not a logical but an ontological category for,

contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality. It is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity (Hegel, 1972, 439).

Implicit within an ontological understanding of contradiction are the possibilities for negation and overcoming of negation which ‘are constitutive of the movement of understanding’ (Hartmann, 1988, 273). In other words, contradiction is the source of our coming to know ourselves and the world and it is the force underpinning this process.

Hegel draws directly from the tradition of process philosophers such as Liebnitz and Spinoza. What all process philosophers have in common is the belief that the relations that come together to make up the whole get expressed in what are taken to be its parts. This stands in contra-distinction to the analytical philosophical tradition. The basic premise of the analytical tradition regarding contradiction is that A and not-A cannot both be true as it is a logical impossibility. For Hegel who is attempting to create tools that can go beyond appearances to reveal the essence of phenomena, his starting point is that both A and not A can be. Hegel’s use and comprehension of contradiction is framed by his relative understanding of nothingness. That is, a nothingness that can be abstracted and known by a subject. This assumption frames how he comes to comprehend a moment of becoming through his dialectical term aufhebung; which is both a coming and a ceasing to be. For Hegel the movement of the sublation is generated by ‘the tremendous power of the negative; it negates the thing in its limited one-sidedness, preserves it in its essential being and elevates it to a more comprehensive level of reality (Stambaugh, 1990, 79). So for Hegel, contradiction stands between what exists and what is in the process of coming to be, this is eloquently captured in this passage from The Philosophy of the Right,

The bud disappears in the bursting-forth of the blossom, and one might say that the former is refuted by the letter, similarly, when the fruit appears, the blossom is shown up in its turn as a false manifestation of the plant, the fruit now emerges as the truth of it instead. These forms are not just distinguished from one another, they also supplant one another as mutually incompatible. Yet at the same time their fluid nature makes them moments of an organic unity in which they not only do not conflict, but in which each is a necessary as the other; and this mutual necessity alone constitutes the life of the whole (Hegel, 1990, 2).

For Hegel being mirrors thought. The contradictions in abstract thought are exposed through a relative understanding of nothingness — a nothingness that can be known. Contradiction is the moving force in the relationship of being is in the process of becoming. It is through these lens that emancipatory impulses are understood and developed. Emancipation for Hegel is a building up or a movement towards the Absolute.

To facilitate a shift of focus from Hegel to Dogen I wish to quote Hamlet, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’.

To expand this relationship I will play some music from the recent Australian film, One Night the Moon written by Kev Carmody and sung by Paul Kelly and ?

(play tape). For those that did not quite grasp the lyrics,

The white farmer played by Paul Kelly sings,

’this land is mine
al the way to the old fence line
every break of day
I'm workin’ hard just to make it pay
This land is mine
Yeah I signed on the dotted line
Campfires on the creek-bed
Bank breathin’ down my neck
They won’t take it away
They won’t take it away
They won’t take it away from me'

In response the Black Tracker played by Kelton Pell sings,

‘This land is me
rock, water, animal, tree,
they are my song
my being’s here where I belong
this land owns me
from generations past to infinity
we are all but woman and man
and your only fear is what you can’t understand
they won’t take it away
they won’t take it away
they won’t take it away from me’

This song not only embodies the meeting of black and white upon a colonial terrain but also the recognition of different relations to the self. These selves characterised as ‘this land is mine’ and ‘this land is me’ do not meet as equals because of colonial and post-colonial power relations and thus engage as self and other. We will now turn our attentions to Dogen whose view of the self is viewed through exactly the same prism as the relationship of the black and white fellas, that is, it is other, in this case an Eastern or Oriental other and as we uncover there are many points of connection between the Aboriginal perspective of ‘this land is me’ and Dogen’s view of the self.

Dogen is an eastern post- enlightenment practitioner, wherein the enlightenment is actually the plural form of enlightenments that reverberates right up into this present moment and framed by the awakening of Buddha two and half thousand years ago. Dogen is a Mahayana Buddhist thinker as Buddhism basically split into two main traditions about six hundred years after Buddha’s death. Mahayana Buddhism is grounded in two inter-related premises that informs its horizon and these are sunyata what is commonly translated as emptiness and pratitya — samutpada or co-dependent origination. It is necessary to slightly digress to explore these assumptions because they are so completely alien to the western world-view. In discussing Dogen we must remain mindful that we are using the methods of vijnana to explain and point to the realm of prajna. If we wish to come to a fuller understanding of what Dogen is pointing to we must engage in the meditative practice zazen, for in his understanding there is no separation of the knower and the known and in order to appreciate this we must peel away the layers of the conceptualising mind.

Whilst sunyata certainly is found within Theravadan Buddhism it does not entertain the centrality or the meaning that it finds within the Mahayana. By its very nature this term is not easy to comprehend in a conceptual or theoretical framework — for this is the very point! It comes from the root word su, meaning to swell in two senses; hollow or empty and also full, like the womb of a pregnant woman. As David Loy illustrates both meanings are implied in Mahayana usage; the first denies any fixed self-nature to anything, the second limitless possibility (Loy, 1988, 50). Western Buddhism has seized upon the first meaning and largely neglected the second, a condition we are addressing through this discussion. Sunyata is often translated into English as emptiness or boundless openness but we shall use absolute nothingness. In the discussion that follows the Japanese translation of mu will be used so as to lessen confusion. Mu is not a metaphysical term as it is a noun as well as a verb, as in ‘emptying’ (Abe, 1995, 54). Whatever is represented as mu or posited as mu is not true mu. Allow me to re-read that last sentence again for we are not used to referring to being that is not related to reason. Dogen extrapolates this point in Gakudo Yojin-Shu — Guidelines for Studying the Way,

A monk asked Zhaoahou ‘Does the dog have buddha-nature or not?'

Zhaozhou replied ‘Mu’.

Beyond this word mu can you measure anything or grasp anything? There is entirely nothing to hold onto (Tanahashi, 1985, 41).

This absolute negation of nothingness for Dogen is the true self, that is, Buddha-nature. Absolute nothingness is at the same time un-knowable and one with being. There is no vantage point from which to know mu because the notions of the separate self that knows are subsumed in absolute nothingness. This understanding goes to the very heart of Buddha’s way, it is both the beginning and the end and challenges Hegel’s totalising method of understanding the world through abstraction, based in a relative understanding of nothingness. Dogen’s absolute nothingness leaves no self as a referential from which to know. We must remember that clinging or idolising mu is of little use for to use a Buddhist metaphor mu itself must be abandoned as it is a mere raft to cross the ocean of ignorance

The second inter-related assumption informing the Mahayana horizon is the pre-supposition of pratitya — samutpada or co-dependent arising that attempts to grasp the causal interdependence of all things. This notion of co-dependent arising is not unique to Buddhist thought for it is also thoroughly grounded within Taoism and western science, Albert Einstein observed this phenomenon and called it relativity. It is important to realise that mu is pratitya-samutpada, or absolute nothingness is co-dependant arising; they are essentially different ways of explaining the same process, whereby,

rather than the linear, sequential logic in which A causes B which causes C, co-dependent causation recognizes that not only is B caused by A, but A is caused by B, so that causation is not one-directional but circular, or co-arising. (Gunn, 2000, 53).

The world is made up of stories and not atoms. A most stunning representation of co-dependent arising comes from the Chinese Hua-yen Buddhism that existed in the T'ang dynasty from approximately 618 — 907 ADE, and is the image of Indra’s Net,

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net that has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that is stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each ‘eye’ of the net, and since the net is itself infinite in all dimensions, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels of the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring (Loy, 1993, 481).

Indra’s net is a powerful metaphor offering a non-dualistic understanding of production based in prajna or awareness; this perspective is qualitatively unlike though not essentially contrary to Marx’s comprehension of production as one grounded in vijnana or experience. Co-dependant arising suggests that unlike the western post-enlightenment conception that being is in the process of becoming and a building up, rather, being is or to use being is Don Caputt’s notation be(com)ing, in so far as it is a paring back to the essentials.

When Dogen entered the monastery he threw himself onto the path. Early on Dogen read the Mahaparinirvana Sutra which customarily is read as,

All sentient beings everywhere possess the Buddha-nature; the Tathagata exists eternally and is without change (Kodera, 1980, 25).

If this is so, questioned the young Dogen, and Buddha-nature is everywhere and constant, then why do monks work to attain awakening? Thus Dogen begins to frame his great doubt, which is framed thus,

as I study both the exoteric and esoteric schools of Buddhism, they maintain that human beings are endowed with the Dharma-nature by birth. If this is the case, why did the Buddhas of all ages — undoubtedly in possession of enlightenment — find it necessary to seek enlightenment and engage in spiritual practice? (Kim, 1987, 20).

Dogen’s great doubt unlike the Cartesian anxiety resists conceptualisation and naming, the question is how to respond to this place? Our ability to respond is the cornerstone of liberation, however conceived. Different cultures and traditions have different responses to this place and as discussed is often framed by their appreciation and relationship to nothingness and contradiction. Heidegger’s questioning, which at many levels is in accord with Dogen’s perspective, that the western forgetting of being is largely due to our lack of awareness of absolute nothingness. As distinct to Hegel where being mirrors knowing, for Dogen being is and knowing is a too limited way to relate to what is. For Hegel nothingness is relative and therefore ultimately knowable by a subject and therefore being is in the process of becoming. For Dogen nothingness is absolute and thus full and thereby contains the omni-verse, thus be(com)ing. Interestingly, the Cartesian anxiety that Hegel inherits is his desire to create a foundational philosophy is something the self has, whereas Dogen’s doubt is something the self is. One reifies the self, the other allows it to fall away...(Loy, 1988, 207). This recognition of fundamental difference is the ground for the proposed dialogue. Let us now though return to Dogen.

In struggling to answer his doubt Dogen was not satisfied with the answers he found to his questions within in Japan, so he set off to China in search of an authentic teacher. Disillusioned, Dogen was nearly ready to return home when he stumbles across Ju-Ching, a teacher of the Ts'ao-tung school, the Zen of silent illumination. It is important to recognise was that the difference between Ju-Ching and other teachers was not due to affiliation of school but because of the person. The meditation regime endured under Ju-Ching was intense and Dogen dedicated himself whole-heartedly to the arduous practices of the way. One day Ju-ching was telling off a student sitting next to Dogen, for falling asleep, and he barked, ‘in Zen body and mind are dropped off. Why do you sleep?’ Upon hearing the words ‘body and mind are dropped off’ (shinjin datsuraku — Japanese) Dogen was awakened. This notion of dropping off body and mind is central to Dogen’s Way. In this process Dogen’s reading of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, ‘All sentient beings everywhere possess the Buddha-nature; the Tathagata exists eternally and is without change’ (Kodera, 1980, 25) becomes in Dogen’s words, ‘All things are Buddha-nature and Tathagata exists eternally and is non-existent yet existent and changing.’ In light of conventional Chinese grammar this reading is not necessarily correct, but it gives an entirely new meaning to the passage (Kodera, 1980, 62). Upon awakening Dogen is consistently involved in a process of re-writing or re-emphasising certain crucial aspects within the Zen Buddhist tradition, so much so that the language with which he speaks many commentators regard not as Japanese, but rather as Dogenese.

Dogen’s dropping away of body and mind resolved the contradictions that plagued him in his great doubt, that is, he stopped fighting the paradoxes and settled in them. Whilst the meaning of this process is open to many nuances and is still passionately discussed within the Zen tradition, we can gleam a sense of its meaning; dropping off the body is to be liberated from clinging to life and fearing death, dropping off the mind is to let go of opinions and ideological positions, that is, to be at one with absolute nothingness, mu. To quote from the Genjokoan,

To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualised by the myriad things. When actualised by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no trace continues endlessly (Tanahashi, 1985, 70).

For Dogen it is not enough to just conceptually know something, for we are still caught in the illusions of the self, we must be the insights. We must be mu! Zazen, what Dogen often refers to as shikantaza; just sitting, is not a discipline of learning, but a discipline of un-learning; unlearning habits, conceptualisations and our investments in a notion of a separate self. These five sentences are pregnant with penetrating insight and possibilities and for Dogen the deepest meanings can only be lived through rigorous zazen practice, that is, to fully grasp what is being offered here we must go beyond vijnana to settle in prajna. This for Dogen is awakening, and it is both eternal and traceless!

For Dogen no theory or commentary on this mind/body practice is necessary, it just is. Dogen’s Way unlike Hegel’s points not so much to an orthodoxy as an orthopraxy.

Ultimately zazen is a self-managing practice; it is the self watching the self, an open-ended reflection. Moreover, Dogen’s reverberating insight is that means and ends are not separated, sitting practice is not separated from awakening; to do zazen even for a minute, you are a Buddha. There is nothing to be attained, as it already is. There is nothing to be attained, everything to be realised. For Hegel, to be liberated we must do something and he is a philosopher of action (albeit largely in the realm of ideas) whereas for Dogen, there is nothing to do. Be aware of how you read the last sentence, because a mis-reading can be a source of confusion and miscommunication between the Eastern and Western traditions. Dogen is not suggesting we do nothing but rather there is nothing to do, we must enter and settle in the nothingness. Being able to grasp the difference between the two statements is the foundation of dialogue between the east and the west.

For Dogen living with awareness, moment to moment is Buddha-nature. Zazen encapsulates the Buddha’s way. In Zazenshin, Dogen relates a story of Yeuh-shan,

After sitting, a monk asked great Master Yeuh-shan Hung-tao; “What are you thinking in the immobile state of sitting?” The master said “I think of not thinking.” The monk said, ‘How can you think of not-thinking?” the master replied, “Non-thinking"(Dogen, 1994, ).

Dogen way is based upon prajna and therefore he is interested in avoiding the trap of basing knowledge on notions of a separate self. This path by necessity goes beyond the limitations of both thinking and not-thinking, that is non-thinking. When one really settles into meditation, either through koan practice, which is working with a contradictory comment or shikantaza, just sitting, we can go beyond ways of being and knowing that are framed by the self; this is the realm of non-thinking. Non-thinking is mu. It is the unity of thinking (shiryo), not-thinking (fu-shiryo) and non-thinking (hi-shiryo) which constitutes zazen. It is important to recognise that Dogen’s dialectic is not a synthesis, it ultimately drops the thinker or the possibility of any subject behind the thought. Dogen is not offering not a dialectical method or system but rather a Way. Just sit; learn to be aware, this is Dogen’s dialectical way. Practice is both the means and the end; there is no separation. As Dogen offers,

Sit solidly in samadhi and think not thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This is the art of zazen. Zazen is not learning to do concentration. It is the Dharma gate of great ease and joy. It is undefiled practice-enlightenment (Zazen-gi).

Dogen offers a practice that deconstructs all categories including the notion of a separate self that can know. As Francis Cook argues, ‘inauthentic selfhood derives from the human tendency to superimpose patterns of thinking, categories and concepts onto experience in order to manipulate it’ (LaFleur, 1985, 133). The self is abstract rather than concrete, because whereas the concrete self is in fact just the immediacy of experience, the abstract self is abstract because it arises from and is constituted by the self’s memory of past concrete experiences (Cook in LaFleur, 1985, 134). Mu is a not a privileged insight, it is all around is and in us, in all time, all we have is to (re)learn to see with out ears.

It can be argued that post-Enlightenment thinkers of the West such as Hegel and Marx offer a method of relating to contradiction that develops their comprehension of emancipation, whereas post-awakening thinkers of the East of the Mahayana tradition, settling in contradiction and the liberation this implies is expressed as a Way. Essentially there is no corresponding equivalent to the Way within western culture because our notions of indeed forgetting of time and being. One of the most penetrating expressions of the implications of the Way can be found in the first chapter of Lao Tzu’s, Tao Te Ching,

The way that becomes a way
is not the Immortal Way
the name that becomes a name
is not the Immortal Name
the maiden of Heaven and Earth has no name
the mother of all things has a name
thus in innocence we see the beginning
in passion we see the end
two different names
for one and the same
the ones we call dark
the dark beyond dark
the door to all beginnings (Tzu, 1996, n.p.n.).

The Way could be understood as a path leading to a dwelling in mu, or the settling in the very contradictions of life with awareness. The meaning of the Way is in the walking, not in the creation of correct ideas about the process, it suggests an orthopraxy rather than an orthodoxy. Stephen Batchelor makes a lucid insight on the transformation of the changing meanings of the way across time and culture. Within ancient China a way or a path was associated with a journey to another place and it was very much a symbol of stepping out into the unknown. Within post-modernity paths have a very different meaning associated with roads, railways, airlines and information superhighways and the way is becoming a metaphor of domination rather than freedom (King, 1998, 116). In this observation Batchelor is recognising that the realms of awareness and experience are profoundly impacting upon each other which is ultimately transforming the Way. An appreciation of the way points to an essential difference between Eastern and Western philosophical approaches focusing in particular upon their relationship to contradiction. For Hegel contradiction develops and the task is to theoretically understand so as to be able to facilitate the unfolding and synthesis of contradiction. For Taoist and Zen thought, contradiction is and it is to be appreciated or understood by entering it with awareness and lived. This different relationship to contradiction is in part framed by the distinction between experience and awareness that frames the differing cultures.

The basis of dialogue and the re-invention of the emancipatory imagination on a planetary scale is the recognition that the philosophers of experience need the practitioners of awareness, if we wish the fragments of the whole to be brought into contact with each other. Now whilst this discussion has focused on the weakness of Hegel and the strength of Dogen, we must remain mindful that there is a corresponding discussion around the issue of social ethics wherein Hegel’s strengths become apparent and Dogen’s focus on individual awakening reveals its limitations. The observation that experience needs awareness is echoed in the very cells of our persons in the desire to bring some harmony into the mind / body that has been ruptured for millennia. It is important to recognise that the inter-dialogue between East and West is at the same time an intra-dialogue between self and ‘other'; there is no separation between the knower and the known. In his Asian Journals (1968) Catholic monastic Thomas Merton, who instigated many important religious and political dialogues gives insight into this process,

And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond speech. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are (Merton, 1968, 305-8).

What we are witness to is the first rumblings of an emancipatory way, that is both a fusion of the east and west which is the creation of something else, where the dualisms of East and West, black and white, mind and body start to drop away. This something else is what I am referring to as non-dualistic planetary thinking.

Central to creating inclusive forms of globalisation is the new political discourse based on (1) the project of defending and extending the space of the commons, that which is held in common which includes such dimensions as land, water, education and health, rather than being subsumed by new modalities of capital accumulation and (2) at the same time building and strengthening communities through the social fields, for community builds while capital destroys.

colin's slide no. 1

Central to both this discourse and the dialogues that are necessary to facilitate this process is the role of the bridge-builder. Part cadre, part bodhisattva, part artist these people are the transformed beings who are and will continue to lead the transformation; acting as conduits they are bring the fragments back into relation with each other to allow the multi-dimensional dialogues and healing to occur. These people embody the emergence of non-dualistic spiritual/social theory/practice. What we need more than the creation of new ideas are people who are open and courageous enough to be able to ask questions as we walk. People who live the words of Walt Whitman,

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then...I contradict myself,
I am large....I contain multitudes.

The idea of the bridge-builder within western culture harks back both to the archetype of the trickster, represented by Lin Onus in this print by the Dingo and the Greek god Hermes, who was the messenger of the gods, who was able to move between worlds or in common parlance border cross. It is interesting to note that within western philosophy Hans-Georg Gadamer calls the art of dialogue — hermeneutics, which many people understand as the art of interpretation. This word hermeneutics obviously draws on the god Hermes and the other tradition named after him that is alchemy or hermetic philosophy; the art of creating gold out of more basic metals. There has been a recent book written by Glenn Magee called Hegel and the Hermetic tradition (2000) which argues that Hegel’s philosophy both draws upon and is a contribution to Hermetic philosophy, that is, a western tradition of transformation.

In this image called Michael and I art just slipping down to the pub for a minute (1992) produced by Yorta Yorta man, Lin Onus, we have the Dingo riding on top of the stingray, for Onus they are mates and already stated the Dingo, who was Onus’s totem, is the trickster. So here is the very clearly represented Aboriginal representation of the trickster riding the tsunami, which is an ancient and very deep symbol of the Japanese. Onus seems to be pointing to the possibilities of an inclusive globalization, created by the trickster’s who are able to ride the tumultuous waves of change.

The promise and practice of inclusive planetary thinking cannot be separated. In the simultaneous creation and destruction (both a building up and a paring back) of a planetary horizon of emancipation, a realm of freedom is unfolding which is present in every moment though easy to miss or dismiss. Naomi Klein in her recent work, Fences and Borders (2001) suggests that the world wide web is not only a tool for organising but also a metaphor for organising on a global scale, and there may be much value in this insight, which harks back to the Hua-yen Buddhist image of Indra’s Net. But Augusto Alcalde, an Argentinean friend who currently is working with unemployed groups in Argentina relayed some insights from discussion from within their movement. These activists are concerned that the net is too limited a metaphor and rather they suggest the concept of a diffuse net — which has no centre as a metaphor for global organizing. And it is here I must attempt to make an intervention...

To enter this dialogue and the possibilities implied we must ground ourselves. What is being discussed is largely a dialogue between East and West, and though we may be heavily influenced by both or either traditions it is not where we are standing, or in this case sitting. We are upon aboriginal land in the South. To become bridge-builders we must learn the art of dialogue. We in Australia are in a unique position in this regard, for most of us in this room are either the descendants or benefactors of the conquering of this land and its peoples. We are not yet part of this land, we are to varying degrees still stuck in the mindset of ‘this land is mine’ albeit left or right wing versions of it. If we are not part of the land our foundations for existence are very precarious — as the recent bush-fires across the eastern seaboard prompt to remind us. Central to the process of actually dwelling in this land is a re-assessment and re-imagining of our relationship to the other — that is the Aboriginal peoples. The history of our nation is our teacher and the first and greatest challenge to actually whether we can actually engage planetary thinking. For without engaging and transforming this relationship we cannot really engage transformative alliances on a global terrain, for who and what is the self that wishes to make an alliance? As Dogen reminds us ‘When you find place, practice begins’ And we largely homeless and rootless people need to begin the process of finding place before and as part of the process of developing more grandiose and inclusive notions of emancipation. We need to follow the lead of poets Judith Wright and Les Murray, of painters Gordon Bennett and Lin Onus, of Film-maker Tracey Moffat, of novelist Patrick White and cartoonist Michael Leunig who are opening the way of what it can mean to be part of the this land.

colin's slide no. 2

I introduce this print into the discussion at this juncture and other than to say that it is once again by Lin Onus I do not wish to say anything other than it is an attempt to communicate beyond the limitations of rationality.

What is happening is that the categories that so many of us live by are beginning to blur and it would be advantageous to understand what is happening? We should not be afraid of the ancient or the new. We do not live by our categories, even though many of us think we do. Subcommandante Marcos, who really is the first articulator of this sort of planetary thinking puts it well referring to the role of the Zapatistas as, ‘We are a revolution to allow revolution to happen’. To this end read the story of colours from the works of Marcos, it must be remembered that the foundation of the Zapatistas was the meeting of the survivors of a Maoist tendency going into the jungles to organise the indigenous peasants, but in the process rather than talking they learnt to listen to the wisdom of the Mayans, the people of the corn — and something else was born. (Read pp. 373 — 375)

Welcome to planetary thinking.