Hee-Jin Kim, Dôgen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.
The following is a presentation made at the Tokyo Buddhist Discussion Group, May 15, 2007, revised in light of the stimulating and erudite comments of Tony Black, Ishii Seijun, Chuck Muller and Brook Ziporyn.
Kim, who apparently began as a student of Christian themes, has studied Dôgen for half a century. His contributions include especially his book Dôgen Kigen – Mystical Realist (The University of Arizona Press, 1975); third edition, Eihei Dôgen : Mystical Realist (Wisdom Publications, 2004) and his translation of fascicles 1-30, Flowers of Emptiness: Selections from Dôgen's Shôbôgenzô (Edwin Mellen, 1985), which has annoying cuts throughout; billed as the first of three volumes, it had no sequel. Mystical realism means that Dôgen’s thought is always directed to and anchored in zazen practice, and that language and conceptuality are given their due role in the spiritual process. Kim seeks ‘to present a perspective through which the character of Dôgen’s thought can be illuminated systematically. We are not looking for the system in Dôgen, which is non-existent’ (Mystical Realist, p. 11).
The new book is more sophisticated than the rather thesis-like exposition of the first edition of Mystical Realist. Its preface alludes to Critical Buddhism and to the rude awakenings to which Zen has been exposed lately, and claims that Dôgen, correctly understood, rises to the challenge of the times and himself challenges them, though we must seek to understand him better than he understood himself by overcoming the limits of his medieval Japanese horizon (p. 124). Summarizing his earlier book, Kim claims that Dôgen ‘restored language, thinking and reason – the familiar tools of duality – to their fully deserved legitimacy in his Zen… The function of nonduality was not to efface duality, as often is the case with that of good and evil, nor to make duality a provisional expedient for attaining a sui generis experience, nor to plunge into ineffable reality… Nonduality was always embedded and active within duality itself – as the guider, purifier and empowerer of duality’ (p. x). In the present book he continues his exploration of ‘the dynamics of duality as they relate to nonduality in the temporality of existence-time’ (p. x).
Chapter 1, ‘A Shattered Mirror, a Fallen Flower,’ asks what is the relationship between delusion and enlightenment in the thought and practice of Dôgen. What is the meaning of the nonduality of delusion and enlightenment (meigo ichinyo)? Kim answers that delusion and enlightenment are ‘orientational and perspectival foci within the structure and dynamics of realization (genjô)… Enlightenment consists not so much in replacing as in dealing with or “negotiating” delusion in the manner consistent with its principles’ (p. 4). Throughout his book he proposes the model of supplementary foci as a corrective to such dualisms as that between ‘things as they really are’ and ‘things as they appear to be’, which have led to the situation that the ‘pre- or extradiscriminative state of mind is privileged in such as way that creative tensions between delusion and enlightenment are all but lost’ (p. 1). This model is applied to several other dualities, such as that between conventional and ultimate. Perhaps a danger of this model is that it is too flexible and might end leaving us with nothing concrete to say about how the two supplementary realities are related.
Kim insists that ‘one attains enlightenment only in and through delusion’ (p. 1). The enlightened person is living in time, here and now, and so is always involved with delusion. It is not a matter of being in the world of delusion but not of it, or of having serenely transcended delusion by seeing through it. Rather, there is a creative tension between enlightenment and delusion, lived out from moment to moment. ‘Delusion and enlightenment... are both temporal, coextensive and coeternal as ongoing salvific processes’ (p. 4). As one grows more enlightened, one also grows more aware of one’s enmeshment in ‘the vast and giddy karmic consciousness’ (gosshiki bôbô; bôbô gosshiki) and of one’s condition of being ‘nevertheless deluded’ as Dôgen puts it, which can be taken to mean ‘ever deluded’, ‘originally deluded’ (p. 5). ‘A proper understanding of the insidiousness of delusion and the ambiguity of enlightenment thus constitutes the pivot of practice’ (p. 6).
‘“A shattered mirror” (hakyô) and “a fallen flower” (rakka) are the metaphors neither for a spiritually bankrupt person in despair and hopelessness, nor for an utterly incorrigible person beyond all possibilities of redemption. To the contrary, these metaphors purport to be the truth of realization vis-à-vis the existential predicament of the self and the world that are alike in a “shattered” and “fallen” state – not only figuratively but literally’ (p. 6). This ‘underlines the fundamental limitations and ambiguities in our moral and religious overcoming, namely, enlightenment. This is also the ultimate limitation of Zen as a religion’ (p. 8). So Zen aims at keeping up an enlightened mode of practice in the here and now, one which is nourished by the constant challenge of delusion. It does not promise any condition that transcends this-worldly reality. I do not know if the author has some arrière-pensée here about Christianity as going beyond this limitation, for good or ill. He certainly wants to deflate claims made for Zen by D. T. Suzuki and other ‘intuitionists. I wonder if the word ‘mystical’ in his 1975 title is one he would choose today. He is pleased with the way recent scholarship strips Zen enlightenment of ‘traditional pretensions’ and the ‘aggrandizement and indulgence of enlightenment’ (p. 10), since it clears the way to correct appreciation of the texture of Dôgen’s mystical realism. This stripped-down Zen may be too realistic for many, who expect from Buddhism a radical overcoming of the human predicament.
Kim most vividly conveys his sense of how the interface between delusion and enlightenment is lived in a fresh translation of Dôgen’s poem: Yo no naka wa/ nani ni tatoen/ mizutori no/ hashi furu tsuyu ni/ yadoru tsukikage, 世中は何にたとへん水鳥の、はしふる露にやどる月影。‘To what can I liken the human condition in which I live in the here and now? I say: “The moon’s shaken reflections in dewdrops”’ (p. 11). In temporal existence we cannot enjoy a pure, immune beatitude. ‘There is nothing but the shaken reflection in which shakenness and reflection are never statically/reductively fused, but dialectically/dialogally interactive’ (ib.). Dôgen’s sense of impermanence was indeed thoroughly enmeshed in the realities of medieval Japan’ (p. 11); he lived the agony of his time to the full rather than escaping from it. Mujô busshô means not only ‘the impermanent are Buddha-nature’ but also ‘Buddha-nature is impermanent’: ‘only when the moon is thoroughly temporalized and localized in a particular dewdrop, is the dewdrop genuinely sacralized as that shaken reflection. In this manner, Dôgen’s poetic vision of impermanence in the image of the moon’s shaken reflection in/as a dewdrop seems to unmistakably intimate elusive delusional undertones’ (pp. 11-12). Delusion itself, consciously assumed in all its fragility, is enlightenment. One may certainly feel dizzy and shaken when reading Dôgen (Chuck Muller recalls that a student found it so discombobulating that she had to stop because her sanity was actually threatened), but this interpretation risks leaving us caught in a loop between ‘impermanence is Buddha-nature’ and ‘Buddha-nature is impermanence.’ Is there nothing that in any way transcends radical impermanence? I wonder what ‘sacralized’ in the last quote means; it seems to have strayed in from another kind of discourse.
Beyond, or deep within, the interplay of enlightenment and delusion, light and darkness, lies a third factor, the very nub of Dôgen’s thought, introduced rather unobtrusively on p. 16: ‘Dôgen now deeply probes the subtle workings of emptiness itself with respect to illusion and reality, delusion and enlightenment’ in a passage claimed to overcome the idea that truth is a correspondence between mind and reality: In the Kûge fasciscle, ‘without frontally taking on the doctrinal issue of the ultimate truth and worldly truth of Mâdhyamika thought, and even bypassing the doctrine as such, Dôgen elucidates the interior workings of emptiness itself. By minutely observing simple expressions such as kûge (空華, sky-flowers) and eigen (翳眼, dim-sightedness), he boldly declares that emptiness, along with delusion and enlightenment, is rooted in dim-sightedness’ (p. 17). ‘Dim-sightedness is the life force of emptiness and, doctrinally speaking, is the linchpin of ultimate truth and worldly truth’ (p. 18). ‘Equating dim-sightedness to emptiness… Dôgen envisions its flowers blooming as all things of the self and the world – rootless, birthless, purposeless’ (p. 19).
The entry of emptiness as a third factor, not above or beyond but right in the middle among the other two, is structurally identical with the role of the ‘middle’ in the three-truth theory of T’ien-t’ai (Tendai) Buddhism, as Brook Ziporyn notes. Dôgen would have been steeped in this school of Buddhism from his years on Mount Hiei. The earliest commentators on Dôgen explicate his thought according to this structure, conveniently imposed on confusing texts that do not seem to offer it any clear support. It is rather difficult to pin down what emptiness concretely adds to the interplay of the foci and one may suspect that its appearance is motivated more by the Tendai structure than by a phenomenology of the spiritual path. As Tony Black notes, it is very difficult to draw any such systematic insight from Dôgen’s own writing. In Komazawa University exegesis of Dôgen proceeds by looking at his sources, the Chinese kôans, which risks being a matter of explaining obscurum per obscurius.
Chapter 2, ‘Negotiating the Way,’ turns to the implications of this vision for practice. ‘There is no path or linkage whatsoever from practice to enlightenment, and vice versa. In fact, they have nothing to do with each other so far as they are seen in logical, causal, teleological, epistemological, ontological, and similar frameworks. From Dôgen’s perspective, even the bodhisattva’s path of ascent and descent – “seeking enlightenment above, saving sentient beings below” (jôgu-bodai geke-shujô, 上求菩提下化衆生) as so eloquently espoused in Mahâyâna Buddhism – would be regarded as ultimately misleading. In the end, the collapse of all sequential, teleological, hierarchical, and central-peripheral frameworks is complete and final. Dôgen’s Zen arises in the ruins of such a collapse’ (p. 24). In such a radical situation, one is tempted to ask, how can Dôgen’s Zen have any structure at all, much less the rather elaborate structure it retains here?
Because of its hierarchical associations, Dôgen did not favor the two-truths theory, the idea that ‘the worldly truth – our everyday experience through the normal ways of perceiving and thinking – is no more than a launching pad, so to speak, for plunging into the ultimate truth, in which all rational and conceptual contents (“the screen”) of the worldly truth are stripped away’ (p. 26, following C. W. Huntington’s reading of Candrakîrti).
Revering the Lotus Sûtra, Dôgen encouraged the application of skillful means, but not as ‘a temporary expedient for a higher end’ (p. 31). The means is ‘thoroughly revalorized as the very core of the end. But note this is neither an absolutization of the means nor a relativization of the end. The traditional dualism of the means and the end is recast as a pair of foci in place of opposites’ (p. 32). But can one not find a non-duality of means and end, overcoming the alleged dualism, in the Lotus Sûtra itself? Dôgen criticized the kyôhan classification of teachings, the three ages of the dharma, the threefold buddha-body, and Zen’s ‘finger pointing at the moon’ since ‘all these notions drew, in one way or another, upon the conventional view of skillful means’ (p. 32).
Dôgen is not impressed by Vimalakîrti’s silence as an expression of nonduality; ‘nonduality is not privileged or transcendentalized metaphysically any more than duality. It is simply one of the soteric foci within the process of realization… In its liberating process, nonduality embraces duality rather than abandons it… Nonduality functions within, with, and through duality. The non in nonduality signifies dynamicity’ (pp. 33-4). Can any equivalent of such thinking be found in the Vimalakîrti-nirdesa Sûtra? Can Vimalakîrti not redescend to duality as a skillful means? Perhaps the Tendai doctrine of the middle should be seen not as correcting dualisms in the Mahâyâna sûtras but as bringing out the full richness of the nonduality they proclaim. Tendai, Zen and Dôgen are less radical departures from prior tradition than renewed apprehensions of it.
‘Duality and nonduality and their relationship in the paradoxical juxtaposition of not-twoness and not-oneness are principles that govern all pairs of foci in Dôgen’s Zen. In this respect, duality and nonduality might well be called the root foci’ (p. 35). Again, I see a danger of an abstract system-building here. The author then strikes a note which fits oddly in this context, when he says that a unitive awareness of nonduality ‘is in essence a valuational notion of a specific worldview. As such it should not usurp the claim of universality over other worldviews and religions in the pluralist world. To do so would be hubristic and overzealous regarding what it is and does’ (p. 35). Nonduality, and perhaps emptiness itself, are here historicized and seen as pragmatic notions of limited scope, which makes for ecumenical modesty. But would Dôgen agree? Would he see the rootedness of his Zen ‘in a specific time and place as a dharma-situation (hôi)’ (p. 35) as something opposed to and incompatible with the idea of Zen as a philosophia perennis as Kim assumes? Kim applauds Robert H. Sharf and Bernard Faure for overthrowing Suzuki’s image of ‘Zen spirituality, at once unique and universal, as affirming the uniqueness and supremacy of Japanese culture’ (p. 36), a vision he sees as shared by Nishida, Nishitani, Hisamatsu and Abe Masao and associates with nihonjinron.
‘The vision of “things as they are” is never of a fixed reality/truth; the power for self-subversion and self-renewal is inherent in the vision itself. Thus “things” seen as they are are transformable. Every practitioner’s task is to change them by seeing through them. From Dôgen’s perspective this is the fundamental difference between contemplation (dhyâna) and zazen-only. To him, seeing was changing and making’ (p. 38). The difference between the delusion/enlightenment relation and the practice/enlightenment relation is that the thrust of the former concerns ‘humans’ intellectual, moral and existential ambiguity in terms of their primordial opacity or their “dim-sightedness,”’ whereas ‘such an existential humility scarcely appears in the foreground of the discourses on practice and enlightenment, and instead we find vigor and boldness… “As one side is illumined, the other is darkened.” Both aspects complement one another within the dynamics of realization’ (p. 38). They are different ways of situating oneself in the Zen world. Perhaps, against this, there is something to be said for the ordinary idea that we see through things as they appear to be and discover (not make) things as they are.
Chapter 3, ‘Weighing Emptiness,’ confronts the role of emptiness. ‘Dôgen’s appropriation of emptiness is characteristically praxis oriented through and through’ (p. 39). In the fascicle Muchû setsumu, ‘Dualisms between dream and waking, reality and illusion, and the rational and irrational are now thoroughly dismantled and reconstituted in Zen discourse as (revaluated) dualities that intertwine and interpenetrate one another’ (p. 41). The steelyard passage invites us to think of emptiness as the ultimate horizon: ‘The situation of being left high up in midair is indeed terrifying and maddening existentially, for knowing that things, ideas, and values have no self-nature and that there is nothing whatsoever to cling to is an unbearable threat to our whole way of life’ (p. 44). ‘Dôgen renders the steelyard and things to be weighed as both hanging in empty space while playing freely and engaging in transformative activities (yuke,遊化)… Dôgen’s appropriation of emptiness is not just confined to a deconstructive function that demolishes every possible reificational and representational delusion, but engaged in a reconstructive function in the temporality of the whole body with its salvific efficacy… Emptiness enables practitioners to discern that the existential and spiritual predicament of hanging in empty space… is none other than the liberating occasion of “right this moment” (shôtô immoji), with an inclusive sense of efficacy’ (p. 45).
‘The static appearance of the steelyard at rest belies the dynamic process of weighing/fairness… By the same token, emptiness may appear static, abstract, or one-dimensional, and yet in reality, particularly in relation to dependent origination and worldly truth…, it is dynamic, concrete, and multi-dimensional in its workings… Equality does not exist or subsist in the abstract, independent of such a dynamic negotiation of differentiation’ (p. 46). ‘Encountering moral and existential dilemmas and perplexities, our “vast and giddy karmic consciousness” must still operate in full capacity to choose, decide, and act, not only for mere survival but for authentic living. This is the situation in which emptiness is “shattered” and “fallen,” and which, nevertheless, is supposed to effectively function despite its shattered, fallen state’ (p. 49).
Welcoming Huntington’s ‘pragmatic approach that most effectively demonstrates the soteriological efficacy of emptiness’ in which ‘the sole function of emptiness… is to completely strip away “the tendency to reify the screen of everyday affairs,” so that practitioners can see things as they are’ (p. 50), Kim nonetheless objects that Huntington’s ‘incommensurability’ ‘seems to exaggerate discontinuity between the two truths,’ making it impossible to ‘establish a genuine internal relationship between them’ (p. 51), wherein emptiness would be ‘dialogically and efficaciously engaged in the reconstructive function that involves worldly truth’; this is ‘an unworkable rupture between the secular and the religious’ (p. 52). In the state envisaged by Dôgen, ‘things and beings, activities and relations of worldly truth are seen in light of ultimate truth in such a way that they no longer hold the power to sway practitioners’ lives, and the practitioners in turn attain the capacity to use them in salvifically wholesome ways’ (p. 52).
The movement known as Critical Buddhism is criticized for ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ (p. 55); ‘The so-called superficial appearance was infinitely fascinating and profound to the medieval Japanese. I think Dôgen identified with such a deep-rooted sentiment despite his cognizance of its ethically and religiously perilous implications, and did so without compromising critical discernment in accordance with emptiness… Dôgen was born into and imbibed the hongaku tradition and, throughout his life, struggled to negotiate his way within it, as well as beyond it’ (p. 55). ‘His religio-philosophical and mythopoetic use of hongaku-related concepts and symbols, such as Buddha-nature, thusness, the dharma-world, the spatial conception of dependent origination, and the thought of enlightenment, are visionary and disciplined, yet never lose sight of the deconstructive tenor of emptiness’ (pp. 57-8).
Chapter 4, ‘The Reason of Words and Letters’ (adapted from the author’s chapter in Dôgen Studies, ed. W. Lafleur, Honolulu, 1985; reprinted with slight revisions as “Introductory Essay” in Flowers of Emptiness), expounds Dôgen’s linguistic perspectivism: ‘The word water in its conventional usage is only one of the innumerable ways of naming that which is designated by humans. Water may be perceived as water by humans, but also as a palace by fish, as a jeweled necklace by gods, as bloody pus by hungry spirits’ (p. 61). This is not relativism but ‘the radical relatedness of all beings and all perspectives’ (pp. 61-2). A deanthropocentrized view of language and reality leads to ‘a complete changeover of humanity’s collective delusion and self-centeredness with respect to the nature and function of language’ (p. 62).
‘Dôgen offers a “realizational” view of language, in contrast to the “instrumental” view that is epitomized in the Zen adage “the finger pointing to the moon”’ (pp. 62-3). Both the limiting and the liberating functions of language ‘are capable of being soterically appropriated to serve as the bearer of realization. Both are necessary to one another; one without the other is vulnerable to the corrupting effects of language’ (p. 63). ‘Inasmuch as language is the core of discriminative thought, it has the power – perhaps the only power there is – to liberate it’ (p. 63). ‘Language flows individually and collectively through the existential bloodstream, so much so that it is the breath, blood, and soul of human existence’ (p. 64).
In light of this Kim studies Dôgen’s wordplay. His modulations of Chinese expressions ‘cannot be easily rendered in intelligible statements. Perhaps Dôgen did not want them to be reduced to conventional locutions, but rather to be appreciated visually and aurally as they are, like the surrealistic images of a dream’ (p. 66). ‘Dôgen’s radical reinterpretation of nonduality in the aforementioned context of emptiness’ is grouped under eight headings: ‘(i) The relative seen in terms of the ultimate; (ii) the future construed as the present; (iii) the transcendental/static interpreted in terms of the realizational/dynamic; (iv) different stages of practice conceived as all alike full-fledged enlightenment; (v) a preenlightenment event viewed as a postenlightenment one; (vi) imperative statements construed as declarative ones; (vii) analogy seen in terms of identity; and (viii) interrogatives and negatives used in the context of realization’ (p. 75).
The development of Kim’s thought between 1985 and 2007 can be seen by comparing the sentences introducing this list in the Dôgen Studies essay and the present work.
1985 (Dôgen Studies, p. 74; also Flowers of Emptiness, p. 33):
7. Reinterpretation Based on the Principle of Absolute Emptiness.
If there is any single principle central to Dôgen’s life and thought, it is that of absolute emptiness, as appropriated in the context of realization. Let us examine some examples of his radical reinterpretation – alternately referred to as intentional misrepresentation – based on various aspects of this principle.
2007 (p. 75):
7. Reinterpretation Based on the Principle of Nonduality
If there is any single principle central to Dôgen’s Zen, it is that of emptiness, as appropriated in the context of realization in terms of the dynamic interplay of duality and nonduality, or of worldly truth and ultimate truth. Let us look at some examples of Dôgen’s radical reinterpretation of nonduality in the aforementioned context of emptiness.
The 2007 heading here is a misnomer; and the eight reinterpretations listed seem artificially conjoined with the new thematic of dynamic interplay. However, that thematic is already sketched in Dôgen Studies, p. 54 (Flowers of Emptiness, p. 2): ‘absolute emptiness, which is none other than the truth of the Buddha-dharma. That is to say, it has to do with the dialectical relationship between nonduality and duality, between equality and differentiation, between original enlightenment (hongaku) and acquired enlightenment (shikaku).’ I am left wondering if Kim has brought the specific role of emptiness, which is the high point of his new analysis, into clear focus.
Chapter 5, ‘Meditation as Authentic Thinking,’ sights the position of the meditator as one of nonthinking (hi-shiryô) which lies beyond both thinking and not-thinking (fu-shiryô) and has recourse to thinking and not-thinking (discriminative and non-discriminative knowledge) as and when appropriate. This is opposed to the intuitionism of D. T. Suzuki and Izutsu Toshihiko and close to the interpretation of Abe Masao and Akiyama Hanji. Abe does not sufficiently stress ‘nonthinking as mediating (revaluated) thinking and (revaluated) not-thinking in their dynamic, dialectical relationship in concrete everyday situations’ (p. 81). Thinking and not-thinking are ‘a pair of soteric foci free of substantialist moorings whose bifurcation is to be overcome’ (p. 82). However, this image tends to ‘a metaphysical privileging, if not an absolutization, of nonthinking’ that loses ‘the dialectical dynamicity of their salvific functions’ (ib.) – nonthinking itself must be seen in dynamic interaction with thinking and not-thinking. Kim’s discussion here sounds discouragingly abstract, and we are tempted to wonder about the stability of the three categories he has distinguished.
Dôgen’s high-handed way with Chinese sources allows him to translate sômu funbetsu (‘ever without discriminative thinking’) into isô funbetsu (‘ever already discriminative thinking’), ‘thus identifying discriminative thinking with original realization’ (p. 84). ‘If the cause for the arising of our predicament lies within discrimination, then the cause for the eradication of such a predicament also lies within that discrimination itself, not “ever without”’ (p. 84). This is supposed to be a ‘preeminently Buddhist’ principle. In early Buddhist thought ‘the cause of both the arising and cessation of suffering is within suffering itself, and never outside’ (p. 138); Kim refers to W. Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, (New York: Grove, 1974): ‘the cause, the germ, of the cessation of dukkha’ is within dukkha itself (Rahula, p. 31); ‘the germ of their arising as well as of their cessation are both within the Five Aggregates’ (p. 42). Yet Kim also presents ‘Dôgen’s critique of this Buddhist dictum’ (p. 84); ‘Dôgen approves of its general purport, but as usual, offers a biting cautionary note’ (p. 119), which seems to amount again to the idea that fighting discrimination with discrimination and renouncing discrimination altogether ‘are indispensable to one another in their shared soteriological enterprise and by virtue of the potency of emptiness’ (p. 120). What Dôgen achieves by all this may seem to be simply a return to the most obvious common sense: ‘Thinking is now free to be responsible, disciplined, fair, and compassionate in one’s personal morality and social ethical thought, and, furthermore, is even free to roam playfully throughout the universe in its mythopoeic imagination’ (p. 86). Are years of Zen training requisite in order to achieve this? Something more ‘mystical’ is suggested when Dôgen talks of thinking as exerted by ‘the mind of the entire great earth’ and ‘the mind of trees and stones’ (p. 86).
Not-thinking is not to be grasped as a state in which ‘all mental activity is absent,’ such as the nirodha-samâpatti of Theravâda Buddhism, for Dôgen is opposed to ‘absorptionist tendencies and residues in Zen that were connected with Buddhist enstasis’ (p. 87). Rather is it ‘that thinking which is not/beyond thinking’ (p. 88). ‘Not-thinking is coextensive and coeternal with thinking. Not-thinking is thinking, and vice versa’ (p. 89). What seems to be involved is adroitness in handling categorical discriminations and in stepping back from them to a non-categorizing contemplative encounter with the real. This stepping back is ‘a radical critique of thinking… a window to new horizons of thinking’; it is ‘simply a focus – a conceptual construct’ (p. 88). That last phrase throws me – how can not-thinking, or non-thinking for that matter, be a conceptual construct?
Kim is rather elusive on non-thinking (he refers to Carl Bielefeldt, Dôgen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation, pp. 133-60). ‘Nonthinking through thinking and not-thinking, with a thorough praxis orientation’ is ‘that thinking which explicates the expressible, by way of the creative interaction between the already expressed and the not yet expressed/the inexpressible’ (p. 96). He harps too much on overcoming intuitionist notions of Zen, ‘the fascination with endless absorption in the undifferentiated,’ that fail to see that discriminative thinking is ‘the pivotal practice of zazen itself’ (ib.), to the point that one feels he is attacking a straw man or flogging a dead horse. In any case, in non-thinking, meditation and wisdom ‘inform and redeem each other’ (p. 98).
Chapter 6, ‘Radical Reason: Dôri,’ looks at Dôgen’s comprehensive and integrated understanding of rationality. Kim is convinced that ‘no age in human history calls for the genuine understanding and re-vision of reason more urgently than ours’ (p. 101). The phrase dôri combines ‘path’ (dao) and ‘principle’ (li), evoking all their Daoist and Confucian overtones. ‘The Way is never extricated from the processes of phenomena themselves’ (101). ‘Li constitutes those patterns, rhythms, and regularities which humans discern as meaningful in carrying out their day-to-day activities, by participating in the dynamics of the natural, and according to their personal, historical, and cultural conditions and forces’ (p. 102). In Buddhism it denotes siddhânta, fundamental principle, and hence such notions as thusness, emptiness, and equality, ‘with a tendency to be associated with abstraction and speculation’ (p. 102). Dôri translates yukti, norms. For Dôgen it is ‘located within his vision of an anthropo-cosmic situation that is thoroughly temporal… It refuses to transcendentalize itself above and beyond that situation’ (p. 104). In Medieval Japan, ‘the notion of reason as the true nature of things, by and large, advocated that state of spiritual freedom which transcended the law of dependent origination (engi), and thus rejected cause and effect, arising and perishing, and other cognate notions’ (p. 109). But Dôgen ‘rejects the notion of naturalness in the sense of spontaneous generation of things without the workings of causes and conditions, which amounts to a flat disavowal of moral endeavors’ (p. 110), drawing on the general Buddhist critique of Daoism.
Kim’s sophisticated forays into Dôgen’s enigmatic texts are sustained by a feel for the dynamics of Dôgen’s Zen practice, and they certainly convey the sense of closing in on the essence of this thought, largely because of their orientation to practice. The full value of Kim’s insights will be discovered when they are drawn on to clarify Dôgen’s relationship to his Chan and Tendai sources.