Saturday, December 19, 2009

the field of Great Affirmation

From the pine tree
learn of the pine tree,
And from bamboo
of the bamboo.

{haiku poet Basho}

He does not simply mean that we should "observe the pine tree carefully."
Still less does he mean for us to "study the pine tree scientifically."
He means for us to enter into to the mode of being where the pine tree
is the pine tree itself, and the bamboo is the bamboo itself, and from there look
at the pine tree and the bamboo. He calls on us to betake ourselves to the dimension
where things becomes manifest in their suchness, to attune ourselves to the selfness
of the pine tree and the selfness of the bamboo. The Japanese word for "learn"
(narau) carries the sense of "taking after" something, of making an effort to stand
essentially in the same mode of being as the thing one wishes to learn about.
It is on the field of Śūnyatā that this becomes possible.

The mode of being of things in their selfness consists of the fact that things
take up a position grounded in themselves and settle in themselves on that position.
They center in on themselves and do not get scattered. From ancient times
the word samadhi ("settling") has been used to designate the state of mind
in which a man gathers his own mind together and focuses it on a central point,
thereby taking a step beyond the sphere of ordinary conscious
and self-conscious mind and, in that sense, forgetting his ego.
While the word refers in the first place to a mental state, it also applies
to the mode of being of a thing in itself when it has settled into its own position.
In that sense, we might call such a mode of being "samadhi-being."
The form of things as they are on their own home-ground is similar
to the appearance of things in samadhi....

To change metaphors, the shapes that things assume for us on the field of sensation
and reason are the Forms that appear on the perimeter. We are used to viewing
the selfness of things from their circumference: we skirt around the outside of things;
so things do not reveal their own selfness to us. The things themselves reveal
themselves to us only when we leap from the circumference to the center,
into their very selfness. The leap represents the opening up within ourselves
of the field of sūnyatā as the absolute near side which, as we pointed out earlier,
is more to the near side when we ourselves are. The center represents the point at
which the being of things is constituted in unison with emptiness, the point at which
things establish themselves, affirm themselves, and assume a "position." And there,
settled in their position, things are in their samadhi-being.

In contrast, the shapes of things that appear on the fields of sensation and reason,
are nothing more than the simple negative of the things themselves. This is the case
even with substance. These shapes are a negation of the "position" (or self-positing)
of things; they transform things into mere reflections and transfer them from their
position to some other location(thought/idea/conception via perception)....
at the center, things posit themselves as they are and in such a way as not
to permit contact from the outside.

The words of the ancient philosopher, "All things have a hold on themselves,"
may be said to point to such a mode of being. This would apply to the visible
appearances of things as well, which is the guise under which things keep
a hold on themselves affirm themselves. And the field where all things have
a hold on themselves is none other than the field of sūnyatā that, having passed
beyond the standpoints of sensation and reason, and having passed through nihility,
opens up as an absolute near side. On the field of sūnyatā each thing becomes
manifest in its suchness in its very act of affirming itself, according
to its own particular potential and virtus and its own particular shape.
For us as human beings, to revert to that field entails at one and the same time an
elemental affirmation of the existence of all things (the world) and an elemental
affirmation of our own existence. The field of sūnyatā is nothing other than
the field of Great Affirmation.

{Religion and Nothingness, by Keiji Nishitani}

I'd watched the sorrow of the evening sky,
And smelt the sea, and earth, and the warm clover,
And heard the waves, and the seagull's mocking cry.

And in them all was only the old cry,
That song they always sing -- "The best is over!
You may remember now, and think, and sigh,
O silly lover!"
And I was tired and sick that all was over,
And because I,
For all my thinking, never could recover
One moment of the good hours that were over.
And I was sorry and sick, and wished to die.

Then from the sad west turning wearily,
I saw the pines against the white north sky,
Very beautiful, and still, and bending over
Their sharp black heads against a quiet sky.
And there was peace in them; and I
Was happy, and forgot to play the lover,
And laughed, and did no longer wish to die...

{Pine-Trees and the Sky: Evening, by Rupert Brooke}

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