Not to worry—this is not going to be another screed on the politics du jour. But the title, while meant to get your attention, is ironically appropriate to Zen in particular, and to Buddhism in general. For what we challenge in Zen is not only the putative facts being bandied about by politicians—and even the scientific community, as well as the conventional wisdom of the society at large—but the very meaning of factual reality itself. In other words, all “facts” are alternative; this is the nature of duality.
≥÷œ™™™™321 One of our cats just keyed that in for me… a little-known feline factoid.
Our recent guest speaker, Ben Connelly, in reviewing his latest book, Inside Vasubandu’s Yogacara, touched on some of these ideas. We highly recommend it, and may feature it in an upcoming CloudDharma Tuesday evening Skype conference. My comments herein are mine alone, based not on Ben’s excellent exegesis, but more generally on other publications, particularly The Scripture of the Sutra of Underlying Meaning and The Summary of the Supreme Vehicle, from the BDK translation project, also highly recommended reading.
The branch of Buddhist teachings known as Abhidharmaare considered by some to be the “highest teachings,” those that were shared with Buddha’s disciples, rather than the public. They are also regarded as setting out the schema or structure of the Mahayana teachings, and to comprise the content of Buddhist psychology, philosophy or phenomenology. As such, they are not as accessible to conventional understanding as, say, the parables and Precepts, tenets that speak to daily life issues.
One of the basic principles underlying this teaching has to do with the nature of language, and its effect upon our grasp of reality. The Sanskrit term namarupa, which means roughly “name and form,” points to the connection between the language that we learn as children, and the labels that we apply to our surrounding world, as we perceive it. This is why so many of the teachings in Soto liturgy, for example Hsinhsinming from the Ch’an literature, emphasize the inadequacy of language repeatedly:
Words! The Way is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.