Deconstructive and Reconstructive aspects of Emptiness
Characteristic of Dogen’s unrelenting commitment to “right-views” or the “true-eye” is his frequent, unequivocal insistence that “authenticity” of practice-enlightenment is the only criteria for gauging the Buddha-Dharma.
Dogen’s own adherence to this maxim is clearly demonstrated by his refusal to avoid complex challenges, sidestep unpleasant aspects, or water-down unpopular implications of Buddhist truths. If the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness is authentic, as Dogen contends, it must be applied universally (i.e. to all dharmas), which means, for one thing, that it must be applied to the doctrine of emptiness itself. And, while an intellectual understanding of emptiness is “not enough” – even this necessary first step cannot be considered complete prior to the “experiential verification of emptiness” which is itself only the beginning of the authentic wisdom of emptiness according to Dogen’s standards.
It would be no stretch to suggest that Dogen would view total ignorance of emptiness as preferable to wrong or partial (biased) notions of emptiness. As the works of Hee-Jin Kim demonstrate, for Dogen the liberating potential of emptiness is only actualized with the transcendence of the “deconstructive” experience of emptiness and advance into the “reconstructive” experience of emptiness – and even this actualizes only the potential of liberation. Thus it is that the reconstructive aspect of emptiness – which itself is continuously “cast-off” and “totally exerted” – as the only aspect of emptiness with practical liberating potential, is what Dogen directed his energy to transmitting.
The terms “deconstructive” and “reconstructive” (aspects of emptiness) designate two foci (focal points) of a single experiential process. This process can be envisioned as beginning from the common (unawakened) perspective wherein the self and the other are misperceived as separate entities, from here it proceeds to the initial experience of emptiness (i.e. the deconstructive mode) -often referred to in Zen as the “great death” - wherein self and other “drop away,” then, advancing through the “great death,” proceeding to the enlightened (awakened) perspective wherein self and other are experienced as they are (thusness): nondual (not two).
Here, then, one experientially realizes the truth that self and other are not different realities, but rather distinct foci of one (nondual) reality (i.e. nonduality/duality). From the enlightened (reconstructive) perspective one perceives the same reality that is perceived from the common perspective - but now in context of the insight actualized through the (deconstructive) experience of emptiness.