Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Transmission of Wisdom 1

The Transmission of Wisdom 1

The truth is the truth, the sages of all times and places express it in accord with circumstances. Thus it is not surprising to find that what Northrop Frye recognized in William Blake, Hee-Jin Kim found also in Eihei Dogen:

The abstract reasoner attempts to give independent reality to the qualities of the things he sees, and in the same way he tries to abstract the quality of his perception. It is to him that we owe the association of the mind and brain. The intellect to him is a special department concerned with reasoning, and other departments should not meddle with it. Emotion is another department, formally ascribed to the heart… Thought, being largely reflection, it is an “inward” activity: those who specialize in “outward” activity are not thinkers, but the practical people who do things. Scientists should be trained to see the sun as a fact; artists to see it emotionally as beautiful.

All this pigeonholing of activity is nonsense to Blake. Thought is act, he says… The more a man puts all he has into everything he does the more alive he is.

Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry, pp.20-21


The fundamental concept of understanding was activity in Dogen’s thought. Understanding was indispensably associated with our whole being—we understood as we acted and acted as we understood. The activity of the body-mind served not only as the vehicle of understanding, but also as the embodiment of truth. Often in conventional thought, knowledge and truth are ascribed solely to the functions of sensation and reason, while the functions of feeling and intuition are considered merely subjective. Such an artificial compartmentalization of human activity has created some distorted views of the subject. For Dogen, however, the problem of understanding invariably involved the whole being which he called the “body-mind” (shinjin). “Body-mind” was one of Dogen’s favorite phrases, and he often used the phrase “mustering the body-mind” (shinjin o koshite) to show the human attempt to understand the self and the world.

Hee-Jin Kim, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, p.100


To be continued…

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