Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Mutual Actualization of the Self and the World

The Mutual Actualization of the Self and the World


The state that is visited by brightness and by color may be present in this learning in practice. “I entrust effects to effects themselves”: this expresses “natural realization.” “Natural realization” means enacting causes and accepting effects. The world has causes, and the world has effects. We enact the cause-and-effect that is this world, and we accept the cause-and-effect that is the world. “The [natural] self” is “itself,” and the self is inevitably just you, in other words, the four elements and five aggregates.

Shobogenzo, Kuge, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


We (the subject we call ‘myself’) ‘enact… this world.’ The actualization of consciousness is an object enacted by a subject; a subject enacts, an object is enacted. Notice that in the case that we think, speak, or act in regard to a ‘subject’ enacted (e.g. ‘I felt myself falling,’ ‘I made myself go,’ ‘I reminded myself of my vow,’ etc.) we think, speak, or act in regard to what is actually an ‘object.’ Further, to regard a subject as an object, or to regard an object as a subject is, in either case, to regard an object – for ‘that which regards’ is the subject in either case. And despite my objectification of the subject with ‘that which regards,’ my meaning should be clear enough; to treat an object as a subject does not make an object a subject. The subject is the enactor, the object is the enacted. For example, consider this expression of Dogen:


So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me.

Shobogenzo, Zenki, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


In the first clause, ‘life’ is the object and ‘I’ is the subject; in the second clause, ‘life’ is the subject and ‘I’ is the object. Subject and object are nondual not one and the same, interdependent not interchangeable, coessential not undifferentiated, coextensive not homogenous. The subject is always the enactor, maker, or fashioner; the object is always the enacted, made, or fashioned.


I am belaboring the point because without a firm grasp it is easy to confuse the limitations and potentials of our actual capacities, our true abilities to respond (hence our responsibilities) to the world. For, while it is true that, in harmony with the principles of nonduality, our (subjective) ‘self’ is all-inclusive (of ‘self/other’) and our (objective) ‘world’ is all-inclusive (self/other), each, ‘self’ and ‘world,’ possesses unique qualities and characteristics. That is, if we fail to clearly distinguish which qualities and characteristics belong to our self (enactor) and which to the world (enacted) we will be unable to think, speak, or act normally (from the enlightened perspective). In short, we will be confused about what we actually can and cannot do in regard to ‘making life what it is.’


For example, according to the doctrine and methodology of certain pseudo-Zen groups, individual beings (subjects) are largely, or wholly enacted or fashioned by the (objective) world, hence efforts to enhance the world are largely, or wholly futile, thus regarded as symptoms of delusion. At the other extreme, for instance among some ‘New Age’ movements, individual beings are supposed to fashion the world so completely that their worldly circumstances (e.g. health, financial status, intelligence, etc.) are largely, if not entirely of their own making. The ‘way’ to peace, happiness, or liberation advocated by the former species is either to accept the world as it is, or else to cultivate detachment or ‘goallessness’ and cut off desire and aversion. The ‘way’ of the latter species is to transform the world into a horn of plenty by rooting out negativity by cultivating positive thoughts or ‘vibes’ with affirmations of health, abundance, and happiness. In both of these ‘ways’ the nature of subjective and objective reality, the truth of existence/experience is seen as it is not, hence can only obstruct their followers from the true Dharma.

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