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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
30 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 1 5 ➤ cannot not be fuel. Fire cannot be dependent on or independent of fuel. Fuel cannot be dependent on or independent of fire. He writes: I do not think that those who teach that the self Is the same as or different from the entities understand the meaning of the doctrine. Such seemingly dry logic has profound ethical consequences—this is Nagarjuna insisting on code- pendent origination, or dependent co-origination, or interbeing, or interpenetration, or whatever you want to call it. You can’t assert anything because assertions necessarily separate, and things are not separate. It is our actual perception—not intel- lectual analysis, but direct perception—of no sepa- ration that truly reveals and necessitates ethical behavior. Nagarjuna’s logic invites us past our own ideas and into that direct seeing. Nagarjuna explores his logic in meticulous detail. He uses language to go deep into a substrate that is more fundamental than language or ideas. every- thing in the universe—what we know and what we don’t know, what we’re aware of and what we’re not aware of—everything comes together like that, before speech, before thinking, no distinctions, impossible to name, impossible to describe—and yet you cannot call it nothing. Or, as the Mirror of Zen, paraphrasing the the Sutra on the Questions of Brahmavisesacinti, says, “The Buddha did not appear in this world to save sentient beings. Rather, the Buddha appeared in order to liberate this world from the mistaken view that there is life and death, and nirvana or salvation.” One can make the case that any kongan (Jpn., koan) is designed exactly to help us navigate this middle way, rejecting “is,” “is not,” and all the rest of the tetralemma. In one famous example, a monk asks Zhao Zhou, “Does a dog have buddha- nature?” Zhao Zhou replies, “Mu,” which means “no,” and this mu has rung down for over a millen- nium, itself an object of deep inquiry. But asking, “What is mu?” is different from asking, “Does a dog have buddhanature?” How could you answer this second question? Here’s a hint: “Yes” won’t do. “No” won’t do. “Yes and no” won’t do. “Neither yes nor no” won’t do. As Shi Tou says: How about you? In that moment, asked that question, how can you respond? Similarly, when asked, “Why did Bodhidharma come to China?” Zhao Zhou responded, “The cypress tree in the garden.” Bodhidharma was, in legend and possibly in fact, the Indian monk who brought Zen to China, but Zhao Zhou did not answer, “To spread Zen Buddhism!” This would have missed the point.