Quora answer: What does a koan do?

Mar 25 2012

See first What is Koan? What is a Koan?

Having described what a Koan might “be”, now we can consider what Koan’s perhaps “do”. Now we did not mention in the answer to the prior question, that IS is an Indo-European linguistic anomaly and does not exist in non-Indo-European languages. So in a sense, there is no IS related to Koans. Rather the whole tradition of Chan/Zen is an attempt to come to terms with the Indo-European heresy of Buddhism within a context of non-Being that was natural to China as a non-Indo-European culture. China had its own nondual tradition called Taoism which talked about it in terms of Wu Wei, non-action (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei).

Wu Wei Non Action

Wu ji means Void. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuji_(philosophy))

“Wuji (literally “without ridgepole”) originally meant “ultimateless; boundless; infinite” in Warring States Period (476-221 BCE) Daoistclassics, but came to mean the “primordial universe” prior to the Taiji 太極 “Supreme Ultimate” in Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) Neo-Confucianist cosmology.”Wu Ji Without Ridge Pole = Ultimate Void

“The word Wuji Chinese wuji  “limitless; infinite” is a compound of wu  “without; no; not have; there is not; nothing, nothingness” and ji  “ridgepole; roof ridge; highest/utmost point; extreme; earth’s pole; reach the end; attain; exhaust”. In analogy with the figurative meanings of English pole, Chinese ji  “ridgepole” can mean “geographical pole; direction” (e.g., siji  “four corners of the earth; world’s end”), “magnetic pole” (Beiji “North Pole” or yinji  “negative pole; anode”), or “celestial pole” (baji  “farthest points of the universe; remotest place”).

Common English translations of the cosmological Wuji are “Ultimateless” (Fung and Bodde 1953, Robinet 2008) or “Limitless” (Zhang and Ryden 2002), but other versions are “the ultimate of Nothingness” (Chang 1963), “that which has no Pole” (Needham and Ronan 1978), or “Non-Polar” (Adler 1999).”

I.e. Non-Dual.

The ridgepole allows the two opposite ends to be connected yet kept separate and creates a continuity that allows intermediate degrees between the two extremes.

Without the Ridgepole the tent collapses, What is Void is what is there when the structure of opposites collapses. Note Monism is the tent as a whole, and dualism is the separation and holding together of the two ends of the structure, and so the Non-Dual is neither monism, or dualism, but the collapse of both together.

It took a long time for the Chinese to understand the difference between the Emptiness of Buddhism and the Void (WU) of Taoism.

There is a difference between the “nothing there, blankness, non-duality” inside and outside the circle, even though they are ultimately the same, which is what the gap in the line signifies.

Zhou’s Taijitu diagram

The Void is pimordial, it is essentially empty spacetime. Then the first distinction is made, i.e. the Big Bang occurs from some single point, from an anomaly, a singularity. From that the the structure is created where All Things are seen as opposites which are structurally linked, i.e. held apart, held together, producing continuity between the opposites. From that we get the Yin (Visible effects) and Yang (Invisible Affects) out of which arise the five hsing, or five transformations, which is the minimal solid in the fourth dimension called a pentachora, which acts as a hypercycle that transfers causality from the invisible four dimensional realm into the visible three dimensional world with the symmetry breaking of time as a separate dimension which embraces all things.

Note that the Hyper-Cycle of the five hsing exists within the virtual control space of the Autopoietic Symbiotic Special System which we see in Acupuncture Theory.

The interaction of Yang (Celestial Invisible Affects) and Yin (Terrestrial Visible Effects) produces a binary unfolding heuristic to appear which allows one to pick the most basic opposite operating in a situation, and then the next most basic, and the least significant, and to assign Qualitative Value to each permutation of those three sets of opposites which is called the Trigrams, which is the building block of the Hexagrams in the I Ching. These complementary opposites that are manifest in nature is the spontaneous expression of the void within the realm of the ten thousand things. That is because visiblities and invisiblities are brought together in a supra-rational way without mixture, and so that the individual realizes that the opposites are all complementary to each other and that they include the person who picked the most relevant, significant and meaningful opposites to him, yet he is not separate from those opposites because he is part of spacetime too, and thus the opposites play across him as well as everything else. Thus our basic reality is the same as everything else, and everything is suffused with the original void in the discontinuities between the opposites which is the state prior to the setting up of the ridgepole, i.e. what allows us to see opposites.

Bob Seal Nondual Cartoons: http://advaitatoons.blogspot.com/

The basic duals in Chinese Society are those set up by Confucianism. Father-Son, Husband-Wife, Older Son-Younger Son.

The Court Taoists were ousted from the court, and Taoism became something one did after one retired from office. And thus an accommodation was struck between the Dualistic Confucianist doctrine, and the Nondual Taoist Doctrine and the myth was forged that Confucious and Laotze once met.

So into this milieu came Buddhism, which denied the existence of the Physical Universe accepted by Taoism, yet believed in the underlying nonduality of consciousness and so was inherently solipsistic striving for personal Nirvana. But at the same time came the Mahayana concept of all things being empty, which sounded a lot like the Tao. So initially the Chinese translated Buddhist concepts of emptiness with the same words used by the Taoists. But eventually the Chinese discovered that Emptiness and Void were in fact different. And so they developed other translations for Buddhist concepts that were different from those of Taoism. Once they realized the difference between these two types of nonduality, they went on to set up a ridgepole between them, and thus there was a kind of dualism between the inward and outward forms of nonduality represented by Emptiness and Void respectively.

Ultimately StoneHouse the hermit poet could write lines of poetry that went back and forth between these two types of nonduality in the same poem. But the question was then asked what is the nature of the nondual below the level of this duality between the inward and outward nonduals.

Ultimately the reply to this came from Hua Yen Buddhism and made most explicit by Fa Tsang (http://www.iep.utm.edu/fazang/). In this form of Buddhism Emptiness was interpreted as Interpenetration. In other words the inward expression of nonduality was connected to all things via their interpenetration. Hua Yen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huayan_school) developed in opposition to the Mind-Only Yogacara school that was introduced in to China and called Faxiang by Xuanzang http://www.iep.utm.edu/xuanzang/. This school made the inward outward distinction between Emptiness and Void clear by creating a Mind-Only version of Buddhism which was an extreme, i.e. a departure from the middleway take to even further extreme by the Lankavatra Sutra.

It is interesting that the first Patriarch of Zen particularly pointed at the Lankavatra Sutra as a basis of practice which became known as Chan/Zen. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma) By pushing Mind-only doctrine to its limit the specific difference between Buddhist Emptiness and Taoist Void is radicalized.

But from a theoretical point of view Hua Yen and Tien Tai Buddhism went beyond the limits of Buddhism per se by identifying a state beyond what was the limit of Emptiness in Buddhism. In Tien Tai it was a state that was the middle between Nirvana and Mundane Consciousness. For Hua Yen it was reinterpreting emptiness and interpenetration, and thus unifying Emptiness and Void.

We note that Fa Tsang and Hui Neng the Sixth Patriarch of Zen were contemporaries coming after the time of Bodhidharma and the introduction of mind only school into China. Chih I of Tien Tai was a little after the BodhiDharma but in the same general time frame prior to Fa Tsang. From the Timeline we can then see that First the Mind-Only school entered China, but very soon after than Chih I established a nondual between and beyond Emptiness and the Mundane Truth to reestablish the middle way beyond the two truths based on the interpretation of a single statement by Nagarjuna from a translation not from the original Sanskrit. So we can see there are divergent movement happening about the same time where the radical mind only transmission beyond the sutras enters China while at the same time the Chinese are exploring ways to return to the middle way beyond Buddhist dualities.

The fact that Hui Neng and Fa Tsang are contemporaries shows that these divergent ways are coming together in as much as Hui Neng redresses the radical dualistic nature of the Chan/Zen movement, while on the other hand Fa Tsang inteprprets emptiness as interpenetration thus bringing together theoretically Void and Emptiness and explaining their difference and sameness at the same time.

So the powerful return to the middle way by Hui Neng in the Chan/Zen Buddhist tradition, coincides with an interpretation that can give us the link between Emptiness the foreign nondual state and Void the indigenous nondual state. Hui Neng is seen as an ignorant wood cutter who none the less gets the transmission of enlightenment beyond the words of the sutras. Fa Tsang was a sophisticated intellectual who interacted with the Chinese Court explaining the nature of enlightenment as a hall of mirrors. Hui Neng’s rival said that there was a mirror in the mind and you had to keep polishing it to reach enlightenment. Hui-neng said there was no mirror and no polishing, showing the superiority of his insight. In other words there was some state like Wu Ji before the distinction between the two truths that generated the karma of polishing and the substance of the mirror. Fa Tsang on the other hand said that there was many mirrors that reflected each other like the Jeweled Net of Indra. And this interpenetration is the state which connects in inward emptiness to the outward void, since the one who is realized is reflected and reflects all things. And both of these pictures are attempts to be more specific about the nature of the third middle way between the two truths (emptiness and mundane reality) discussed by Chih I. The point is that perhaps in a Mind-only realm one can achieve enlightenment by stopping the mind through this continual polishing. But this idealism of emptiness in Yogacara only emphasizes more the difference between foreign Emptiness and indigenous Void. Yet this was enough to get those who followed the Bodhidharma out of studying sutras and into attempting to achieve enlightenment themselves in their own lifetimes. But this practice only made more stark the difference between the two nonduals, and it was about this time that Chih I formulated a way to return to the middle way beyond the two truths. And these two strands came together in the realization that this Third way between the extremes of the two truths could be thought of as interpenetration, while on the other hand the Mind Only School could be returned to a middle course though the realization of a state much like Wu Ji beyond the state of enlightenment possible through the mind only school. Eventually monks like Stonehouse could draw freely from the two nondual traditions and juxtapose these two different forms of nonduality in the same poem, distinguishing them clearly.

Now we have sufficient background to frame the question: What does a Koan DO. The first answer to this question is obvious. They don’t DO anything. The Koan is a direct pointing to the reality of existence as nondual through supra-rationality by the teacher to the student. The Koan is an existential singularity expressed in language as a means of transmission of enlightenment from one human being to another. Koans are like statements of impossibility that contrasts supra-rationality to paradox and absurdity which is the natural degenerate state toward which the mind tends as it is caught up in the nihilistic chatter of the world. If the student can be directly introduced to the nature of their own awareness, much like Garab Dorje introduced Manjushrimitra to the nature of his awareness developed by paradoxical Tantric practices beyond Buddhism, then a similar, if opposite, thing can be done by a Zen Master who points to the Mind-only nature of emptiness to a student in the transmission line of Zen. Both of these practices are rebounding from the limits of the Divided line toward the center. They are moving from extremes back toward the middle way and discovering there not just emptiness or void but rather a deeper nondual we might call ‘manifestation’. Manifestation is nonduality not adulterated by any duality, thus a deeper nondual than Emptiness and Void which were discovered not only to be different but also opposite in the way the one emphasizes the inward and the other emphasizes the outward.

Now a Koan as Logos must be placed in a context of Physus (phusis, which is Indo-european *bheu), and the nondual between these is Nomos (order) in the Greek Tradition. This is the fundamental distinction in the Western Worldview. Language is the emergent nature of consciousness that brings us communication between individuals and allows us to have culture and intersubjective dialogue and dialectic as well as providing the basis for our own conscious experience which is mediated by inward language. In the Koan there is an intersection between the nihilistic collapsing together of nihilistic opposites, the annihilation in physus, and the cancellation of nomos where we cancel on each side of the equation. The equivalent of annihilation in physus and cancellation in mathematics (the nomos) has no one word that is specific to it, but we might consider: abolition, abrogation, annulment, dissolution, retraction, revocation, undoing, invalidation, nullification, obliteration, or perhaps rescission (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rescission) rescind, with later spelling recission. Here we will use ‘rescission’ as a technical term for the annihilation or cancellation in the realm of logos. All three together each in their separate realms we will call Annulment. In Logos whose physus-like core is logic, we get contradiction as the fundamental stopping of the logical progression of the syllogism, when this is intensified there is paradox, and when taken to a radical extreme there is absurdity. But all this is on the side of Doxa not Ratio. On the side of Ratio there is both representable and non-representable intelligibles which are the invisibility of concepts. We see cancellation of concepts in failed proofs, like the trisection of an angle, or the doubling of a cube, things that cannot be proved in Euclidian Geometry for instance because they result in contradictions. But in pure logic itself these contradictions are such that once one has been encountered then anything can be proven. Thus logic which embraces contradiction and thus motion immediately flips over into the nihilistic situation in which truth cannot be found of the type that can be verified, and so we need a higher truth, and that comes in dialectics which embraces change and motion in thought and discussion, and were we get something like Skepticism of Sextus Empiricus, as the state of contentment as long as the dialogue or dialectic keeps going. If it keeps going you continue to learn, and thus continue to accrue knowledge, but if it ever stops then you are left with Dogma or the complete negation of everything by the Academics, or so called Sophists. Academics like Nagarjuna negate everything. Skeptics on the other hand affirm too much, and thus you do not know where they stand. Dogmatists claim they know about the invisibles and make positive statements about them that cannot be proved. And so it went until Kant and his Critique that looked into the necessary conditions for the possibility of any experience what so ever and established transcendental idealism. Once Kant explained that the Rationalists and Empiricists were basically the same and sought a middle ground, then we saw that Pure Reason always resulted in antimonies and those basically annulled each others arguments. Antimonies start from the opposite assumptions and disprove the other argument. So once that occurs on both sides in the realm of pure reason there is no way to make a distinction between arguments. Pure Reason or logos under the auspices of logic engaged in a dialectic produces a rescission, a drawing back or withdraw from the abyss of meaninglessness when it runs into the antimonies. There is then an abrogation of the dual premises of the argument and we are left with a situation in which reason is unfounded or ungrounded, and we are thrown back into opinion. We cannot prove either side of the argument and so we do not know what to do so there is a retraction of our statements, there is a revocation of the acceptance of our arguments for the positions we took at first. We see this acted out in the Platonic Dialogues where both interlocutors of Socrates with opposite positions are both forced to renounce their starting assumptions and statements because they are both shown to be absurd. Those conceptual positions are invalidated by the questioning of Socrates. The hubris of the person taking a dogmatic stance is obliterated. And their reasons for taking that dogmatic stance are nullified. This is a process of self-nullification where through the argument of the dialogue they discover that their own position is unsupportable.

So if we admit that there exists a state of annihilation in the physus (particles and anti-particles for instance) and cancellation in mathematics (the nomos, order which is nondual between these duals), and a rescission of the arguments that undergo dialectical exploration in philosophical discourse and under questioning within the logos as constrained by logic, and that internal contradictions can be brought out which causes dogmas to self-annihilate or cancel themselves out. And this process can be seen as nihilistic in the sense that the extreme and artificial oppositions of stated positions lose their meaning in the process of being explored dialectically. And so nihilistic rescission of opposites are brought about by the application of pure reason to any set of concepts about invisibles.

Now annihilation (physus) , cancellation (nomos) and rescission (logos) are a fundamental reality in our own nature as we are embedded in nature. We call all three together at the same time Annulment.

When we negate something there are two types of negation. One creates the anti-X (directly canceling, annihilating, or rescissioning element) and the other creates the non-X (Other). So when we talk about emptiness or void as nonduals though negation it creates a dissonance. We could mean either of these kinds of negation.

Other emptiness

Other void

Now each of these are nonduals in their own right, but one is related to nature and the outward and the other is related to awareness and the inward. And we can imagine that they produce a Yin-Yang sort of standing wave that has a black spot in the white side and a white dot in the black side of the circle of opposites turning into each other.

So we can image that Other emptiness = Void and Other Void = emptiness.
In other words emptiness is Non-Void, and Void is Non-Emptiness.

And so even though these are nonduals in their own realm, they are duals with each other across the “domain wall” (two dimensional singularity)  that separates them.

Negation sets up for annihilation, cancellation and rescission, i.e. annulment. But these very real operations of logos, physus, and nomos which cause anti-x and x to vanish via mutual destruction is a different state than the state in which the negations of each other are still standing prior to their vanishing.

Emptiness and Void can only vanish if there is another deeper nondual state which has no duality, even the duality of nonduals within it.

Now what I would like to suggest for consideration, is that the Koan as a linguistic, and physical, and ordering singularity in speech, in a specific situation, in a specific conceptual ordering is a ‘matter’ that simultaneously performs this cancellation, annihilation and rescission, i.e. annulment. It does this by bringing the two limits of the Divided Line Supra-rationality and Paradox together yet holding them apart at the meta-level where the ridgepole is the line that is being divided itself. The ridgepole of the divided line can collapse, and when it does that in all three realms together though the real action of Annulment then there is a fundamental Anagogic Swerve by which our perspective on everything is changed and we call that profound change enlightenment. By creating this situation in which annihilation, cancellation, and rescission occur simultaneously as Annulment without interfering with each other then we are taken back to the primordial ground of our experience where the divided line itself has collapsed by its ridgepole vanishing.

Now, how this Annulment where multiple real vanishing operations occur simultaneously in different realms (physus, logos, nomos) is what we would call a very rare anomaly. In other words, we do not expect it to come about very often, but if there is a transmission from one person to another of the state then it might occur on its own if the recipient is highly primed to accept that transformation in their awareness. We note that this transmission effect is a dissipative ordering which is negatively entropic. And it is between two organisms the teacher and student and it is a reflexive social situation of mentoring and teaching. So annulment is a situation in which all the anomalous special systems can be brought into conjunction to produce the ultra-efficacy of the transmission process.

It should be noted that Dissipative Ordering Special Systems which embody negative entropy occur on the level of ordering, and in the dissipation of order there is a transformation of one order, that of the environment into the order of the expanding negatively entropic system. So there is an affinity between negative entropy and ordering or nomos. On the other hand, the Autopoietic Symbiotic Special System is at the level of living organisms that have two dissipative ordering systems in conjunction within them in a symbiotic relation. And so this balancing can be seen to have an affinity with physus (phusis) of the existential living viable organism. And finally the Logos occurs in the reflexive social situation between individuals in which the transmission is occurring. In their minds and between them they are exchanging representations in language. Those representations have meaning in the sentence as a whole. Those representations give us our sentience which is implicit in the Autopoietic system but is made explicit in the interaction through language. Language is something external in the world of nature as modulations of air by sounds, or in writing as marks on some material media. But words in language ordered by grammar indicate concepts which are invisible cognitions within the Autopoietic systems of the existential and viable organisms engaged in communication. The rational grammar is the nomos at the level of language. The sounds made in the physical world and their flow and unfolding over time is the physus. And the logos is the way we can mutually comprehend what is said to each other through the mutual constraints of logic that inheres within the stream of conversation giving rise to mutual understanding and intelligibility.

But the transmission itself is a dissipative ordering that is negentropic in as much as it transforms the order of the awareness of one person though contact with the other person which results in a transmutation of their state. We call what is transmitted in Buddhism the Dharma, but it is also a reflexive state of awareness of ones own awareness that comes from a signal of one human being to the other. Thus it is a semiotic affair, where one person is indicating the reality of existence, i.e. its utter nonduality to another. So what is being transmitted is a sign in all cases, and indication that is only comprehensible in a specific situation and context.

At the level of the sign, which Peirce says is threefold, i.e. composed of the sign itself, its object, and its interpretation. The interpretation is based on understanding its nomos, the sign is based on the logos, and the object is something in the physus. So the structure of the sign, is one with the three realms of experience that underlie the divided line. In other words DOXA is both opinion and appearance, and thus it shares its roots in physus and logos. The ratio is related to the nomos. Reason is the ordering of the logos (opinions) in relation to the physus (appearances). So as we go up the divided line we are going deeper into the nomos or the nondual (interspace or barrier) between physus and logos.

Now, how do we get annihilation, cancellation, and rescission to occur simultaneously in all three realms as annulment so the ridgepole of the divided line collapses and the positive and negative elements it defines and gives a place to vanish by mutual destruction which is natural in their own realms. Now we have to look at something mentioned elsewhere which is that the three realms are represented in terms of three intervals:

information/entropy = Logos = Emptiness (inward reality) Virtual reality of culture and society and consciousness existing in viable living beings. Reflexive Level

energy/matter = Physus = Physical Reality of what is existing in spacetime. Autopoietic Viable Living Level

space/time = Nomos = Void (outward reality) Dissipative Ordering Level (All orders occur in spacetime, and empty space has its own internal ordering that relates to mathematics.)

Note as I have shown elsewhere there are both anti-x and non-x forms of each of the two higher realms, and so the same thing is probably true of spacetime, there is anti-space or anti-time, and non-space or non-time. We call anti-time eternity, immortality, and we call non-time the Out-of-time which is pure discontinuity and what was there before the difference between in-time, and endlesstime.

On the other hand anti-space is what exists in other universes, and non-space is what exists in the multiverse. But on a more human level as seen by Plato talks about the Chora or Receptacle in two senses, as local space that receives matter, or an impression, but also as global space within which all things exist. Thus anti-space and non-space can be seen as the articulation of these two meanings of the Chora-receptacle/seat. And it is the ambiguity, vagueness, and amorphousness of the distinction between these two concepts that makes this an example of the third kind of Being, i.e. Hyper Being or Differance. At the level of the particular thing there is the space that it takes up which constitutes its interior, and then there is the relation between that interior space (which can be interpreted as empty), and the exterior global unoccupied space (i.e. Void) and then there is the surface separating inside and outside, and there is the locale within which the thing rests or moves as it travels along its worldline. So anti-space could be seen as the niche within which the thing with positive space resides, and non-space could be seen as the global container for everything which goes out infinitely beyond our finite horizon. In other words, you occupy a certain space and thus make it inward in a sense, but you dwell in a space to the extent that you can live there in a niche with what allows you to maintain your viability, and finally you swim in a sea of space that seems to have no shore. But of course the real inward is not the space you occupy, that is really outward too if you were to cut into it, but rather it is our awareness and consciousness that is our actual inward. On a similar note there is as Heidegger says between contact and touch. Thus there is the objective space of objects that may have contact by being adjacent with their surfaces meeting, but touching something is completely different for living things, and the ecstasy by which we project the world beyond ourselves is again something completely different. So another way of thinking of anti-space is the A Priori projection of the Space that we intuit back from things in the world that we experience. On the other hand the noumena would be seen as inheriting a non-space, something beyond our projections that we cannot access. Other scenarios can be imagined where we could give other meanings to anti-space and non-space. For instance, dream might be non-space but imagination might be anti-space. In Tantra for example we imagine something that is not there to the extent it takes on a life of its own. Then we see that imagined thing as empty. That imagined thing is really appearing hypnogogicly in an anti-space, while our dream appears in a non-space where other spaces arise and vanish again.

It may appear that we have gone far afield. But I think we can come straight back from the brink of irrelevance by saying that at the level of Logos there is entropy and neg-entropy and information and neg-information. Any communication of significance contains surprise and thus is negatively entropic. But we are not accustomed to thinking about negative information. Yet we are always worrying about conspiricies, lies, fraud, secrets, etc. At the level of the Logos it is information and anti-information, or knowledge and anti-knowledge that manifests  rescission in the Koan. Enlightenment when transmitted is probably the greatest possible surprise. So at the level of logos what is undergoing rescission is either information or knowledge. By reasoning about information we produce knowledge. When negative and positive givens, data, information, knowledge, wisdom, insight and realization canel then there is rescission within the logos. This is essentially the same as an Anagogoc Swerve within a nihilistic set of artificial extreme duals that are realized to be the Same, i.e. belong together, i.e. share the same ridgepole. Zizek calls this the Parallax View.

At the physical level of energy and matter, both there anti-X and non-X are rare phenomena. But in any situation there is potential energy, which is really stored up information about the situation in which something is in. And in the situation of student and teacher there is physical embodiment that places them completely enveloped in an energy/matter context as autopoietic viable living systems. Autopoietic systems are closed and are nondual combinations of cognition and living energy/matter transformations in exchange with the immediate environment. The closure of the Autopoietic system means that its surface is a domain wall, i.e. a two dimensional singularity. And what we know about these singularities such as with information on the surface of a Black Hole, there is a projection of the information on the surface into the interior or exterior spaces. Information is what crosses that surface of the Autopoietic system as perturbations. Thus there is not only the information passing through to be developed by the cognition of the system into knowledge, but there is also the information on the two sides of the singular surface. Now in terms of physical actuality of the communication between people the opposite of the sound of the voice is silence, and the opposite of the marks of the writing is the blank page where our behavior has left no traces. Thus from a behavioral point of view Wu Ji appears as Wu Wei which is non-action, which means going with the flow of the Tao, so that no traces are left. Non-action does not mean keeping silent or not writing, but rather it means not perturbing the stream of the flow of things with your own imperfections. If this can be done then there are fewer pertubations that threaten the autopoietic existential cognitive/living special system. It is acting as in Judo where one uses the energy of the opponent against him. That means in behavior canceling out the self/other distinction and thus harmonizing completely with one’s situation in which one is dwelling. So on the physical level we see this annihilation as complete fitting into ones environment such that karmic traces are not created and seeded for future frutification, like in the next instant, and thus embodying the Way and the Virtue that comes from immersion in the Way where Wu Ji permeates everything and manifests as Wu Wei. So we actually see the annihilation on the level of behavior which is synchronistic, psychoidal or in Flow and thus exhibiting a following of the Way and exhibiting primal virtues like humility.

At the level of nomos there is cancellation when one schema interacts with its anti-schema. The schema can be thought of as the logos of the physus. That is because it is a projection on the physus that is a priori that we read back in our experience. The Schematization permeates our experience. We project spacetime in terms of templates of understanding. And this schematization starts with the various implicate orders of spacetime at various scopes, and goes on to embody all our expectations about what will happen in our world with it implicate order and tacit knowledge. See Umberto Eco Kant and the Platypus. We expect all these schematizations to be satisfied and if they are not we are surprised. So at the foundational level of the nomos we would expect the koan to be a breaking of the norm, and even perhaps a departure from grammar, or at least a special use of grammar or rhetorical tropes in the service of expressing of indications nonduality, i.e. the order beyond order made up of one and many, or unity and totality. In fact it expresses the nondual between unity and totality which is wholeness. And that wholeness is expressed in spacetime as a synthesis that is projected a priori and then intuited by us in our experience. We unconsciously project these syntheses as the means of stabilizing what we know about our environment and ourselves. There is an inherent order in empty space, and there is an inherent order in conscious awareness even if nothing else is present. The anti-schema is a  canceling order, while the non-schema is what is not schematized, for instance what falls beyond the ten dimensions of our schematization of things in the world. The schema is a template of understanding, and so the anti-schema is a different and opposite template of understanding that can undergo emergence, so for instance they may be facticities, theories, paradigms, epistemes, ontoi, existences, absolutes.

So think of a situation in which the teacher and student are dwelling together, and a specific set of circumstances arise in which cancellation, annihilation, and rescission can occur simultaneously without interfering with each other. The teacher of deep nonudality indicates the presence of the special situation to the student though the words of the Koan or by some gesture or action. It is that kind of nondual teaching situation which is the perfect instance of what a Koan does via its own non-action of indication. In other words a Koan ideally or maybe better archetypally, causes positive and negative information, or knowledge produced by reason to become rescinded. At the same time at the physical level in the embodied situation a nondual flow of ultra-efficacy is attained in which the Way and our virtue manifests. And finally there is a cancellation of schemas usually implicate or tacit, and thus a transformation of our schematization of our world. When these happen together as annulment it is a transmogrification of our embodied awareness and we call that enlightenment as transmitted within Hui Neng’s middle way Chan/Zen dharma on the basis of emptiness being interpreted as interpenetration and thus belonging together with the Void as the Same.

The sign is the koan in speech, gesture or action. The object is the dialectical absolute reason acting itself out in the situation in which the ultra-efficient flow occurs which is the Way that brings out our virtue. And the interpretation for that is interpenetration that links Void and Emptiness together though a special kind of ridgepole related to that of the divided line.

What is strange about this is that it occurs though no effort, it is effortless, un-fabricated, non-elaborated, method-less, flowing like water into the optimal energy minima naturally like the surfaces of gigantic bubbles floating in the air. At each moment these thin films that separate inside from outside dynamically calculate the least energy and thus optimal surface automatically and naturally. And at each moment there is the potential for poping in whichthe difference between inside and outside collapses.

The photograph, taken by Richard Heeks, of Exeter, shows a soap bubble with one half still perfectly formed while the other shatters in a distinctive pattern of streaks.

This is basically the relaxation of the Emergent Meta-System as it goes through its phases from creation to annihilation. So the Koan has as its basic structure the Emergent Meta-system. We see the annihilation but what occurs on the other side of that is creation of a new order within awareness after it is cleared by the simultaneous rescission, annihilation, and cancellation in all three regions of the worldview. With that the ridgepole of the Divided Line in the tent of ones world collapses, and instead of projecting Being one finds existence suddenly as empty and void as always already he same belonging together as always from the very beginning.

The monads in a swarm arise through the creation operator, but then they interact through mutual action operator to form  newperspectives which are new on the world and which give insight into the nature of things. These new viewpoints form constellations that then are ecstatic and reschematize the world forming new candidate possibilities for further annihilation.

Basically enlightenment is a string of annullments, i.e., rescissions, annihilations, and cancellations, which go on and continue and in the midst of which one stands as a sentient living creature. One goes on through and in-spite of these rescissions, annihilations, and cancellations each being unique to the situation and to the dismantling of the self that continue as long as one is within the enlightened state. To the one who is experiencing it there seems to be a continuing disaster, but at the same time all the nihilism falls away and meaning gushes forth from out of the EmptyVoid, or the VoidEmptiness, i.e. the deeper nondual of Manifestation. Eventually one comes to exist within those manifestations of annihilation, cancellation and rescission on an ongoing basis so that the ongoing of the annihilation, cancellation, and rescission or taken together the Annulment process itself goes on as a series of anomalous singularities each unique to the situation one encounters inside and outside oneself. There are meta-levels of annulment.  There is annulment, and then when the annullment changes there is annulment of annulment. But there is also going on in annulment that captures the various annihilations as if they were jewels on a string. But finally there is the going on of the going on of annulment, which is the meta-continuity in which the emptyvoid or the voidemptiness is filled again with meaning after all the extreme and artificial nihilistic opposites in all realms collapse.

What the Koan as rammified in the various realms simultaneiously does is transmogrify us. And we are never the same after that aconceptual and aexperiental happening within our lives and our lifeworld.

Now what we have described is ideally what Koans do, and we know that since nothing is perfect there are many degenerate cases and conditions that does not live up to this ideal model, but without the ideal model in mind it is difficult to know what is happening as it goes though variations to various different people and the same person over time. As Stafford Beer says Humans are Variety producers even in the esoteric realm of enlightenment.

The goal is to go beyond the supra-rational and paradoxical limits of the divided line and back to its primordial origin. But that comes from the annulment of the supra-rational and the paradoxical.

The Key point is that a Koan is not just a linguistic phenomena as a riddle or a puzzle to be solved. The action of the Koan is deep and exists on in all three realms of Physus, Logos and Nomos. The preservation of just the words does not do it justice. But like a homeopathic tincture, studying the anomalous ordering of the words and the described situation in which they are uttered allows us some insight into the total phenomena of transformation that the Koan as a sign indicates.

The recorded sayings of Zen Master JoshuZhaozhou (Shi), James Green

So lets take an example Koan and see if we can make sense of it in the terms I have outlined above.  Definitely the nondual notion of the Way is here, by the fact that the Way is like the sky, wide open vast emptiness to which you cannot say yes or no to. So we are definitely talking about Wu Ji or Void here. However, the inward comes into play when it is said that to seek it is to deviate from it and that it is Ordinary Mind, no more, no less. This is in fact much like what DzogChen would say. Existence is the Primal Ground of Awareness that is nondual beyond the two truths of Buddhism. It is a version of Emptiness is Form and Form is emptiness, but it is grounded in the Void and not just the internal emptiness of the mind itself. Thus the relation between the concept of form is empty and emptiness is form appears in the fact that you cannot seek the way without missing it, (the name that can be named is not the real name of the nameless Tao) because we are always slipsliding away. The Way does not belong to knowing or not-knowing, it is nondual between these oppositions.

From the point of view of Logos the oppositions cited are Yes/No and Knowing/NotKnowing and Way/Deviation, Knowledge/Ignorance. These are the distinctions made within speech but they have no anchor, and the various interpretations of them cancel each other out causing rescission.
From the point of view of Physus or embodied becoming there is the difference in Joshu prior to and after this conversation in which he becomes enlightened. The words were actually spoken and they had deep transformative affects because of their meaning, they were not just words, but the were not silence either, rather they were conceptualizations pointing at the nonconceptual, the non-representable which is the nondual.

From the point of view of Nomos there is the ordering of direct showing that leads to enlightenment of Joshu at the hands of his master, during this conversation, in which he is introduced to the idea that the Way is like the sky, and that the seeking of it, or saying yes or no to it does not matter, or knowledge or ignorance do not matter with respect to the Tao. the Tao encompasses and overwhelms and works through ordinary mind. It is much like Hegel’s idea of absolute reason, every detail of the chatter and nihilism of everyday mundane mind works according to the Tao. So realization of the nature of the Tao is just a matter of being who you already are, but more genuinely and more profoundly.

The best way to see all this in action is to read the Koan backwards.

Last Joshu is enlightened in this conversation with his teacher, and thus he becomes a teacher himself and enunciates all the other Koans in the book. Joshu was famous for the startling nature of his koans. When he became enlightened his mind became like the Moon which is in the sky, reflects the light of the Sun, and is something you can only point at but cannot touch. It gives light, but the light waxes and wanes.

The very last thing that his master said to him before his enlightenment is to ask a question: “How can you say Yes or No to it?” It is a vast emptiness like the sky, or space. Knowing is having a concept, ignorance is not knowing. The Way is beyond knowing and non-knowing.

Kant points out that spacetime (as we understand it now) is a singular which is different from either unity or totality. There is only one spacetime. What Plato calls Chora which is both receptacle globally and seat locally. Everything we know is in it. And most of it is vacant. Even the things that appear to be solid are mostly vacant. This great vast vacancy is the Void, Wu Ji. What ever distinction you make in it is nothing because it does not support any writing on this medium. It is worse than trying to write on water or air. There is literally nothing there to write on that will hold a mark of distinction, as G. Spencer-Brown calls it. Spacetime is physical, even if there was nothing else in it but someone spinning they could still orient in it. Seventy percent of the energy that exists is in Spacetime itself. There is the virtual particles that are constantly created and annihilating. So at a level space itself is only creation and annihilation below the level of the conservation of energy. Negative energy is when two plates are placed in space close to each other and they are pushed together by the force of space itself and its intense energy expended in the creation and destruction of particles out of nothing and back to nothing. So we know now that at the most basic level Space has a fabric of annihilation that makes it up balanced by creation of the virtual particles that exist only momentarily only to annihilate each other again and again producing the seething flux of energy that is spacetime.

That which has no substance, is not even ether, cannot hold a mark or distinction, and therefore cannot hold information or knowledge is beyond all binary oppositions, and thus is nondual in itself. “How can you say Yes and No to it?” How can you produce distinctions between binary opposites and try to impose them on that nonduality. Let it just be non-dual, and realize that it is you, and you are just as nondual as it is because you are nothing but a perturbation of spacetime. How can you say yes and no to the nondual that overwhelms you and any distinctions you might make. It does not hold your distinctions in its medium, but rather holds the medium you choose to make your distinctions in as well as yourself.

Reading backwards and anachronistically we can see that with our current knowledge that spacetime, is energymatter at the level of virtual particles within the time limit for conserved particles. Creation and Annihilation are the opposites, and the particles created are opposites. And these produce the pressure that creates the negative energy. And it is particles and anti-particles that are created and destroyed. So negative matter and negative energy are implicit within spacetime as a non-dual singularity without substance. So we can see that the levels of spacetime and energy matter is all contained within the vacant singularity of space as Chora which is  receptacle globally and place or seat locally. And it is intrinsically nondual, pervading everything. This physical and spacetime picture we have today of virtual particles as a seething ocean below the cut off for conservation of energy has been augmented by the realization that even in the universe as a whole energy some energy is not conserved, and is in fact dark energy, because the universe as a whole is accelerating in its expansion. So both anti-energy and non-energy come into play in our conceptualization of the nature of the fabric of spacetime at the Planck level. It basically makes the nonduality incomprehensible, especially if you take into account that also at that level Quantum Mechanics and Relativity intersect to produce paradoxes and even absurdities. And when you also take into account the fact that spacetime is four dimensional, and the fourth dimension is the only one which does not have a set topology then it becomes clear that the real nature of four dimensional reality is truly incomprehensible. In order to understand anything at all we must keep Quantum Mechanics and Relativity apart. So they are like the antimonies and lead to rescission. Thus all in one we can see that our view today though physical science, the nondual nature of spacetime incorporates the three levels into a single conundrum that is impossible to comprehend, i.e. is beyond knowledge and non-knowledge. Our attempts at understanding the nature of the world is running up against severe limitations especially if we do not find the Higgs particle, and supersymmetries, and neutrinos really do go faster than light. We will have to go back to the drawing board to find a new model if the Standard Model collapses under the pressure of negative experimental results. So I think we can say that not only are all the three levels of Annulment covered but they are bound together as simultaneously satisfied by what we know of the physical world today. Physical Theory as has been said before by others is itself a Koan when we relate the theories to the bound intervals between spacetime and energymatter. It might also be that there is not even a complete separation between bosons and fermions, and that there are anyons, that fill in the spectrum between this fundamental distinction between particles that are moved by forces and particles that carry forces.

But the interesting part is if we go back further from the precipice of enlightenment and we see what Joshu’s master says before that about the mind and his search for knowledge and wisdom.

Joshu asks What is the way and gets the answer that ordinary mind is the way. Ordinary mind is that mindless chattering and nihilistic common enumerator of humanity. So this is the argument that we are all enlightened if we only knew. But Joshu asks if he can direct himself toward it, but he finds from his teacher that to approach or seek it is to deviate from it. It is only if one does nothing to try to capture it, that it can be grasped. It is basically like a Cat. To be around it you have to leave it alone. Joshu asks “If I do not seek it how can I know the Way.” And the answer is basically that you cannot know it, so stop trying. It is beyond both knowing and not knowing. Thus there is a blank wall one hits that is impassible. This impassable blank wall in ones self is emptiness. There is a contradiction that the only way to enlightenment is to give it up. And this is where we say that Buddhist enlightenment is a ruse that uses nihilism against itself. It gives a vague, amorphous, ambiguous goal of enlightenment for the Self to invest in. The Self invests in it, but eventually it realizes that there is no enlightenment, and that is what the comparison of enlightenment to ordinary mind means. It calls the bluff of the person who has invested everything in the goal of becoming enlightened, and when that goal is seen to be ephemeral as everything else in existence, then one’s self sinks below the waves as the wrecked ship sinks, taking all the attached vestiges of the ego with it leaving the self to create a new way of relating to the world. It is the nihilism of the artificial extreme opposites of seeing all live as Dukkha on the one hand and seeing enlightenment as a freedom from samsara on the other that collapse and then you must go beyond Buddhism. But what is beyond Buddhism is merely the other outward nondual of the singular of spacetime that implicitly is energymatter which is implicitly conceptpercept which are all caught up in Annulment, and so there is no foundation for experience in the outward either. The self is the one who wants to know what the Tao is, wants to direct itself toward knowing the Tao, wants to seek and find. These are all projections of the self and a bit of hubris that believes that one is good enough to become enlightened. So one gets caught up in the spiritual path, one sinks ones time and energy in it, leaves home, joins the Sanga, learns the Dharma, and seeks to be a Bodhisattva and asks questions like this of the master one has found. But all this seeking, is in vain and empty, because what one seeks cannot be found by seeking and cannot not be found by not seeking, but only by neither seeking nor not seeking, or both seeking and not seeking. Thus the tetrallema exhausts the logical possibilities and points toward the presence, identity, reality and truth of existence as emptyvoid and voidempty.

So reading this arbitrary first Koan in the book of Joshu which is the point of Joshu’s own enlightenment, one sees that the theory produced above does hold true for this particular koan. Annulment occurs in all the realms simultaneously, and emptiness is negated internally, but the Tao outwardly is seen to be impossible to comprehend, and it is accepting these inward and outward limits that leads to enlightenment when the ridgepole collapses.

So the theory I proposed can be said to apply to at least one Koan. Whether it applies to others or must be modified based on the failure to apply to some is yet to be seen.

It could be that this Annulment in three realms at once is the ideal, and that it may occur in one realm at a time instead. So there may be classes of Koans that record annihilations, cancellations or rescissions separately. It could be that other Koans merely indicate some nondual aspect of existence without portraying cancellations, annihilations or rescissions per se. In other, words we are describing the most radical case which is ideal in order to produce the outcome of perfect enlightenment. But there are many possible degerate cases that form a field. However, if we understand the epitome of the Koanic action based in Annulment then we should be able to understand the rest of the field based on that archetype.

Interesting related references:

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kh%C3%B4ra

See F. Cook Hua Yen: Jeweled Net of Indra

See Fa Tsang’s commentary on the Awakening of Faith. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fazang

The Rafter is the Whole Building, in Fa-tsang (Cook) http://advayavada.blogspot.com/2009/11/rafter-is-whole-building-in-fa-tsang.html
The Taoist Influence on Hua-yen Buddhism: A Case of the Scinicization of Buddhism in China Kang-nam Oh, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Regina  Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, No. 13, (2000) Taipei: The Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/HistoricalZen/Taoist_Influence_on_Hua-Yen_Buddhism.html

See A STUDY OF CHINESE HUA-YEN BUDDHISM WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE DHARMDHATU (FA-CHIEH) DOCTRINE Kang Nam Oh, McMaster University  http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/opendissertations/2232/

Tian-tai Metaphysics vs. Hua-yan Metaphysics http://faculty.fullerton.edu/jeelooliu/Tian-tai%20vs.%20Hua-yan.pdf

Dharmadhatu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmadhatu

The “Lankavatara” and “Platform Sutras” : contraries apart and polarities together http://sunzi.lib.hku.hk/ER/detail/hkul/3846406



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