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Satori: Toward a Conceptual Analysis

Author(s): Avery M. Fouts

Source: Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 24 (2004), pp. 101-116
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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Satori:Towarda ConceptualAnalysis

Avery M. Fouts
CaliforniaBaptist University

One of the significant points of division between Zen Buddhism and Western
thought is the status of the law of noncontradiction.1 In the West, no matter what
our ontology, we have overwhelmingly regardedthis law as indubitable. For example,
Aristotle insists in his Metaphysicsthat the law of noncontradiction is the most cer-
tain of all first principles, the fabric of any significant assertion since any significant
assertion can be distinguished from its contradictory.2 In the East, however, Zen
Buddhists tend to view this law as provisional, and this presents formidable barriers
to communication with the West. At particular issue is the interpretation of satori,
the abrupt and momentary Enlightenment experience within the Rinzai school of
The West can learn much from Zen about the subtleties of unhealthy contradic-
tions in consciousness. To this end, satori and the liberation found therein are phe-
nomenological facts worthy of the deepest respect by the West. The problem, how-
ever, is that satori seems to demand an interpretation that is irrational according to
Western canons of rationality. In light of this, the purpose of this paper is to inter-
pret satori in a way that eases this purported irrationality. A first step is taken toward
reconciling Zen and the West by accepting the challenge posed by D. T. Suzuki:

The position assumed by the Zen masters is this. They leave the logical side
of the business to the philosopher, and are content with conclusions drawn
from their own inner experiences. They will protest, if the logician attempts
to deny the validity of their experience, on the ground that it is up to the logi-
cian to prove the fact by the instruments which he is allowed to use. If he fails
to perform the work satisfactorily--that is, logically to confirm the experi-
ence-the failure is on the side of the logician, who has now to devise a more
effective use of his tools.3

In the first section, the logic of the Zen experience is examined through the writ-
ings of Suzuki, traditionally regarded as the best expositor of Zen to the West and
one who specifically deals with the present theme. While Suzuki does not represent
the whole of Zen, he nonetheless "stands in the first rank of the cultural bridge
builders between Asia and the West during the twentieth century."4 In the second
section, the notion of"intentional identity," the nondualism inherent in cognition,

Buddhist-Christian Studies 24 (2004). ? by University of Hawai'i Press. All rights reserved.

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is elucidated with the help of certain existential Thomists. There is a paradox intrin-
sic to intentional identity that is just as paradoxical as anything Suzuki claims. I con-
tend that it is this paradox that lies at the heart of satori, and the fact that it has been
recognized in the West provides the foundation for the reconciliation. In the third
section, it is shown that the first-person subject possesses a prereflective self-con-
sciousness in first-order experience of an external object. This allows us to insert a
subject-object dualism into satori, all the while agreeing with Suzuki that the latter
experience transcends reflection. In the fourth section, all of the above elements are
brought together to provide a conceptual analysis of satori in which rationality is
maintained, on the one hand, and the integrity of the experience is maintained, on
the other.


In the Zen tradition, the Absolute, if the term may be used, is nondual; therefore, any
affirmation of the Absolute in the form of A as opposed to not-A is to sunder its
sacred unity because in the Absolute there are no distinctions whatsoever. For this
reason, even though the experience of the Absolute is positive in nature, any attempt
to express the truth that lies therein must in the final analysis be by negation, a "not
this," a "not that." The problem is that the Absolute of which Zen Buddhists speak
encompasses things finite such that the distinctions made in everyday life are some-
thing less than the way things really are. This is particularly troublesome when it
comes to things considered numerically distinct-for example, this table and that
book. This table and that book are each what it is and is not what it is not. If this
is the way things really are, to assert otherwise is to affirm a contradiction.
According to Suzuki, however, Zen is "illogical."5The distinction between A and
not-A only pertains to "words"rather than to the "facts."

We generally think that "A is A" is absolute, and that the proposition "A is
not-A" or "A is B" is unthinkable. We have never been able to break through
these conditions of the understanding; they have been too imposing. But now
Zen declares that words are words and no more. When words cease to corre-
spond with facts it is time for us to part with words and return to facts. ...
The meaning of the proposition "A is A" is realized only when "A is not-A."
To be itself is not to be itself-this is the logic of Zen, and satisfies all our

The "return to facts" occurs in satori, an experience of Reality in its Suchness

(tathata), and the latter is that which precedes all conceptualization.7 In this expe-
rience, the Emptiness (sunyata) of all things is revealed, and intrinsic to Emptiness
is a nondualism in which all distinctions are seen for what they are, mere "words"as
opposed to the "facts." Such an experience liberates a consciousness beset with
unhealthy cravings by relativizing our life lived in terms of A and not-A, and this
relativization "satisfiesall our aspirations." It is worth hearing Suzuki again:

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Accordingto the philosophyof Zen, we aretoo much of a slaveto the con-

ventionalway of thinking,which is dualisticthroughand through.No "inter-
penetration"is allowed,theretakesplaceno fusingof oppositesin our every-
daylogic. . . . Blackis not white, and white is not black.Tigeris tiger,and cat
is cat, and they will neverbe one. Waterflows,a mountaintowers.This is the
way thingsor ideasgo in this universeof the sensesand syllogisms.Zen, how-
ever,upsetsthis schemeof thoughtand substitutesa new one in which there
exists no logic, no dualisticarrangementsof ideas.. . . In this absoluteone-
ness of things Zen establishesthe foundationsof its philosophy.8

Includedin the Absoluteis the "absoluteoneness"of the subjectand the object.

Suzukinevertiresof claimingthat thereis ultimately"noseparationof subjectand
object"in Zen experience.9He remarksthat"inthe satoriseeingthereis neithersub-
ject nor object,it is a nothingseeingitselfas such."'01
In anotherplace,he statesthat
satoriis "anexperienceexperiencingitself."''We shouldalso considerthis passage:

A monk askeda Zen.Master:"Whatwould you saywhen both the mind and

its objectsareforgotten?""The mind and its objects"meansthis worldof rel-
ativity,where the subjectstandsagainstthe object, the knower againstthe
known, the one againstthe many,the soul againstGod, I againstthee, and so
on. To forgetthis meansto transcenda world of dualities,and to be merged
into the Absolute.12

Moreover,he impliesthat any interpretationof satoriin termsof a subjectis merely

the productof the intellect:"Thisself-consciousness on the partof reality,intellec-
tuallyinterpreted, precisely where subjectand object begin their differentiation.
... Understanding'pureexperience'in this fashion,as a combinationor joint kind
of 'union'betweensubjectand object,is the resultof intellectualization." '3
Suzukiis awarethatif thereis not ultimatelya numericaldistinctionbetweenenti-
ties in our ordinaryexperience,includingourselves,the assertionthat everythingis
nondualis not logicallyproblematic."Acontradictionimpliestwo termswhich are
set againsteach other.Sunyatais absolutelyone; hence, thereis no contradictionin
it."14 A logical problemonly ariseswhen Westernphilosopherstake the numerical
distinctionin ordinaryexperienceas the way thingsreallyareand then opposeit to
the claim that realityin its Suchnessis nondual."The philosopher'sway is to start
firstfromthe experienceand logic of a reconstructed world,and, failingto recognize
this fact, he proceedsto applyhis 'logic' to the experienceof sunyata.This necessi-
tatesthat sunyatastep out into this world,which meansdestroyingsunyata."15
Suzukiis also awarethat to speakof the "absoluteoneness"of things,as opposed
to the absolutedualityof things,is itselfto assertanA as opposedto a not-A.Suzuki
admitsthis, maintainingthat he cannot "avoidresortingto wordseven wherethey
arenot at all adequate."As a matterof "skillfulmeans"(upayakausalya), wordscanyet
be used to help the disciplesee the "facts"that lie beyond"words."Eventhoughthe
truthattainedlies beyond "words,"Suzukisaysthat he "musttry for the expression
that most closelyapproximatesthe facts."16'

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Given this brief survey,there are at least four reasonswhy the proponentsof
Westernlogic havea rightyet to be puzzled.Firstof all, in what follows,it is granted
that skillful means is a legitimatecategoryinsofaras it goes. But in spite of the
appealto skillfulmeans, it is difficultto make sense out of such phrasesas "most
closelyapproximatesthe facts"when the relationshipbetweenthoughtand realityis
so inadequatethatno positiveaffirmationwhatsoevercan be madeaboutthe "facts."
If Suzukiat some point werenot assuminga correspondencebetweenthese his own
"words"and the "facts,"it would seem that he is knowinglyspeakingwith no mean-
ing. This is not meantdisparagingly, but it seemsto me that Suzukihas not worried
about this difficultyenough. Hick takesissuewith the doctrineof skillfulmeanson
this verymatter.He contendsthat if at some point categoriessuch as sunyatado not
referto somethingas opposedto somethingelse,all talkof Buddhistexperience(and
this includesall of Suzuki'sbooks) collapsesinto incoherence.Eventhe doctrineof
skillfulmeansbecomesself-referentially incoherent.'7
Second, by contrasting"words"to "facts,"Suzukiimplies that it is the intellect
that carvesout realityin termsof A and not-A. He specificallysaysthat our sense
experienceis an "intellectualor conceptualreconstruction" in which a "treeis not a
tree until it is subsumedunderthe concept'tree."'18Indeed,a tree is not knownto
be a treeuntil it is conceptualized,but Suzukiimpliesthat intellectualizationsome-
how createsa tree,therebyopposingit to somethingthat is not a tree. If this is cor-
rect, it is hardto accept(or at least it is hardfor me to accept)that the numerical
distinctionbetweenthis treeand that tigeris merelythe productof my intellect,and
that independentof my intellectualization,they are not two numericallydistinct
things.What is even more difficultto concede,however,is that independentof my
intellectualization,I myselfam not numericallydistinctfromboth this treeand that
tiger.Admittedly,Suzukiremarksthat in satori,"somethingwhich lies beyond and
yet in dualities"is experienced.19 He presumablymeansthat even though our ordi-
naryexperience is transcended in satori,it is not erased.But ratherthan ameliorat-
ing the problem, this qualificationonly makesit more difficultto understandjust
what it is in satorithat warrantsSuzuki'sclaims.
Third, the notion of "absoluteoneness"suffersin that it is not an existential
option insofaras life is lived in dualities.But life is lived in dualitiesall the time. If
we can neverlive otherwise,if we can neverspeakotherwise,we must ask whether
theremight be anotherway to interpretsatorimorein line with life as we do in fact
live it.
Fourth,Suzukiimplies that holding to a correspondencebetweenthought and
reality,and thusregardingthe numericaldistinctionbetweenfiniteentitiesas the way
things reallyare, is a sufficientcondition for an unhealthyconsciousness.He con-
tends that if the intellect"persuades itself into thinking"that thereis an I that has
somehowbecome one with a not-I, "thewhole thing turnstopsy-turveyand an 'I'
with all its egocentricimpulsescomes to assertitself."20This is an importantpsy-
chologicalobservation,providingus with the reasonSuzukiadmirablyholds to the
authorityof satoriin the faceof logicalchallenges.We will see that in a certainsense

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Suzukiis correctabout this, but thereis nonethelessno reasonto deny the general
correspondencebetweenthoughtand reality.


That the externalworldis immediatelygiven to consciousnessis the epistemological

startingpoint for existentialThomists.In articulatinga theoryof knowledgeconsis-
tentwith this startingpoint, they notice thatdirectrealismmandatesa nondualrela-
tionshipbetweenthe subjectand the object.This nondualismcannotbe accounted
for in termsof numericaldistinction,for this is to say no more than can be said of
two objects;but neithercan it be accountedfor in termsof numericalidentity,for
this destroysthe law of identity (and/orthe law of noncontradiction). The cognitive
relationship must therefore be accounted for in terms of the paradoxicalnotion of
intentionalidentity that leavesthe laws of logic intact.
Let us begin by acceptingtwo things as phenomenologicalgivens.First,thereis
an externalworld. Forinstance,as I sit herewriting,thereis an applerestingon my
desk.The appleis not dependentupon a relationto me, aswouldbe the caseif I were
imaginingor hallucinatingthe apple.Rather,the appleis externalto me;in language
we aretakingas coterminousin meaning,the appleand I arenumericallydistinct.
The second given we need to acceptis that the apple itself is the immediateobject
of my experience.Admittedly,thereareargumentsto the contrary,but the directper-
ceptionof objectsnumericallydistinctfrom us is a commonsensebeliefin everyday
life, and for some, it is self-evidentlytrue.21The adoptionof this everydayrealism
will help us elucidatesome of the perplexitiesof Zen. Moreover,such an adoptionis
not necessarilyantitheticalto Suzuki'sclaims.Given the commonsensicalcharacter
of directrealism,it is reasonableto assumethat Suzukiregardshimselfas in direct
contactwith the externalworld inasmuchas he lives "in dualities."Whateverhe is
saying,he is not simply reiteratingthe distinctionbetweenappearanceand reality
characteristic of much of modernand contemporaryWesternphilosophy.
With thesethingsin mind,giventhe numericaldistinctionbetweenthe appleand
me, thereis an ontologicalgap that must be mediatedin orderto securemy sense
knowledgeof the apple. If this gap is not mediatedin some way,I remainisolated,
completelyimmanentto my own being. For instance,afterepistemologicallysun-
deringthe subjectand the object, Descartesuses God as a guarantorthat some sort
of causalactionon the partof corporealobjects,resultingin sensoryideas,mediates
this very gap. However,insteadof ideas,if I directlyexperiencethe appleitself,and
if the appleis that which is directlydeterminingmy consciousness,thereis by defi-
nition no mediationbetweenus. The ontologicalgap has somehowbeen immedi-
atelyovercome.This implies,oddly enough,that the numericaldistinctionbetween
the appleand me has also somehowbeen overcome.
Letus be clearaboutthis. If thereis a numericaldistinctionbetweenthe appleand
me, thereis the respectiveontologicalgap. If thereis the ontologicalgap,theremust
be cognitive mediationbetween the apple and me. It follows that if I directly,or

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immediately,experiencethe apple itself, there is no mediationbetween us. But if

thereis no mediation,thereis no ontologicalgap.If thereis no ontologicalgap,there
is no numericaldistinction.
In less contentious terms, while the apple and I remain numericallydistinct
throughoutmy experience,we enterinto some sort of nondualrelationship,cogni-
tively speaking.Concerningthe cognitive relationship,Maritainsees that "by an
apparentscandalto the principleof identity,to know is to be in a certainway some-
thing other than what one is: it is to become a thing other than the self."22 Speak-
ing of the same relationship,Simon observes,"Herewe are confrontedwith a for-
midablechallengehurledat the principleof identity,and whateverchancewe have
of advancingin our understandingof the natureof cognitionwill clearlydependon
our awarenessof the strengthof this challenge."23 Maritainand Simon arefleshing
out the Aristoteliandictum, endorsedby St. Thomas, that in cognition "thesoul is
'in a way'all things."24
That the subjectis (or becomes)the object"in a way"is the reasonthe nondual
relationshipbetweenthe two is often couched in terms of, or implying, identity.
Simon puts it succinctly:"WhatI know, I am."25Maritaintermsit "acorrespon-
dence that amountsto an identity."26Elsewherehe points out that "thenotion of
knowledgeas a copy or transferis utterlyinadequate"and thereforein cognitionthe
thing knownand the mind "arenot only joined, they arestrictlyone."27Gilsonsays
it thisway:"Since,in fact, to know a thing is to becomeit, it followsnecessarilythat
at the momentwhen the act of knowingtakesplace,a new beingis formed.... This
synthesisinvolves, consequently,the fusion of two beings which coincide at the
moment of their union."28
Admittedly,speakingof cognition in termsof identity has its limitations;iden-
tity is a symmetricalnotion, and no one claimsthat the objectbecomesthe subject.
Nevertheless,these thinkersfind this languagejustifiablegiven the respectivenon-
In order to ease the apparentcontradiction,two types of existence must be
posited.Maritainspeaksfor this tradition:"Forafterall, the scandalssufferedby the
principleof identitycan only be apparent,and it is certainthat, if it is properto the
knowerto be anotherthing than what it is, we must needs, to avoid absurdity,dis-
tinguishtwo waysof havingexistence."29
The two kindsof existencepositedareessenaturaleand esseintentionale.30 Natural
existencepertainsto the objectinasmuchas it is numericallydistinctfrom the sub-
ject, and intentionalexistencepertainsto this naturallyexistingobject as it actual-
izes the cognitivefacultiesof the subject.Maritaindefinesintentionalityas "aprop-
erty of thought, a prerogativeof its immateriality,wherebybeing in itself, posited
'outsideit,' i.e. being which is fully independentof the act of thought, becomesa
thing existingwithin it."'31The naturallyexistingobjectcomesto existintentionally
in the subject,as it were,such that the subjectbecomesthe objectin what "amounts
to an identity."Maritainrecognizesthat "intentionalitybringsthe other into me
'beginningwith' its othernessand makesme be the other."32
Maritainrealizesthat the "notionof esseintentionale"is not "anexplanatoryfac-

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tor alreadyknownand alreadyclarifiedby some othermeans."33Rather,this notion

is initiallyand necessarilypositedin orderto accountfor our cognitiveexperience.
We must admit, however,that what is necessarilypositedis a full-fledgedparadox.
Gilson is adamantthat attemptingto imaginehow the subjectand the object can
coincide but each remainwhat it is providesa "fatalobstacleto our understand-
ing."34But this nondualismdoes more than elude a clearand distinctidea.Think-
ing of the intentionalidentityof two numericallydistinctthings(or,in this case,the
intentionalidentity of the subjectwith the object)is no easierthan thinkingof the
numericalidentity of two numericallydistinctthings. Simon explicitlynotices the

And hereis the greatparadox.The identityof beingwith itselfwill haveeach

thing be what it is and nothing else. Despite the way we sometimesspeak,
breadcan neverbe a rock (andremainbread),or an eel a serpent(andremain
a fish).Butwe all knowa lot of realrockswithoutceasingto be humanbeings.
... The knowerknowsonly by acknowledgingthe othernessof the objectand
preservingat the same time his own identity. He becomesthe otherwithout
becomingother. ...35

We arenonethelessobligedto acceptthe notion of intentionalidentityin spiteof

its paradoxicalcharacteron pain of denyingthe laws of logic, on the one hand, or
denyingour experience,on the other.We will see that Suzukiis caughtbetweenthe
hornsof this samedilemma.


In the last section, we acceptedthat the appleis numericallydistinctfrom me and

that I am directlyexperiencingit. In addition,we now need to acceptthat I can cor-
rectlydiscernthat the appleis numericallydistinctfrom me. With this addition,a
prereflectiveconsciousnessnot only of myself but also of my relationshipto the
appleis entailedin my first-orderexperience.
As Hume notices,discerningthatan objectis externaldemandssome sortof self-
consciousnessfor "external" means"externalto me."37Sincewe aretreating"exter-
nal" and "numericallydistinct" as coterminous,this same self-consciousnessis
demandedin orderto discernthat an objectis numericallydistinctfromme. Given
that I do correctlydiscernthat the apple is so relatedto me, it follows that I must
possess this self-consciousness.The question arisesas to the nature of this self-
The self-consciousness in questionpertainsto myselfas first-personsubject,or the
referentof "I"in whatWittgensteincalls its "useas subject."It does not pertainto
"thisbody here,"or the referentof "I"in whatWittgensteincallsits "useas object."38
For one thing, I may not perceive"thisbody here"when I perceivethe apple.But,
more importantly,even though the apple is numericallydistinct from "thisbody
here,"if I do not know that the appleis numericallydistinctfromme as first-person
subject,I do not know (aswe will see) that I perceiveit.

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In my first-orderexperience,my consciousnessis directedtowardthe apple,not

towardmyself. I am thereforenot distinguishingmyself from the apple, for this
would takea second-orderreflection,explicitlygeneratingthe concept"I."Inasmuch
as I am reflectingwithin my first-orderexperience,I am concernedwith the apple
exclusively,maybeconsideringwhetherit is ripeor not. Nonetheless,when my con-
sciousnessgoes out to the apple,as it were,even though I do not distinguishmyself
from it, the appledistinguishesitself from me. The apple is an entity with its own
ontologicalintegrity,ontologicallydistinctin its own right.It is impossiblethen for
me to perceivethe appledirectlywithout simultaneouslybeing awareof this onto-
logicalintegrity.This meansbeing awarenot only that the appleis numericallydis-
tinct from objectsadjacentto it (this holds true among objectsof my imagination)
but alsothatit is numericallydistinctfromme, the first-personsubject.39In my first-
orderexperienceof the apple,an objectnumericallydistinctfromme, my own exis-
tence as numericallydistinct from the apple is simultaneouslyrevealed.Since it
wouldtakea second-orderreflectionto gainan explicitself-consciousness, the accom-
panying consciousness of my relationship to the is
apple implicit. It is a prereflective
consciousnessbecausesecond-orderjudgmentssuch as "I am perceivingan apple"
are generatedby reflectionupon this first-orderexperience.
By its verynature,this prereflectiveself-consciousnesscannotbe directlyverified;
nonetheless,it can be indirectlyverified.Without a prereflectiveconsciousnessof
my relationshipto the applein my first-orderexperienceof it, thereareno grounds
whatsoeverfor discerningthat the appleis numericallydistinctfrom me. Assuming
this premisecan be shown to be true, since I do correctlydiscernthat the apple is
numericallydistinctfromme (acceptedas a given), it followsthat I possessthis pre-
Let us assumethen that in my first-orderexperienceof the apple,I do not havea
prereflective consciousnessof my relationshipto it. I am solelyconsciousof the apple
with no reciprocalconsciousnessof myself.As a result,I do not know that the apple
is numericallydistinct from me. Furtherinquiryis demandedto relievemy igno-
rance.The problem,however,is thatthereis no furtherinquiryby whichI can relieve
my ignorance,for I am caught in a versionof the classicalweb of skepticismnot
knowingwhetherthe contentsof my consciousness(including"thisbody here")are
externalto me or not. It is not clearthat it makesany sensein such a circumstance
to say that one could get closerto the apple,but let us supposethat it does and that
I get so closethat I am lookingrightat it, so to speak.Evenif this makessense,I am
yet only immediatelyexperiencingthe applesuch that if an immediateawarenessof
it in and of itselfis not a sufficientcondition for knowingit to be so relatedto me,
I havedone nothing to relievemy ignorance.
The only recourseis to reflectupon my first-orderexperienceof the apple(rather
than the appleitself) in the hope of ascertainingits status.SupposeI so reflectand
judge "I am experiencingan apple."It does not follow from my experiencingthe
apple that it is externalto me since I could be hallucinating.I cannotjudge "I am
perceivingan apple,"since I cannotas yet discernthat I perceiveit. Objectsnumer-
icallydistinctfrom us defineperceptionand not the otherway around.

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All in all, if I do not havea prereflectiveconsciousnessof my relationshipto the

apple in my first-orderexperienceof it, I have no groundsfor discerningthat it is
numericallydistinct from me; the necessaryself-consciousnesscannot originate
merelyin a reflectiveact generatingthe concept "I."Since, however,I do discern
that the appleis numericallydistinctfromme, it followsthat in my first-orderexpe-
rienceof it, I possessthis prereflectiveself-consciousness.
The conclusionhereis thatwhen I correctlydiscernthat the appleis numerically
distinctfrom me, I am not creatinga numericaldistinctionbetweenthe appleand
me by way of reflection.My judgmentratheraffirms,and is groundedin, this pre-
reflectiveself-consciousness. awarethat I am numericallydistinct
I am prereflectively
from the appleall along.


Suzukiassertsthat Zen boldly declares,"I hold a spade,yet I hold it not," and he

usesthis paradoxicaldeclarationas evidenceof the illogicalityof Zen.40At issuehere
is what Suzukicalls"double-roofing," describedin this passage:"Solong as thereare
consciousstrivingsto accomplisha taskthe veryconsciousnessworksagainstit, and
no taskis accomplished.It is only when all the tracesof this consciousnessarewiped
out that Buddhahoodis attained."41 What Suzukimeansby a consciousstrivingis a
striving"tobe consciousof consciousness," thatis, a strivingto possessa second-order
consciousnessof first-orderconsciousnesssimultaneouslywith the latter-thus, the
notion of double-roofing.42 On the contrary,one attainsBuddhahoodwhen one is
in a stateof "no-mind,"or a "stateof mind in which thereis no specificconscious-
ness of its own workings,remindingone of what the philosopherscall 'transcenden-
tal apperception.'"43This does not meana stateof unconsciousnessas would be the
case if one were temporarilyknockedout; rather,this meansto be "consciousand
yet to be unconsciousof self-nature,"that is, consciousand yet unconsciousof the
mind'sown workings.44So the personholdinga spadeis indeedholdinga spadeand
consciousof it, but since the personis not engagedin double-roofing,in this sense,
the person is not holding it. This is why those liberatedthrough satori observe:
"WhenI feel sleepy,I sleep;when I want to sit, I sit."45
In the West,the phenomenonof double-roofingis manifestedin the equallypara-
doxicalold adage"thehurrierI go, the behinderI get."Supposean individualis con-
frontedwith an important,timed examination,and in orderto do well, she must
answerthe questionsquickly.In herinsecurity,she attemptsto answerthe questions
quickly and simultaneouslyto be consciousof her own consciousnessin orderto
ensurethat she is answeringthe questionsin a hurriedmanner.What this meansis
thather reflectiveconsciousnessnow hasa dualroleto play;it mustanswerquestions
quicklyand simultaneouslywatchitselfdoing so. This producesthe consciousstriv-
ingsthatstifleherspontaneity.As a result,she actuallyslowsdown;the moreshe tries
to ensurea hurriedaction,the moreshe getsbehind.Weresuchan individualto give
up double-roofing,she would returnto spontaneousactionand actuallymove more
quickly.Suzukiputs it this way:

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The ideais thatwhen everyeffortis put forwardto achievesome task,and you

arefinallyexhaustedand havecome to an end of your energy,you give your-
self up so farasyourconsciousnessis concerned.In fact,however,youruncon-
sciousmind is still intenselybent on the work, and beforeyou realizeit you
find the work accomplished."Man'sextremityis God'sopportunity."This is
reallywhat is meant by "toaccomplishthe taskby no-mind."46

Upon a returnto spontaneousaction,she could alsoboldlyand paradoxically declare

right alongsidethe Zen Buddhist,"I do not hurry,yet I get ahead."
We havealreadyseen that Suzukistronglyimpliesthat regardingan I and a not-I
as "facts"ratherthan mere "words"is a sufficientcondition for an unhealthycon-
sciousness.To quote Suzukiagain,he saysthat "whenwe begin to talkaboutselfwe
immediatelyand inevitablyestablishthe dualismof self and not-self, thus falling
47If this is so, regardinga self and a not-selfas
into the errorsof intellectualization."
"facts"can only be some sort of mistake.Suzukihas a point here.To the degreethat
the insecureindividualthinksthatshe has successfullydouble-roofed,to that degree
she has engagedin the creationof a false,or objective,self. She inadvertentlycreates
a falseself since otherwisetherewould be no self to observe.Since it is impossible
for a finiteconsciousnessdirectlyto intuititself,anypurporteddirectwatchingof the
self can only be a mis-taking.The self purportedlybeingwatchedis actuallythe self
doing the watching.Forinstance,if I am thinkingaboutX, and someoneinterrupts
and asksme what I am doing, I might replythat I am (or was) thinkingabout X.
But in this casethe "I"refersto me slightlyin the pastsincein the presentI am not
thinkingaboutX but I am makingthe judgmentthat I am (or was) thinkingabout
X. Any time I think that I have caught up with myself such that I think that "I"
directlyrefersto me in the present,I have incurreda false self, mistakingthe con-
cept (or the idea of myself) for myself.Alan Wattsspeaksof this rathercommon-

This is just what happensto the human being, to the mind, when the desire
for certaintyand securitypromptsidentificationbetween the mind and its
own imageof itself.... The identificationof the mind with its own imageis,
therefore,paralyzingbecausethe image is fixed-it is past and finished....
To cling to it is thus to be in constantcontradictionand conflict.... Wu-shin
is action on any level whatsoever,physicalor psychic,without trying at the
samemomentto observeand check the action from outside.This attemptto
act and thinkaboutthe actionsimultaneouslyis preciselythe identificationof
the mind with its idea of itself.48

As Suzukiputs it, the cessationof the identificationof the mind with its idea of
itself occurswhen "themind is altogetherdetachedfrom form, which also means
detachment from the mind itself I take Suzuki to mean here that any sort of
formalstructurebetweenself and not-selfis ultimatelyfalse,and detachmentfrom
this structureentailsgiving up the notion altogetherof a subjectset overagainstan
objectas pertainingto the "facts."

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The questionwe now faceis whethera returnto spontaneousactivityfromdou-

ble-roofing,while expressedparadoxically, and while avoidingthe creationof a false
self, does indeed demand giving up subject-objectdualismas pertainingto the
It can only be outlinedhere,but I proposea hypothesisthatwe will workwithin
for the remainderof this paper-although a rejectionof the hypothesisdoes not
entaila rejectionof the phenomenologyof satorithat follows.I proposethat a suf-
ficientconditionfor an unhealthyconsciousnessis ignoranceof our finitude.In our
ignorancewe havesomehowcome to considerthingsexternalas ontologicallyimma-
nent to consciousness,ratherthan merelyintentionallyimmanentto it. In other
words, we have come to identify ourselveswith externalrealityqua intentionally
relatedto us. While our soul is "in a way"all things,we have come to considerall
things, to paraphraseSt. Augustine,as limbs of our soul.50As a resultof this mis-
placedidentity,our ontologicalsecuritydependson somethingactuallyoutside of
our control.Under our veil of ignorance,however,we think we areable to control
externalrealityas a mereextensionof ourselvesin orderto quell our insecurity.We
regardourselvesas able to control things directlyby and through consciousness,
which is preciselythe trademarkattachingand clingingfound in consciousnessfrom
which Zen Buddhistsadmirablyseek to escape.Werewe able to controlour world
in thisway,we would needto be the infiniteDeity of classicaltheism,equippedwith
a directontologicalrelationshipbetweena creatingconsciousnessand reality.
When we begin to understandthat we are trying to do the impossiblein the
attemptto controlthingsoutsideof our jurisdiction,we turn towardsubjectivityin
orderto controlourselves,therebyengagingin double-roofing.The attemptto dou-
ble-roofis in effect just the attemptthroughour reflectiveconsciousnessto be the
ground of our own consciousness,and if this were reallypossible,we againwould
takeon the hue of the infiniteDeity of Westerntheismin whom consciousnessand
existencecoincide. In our ignorance,however,we mistakethe idea of ourselvesfor
ourselvesstill underthe suppositionthat double-roofingis possible-if we did not
think it possible,we would neverattemptit. We attachand cling to this falseself,
regardingourselvesas directlycontrollingourselves.In this state,to ceaseattaching
and clinging to this false self by letting go becomesan impossibility,for it always
appearsas a concessionto insecurity.
With this hypothesisin hand, let us walk througha phenomenologicalsketchof
satori.Let us supposethat a subjecthas incurreda falseself in an effort to control
itself,clinging to this falseself in the sameway that such a subjectclings to objects
of consciousnessin an attempt to control them. At the moment of satori, it is
revealedthat consciousnessof externalrealityis not externalrealityand the thought
of the self is not the self-in the languageof Suzuki,thatwordsarewordsand facts
are facts. In broadand traditionalterms, it is revealedthat thought is not reality.
As a result of this experience,the subject lets go of the "mind and its objects."
Recognizedare not only the misplacedidentity but also the impossibilityof cross-
ing the qualitativegap betweenthought and realityfor a finite consciousness.It is
worth consideringwhether this experienceis similar to what Maritaincalls the

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"intuitionof existence,"the descriptionof which has strikingparallelsto descrip-

tions of satori:51

... herethereis no questionof rationalanalysisor of an inductiveor a deduc-

tive procedure,or of a syllogisticconstruction,but only of an intuitionwhich
is a primaryfact. of him who was blind from birth must be
.... [T]he eyes
opened; . . . [W]hether,alternatively,it spring unexpectedlylike a kind of
naturalgraceat the sight of a bladeof grassor a windmill, or at the sudden
perceptionof the realityof the self;whetherit proceedfrom the implacabil-
ity with which the beingof thingsindependentof ourselvesbecomesabruptly
evidentto us . . . . What counts is to take the leap, to release,in one intellec-
tual intuition, the sense of being, the sense of the value of the implications
that lie in the act of existing.52

At this juncture,the subjectdoes not enter any sort of "absoluteoneness"with

the objectin any senseimplyingnumericalidentity;rather,the subjectentersa non-
dualismwith the object definedby a pure intentionalrelationshipwith the object
unimpededby thoughtworkingagainstitself.We have alreadyexploredthe notion
of intentional identity in which the subject remainswhat it is but intentionally
becomessomethingelse-in the wordsof Maritain,when one is "in a certainway
somethingother than what one is." But we can recallthat Suzukiaversin kindred
languagethat "tobe itself is not to be itself" constitutesthe logic of Zen. When a
false self is incurred,the subjectis not itself since it is tangledup with a mistaken
identity.As soon as the subjectlets go of the falseself (andthe object), the subject
becomesitselfby enteringa pureintentionalrelationshipwith the objectand in this
sense is "notto be itself."I urge that this is what Suzukiis describingwith words
such as these:

On the other hand, Naturebecomespart of my being as soon as it is recog-

nized as Nature, as pour-soi.It can never remainas somethingstrangeand
altogetherunrelatedto me. I am in Nature and Nature is in me. Not mere
participationin each other, but a fundamentalidentity between the two.
Hence, the mountainsare mountainsand the riversare rivers;they are there
beforeme. The reasonI can see the mountainsas mountainsand the waters
as watersis becauseI am in them and they arein me; that is, tat tram asi.53

We can also note that if we expressthe subject'sintentionalidentity with the

objectin formalizedterms,we get the following:construingA as the subject,numer-
icallyspeaking,A is A; intentionallyspeaking,A is not-A. This obviouslyparallels
Suzuki'seffortsto expresssatoriin logicalcategories.Nonetheless,I suggestSuzuki
expressessatoriin termsimplyingnumericalidentity becausethe notion of inten-
tional identity is simplynot at his disposal.He cannotbe faultedfor this, since this
notion has gone practicallyundetectedin the West, and noticing it presupposesa
conviction of the numericaldistinctionbetweenthe subjectand the object in the
firstplace-along with a convictionof directrealism.But thereis anotherreason.

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With the notion of intentionalidentity understandably excluded,a unique dis-

junction surfaces: eitherthe subject and the object numericallydistinctor they
arenumericallyidentical.While in a way this disjunctionis a falsedichotomygiven
the respectiveexclusion,it is uniquein that it appearsto be a tautology.Accordingly,
since the subjectand the object can only be representedin thought as numerically
distinct,and since the unity found in satoricannotbe representedin such a way,it
legitimatelyappearsthat the only interpretativeframeworkto accountfor this lived
nondualismis one implyingnumericalidentity and that the numericaldistinction
between"the mind and its objects"has thereforebeen transcended.As a result,a
"speciallyconstructedlogic or dialectic"is neededin orderto articulatethe experi-
ence. "To understandit one must have the experience,and at the same time there
must be a speciallyconstructedlogic or dialectic-by whatevername it may be
known-to give to the experiencea rationalor an irrationalinterpretation. The fact
comes first,followedby an intellectualization."54It is herethat an "irrationalinter-
pretation"of satorihas its origin.
Moreover,from the vantagepoint of this newly found unity, even if the inten-
tional identitycould be representedin thought, reflectivethoughtcannotgraspthe
subjectand the objectin theirpresentexperienceanyway.Within the unity of satori,
thereis no self, that is, no objectiveor falseself, and any attemptby the subjectto
referdirectlyto itself in the presentwould necessarilyresultin such a falseidentity,
for the reasonswe havealreadyexamined.The subjectwould need to be the prover-
bial dog that finallycatchesits tail. In this sense,discriminationbetweenthe subject
and the objectwouldindeedbe a sufficientconditionforan unhealthyconsciousness.
Suzukiis quitecorrectthen thatsatoritranscendsan objectivegraspby reflection,
fallingoutsidea dualisticinterpretation.Not only would a falseself be incurred,but
also representationof the subjectand the object in thought would underminethe
intentionalunity. It thereforeappearsto consciousnessthat reflectionnot only cre-
ates the numericaldistinctionbetweenthe subjectand the objectbut also simulta-
neouslyservesas the sufficientconditionfor an unhealthyconsciousnessby creating
a falseself in its bid to conceptualizethe present.
Furthermore, giventhatthe livednondualismin satorigoes beyondreflectivedis-
crimination, giventhatthis nondualismis interpretedin termsimplyingnumer-
ical identity,it can readilybe seen how the numericaldistinctionbetweenobjectsin
generalis also deemed as merely relativeto reflection.Or, stated the other way
around,it can readilybe seen how reflectivediscriminationbetweenA and not-A in
generalis deemed,in Suzuki'slanguage,mere "words"in contrastto "facts."
At this point, Suzukimight chargeme with beggingthe question.After I have
concededthat satoritranscendsa reflectivediscriminationbetweenthe subjectand
the object, he might protestthat the subjecthas been illicitlyinsertedas a numeri-
callydiscreteentity backinto the experience.This is an understandable charge,but
its underlyingassumptionis that the only groundsfor claiminga numericaldis-
tinction betweenthe subjectand the objectis by way of reflectivediscrimination
and Suzukiseemsto operateunderthis very assumption.
By way of a transcendentaldeduction,it was arguedearlierthat I possessa pre-

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reflectiveconsciousnessof myselfin my first-orderperceptionof an object. If this

argumentis correct,since Suzukialso distinguisheshimselffrom externalobjects,it
seemshe mustalsoadmitsucha prereflective self-consciousness,at leastregardinghis
experience "in dualities."If it
so, again seems worth consideringwhetherthis con-
sciousness,and therebya subject-objectdualism,is in the veryheartof satori.It does
not follow froma stateof "no-mind"in which the mind is not consciousof its own
workingsthatthereis not in facta subjectfacinga numericallydistinctobjectin that
very experience(and a subjectis implied in all of Suzuki'slanguage).This is espe-
cially inviting since the prereflectiveself-consciousnessis hidden from reflectionin
any given presentmoment, so the latteris left in its properplace undisturbed.In
point of fact, I see no reasonto supposethata loweranimal,bereftof eventhe capac-
ity for reflectivethought,shouldnot havethis samesort of self-consciousness by the
merefactof its sensoryexperience;the lambcertainlyappearsto experiencethe wolf
as other.And, again,we can recallthatSuzukihimselfsayssatorioccurs"beyondand
yet in dualities."To the degreeall this is positivelyregarded,to that samedegreethe
door is opened to resolveall the logicaldifficultiesseeminglyintrinsicto Zen.


The truthof satori,on the interpretationgiven it here,cannotbe communicatedby

directmeanssince, strictlyspeaking,it cannotdirectlybe thought;therefore,"skill-
ful means"yet has a function. But there is nothing in this that mandateswe deny
the absolutenessof the law of noncontradiction.What this does is open up the door
for Zen Buddhistsand, for instance,the followersof Kierkegaard to haveadditional
conversationsince it is one of the latter'stenets that existentialtruth can be com-
municatedonly by indirectmeans.
Speakingof Kierkegaard, althoughit is too much for us to delveinto the nature
of the koan on this occasion, I suggestthat it should be looked upon as playing
much the samerolefor Zen Buddhistsas the AbsoluteParadoxdoes for Kierkegaard.
For Kierkegaard,the AbsoluteParadoxbrings rationalismto a halt, providingan
opportunityto attainsubjectivetruth,that is, an opportunityto become the truth.
We havenoted Suzuki'sadamantdenialthat rationalismsatisfiesour deepestaspira-
tions. I suggestthat the koan, parallelingthe role of the AbsoluteParadox,loosens
the gripthe individualhason "reality," forcingthoughtbackon itself,as it were,pro-
viding opportunity to become the truth throughseeing the limitationsof what
is in effect a lived rationalism.


1. And/orthelawof identity;thelatteris alsopartof ourdiscussion.

however,it is not necessary
to enterthedebateon whichlawis primary.
2. Aristotle, Metaphysics,in The Basic WorksofAristotle, ed. and intro. Richard McKeon
(Random House: New York, 1941), p. 738 (bk. IV, ch. 4).
3. D. T. Suzuki, The Zen Doctrine ofNo Mind, ed. Christmas Humphreys (London: Rider
& Company, 1983), p. 138.

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4. HeinrichDumoulin, Zen Buddhismin the20th Century,trans.JosephS. O'Leary(New

York:Weatherhill,1992), p. 32.
5. See D. T. Suzuki,"IllogicalZen,"in An Introduction toZen Buddhism(New York:Grove
Press,Inc., 1964), pp. 58-65.
6. Ibid., pp. 59-60.
7. D. T. Suzuki,"Existentialism,Pragmatismand Zen," in Zen Buddhism:SelectedWrit-
ingsof D. T Suzuki,ed. William Barrett(GardenCity, NY: DoubledayAnchor, 1956), pp.
8. D. T. Suzuki,"PracticalMethodsin Zen Instruction,"in ibid., pp. 112-113.
9. Suzuki,No Mind, p. 79.
10. D. T. Suzuki,"WhatIs the 'I'?"in TheBuddhaEye:An Anthologyof theKyotoSchool,
ed. FrederickFranck(New York:Crossroad,1982), p. 44.
11. D. T. Suzuki,"The BuddhistConceptionof Reality,"in ibid., p. 100.
12. Suzuki,No Mind, pp. 146-147.
13. Suzuki,"Conceptionof Reality,"p. 100.
14. Suzuki,"Existentialism," p. 261.
15. Ibid., p. 262.
16. Suzuki,"Conceptionof Reality,"p. 101.
17. John Hick, "Religionas 'SkilfulMeans,"'in DisputedQuestionsin Theologyand the
Philosophy of Religion(New Haven, CT:YaleUniversityPress,1993), p. 121.
18. Suzuki,"Existentialism," p. 270.
19. Suzuki,No Mind, p. 81.
20. Suzuki,"Conceptionof Reality,"p. 100.
21. See, for example,EtienneGilson, ThomistRealismand the CritiqueofKnowledge, trans.
MarkA. Wauck(SanFrancisco:IgnatiusPress,1986), p. 60. Consonantwith Gilson,the force
of my own experiencemakesit reasonableto wonderif all the argumentsagainstdirectreal-
ism aresomehowincorrect.As a matterof fact, the considerationof immateriality,which is
almostuniversallyomitted from theoriesof perception,would renderthe argumentsagainst
directrealismless persuasive-including the time-lagargument.Concerningthe latter,if the
existentialThomists are correctthat perceptionproperdoes not take place in space, there
might be a timelesselementalso.
22. JacquesMaritain, The Degreesof Knowledge,trans. Gerald B. Phelan (New York:
CharlesScribner'sSons, 1959), p. 112.
23. YvesR. Simon, An Introductionto Metaphysics of Knowledge,trans.VukanKuic and
RichardJ. Thompson (New York:FordhamUniversityPress,1990), p. 6.
24. Speakingof Aristotle,St. Thomas says, "seddixit quodammodo animamesseomnia,
inquantum est in ad
potentia omnia;per sensum quidem ad sensibilia,per intellectumvero
ad intelligibilia."See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica(hereafterST), Blackfriars
Edition, Pt. la, Q. 84, art. 2, ad. 2. See also Pt. Ia, Q. 14, art. 1 and ST Pt. la, Q. 80,
art. 1.
25. Simon, Metaphysics, p. 6.
26. Maritain,Degrees,p. 88.
27. Ibid., p. 87.
28. EtienneGilson, ThePhilosophy ofSt. ThomasAquinas,trans.EdwardBullough,ed. G.
A. Erlington(New York:Dorset Press),p. 265.
29. Maritain,Degrees,p. 114.
30. Ibid., pp. 114-115. See also Simon, Metaphysics, pp. 9-13.
31. Ibid., p. 103.
32. Ibid., p. 104.
33. Ibid., pp. 115-116.
34. Gilson, Philosophy, p. 267.
35. Simon, Metaphysics, p. 9.

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36. The generalargumentin this section is used in my article"Existenceas a RealPredi-

cate: A PhenomenologicalAnalysis,"AmericanCatholicPhilosophicalQuarterly75, no. 1
(2001): 86-89.
37. David Hume, A Treatise ofHuman Nature,ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge,text revisedfor 2nd
ed. by P.H. Nidditch (Oxford:ClarendonPress,1978), p. 189 (Book I, PartIV, Section II).
38. LudwigWittgenstein,TheBlueandBrownBooks(New York:HarperColophon, 1958),
pp. 66-67. Wittgensteindoes not think that "I"in its "useas subject"is a referringterm;
however,the mistakehe was looking for to validate"I"as a referringterm is the mistakewe
will be discussingin the next section. He assumesthat in orderto makea mistakeone needs
threethings:the respectiveterm, a correctreferent,and an incorrectreferent.He failsto see
that the respectiveterm itselfcan be the incorrectreferent.
39. In affirmingthis, I am not affirminga "ghostin a machine."Given the partialself-
transcendenceintrinsicto humanconsciousness,a completephenomenologyof humanexpe-
rienceallowsreferralto the seat of subjectivitywithout fallingpreyto a radicaldualism.
40. Suzuki,Introduction, p. 62.
41. Suzuki,No Mind, p. 72.
42. Ibid., p. 62.
43. Ibid., p. 106.
44. Ibid., p. 62.
45. Ibid., p. 106.
46. Ibid., p. 72.
47. Suzuki,"PracticalMethodsin Zen Instruction,"p. 126.
48. AlanWatts, TheWayofZen (New York:MentorBooks, 1962), pp. 137-138.
49. Suzuki,No Mind, p. 102.
50. St. Augustine,On FreeChoiceof the Will, trans.and intro.ThomasWilliams (Indi-
anapolis:Hackett, 1993), p. 26.
51. See, for example,D. T. Suzuki,"Satori,or Acquiringa New Viewpoint,"in Introduc-
tion, p. 92.
52. JacquesMaritain,Existenceand the Existent,trans. Lewis Galantiereand GeraldB.
Phelan(New York:Pantheon,1948), pp. 20-21.
53. D. T. Suzuki,"The Role of Naturein Zen Buddhism,"in SelectedWritings,p. 240.
54. Suzuki,No Mind, p. 79.

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