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Izutsu (KZ:17-19) – comunicação

domingo 4 de setembro de 2022

    

Atienza

El lenguaje existe para permitir la comunicación entre los seres humanos. Allí donde no hay necesidad de comunicar, no hay tampoco necesidad de decir nada. Este principio fundamental se aplica igualmente al Zen. Si tenemos la oportunidad de observar   a dos personas que hablan en un contexto Zen, tendremos lógicamente la impresión de que se ha establecido entre ellas una determinada forma de comunicación. Pero, al mismo tiempo, constataremos un hecho muy extraño: las palabras que intercambian no parecen tener sentido; son, para nosotros — observadores exteriores —, carentes de lógica   y absurdas. ¿Cómo puede existir comunicación, si las palabras utilizadas no tienen sentido? ¿Qué clase de comunicación es ésa, que se establece sobre proposiciones absurdas? He aquí la pregunta que se plantea desde el principio mismo.

Con el fin de captar mejor este proceso, vamos a empezar dando un ejemplo característico de comunicación absurda a nivel prelinguístico del comportamiento, es decir, de comunicación por medio del gesto. En el budismo   Zen, el gesto juega prácticamente el mismo papel que el lenguaje, con la diferencia de que el lenguaje plantea una estructura infinitamente más compleja, puesto que supone el elemento   esencial de la articulación, siempre extraña al uso de los gestos: es la articulación semántica de la realidad. Sin embargo, a causa   precisamente de esa simplicidad y de esa ausencia de complejidades, el gesto está en mejores condiciones que el lenguaje para proporcionarnos un acercamiento preliminar al problema que nos ocupa.

Voy a dar un ejemplo ya célebre. Se trata de una anécdota conocida con el nombre de Zen-con-un-dedo, del maestro Chu Chih.

Chu Chih fue un célebre maestro del siglo IX. Cada vez que se le planteaba una cuestión sobre el Zen, tenía la costumbre de levantar un dedo. Esa era su invariable respuesta.

”¿Cuál es la Verdad suprema y absoluta?”. Respuesta: levantaba un dedo en silencio. “¿Cuál es la esencia del Budismo?”. Respuesta: otra vez el mismo gesto silencioso del dedo levantado.

En la vida cotidiana, esta actitud carece de sentido, puesto que levantar simplemente un dedo no constituye, de ningún modo, una respuesta razonable a cualquier pregunta, salvo que se le hubiera preguntado: “¿Dónde se encuentra tu dedo?”. La respuesta, pues, es incomprensible; y como es incomprensible, no puede ser una respuesta: es un absurdo. Sin embargo, nuestro espíritu inquieto presiente que debe existir alguna significación escondida en el gesto del maestro Chu Chih; que no puede tratarse de un absurdo total.

La anécdota tiene una continuación de enorme importancia. El maestro Chu Chih tenía un joven discípulo  , un aprendiz que seguía al maestro y le servía constantemente. Habiendo observado su comportamiento, el muchacho comenzó a su vez a levantar el dedo cada vez que, en ausencia del maestro, se le hacía alguna pregunta sobre el Zen. En un principio, el maestro no se dio cuenta y las cosas siguieron su curso. Pero llegó el momento fatal en el que se enteró de lo que el muchacho hacía a sus espaldas.

Así, un día, escondiendo un cuchillo en su manga, llamó al discípulo y le dijo: “Me he enterado de que has comprendido la esencia del budismo. ¿Es eso cierto?” “Es exacto”, respondió el muchacho. El maestro le preguntó entonces: “¿Qué es el Budha?” Y el muchacho, por toda respuesta, levantó un dedo. Chu Chih se lo agarró y se lo cortó. Y, cuando el discípulo echaba a correr aullando de dolor, el maestro le volvió a llamar y su pregunta restalló como un relámpago: “¿Qué es el Budha?”. Y el chico, obedeciendo a una especie de reflejo, trató de levantar el dedo cortado. Y en ese mismo momento alcanzó la iluminación.

Esta anécdota revela posiblemente un acontecimiento   ficticio. Pero, inventado o real, no deja por ello de ser una admirable dramatización de lo que podríamos llamar la experiencia Zen. Porque tal experiencia no se realiza únicamente en el desenlace crucial, por el cual el discípulo alcanzó la iluminación. Desde el principio hasta el fin, en cada uno de sus instantes, la historia   está impregnada de espíritu Zen.

Sin embargo, no es reveladora más que desde el momento en que la consideremos tal cual es en sí misma. ¿Por qué el maestro Chu Chih levantaba un dedo cada vez que se le planteaba una pregunta sobre el budismo? ¿Por qué le cortó el dedo al muchacho que le imitaba? ¿Por qué caminos alcanzó la iluminación el discípulo, precisamente cuando quiso levantar el dedo que le habían cortado? Nada de esto es comprensible, a no ser que se tenga un conocimiento interior de la teoría y de la práctica del Zen.

Original

Last year my topic was the structure of Selfhood in Zen Buddhism. This time, in accordance with the general theme of the year, I want to discuss the problem of meaning and meaningfulness in Zen.

These two problems, namely the problem of the basic structure of Selfhood and that of language and meaning are, as we shall see, closely and inseparably connected with each other. Or, rather we should say that the latter is essentially related to and ultimately reducible to the former. For whichever aspect of Zen one may take up, and from whichever angle one may approach it, one is sure to be brought back ultimately to the problem of Selfhood.

With this basic understanding, I shall turn immediately to the topic of meaningfulness about which Zen raises a number of interesting problems. As one could imagine, the problems are raised in a very peculiar context, for language in Zen tends to be used in quite an unnatural way. In the context of Zen, language usually does not remain in its natural state. It is often distorted to the degree of becoming almost meaningless and nonsensical.

The problem of meaning in Zen Buddhism is thus interesting in rather a paradoxical sense   because most of the typical Zen sayings are [137] obviously devoid of meaning and nonsensical if we observe them from the point of view of our ordinary understanding of language. Language exists for the purpose of communication between men. Where there is no need for communication, there is no need of saying anything. This basic principle applies to Zen as well  . When we observe two persons engaged in talking with each other in a Zen context, we naturally get the impression that communication of some sort is taking place between them. But we observe at the same time a very strange fact, namely, that the words that are exchanged do not make sense, that they are mostly meaningless or nonsensical to us, outside observers. How could there be communication at all when the words used do not make sense? What kind of communication will it be, when it is made through nonsensical utterances? Such indeed is the most important question that confronts us at the outset as soon as we approach Zen from the point of to view of meaningful communication.

In order to bring into focus the very core of the whole question, let us begin by giving a typical example of nonsensical communication at the pre-linguistic level of behavior, that is, communication through gesture. In Zen Buddhism, gesture plays practically the same role as language, except that language presents a far more complicated structure, because as we shall see later, language involves the very important factor of articulation, i.e., the semantic articulation of reality, which is foreign to the use of gestures. But precisely because of this simplicity and non-complexity, gesture is perhaps more appropriate than language in giving us a preliminary idea   as to where the central problem lies.

The example I am going to give is a very famous one. It is found in the koan collection Wu Men Kuan (J.: Mumon Kan), No. Ill; it is also found in another celebrated koan collection, Pi Yen Lu (J.: Heki-gan Roku), No. XIX. It is an anecdote known as the one-finger-Zen of Master Chu Chih (J.: Gutei).

The hero of the anecdote is Chu Chih, a famous Zen Master of the ninth century. This Master, whenever and whatever he was asked [138] about Zen, used to stick up one finger. Raising one finger without saying anything was his invariable answer to any question whatsoever he was asked concerning Zen. “What is the supreme and absolute Truth?” — answer: the silent raising of one finger. “What is the essence of Buddhism?”— answer: again the selfsame silent raising of one finger.

Now in terms of the normal circumstances of fife, this action does not make sense, for the simple raising of one finger in no way constitutes a reasonable answer to any of the questions asked, except perhaps when the question runs: “Where is your finger?” The answer is not understandable, and since it is not understandable, it is no answer; and being no answer, it is nonsensical. Yet on the other hand, we feel in our perplexed mind   something which persistently tells us that there must be some hidden meaning in Master Chu Chih’s raising one finger, that it cannot be a total nonsense. What then is this hidden meaning which Master Chu Chih supposedly wanted to convey by silently sticking up one finger? That precisely is the problem. I shall explain the meaning of Chu Chih’s one-finger-Zen later on. At this stage there are many other things to be clarified in a preliminary way in order that we might grasp the core of the whole question.

The anecdote, by the way, has not come to an end. It has a very important sequel. Master Chu Chih had a young disciple, a boy apprentice, who followed the Master, serving him at home and out of doors. Having observed his Masters pattern of behavior, this boy himself began to raise one finger whenever people asked him questions about Zen in the absence of the Master. At first, the Master did not notice it, and everything went well for some time. But the fatal moment came at last. The Master came to hear about what the boy had been doing behind his back.The story runs as follows.

One day, the Master hid a knife in the sleeve, summoned the boy to his presence, and said, “I hear that you have understood the essence of Buddhism. Is it true?” The boy replied, “Yes, it is.” Thereupon the Master asked, “What is the Buddha?” The boy in answer stuck up one finger. Master Chu Chih suddenly took hold of the boy [139] and cut off with the knife the finger which the boy had just raised. As the poor boy was running out of the room screaming with pain, the Master called to him. The boy turned round. At that very moment, quick as lightning came the Master’s question: “What is the Buddha?” Almost by conditioned reflex, we might say, the boy held up his hand to raise his finger. There was no finger there. The boy on the spot attained enlightenment.

The anecdote may very well be fiction. But, fictitious or real, it is indeed a very interesting and significant anecdote. It is interesting and significant not only because the story is narrated in an atmosphere of high dramatic tension, but also, and mainly, because the whole anecdote is an admirable dramatization of what we might call Zen experience. Zen experience is embodied not solely in the last crucial stage at which the boy attains enlightenment. The whole story, from the very beginning till the end is alive with the spirit   of Zen. Each single event in the story represents in a dramatic way a particular stage in the evolvement of Zen consciousness  . For the moment, however, we shall refrain from going further into the analytic elucidation of the actual content of this anecdote. Our immediate concern is with a more formal aspect of the story.

Let us remark that the anecdote is interesting as a dramatization of the evolvement of Zen consciousness only in an authentically Zen context. In other words, the anecdote tells something positive, it makes sense, it is meaningful, only to those who are already familiar with Zen or something similar to it in another religious tradition  . Otherwise the whole anecdote would naturally remain nonsensical in the sense that no stage in the evolvement of the story will really be understandable. To begin with, why did Master Chu Chih stick up one finger whenever he was asked any question about Buddhism? Why did he cut off the finger of the boy who imitated him? How did the boy attain enlightenment when he wanted to raise his finger which was no longer there? Nothing is understandable except to those who have an inside knowledge of the Zen theory and practice.

What is so meaningful to a Zen Buddhist may thus be completely [140] meaningless to an outsider. Moreover, even within the narrowly limited context of this anecdote, the act of raising one finger was meaningful in the case of the Master while exactly the same act was judged to be meaningless and nonsensical when it occurred as an imitation by the disciple. Again the selfsame act of raising one finger by the disciple suddenly assumed a decisive importance and turned meaningful at the moment when it came in the form of the raising of a non-finger. All these observations would seem to lead us toward thinking that Zen must have a definite standard by which it can judge anything, whether verbal or non-verbal, to be meaningful or meaningless as the case may be, and that, further, it must be quite an original standard, totally different from the standard of meaningfulness which is normally applied in ordinary situations, so much so that a judgment passed by the Zen standard could — and very often is — diametrically opposed to the judgment given in accordance with the ordinary standard.

Indeed I may as well have entitled my lecture “The Problem of the Criterion for Meaningfulness in Zen Buddhism.” For such in fact is the matter which I want to discuss in the present paper. In other words, the main problem that will concern us is whether there is such a thing as the criterion for meaningfulness in Zen, and if there is one, whether there is any reliable means by which we can come to know the inner make-up of that criterion.


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