Only an object can suffer, but phenomenally subject and object, being one whole, spin like a coin so that the intervals between pile et face (heads and tails) are imperceptible. Consequently pain, or pleasure, appear to be continual.

Noumenally, on the contrary, there is no object to suffer pain or pleasure. Noumenon is invulnerable, and cannot be otherwise. Noumenon is the unmanifested aspect of what we, sentient beings, are: Phenomenon is our manifestation.

Therefore, manifested, we must suffer pain and pleasure; unmanifested, we cannot experience either. Both aspects are permanent and coeval, the one subject to time (which accompanies all manifestation, rendering the extension of events perceptible), the other - timeless.

Noumenon - timeless, spaceless, imperceptible being - is what we are: phenomena - temporal, finite, sensorially perceptible - are what we appear to be as separate objects. Phenomena, subject to time, are impermanent, illusory figments of consciousness, but they are nothing but noumenon in manifestation, in a dream context (one of several dream contexts - psychic conditions due to sleep, drugs, asphyxiation, etc.). Similarly noumenon is nothing; factually, demonstrably, cognisably (and therefore objectively) is nothing, that is, no thing, but - apart from - its manifestation as phenomena.

That is the meaning of the 'mysterious' contradictions enunciated by the Sages: 'Form is nothing but void, void is nothing but form', 'Samsara is Nirvana, Nirvana is Samsara', 'Phenomena and Noumena are one', etc., etc.

That is why Huang Po can say:
'People neglect the reality of the "illusory" world.' (Wang Ling Record, p. 106)*

'On no account make a distinction between the Absolute and the sentient world.' (p. 130)

Whatever Mind is, so also are phenomena - both are equally real and partake equally of the Dharma-Nature. He who receives an intuition of this truth has become a Buddha and attained to the Dharma.' (p. 111)

All the visible universe is the Buddha.' (p. 107)

But quoting Hui Neng he can also say, and often in the same context:
'There's never been a single thing,
Then where's defiling dust to cling?'

'Full understanding of this must come before they can enter the way.' (p. 111)

'Finally, remember that from the first to last not even the smallest grain of anything perceptible (graspable, attainable, tangible) has ever existed or ever will exist.' (p. 127)

And lastly:

'On seeing one thing , you see ALL.' (That is, all perceiving is Buddha- mind, the living-dream is itself Buddha-mind.) (p. 108)

'Hold fast to one principle and all the others are identical.' (p. 108)

What, then, is this principle?

'Once more, ALL phenomena are basically without existence, though you cannot now say that they are non-existent.... Moreover, Mind is not Mind.... Form, too, is not really form. So if I now state that there are no phenomena and no Original Mind, you will begin to understand something of the intuitive Dharma silently conveyed to Mind with Mind. Since phenomena and no-phenomena are one, there is neither phenomena nor no-phenomena, and the only possible transmission is to Mind with Mind.' (p. 106)

'Moreover, in thus contemplating the totality of phenomena, you are contemplating the totality of Mind. All these phenomena are intrinsically void and yet this Mind with which they are identical is no mere nothingness.' (p. 108)

This, chapter 37 of the Wan Ling Record, is probably the clearest and most valuable statement of the ultimate truth that we posses. In this he states, as quoted, that in seeing one thing you see ALL. What is this one thing, and have we seen it? It surely is just that phenomenon and noumenon are one. In differentiating between Appearance and its source, neither of which exists other than conceptually, we must never forget this 'one thing' - which is that they are one.

However, if we see this one thing as 'one', we have not seen it, we have missed it. It is not 'one thing', for a thing is an object. In fact we can never 'see' it, for here, this is the seeing which is non-seeing, in which no 'one' is seeing and no 'thing' is seen as such.

Have we not understood? Can we not perceive intuitively what this must be? An eye cannot see itself. That which is sought is the seeker, the looked-for is the looker, who is not an object. 'One' is a concept, objective therefore, and 'it' is 'devoid of any trace of objectivity'. (Huang Po, p. 35)

We cannot see (find, grasp, attain, touch) it, because 'we' are not at all objects, nor is 'it' an object, and whatever 'we' are noumenally is what 'it' is noumenally. Thus we are one - and there is no such object as 'one' in noumenon, since, as we have just read, there is no such thing (object) as noumenon either.

This is the non-seeing, by non-seeing which you see ALL, the one principle with which all others are identical, the one problem which, solved, solves all others at once, the centre of centres from which all can be perceived.


But phenomenal objects, noumenon in manifestation, although they are nothing but noumenon, and can know that, even realise it via their phenomenal psychic mechanism called 'intelligence' etc., cannot 'live' it in their individual, space-time, conceptual existence, which is subject to the temporal and illusory process of causation. Although it is all that they are - and despite the fact that in it, therefore, they have nothing to attain, grasp or possess - in order that they may 'live' it in any sense apart from having objective understanding of what it is, that is, of what they are, they must de-phenomenalise themselves, disobjectify themselves, disidentify their subjectivity from its projected phenomenal selfhood, which is dominated by a concept of 'I'.

This adjustment has been given many names but is nevertheless not an event or an experience - for, except as an appearance, there is no object to which such can occur; it is a metanoesis whereby a figmentary attachment or identification is found not to exist, nor ever to have existed - since it is a figment. This displacement of subjectivity is from apparent object to ultimate subject in which it inheres, from phenomenon to noumenon, from illusory periphery to illusory centre (for infinity can have no centre), from supposed individual to universal Absolute.

This is awakening from the phenomenal dream of 'living', confined within the limits of sensorial perception and suppositional 'volition', into the impersonal infinitude of noumenality in which every possible problem of phenomenal 'life' is found to have vanished without leaving a trace.

*(Ed. Note; All Huang Po quotations above taken from 'The Zen Teaching of Huang Po; On The Transmission of Mind' by John Blofeld. Grove Press, New York. Ist pub. 1958)

(© HKU Press, 1965)

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