'This' - and All That

(pub. The Mountain Path, April 1965. The Tenth Man (Hong Kong University Press, 1966) Part II: Ch. 25)


In dualistic language 'I' just stands for the Latin 'Ego' which is a concept without any factual existence, i.e. a complex which must be resolved because its psychological presence constitutes bondage. But, used as a metaphysical term, it implies This-which-we-are as opposed to That-which-we-think-we-are but are not.

That which is sensorially perceptible is demonstrably only an image in mind and, as such, can have no nature of its own. But the sentience of every sentient being must have a centre via which its functioning is directed, this 'centre' of each sentient object being as purely phenomenal as the sentient appearance. Such centre is devoid of volition, as of autonomy of any kind; it is not, therefore, an 'ego', and it cannot think self-consciously as 'I'.

Identification of This-which-we-are with each phenomenal object, in the process of objectifying this 'functional' centre, translates it as an individual 'ego-self', and so produces a suppositional 'entity'.

A phenomenon is a manifestation, and therefore an aspect, of noumenon. Spontaneous phenomenal action is noumenal, and so-living is noumenal living. Such, then, is non-identified living. It is identification with a spurious (imagined) autonomous entity that is supposed to be born, to suffer, and to die, that incurs the process af Causality called karma, and causes the notion of being in bondage to arise.

Phenomena as such, having no entity to be bound, cannot be bound, but neither have they an entity to be free. Always it is the 'entity' that is spurious, the phenomenon being what its name states - an appearance in mind, neither bound nor free.

The apparent problem, therefore, only concerns identification: it is identification that produces the notion of bondage. Identification with a phenomenal object results in the suppositional concept of an autonomous entity, and that concept is taken to be a factual 'self', whereas nothing of the kind exists, has ever existed, or could ever exist as a thing-in-itself, or as other than a concept in what is called 'mind'.

But identification with a phenomenal object as such is not ipso facto bondage, for such phenomenon has no 'ens' and need not have any - as may be observed in the case of a disidentified Sage who appears to live as any other man 'lives', at any rate to a casual observer.

It is only the superimposition of the elaborated concept of an autonomous self that is responsible for the notion of 'karma' and 'bondage', which are the effects of apparent 'volition'.


Let us develop this understanding in greater detail. Noumenality has no need to identify itself with phenomenality, any more than an egg need be identified with an egg, nor need This-which-we-are identify itself with That-which-we-are, since their differentiation is one of objective appreciation only. But an identification of noumenality, not with phenomenality but with discriminated, or separated phenomena, entails the splitting into subject and object of phenomenality and the attribution of subjectivity to what is purely objective. That pseudo-subjectivity is attributed to the 'functional' centre of each separate phenomenal object, and this produces the idea of an autonomous individual with an ego-self.

Otherwise expressed, phenomenality being integral in noumenality, it must be the discrimination of phenomenality into separate phenomena possessed of both subjective and objective character that produces identification. Such identification, then, is the attribution of subjective function to the objectivisation of a phenomenal or 'functional' centre in each such phenomenon, thereby creating an individual with a suppositious ego-self. In short, the functional focal point of a phenomenal objectivisation has been endowed with a suppositious personal subjectivity whereas its only subjectivity is its noumenality. This suppositional subjectivity is then objectified as an entity possessing full autonomy.

Identification of This-which-we-are with separate phenomenal objects which, without such identification, are simply our phenomenality as such, involves the objectivisation of each. In this process the 'functional' centre comes to be seen as the centre of a suppositional individual with an ego-self, developing thereby a supposed entity where there is merely phenomenality functioning impersonally as subject and object. That is to say, as such it functions subjectively and objectively in split-mind, accompanied by 'space' and 'time', as 'mechanically' as the escapement of a clock

Absolute-noumenality, manifesting via every sentient being, recognises no entity in the phenomenal cosmos, has no need of such, nor any function that such could fulfil. The existence of an autonomous, volitional entity would be incompatible with the functioning of prajna, and the notion of such seems to be an aberration for which there is no place. An entity, therefore, is 'a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow', as the Buddha said in the Diamond Sutra, a breeze of phantasy that troubles the calm waters of mind without any possibility of effecting anything whatever of a factual character in the dream of phenomenal living.

Note: Yes, yes, quite so. What the Buddha so lucidly, and I so obscurely, have just been describing is - as you suspect - that which you think that you are.

(© HKU Press, 1966)
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