When the Tail Catches the Kitten

Where is noumenon?
Ever looked for a spot at the back of your head?

No good!
Ever tried a pain in your 'tummy'?

No good!
Ever thought of a vague nebulosity floating about somewhere or other?

No good!
How difficult you are! What do you suggest?

Too big to be seen at all.
No good!

Why not?
Neither big nor small.

The let us say that it is ubiquitous?
Ubiquitous means everywhere, and it is nowhere.

How so?
'Where' implies space, and that is only a concept.

Eternal, then.
'Eternal' implies duration in time, which is only a concept.

If it is neither in 'place' nor 'time', it must be here and now.
No good!

In order that there should be a 'here' or a 'there', a 'now' or a 'then', there would have to be some thing that could be here or there, now or then.

And it is no thing?
At last!

So, being no thing, it can have no 'where', no 'when', nor any attribute or qualification whatever.
No statement could be further from the truth of this matter.

Hang it all! What an impossible chap you are! What on Earth do you mean?
What made that statement?

I did.
Who is that?

No such entity anywhere or anywhen.

Well, then, noumenon did.
Quite so, but not perhaps immediately?

You mean via myself?
Via what you are as a phenomenal aspect of noumenon.

Yes, I suppose I am that.
Certainly not! Only 'you' are that.

You mean...?
As 'I' you are noumenon, only a phenomenon can be 'that'.

I see, I see - But why was my statement wrong?
Because, every phenomenon being the apparent aspect of noumenon, you have a 'where', a 'when', attributes and qualifications as a phenomenon.

I myself, then, am noumenon?
Certainly not!

Oh dear! Oh dear!! How is that?
As a 'self' you are pure spoof, a not very pretty piece of superfluous imagination! At most a rumour.

Thanks, old man, but I take it kindly since perhaps you mean it well! I want to get to the bottom of this. Noumenon has attributes in its objective aspect of phenomena or appearance?
There is no such thing as noumenon, which is only a more technical term for 'mind' in its abstract connotation. Noumenon is only cognisable as phenomena.

So that the attributes etc. of phenomena are ultimately the attributes etc. of noumenon?
Strictly speaking - no, but as a concept it may be considered provisionally as a leg-up over a stile.

What, then?
Noumenon is only I, as said by any and every sentient being, for that apparent being's sentience is the 'I' that says or enables it to be 'said'.

But the phenomenon that actually voices it?
Identical with every other or conceivable phenomenon that was, is, or ever could be.

So that all phenomena are just the appearance of noumenon.
Such is my understanding, at least.

And - even more important - noumenon is just, and only, what appears as phenomena?
What else could it be? 'It' as such is just a concept, surely?

You mean 'it' has no actual existence?
Neither actual nor factual. 'It' is merely 'I' - whoever says it.

And 'I' do not 'exist'?
Quite certainly not; where and when is there for an 'I' to exist? Only 'you's exist.

Yet noumenon, manifesting or appearing as 'phenomena', is ubiquitous in that guise?
You are objectifying it as some 'thing' doing all that.

So what can I say?
'I, 'noumenally', manifest or appear as 'phenomenality' and I am apparently ubiquitous in that guise'. Neither noumenality nor phenomenality exists as such, but are only in their mutual negation which is fulfilment as I.

Nevertheless every object that my senses perceive, that is every appearance whatever, is only my own noumenality expressed as diverse phenomena?
Is only the noumenality which is what you are ...

And what I am is all that I perceive and cognise, and all that I perceive and cognise is what I am?
Quite so. Go on.

Go on? Is that not far enough?
Indeed it is not.

What then?
What I am neither is nor is not, and I neither am nor am not as I.

Which 'I' is the absence of the concept of neither is nor is not, neither am nor am not?
Which is as far as words can take it.

So there is nothing further that can be said?
Vimalakirti's answer was silence when the four bodhisattvas had tried to answer the question as to how they had entered the Dharma-gate of disidentification via apprehending the identity of opposites - the seeker and the sought, self and other, etc. of which this one we have been discussing is the essential.

So that a layman understood more clearly than four bodhisattvas, including Manjusri?
Quite so, quite quite so; perhaps he understood more deeply - though I am inclined to doubt whether that point, so interesting to us, was the intended climax of the story!

(© HKU Press, 1966)

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