The Essence of Man as Reflected in Buddhism
A Comparison of Christian and Buddhist Positions

Helmut Walther (Nuremberg)

In Eastern thinking, existence and essence are also considered and contemplated by Buddhism and man becomes thereby also aware of the illusory nature of existence. A modern development of this school of thought is presented by Keiji Nishitani (born in 1900) who, at the time of writing his book, "Was ist Religion?" (What is Religion? - 1961, German 1981), was considered the greatest living philosopher of Japan.

He presents his own position which has also considered western tradition from Aristotle to St. Augustine, Eckehart, Descartes to Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson, Sartre and Heidegger, which would, paraphrased in English, perhaps read as follows: "As far as Buddhism is concerned, I can accept Buddhism as a Buddhist who has become one while he was developing as a Buddhist...and from this position, I can, at the same time, be a "becoming or developing" (not a developed) Christian."

This statement is based on a joint consideration of the internal spiritual content of both forms of high religion and their similarities; this deduction is certainly correct with respect to the ethic of compassion and love as the cornerstones of both religions. What appears wrong from a western point of view, however, is the basically still upheld Buddhist annihilation of reality and its importance, even if apparently there can be, for this opinion, consulted witnesses such as Eckehart, St. Francis of Assisi or Heidegger.

I. The "Great Doubt"

Thus, first of all, Nishitani's equation, namely that "nothing" as absolute negativity as well as death, in equal reality, would be the equivalent to the existence of things and phenomena and life, has to be questioned:

Why this separation between things and life as if these were basically different concepts with the separation of which the continuing interconnectedness of all that exists is veiled? Through this separation, death appears as something that is different from the "nothing" while, subsequently, it is accorded "equal reality" to "nothing". In reality, this is a mistaken analogy since Nishitani does not pay adequate attention to what he is saying: first of all, death has quite a different reality than "nothing" as "absolute negativity"; we can observe the arrival of death, we can describe death as the individual end of the function of life, we can medically postpone it, and, yes, we can even categorize it as conducive to life since only by means of the existence of death will the accelleration of "systems" become possible - all that is quite different from "nothing" of which our ratio has no concept and cannot even have one, since otherwise, it would, after all, not be "nothing" that is imagined or conceptualized.

Even purely functionally "nothing", as a concept, is nonsense, an empty word shell, since without content, nothing can be conceptualized. When we, however, consider "nothing" in "pure reason", as for example, as "absolute negativity", we do not do anything different than as is shown at the example of the phenomenon of infinity: nothing is the positively set absolute negation as much as the infinite is "positive endlessness", and therfeore, just like eternity, nothing other than endless time. These can all be seen as positive statements with respect to the negative, positive products of reason, in order to "determine" that which is open-ended. However, this does not occur in an "internal" or a "content" sense, for, with all these "positive" descriptions, there is still not connected and connectable any content that can be conceptualized, but rather only the determination as such for its own sake with which the disquieting openness, that gap of reason, that can only be overcome in transcendence, is intended to be closed in order not to be banned from this gap as reason.

Death and nothing are, by no means, equal realities - however, they do have something to do with each other. This is already shown, at first appearance, in the fact that death leads to the non-existence of a previous existence and, with this, is the negation of life. On the other hand, death does not lead to nothing, insofar as it leaves behind a pile of matter that, itself, does not dissolve into nothing but continues to take part in the circulation of matter. Death thus only leads to the non-presence of a previously present function; therefore, it is not equivalent to "nothing", but rather a quite small aspect of absolute negativity with respect to life, and that not "per se", but as life itself, only a function within matter, contrary to which nothing as absolute negativity, if at all "something", must be an "as such", namely "nothing as such".

So far, there exists agreement with Nishitani: the "great doubt" is the still purely negative act of disposing of reason, and its schematic world view, which act of disposal only receives its actual positive effect through the "leap", the "unio mystica". On this path, however, Nishitani appears to inadequately reflect the concept of awareness and with this the awareness of itself as awareness: while he sees the interim determinations of western thought, thus reflection in the development of modern western philosophy, taking off with Descartes; however, he wants to step over these reflective interim determinations in an eastern manner, into a higher or deeper "collective or total awareness" in an alleged existential realization of the absolute nothing which, by this very act, is intended to become "positive" as a unification within the "internal nothingness" of all that exists - here (can be seen) the similarity to Schopenhauer and the negation of the will.

However, the western interim determinations in the reflection of reason require a more precise definition of that "collective or total awareness" and of those mystical images of the nothing and of unification; of the reversal of the "absolute negativity of nothing", into positive "religio" to that "nirwana". An indication of the correctness of this western approach can be found in the fact that it is possible to translate those former purely mystical eastern images of the "great doubt" into rational awareness and to transfer them into existentiality in spite of respectively including this rationality. The development towards that stage of absolute despair of reason with itself in double reflection as that "great doubt" can also be described by means of a rational review and in rational transparency, where before, by religions, were demanded those existential modes of behavior directed towards faith. The "noble eight-step path" of Buddha, the "donning of a new man" in Christianity, both are similar images of an existential process, which has been caught up to in and bypassed by double reflection of reason in a rational manner and is thus expressable. Therfore it can and must be the next task to shed light on that expression of the "new awareness" that has hitherto only been expressed in a purely mystically or rationally meaningless manner: the transcendence of today's awareness, and this postulated "new awareness" that has been existentially expressed in the expectation of salvation must, above all, not be confused with:

(a) emotional or even instinctive content which Nishitani is also opposed to (the mysticism of "beautiful feelings"); (b) rational mysticism that, for example, Heidegger fell prey to - and, as a result of his knowledge of western philosophy, also Nishitani;

(c) the greatest danger, however, which Nishitani could not escape in his analogous investigation of western metaphysic lies in this that he applied and transferred the old images of that unification and those of the "new awareness" as unchanged and unchangeable images into our time and to our situation: to apply the statements of a Buddha, of a Jesus as well as of the mystics of all religions with respect to the expectation(s) of salvation respecitvely with regards to the "unio mystica" directly to our situation as if man was always and everywhere the same and would not have changed with respect to his "inner self".

Today, we find ourselves in a totally different position, and we may not simply disregard those interim determinations of western thought respecively explain them analogously in a backward direction (as Nishitani does); rather, we have to see this "new awareness" in the transcendence of the "old awareness" by reflecting on those interim determinations which actually make up our present awareness. Here, our diving back into the "deep wisdom of Buddha" can not help us, since Buddha could only have had as little of an understanding or our stage of development as anyone else.(1)

Rather do the statements of all those founders of high forms of religion carry their impact forward considerably above and beyond their own respective times, far into the future, with respect to the inner and actively developing change of leadership to reason - however, all of them do not carry their impact beyond the category of reason! The completion or closing of this category in the despair of double-reflection also means the end of all present high forms of religion. However, this should not be considered in a superficial sense with the resulting atheism, but as the end of their inner supportability, which is based on their point of departure, from which point of departure there necessarily emanates a certain limitation of its supportability and the duration of it, which is reached with the completed and differentiated reflection of reason: what has been foreseen in these religions, that what these intended to prevent respectively to coverome, is precisely this stage of the end of the category of reason, the levels of which have, in immanence, been considered and abused as the highest, the relativity of which has, however, also already been pre-empted. This, however, went out from the zenith of their receptive phase at the time of the phylogenetic takeover of leadership by reason, and thus they have exhausted themselves in the anticipation of the relativity even of the reflection of reason and in a pre-emptive attempt at overcoming the dilemma of the relativity of reason.

In this manner, the high forms of religion were allowed and able to overstep those interim determinations which the future had to still bring forth in reality, since in the fold of reality, the possibilities of reflection of all those forms of essence were already contained which, as recpetion, formed the first half circle of the category of reason; and all those intermim determinations that constituted the path of modern philosophy could, if they only paid proper attention to the high forms of religion, see themselves be overcome or overtaken with respect to their inner essence (wherever the "hare" interim determination would have run, "hedgehog" high religion was already there), until all interim determinations had been gone through until to the outermost boundaries of the possibilities of the double reflection of reason.

Whith this, however, prediction and premonition have been caught up to, the "great doubt" has moved from mysticism into the conscious awareness of man, metaphysic has been turned into tradition and anthropology. One could also express it thus: all interim determinations of modern philosophy are identical with that "great doubt", are its stations in historical phylogeny. With this man, however, stands before the relativity of the phasing-out cagetory of reason in a different way than the prophets of that relativity at the beginning of its reflection. Today, the "great doubt" is no longer a matter of metaphysical experience and prediction respectively premonition, but rather a rational and conscious state of the human condition, a going-through of tradition, and due to this, this rational experience can not simply be answered by a mystical unification as before, where both experiences (doubt and unification) were of mystical origin.

At this point, there becomes possible a new attempt at understanding the mystical: mystic can only then exist everywhere, where there is a difference or gap between the maximal potential of a category and the already occurred development in the category in reality; mysticism is identical with the anticipation of that maximal potential in the realization of its relativity and even of the relativity of this maximal potential that are necessarily connected with it. The realization of the relativity of the (categorical) capability existentially negates or annihilates the potential of that cagetory. This is the source of the inexpressible nature of the mystical experience, since expression is dependent on the images of the real state of development, in which that which is foreseen cannot yet be contained and thus is without any rational reference, the pre-requisite of actual expression. At least, the inner content and the development or path of the "great doubt" have been rationally expressed and determined today.

From this follows that all that which is stated with respect to the "leap" in the high forms of religion as well as in mysticism, thus with respect to the "new awareness" to and into which one should come through that "great doubt", has to be questioned anew, for (as one could ask or argue), is, after such a "rational catching up", at least with respect to the "great doubt", such a leap even possible and/or nesessary? At least, the unquestioned acceptance of the necessity of a "leap" would be an empirical continuation without questioning or criticism and extension of the passed-on contradiction which, precisely in its need which caused the leap, has been caught up to and made redundant.

To express it differently: does the rationally-conceptual and existential realization of the relativity of reason necessarily require a conclusion twoards a leap? One needs a leap in order to overcome and close a gap; however, this gap which once was and, until recently also with respect to ourselves, has existed, in the difference between the actual unfolding and the maximal potential of reasion, this gap has now been closed. Why then a leap?

II. The "Eastern" Nothing

It is supposed to be the deeper persepctive to contemplate existence from the viewpoint of the nothing than the nothing from the viewpoint of existence--with this thesis, not only the statement of Parmenides(2) is being turned upside down, but in reality, one also leaves the terrain of "thinking" into the direction of existential mystic or mysticism, for, due to the fact that "nothing" can not be conceptualized, as point of departure there is taken something that is not conceptualized but rather a mystical resolution: God/Nirvana as the "nothing".

Behind this reversal of the perspective there is supposed to be hiding a pre-judgment, a "taste", the way of the eastern existentiality, as it has evolved in the development of understanding in connection with emotion. The "judgment", namely that such an approach is allegedly the deeper one, which presents itself superficially as a judgment of reason, is then also a prejudice or "pre-judgment" that has developed on the (above-described) soil, for, on what reasonable ground should such a judgment be based? Moerover: such a "judgment" can not even want or desire any reasons for its own development! For all such reaons would only come from ratio and would belong to it and would, therefore, emanate from that which exists; with his, however, they could not possibly become part of the--by defninition--reversed relationship, since ratio is indissolubly connected to the person or individual and cann not "move back" before the existence of "individuals". The nirwana as absolute negativity is pre-personal, supra-personal--and therefore, arguments of reason can not add anything to it or take anything away from it--thus the thesis of the "deeper perspective" as a "reasonable statement" is a self-contradiction. Ratio can only always move from that which exists towards nothing, while the "reverse course" does not convey anything to it.

Another question as to how the relationship between the existential inner self and its relationship to nothing could be conceptualized here: thus that "sphere" of the person which, with its neural networking connection to a certain set of personal information and data forms the subject. To express it differently: can the affirmation of the self "in God" on the part of the sphere of concern be conceptualized less as emanating from the nothing than it can be existentially experienced and lived and with this be unfolded?

By the way, in this argumentation, Nishitani emanates from Eckehart on whom he delivers a quite excellent discourse. Considering the barely noticeable difference(s) of (their) views it is astonishing--or, with a view to the west-eastern difference then again not--that in the conclusions following there exists an obvious dissent in that perspective, in consideration of which Eckehart could be considered as holding a "middle ground": with him, nothing and existence completely dissolve into each other so that, in his view, a different weighing of the perspectives "from the vantage point of existence", "from the vantage point of nothing" does not even appear to be possible. It is certainly also this difference of perspective that lets Nishitani pass over those categorical interim determnations which are considered important here; due to this he considers that he can follow a different path in a mystical "event" of the absolute nothing, towards a positive "overall or total awareness", where here, via the interim determinations, a path in steps is conceptualized in a constant increase of awareness from the vantage point of existence, the "total awareness" of which Nishitani wants to take directly from existence in form of the absolute nothing. In opposition to the direct "event" of the "total awareness" through the individual, here, the opinion is held that this "total awareness" is nothing else than the continuation of the "filling with life of all/the universe" with the means of the mind as a "further function of the existing", which only accellerates "in spiral form" in a forward direction, from the existing.(3)

With Nishitani can be felt or tasted, in that change of perspective from the existing, to the absolute nothing, which can only be experienced and thus form the (divine) basis of the mystical "primordial basis, source or origin" of existence, of which is stated, by means of ratio, that is is not supposed to be accessible to ratio, yet, nevertheless, is supposed to exist.

The question would then be by what means this "contact' with the absolute nothing is supposed to be expepienced if awareness as rational self-consciousness is not allowed to take part in this. .(4) While the so-called "divine spark", the "soul" or the "inner self" could be interjected here, it must be pointed out that all these beautiful things are also only exisent insofar as they can be experienced consciously and are thus not identical with consciousness or awareness but are conveyed through awareness or consciousness. The individual awareness or consciousness, however, depends on the "receptive capability" that forms it (emotion, understanding, reason). Insofar, the development of the categories of receptive capibilities of human consciousness or awareness and that of consciousness or awareness per se speaks entirely against the possibility of the existence of another sphere of experience and, above all, of "realization", since, with the opening up of each new level of awareness, the respective older level of awareness was never excluded, but rather served as a forming basis for verification and further accelleration. And even still Nishitani, in reality, makes use of this ratio, otherwise he would neither think nor write about all of it.

Here, one also comes again upon the problem of the perspective with respect to the "primordial basis, source or origin" (hereinafter referred to as „origin“), with respect to the "soul" and the "divine spark": do "contact point" and "total awareness" lie "before", "at the origin" of existence as "nothing", or are existence and nothing totally unknown to that which exists, since in that which exists there can only be a gradual increase of the levels of awareness, which, by the reason-based eastern view are made absolute and thereby interpreted falsely by means of the unexpressed faith of reason in its own potential? For it is the standards of reason, the prolongations and idealitzations of its realizations which, after all, are the cause of such views as that of the "primordial basis, source or origin" and the "nothing". It is transcendence of reason that, on its own basis, seeks this "source or origin" in the static of the "view of the essence" behind things (see also Plato's "remembering again"). At this point, the appareance of that which exists (thus the appearance of things in understanding), for reason is transformed into the illusory nature of the existing as well as of existence per se and, with this, into the absolute nothing.

The definition of the absolute nothing would, according to Nishitani, be approximately described as follows: the "nihil", in western respectively in Christian thought, is, at first, the conceptualized absolute negation, the only conceptualized opposite of existence, and, from this viewpoint, only a word shell as an opposite to "the existing as a whole" (the whole of the world of objects). And this opposite remains in existence as such, and it can neither be negotiated nor annihilated, precisely due to the fact that, in the relationship to the existing, it is only a concept, a thought pattern that emanates from the function and from the structure of thinking itself and is solely based on it, and behind which thought pattern there is hiding nothing but the negation as an "oppositional thought" (which, ultimately, emanates from the polarity of emotion).(5)

The actual absolute nothing as the "source or origin" of existence is, however, for Nishitani, not something merely conceptualized, but something that can be experienced: that which can be experienced which, at the same time, is supposed to be the most original, the "origin"! Even in the German word for this concept, namely the word "Ursprung", this language proves itself once again as a fascinating one, as it can express tha the real "origin" whith it, which the word "Ursprung" describes, so-to-say, as "original leap" and thus demonstrates that each "real" "original leap" or "Ursprung" proves itself as such that it puts a gap between itself and everything else. On this basis, this "source or origin" or, as in German, "original leap", would have to be divided once again: an "original leap" is the "leaping out of", is the act of transformation, and, with this, something different from that out of which the "leap" is made. Therefore, "nothing" can only be the "source or origin" in the strictest sense of that term, but not an "original leap"; from this followed, that the transforming leap from nothing into existence requires yet a "third", for otherwise one could not understand how the absolute nothing could have become the "source or origin" of the "original leap" of the existing, for otherwise, "nothing" would have had to remain "nothing". With this is, at the same time, expressed, that nothing is not the source or origin of that which exists.

This difference between western and eastern thought, between Nishitani's position and the western position, can be seen again in their position to the "origin or source", to that which, physics, would describe as "first singularity". What, at first, looks like an epigenetically conditioned emotional statement guided by its particular taste might rather be a cagetorical statement, namely one that points towards the main catgorie(s) of the overall tradition(s) within western thinking on the one and eastern thinking on the other hand.

In this basic statement and in this basic outlook with respect to the first singularity, the difference of the cultural environments and with these their respective epigenetic unfolding and with respect to their reaction to their environment becomes most authentically visible: for invidiual man and his position to the world it is crucial as to whether he defines this singularity (however consciously) of the "source or origin" (God) as nothing (however absolutely), or as to whether he sees this singularity as that force out of which all that exists is emanating, for it is this force alone that makes this, as it is expressed in German, "Ur-sprung" or "original leap" possible. Peculiarly, this word "force" does, at first, not appear in Nishitani's text, although he certainly knows John 1,1 as well as the equivalent Faust-monologue; it almost appears as if, in this eastern view it is not even a question, since one is, unquestionably, convinced of the quality of the nothing as abolute and as the "source or origin"?

Obviously, the combining unity of nothing and existence, as "existence in the whole per se", is, in a reverse fashion, less conceptualized than felt, as it is done in the West. For, from the viewpoint of conceptualization, the matter is quite obvious, as already Parmenides stated; However, since mankind has hitherto nowhere, not even in a single individual, surpassed the medium of reason resptively double reflection, statements that find themselves opposed to reason, can only be experienced and borne out of a constellation that emanates from a combination of the lively inner self with capabilities that lie below reason. While western thinking unites nothing and existence in the singularity of the force (at it happens, for instance, with the sublimation of the energetic-lively inner self, without, however, considering possible the reaching of the ultimate singularity or without even considering it possible), eastern thinking sees the unification of existence with the conceptualized nothing in the absolute nothing--this calls to mind, in this reversal, a longing for peace, of ataraxia(6), in the meaning of the stillness of the nothing that rests in itself, and with this the exact opposite of the western view, in which God is conceptualized as the himself immovable mover (for example from Aristotle up to Plotin).

Man in his existence as a creature endowed with the capabilities of understanding respectively reason can only react to a clash with the "nothing" as an experience in case he became aware of this clash, when it has gained scientific significance. This does not mean that the clash with this knowledge has to occur on the basis of reason, for it should, according to Nishitani, occur at the existential level of the inner self. Another way of this clash to occur would also be impossible due to the fact that knowledge, from understanding up to and into the double reflection of reason cannot come to know anything of the absolute nothing.

The absolute nothing as the basis of the emergence of existence can thus, if at all, only be experienced in the lively sphere of concern. Then it is necessary, however, to clarify the relationship of that sphere of concern to awareness in its respective categorical developmental stage including that which, in this connection, is described by the term "total awareness" which, however, is the goal of that "leap" or emergence, that contact with the origin/absolute nothing.

With respect to this relationship between the various functional capabilities of human thinking and awareness on the one hand and the lively-existential sphere on the other hand, we do not learn anything of significance from Nishitani, rather does he resort here to the traditional term "soul", whereby he lets the lively inner self or core stand undeterminedly, in a mere stating of the "fact", i.e. that such a "core" exists, and that it would be its task to transcend so that the contact would occur within it (perhaps similar to Eckehart's "goettlichem Winkel" (divine retreat).

This is according to the Asian tradition; however, it is merely based on a superficial self-observation of man, who is able to become aware of a "highest level of decision-making" in himself in a certain state of concentration, and which is not identical with his functions (of ratio, emotion, instinct), but rather finds itself opposite to those functions as a different one and is actually making decisions--thus that which, traditionally, has been termed as "soul" and which certainly is acknowledged as the basis of the freedom of the individual in western thinking (otherwise, man would actuually only be conceived as materialistic and determined as mere "function").

Presicely the nebulous uncertainty of the term "soul" is that which opens doors to mysticism and metaphysic: when there is nothing concrete said about this "soul" other than circumscribing it in negative terms (such as stating that it is not of a material nature)--moreover do such negative descriptions appear to be akin to the concept of "God" himself(7)); thus, on the part of ratio there cannot be made a concrete categorization as to how and what "soul" as an internal decision-making organ could respectively can be related to at all. The lacking interim determinations of the soul itself are the reason that both the reflected western thinking (Schopenhauer, nihilism) as well as the mysticism of the east relate to or connect soul with the "nothing": western thinking to a negative and negating "nothing" that is only a conceptualized word shell with which nothing is conceptualized by going out from existence; and eastern thinking to the "nirvana" as the positive absolute nothing, identical with "God" and his singularity as "nothing", whereby the unification or "becoming one" of the soul with the nothing is supposed not to take place or occur within the medium of human thought but rather in the "field of emptiness" as experience of the "pure soul" after the "great doubt".

The images of soul, of the great doubt and of nothing that address the inner self at every categorical receptive level and the yielding of conscious thought to the mystical concepts at all categorical receptive levels might be the cause that here, the inner self reacts instantly and too hurriedly instead of paying attention to the developments that have occurred since the first appearance of the mythical metaphysic (Buddhism, Jesus) that has, out of these pre-emptive premonitions, formed the concrete forms of high religion. Out of reverence for the tradition respectively out of the realization that that which was liberating then would still be so today, one remains in the old basic position.

What is "soul" really"? Nothing static, nothing that has remained the same in man since Buddha's times; quite to the contrary, it is something dynamic. The quality and longing of the soul are not stillneess, "ataraxia", nirvana: the resting in the "God of the absolute nothing". If that were the case, then Buddha would be right; this, however, was only an interpretation of hissoul, of his cultural environment. Rather, "soul" is a categorical status of a force in its connectedness to the neuronal network of the human brain. This status of connectedness to the neuronal network of the human brain has two basic forms, namely reception and reflection. Depending on which of these two forms a culture relies on or has to rely on since the stage and kind of development of its members necessitates it, it (the culture) will experience the essence of "soul" as well as the essence of the corresponding "God" either as stillness respectively as nothing or as an "activum" and existence. The essence of the West could thus be determined as active reception and reflection and that of the East as reacting and passive reception.

That the innermost strength or force which forms the basis of both (eastern and western) kinds or stages of neuronal netwok development of the human brain is bound or concentrated in both teachings, namely those of Buddhism as well as of Christianity, can be seen in its effect as well as in its supportability for that categorical stage of development and its openness for which those teachings were formed and which they pre-empted in form of religion(s). Rightfully, "religio" means nothing else but "connection back": in each world religion, the end of the respective categorical level and its openness and relativity are seen and bound into a form of teaching that is adeuqate to each categorical level old development in a pre-emptive manner by talented individuals into a beginning and and an end with which this openness that is unbearable to human awareness, is lifted.(8)

For, only then when this open gap of awareness will be closed at each categorical boundary, can the living soul(s) not only of the teacher but, above all, those of the following individuals who are eager to learn, step out of their old stage of neuronal networking connections with respect to their brain(s) (thus to shed off the old religion) and joyfully welcome that new teaching that is emerging due to this reason since a new category respectively half-level of the differentiated epigenetic neuronal development has been reached and corresponds with it. "Soul" is, therfore, not any "per se", neither anything material nor anything intellectual or spiritual. If one wants to use this traditional term that is bound to cause confusion at all, then (one would have to state that ) "soul" is a certain functional stage of connectedness to neuronal network system(s) within the existing, within the anorganic as well as within the living, so that, from this viewpoint, one could rightfully say that all of nature is "animated" (or "filled with soul"). This, of course, is not meant in a pantheistic sense; rather, "soul" is that sphere--which holds true in this general kind of statement for all of nature including man--in which the active and lively force of each form of existence with its "latest" and "highest" receptive "organs" (which, precisely, determine its place in the chain of the existing) is connecting itself and with the other forms of existence. This connecting is related to existence in such a manner as all existence is connection, communication. This means for man: "soul" has a material basis, yet it is neither material nor spiritual but rather it represents a categorically varying neuronal realm or area in the interdependent effect of reception and reflection as which every human being presents him/herself in his/her ontogenesis. In this phylogenteically as well as ontogenetically interdependent effect or interdependence, that force that causes the levelled unfolding of the existing as a whole "migrates" due to the interaction between predisposition, environmental influences (reception) and the concentration resulting therefrom (reflection) out of the neuronal area or realm that is genetically pre-destined with respect to its maximum and there forms its "ego", its "soul". The last form of this migration can be described as "non-ego" in the double reflection of the "ego-ego".

This necesseary consequence of the unfolding of reflection of reason as a relativization and "self-annihilation" of reason is mystically foreseen by both religious founders at the point of migration from the first to the second level (in relying on this lively force "in nuce"), and they want to address this consequence, take hold of it and bind it (religio). In both, "soul" works as concentrated reflection that does not walk the path of that reflection through the second level in steps (as it is then done in the West); rather, they intuitively anticipate the "result" of that path: the shuddering stepping-back from that emptiness, from the nothing of double-reflection by means of which human ratio even becomes relativized as reason, since, behind that capability can be found nothing but that "nothing" (the "great doubt", the "fasting in the desert", the "noble path").

It is as if, in the religious founders, this "force" would see itself "for a moment" at the time of the phylogenetic as well as ontogenetic changeover from reception to reflection purely, unadultered by human capabilities; this inner "vision" from the purely existential aspect unfolds the essence of reason and draws its consequence from it.

In this pre-emptive act, both religious founders see the suffering of the world and they see the necessity as well as the reduncancy of this "suffering in vain" which, considered from an evolutionary viewpoint, originates in the categorical differences of the existing. To this, they react, on the one hand, in a parallel fashion, with a comparable ethic of compassion; however, with respect to "entelechia", they react in a completely opposite manner. This last difference is based on the different experiencing of "soul" or, expressed in a modern terminology: in a different view of the individual which is equivalent to the difference(s) between east and west. For, in the "chronologically later" Jesus whose teachings were immediately combined with concepts of Greek thought (St. Paul), the soul, as reflection, becomes aware of its force which proves itself in and by the existing, for it is that really existing through which alone the path leads to the salvation of the soul. The vanity of all that exists is not seen as the absolute nothing, the soul does not break down before the absolute nothing buth rather in the baseness of all that exists in the face of that which alone has an „existence“ and which is everything („God“). Here thus the ancient Greek, for here, quite contrary to Buddhism, the basis is a value concept, that weighs God towards everything and all that exists as a level of a privation of the true exisence of God. This ancient Greek concept also still forms the basis of Hegel‘s dialectic philosophy of identity. The absolute nothing does not appear in it, at all (see Parmenides).

This is different with the earlier Buddha (the unfolding of whose reflection also occurred earlier) who, insofar, is also reminiscent of his „contemporaries“, the ancient Greek sophists: to him, in his view of the essence of reason, all that exists transforms into mere chimaeras and appearances, so that he arrives at the reversed perspective that also Nishitani is still defending, namely, that true existence can only be found in the nothing, so that this nothing can ultimately be claimed as the origin of the merely existing, which „existence“ does not partake in „true existence“. At the basis of this can be seen an overdrawing or exaggeration of the reflection of reason itself, which takes itself, as reflection, more important than its mere function within that which exists would warrant. This mock judgment occurs less on the basis of the lively inner self as on the basis of an erroneous metaphysic of the „essence“ of reason; the inner self resigns in the face of reason rather than submitting it unto itself. This difference in position of the inner self and reflection determines each respective „entelechia“, for, the ultimate salvation of the soul and the nirvana are in no way identical. First of all, already the striving in the here and now towards that goal is different: in Christianity, the ethic of compassion is only part of the action; the more important area of the individual activity could be paraphrased as „inner growth towardsthetruth“. Contrarily, in Buddhism, for the purpose of reaching the end of re-incarnations that remain in the realm of unreal existence, it is crucial not to commit an ethical error in order to escape one‘s karma(!)-the world of unreality and of illusins is also always one that one has to flee and escape from. Thus, consequently, the „salvation“ of nirvana lies in the eternal calm or tranquility of the absolute nothing, the „actual existence“ of which has, ultimately, also no longer any connection to that which exists-seen from this perspective, this is also still a dual system without any direct inner connection.

Quite contrary to Christianity, where salvation, as the sacred is always associated with images that express an abundance of joy, that „Augustum“ that is connected to the highest proven concentration of force and strength (which proof humans, in its emotional respectively rational form seek to attain on a daily basis as („self“) confirmation). This understanding of the term „sacred“ has quite a different quality than that in Buddhism, since it does not aim at the highest possible level of calmness and tranquility, but rather at the highest level of a „fire or burning flame within“ (as, for example, Pascal.(9) Here, the attaining of the sacred is a joyful and burning melting and transformation process, the innermost strength and force as a lively force becomes aware of its burning flame origin. It is this contact that is possible to transform and reconfigure awareness - and that is also what Nishitani aims for when he aims at the „entire personality“ as the „true self“ contrary to the personal ego.

However, is this the true self with which the „shell“ of this term receives its content? The true complete personality is, as complete awareness, a different one in its relationship to all other already existing forms of the ego, up from instinct via emotion and ratio towards double reflection. It is none of these, but rather does it subordinate these functions unto itself in its process of becoming itself, in that, though all of these forms of human existence, that true self shines through or re-sounds (per-sonare), and, thereby alone, turns the individual into a true person. While, with this, the relationship is clarified with respect to those functions that lie before the true self and that, normally, prevent the breakthrough to the self in that one of these functions, in connection with the individual‘s lively existentiality, sets itself up as its ego, and while this is the equivalent of the view of the human capabilities of understanding and reason presented here, what has, nevertheless, not yet been clarified is, what this self „per se“ is, how concrete the coming-together and clashing of these forces and their breakthrough should be imagined, thus, what this self, after the breakthough, is comprised of repsectively „where“ this self, within the „new person“ is located.

a) The path to this break-through is supposed to be the „great doubt“ - however, in the meantime, it has been torn away from mysticism and religion, by now it already belongs to those other functions and thus to the ego in form of the „ego“-„ego“, in which this ego still always sets itself as despair in double reflection. To express it differently: the „omnia dubitare“, in connection with the „cogito ergo sum“ is the method and the path of the reflection of reason itself, in order to recognize the one emptiness - and, yet, to hold on to itself as desperate reason, either like Sartre in his relying on the „nihil“ or as Heidegger in his acceptance of this desperation by reason itself, in order to await the lofty arrival of existence as reason in its „ek-sistence“… Thus, this path, the „great doubt“ belongs, in the meantime, to that which is accessible to the ego; today, this path no longer leads away from that ego, rather, it has become its means of being allowed to hold this ego. This applies particularly then when the individual‘s make-up provides for the possibility, that his „soul“, his lively sphere of concern, neither can nor wants to sever its connection with reason in the uppermost reaches of the category of reason, when the individual would rather choose the nothing or despair than undertake an attempt at transcendence.

b) The break-through itself is supposed to occur in its being confronted with the absolute nothing, after the „great doubt“ has been gone through successfully, in that the existential sphere of the individual has reflected itself out of all functional categories and knows within itself one one concentrated „will“. Will not as the will of the ego, which would still be in possession of a self-will of this ego and with this also would still want as ego and could, therefore, also not sever itself; rather, will as the liveliness that is concentrated into one. The goal of this striving one is to transcend beyond all premigrated pre-forms of the ego in order to gain the new and true self that cannot be contained in any of the functional forms of the ego, since, with this, it would be referred back into the conditioned limitations of that which exists. The „great doubt“ leads to that desperation of the ego that annihilates the ego and transforms it into a stretched-out hand that strives to receive the self from an unknown pendant.

According to Nishitani, this pendant is the absolute nothing. Existence, the „essentia“ of the absolute nothing, can necessarily not be grasped in any shell that would describe this term, for, otherwise, it would not be the absolute nothing; it is removed from any possibility of conceptualization in thought and in word, it can only be „ex-perienced“. Thus, at this point, any (verbal or written) description would have to end here, yet, Nishitani continues to elaborate on and mystify this absolute nothing, without ever being able to fill it with a grain of meaning, since he, too, has to do this with that awareness and that function, namely reason, from which this necessarily withdraws. And he, too, has to evoke an example of those who were supposedly successful in establishing this contact and who stammeringly report about how their functional awareness is able to deliver a recollection of their experience(s).

Not without reason, he is naming Master Eckehart his main witness. However, both in Christian and in Islamic mysticism, this „contact medium“ never receives the purely negative connotation of the absolute nothing, such as Nishitani requests in following Buddha: When Eckehart speaks of the Godhead as nothing, then this is meant as a parable, an allegory, just as he, elsewhere, used the sun parable or allegory. Here, the qualitative nothingness of the Godhead is of a quite different nature than the absolute nothing of Buddha: here is meant God‘s pure existence within himself, so that he can not even be called God, anymore, for even this would be too much of form that cannot be contained in the singularity of God. In Eckehart‘s process of conceptually approaching this singularity, he has to, as far as this is still possible in language, negate everything that refers to concept and form, in order to approach the pure experiential content of his inner self and yet to make visible that which can not be expressed. This, however, is only possible by means of a parable and of negation, for the concept that necessarily accompanies the parable can only demonstrate a growing „purity“ by means of abstraction - abstraction, however, is identical to negation: an increasing absence of the individual where the issue is a description of the „essence“. The highest form of abstraction and with it the highest „purity“ of the statement is reached with the existence of the Godhead as nothing, for only in this way, there ise no longer attached to it any inappropriate content of human awareness, and because only in this inexpressible nothing can be found that „basis of God“ in which the transcending lively inner self of man and God can unite.

For the west and probably also for Eckehart, this confrontation with the nothing is not part of the actual break-through, it is not its goal, but rather, here, the „nothing“ is the last „step“ before the break-through; one could say that in the realization of this „nothing“ there lies the maximum of despair at the arrival of which only the Godhead can be kept, but not the „nothing“! This western concept of the „nothing“ has the meaning of an existential engagement with the hollowness and vanity of all that exists including one‘s own path up to and including the realization of this hollowness and vanity: only then does the individual turn into nothing, dies for itself and thereby makes room for the Godhead, in order to be embraced our caught up by it.

This „birth of the son“ (Eckehart) does, however, not lead to one‘s turning away from that which exists, buth rather, to the contrary, to one‘s actively turning to it, in order to let that which exists take part in the living God in the way it can take part in it! The activity of the Western God and the passivity of the Easter Nirwana are a reflection of the difference in mentality at the numinous level: While, in the West, it is the activity of God and his mercy that pulls man towards him and thus frees him to his own activity in his life, in the East, man, after his own great doubt, becomes enlightened by the co-incidence of the Satori, in which, in his own realization, the Nirwana appears as a constitution of existence, so that he, in his flight into this Nirwana, can free himself.

c) With respect to the kind of break-trough, of the leap itself, Nishitani is not mentioning much, particularly not from his own experience; rather, he merely cites texts from Buddhist tradition up to and including Zen Buddhism. The Satori is described as „the moment“, as a „new openin of one‘s eyes“ - which is supposed to be an analogy to: the sudden re-arrangement within the indivudal, as an unforeseen change that cannot be influenced, which, in one movement, sets one‘s lively inner self into contact with the „nirwana“, into the „true self“, and which lets the individual see the world from then on from the viewpoint of the „true self“. By this contact with the absolute nothing man is supposed to turn into his true self and to gain his actual sense of reality. How could this be understood? By this movement cannot be meant the dis-individualization (of man), since, as negating act of preparation, this already takes place by means of the „great doubt“. Consequently, here, there can only be meant the positive melting by the break-through that is caused by whatever phenomenon („the flying-up of a bird“, „the ringing of a bell“), in which the „soul“ unites with the nothing that surrounds it as „true reality“. Obviously, it is enough for man to show that kind of readiness by means of the great doubt as an opening of himself and keeping himself open in order to let the reality of nothing flow into him as Satori at the right or „given moment“, which flows through all functions of the ego and forms the „persona“ into a complete personality. Everything remains here in the mystical and in the unmentionable and inexplicable, there is no ground that can, in any way, shape or form, be somehow conceptualized (as a basis and cause), no connection whatsoever that can be indicated between the nothing and the individual which would put both into any kind of relationship to each other, such as, for example, the mercy between Go and man does. The break-throug, the moment either comes or does not come, it is up to the absolute nothing alone, in the face of which one can only perform an act of unconditionally patient waiting.

The equivalent to this in Nishitani‘s thinking is that he, in all probable and improbable contexts, thinks and argues in a Hegelian manner. Everywhere, the concepts themselves „act“, does something „happen“, does something „become“, everything in such a way as if there „occurred“ or „existed“ a totally matter-of-fact interrelationship of well-known concepts-without ever, even once, asking for any factors that this would be based on: That famous wooden automation that Kierkegaard criticises in Hegel, Nishitani engages it to the utmost and beyond the probable, even though he, too, knows Kierkegaard. This absolute nothing, it is as cold as it is absolute, and the ethic of compassion that arises out of it and that calls itself love, it freezes the western innermost lively self. This western innermost lively self protests against it, since to it, already that cooling effect that it receives from the realization of the vain nature of real immanence, is quite enough for it. It is important to this innermost lively self to not let this escape into nothing but rather to combine its „appearance“ in an appropriate manner with „existence“.

d) The „true self“ is supposed to be an affirmation of the self in the absolute nothing, that gains true reality through it and in the penetration of the functions of the ego it also lends true reality to it. The foundation of the self is, here, sought in an direction that is opposite to that of Western thought and thinking, quasi „backwards“, in the „basis“, in the origin of the all-pervasive nothing. Thus, for eastern thinking or thought, consequently, the „real self‘s“ proving itself in the illusory reality of the here and now including the penetration of the illusory functions of the ego (from instinct to reason) is only a side issue that receives meaning and interpretation only by being a condition of the actual goal of dissolving into the calmness and stillness of the absolute nothing. Such a „true self“ has, as can be purely factually calculated, passivity at its very basis, alone due to the fact that one makes all the less mistakes (in the clash of the functions of the ego), the less one uses these functions in the illusory reality.

At first, this criticism might appear to be superficial; on the other hand, it is always up-to-date with respect to Buddhism as Buddhism goes out from the basic premise of an illusory reality, and since, at its point of departure there is to be found the scepticism of sophism, to which all that exists dissolved into illusion, and behind which one will only find existence. This is still always the old static and erroneous optic that is directed backward, and into which, at first, also the ancient Greeks fell in their devolvement of metaphysic (see also the similarities to Plato‘s idea theories).

What does this eastern „true self“ accomplish, which is based on the „reality of the absolute nothing“ and „realizes“ the functions of the ego from that vantage point? Does not, in this construction, the still highest form of human existence, as unification with the nothing, serve nothing but that individual that has been unified? That itself leaves the illusory reality and moves into the true reality, for its own sake?! Is that not the highest form of egocentrism? While one still has an ethic of compassion reserved for all other forms of existence including humanity, the instruction for the avoidance of life and its illusory functionality, and one saves oneself over into the „true self“ of nothing…com-passion and love are something quite different.

Therefore, in Buddhism, there does also not exist the concept of sacrifice in the meaning of sacrificing oneself: that would not make any sense, as one can neither sacrifice oneself for an illusory reality nor for the nothing. Rather, one sacrifices, in the great doubt and in the ethic of compassion, life itself unto one‘s own soul and its „salvation“, so that it can enter nirvana. Here, „the cross is not taken up“ actively in order to give some meaning to suffering; rather, sceptical sophism denounces life in order to escape from suffering.

Contrary to this, the (western) will for transcendence is not directed at the individual, not at its „true self“ as a resting self-government in the nothing, but rather at a contribution within existence, in order to reveal the meaning of existence. The equivalent of the different activity and inner nature of love is also the different „location“ of the „true self“ in the individual. In western thought, the love of God is considered equal to the love of one‘s neighbor, an embracing and uplifting love, an aiming for a higher goal that wants to grow beyond the illusory nature of the functions of the ego within reality and which sees everything else that exists in this same relationship to God and that also wants to elevate it towards that higher goal. This love of God demands of man his active involvement in the here and now and in this is in agreement with the objectively observable processes of existence, as it has led up to us as human beings, in its motivation towards elevation, in that it sets free activity within the here and now instead of fleeing it.

The Buddhist self that realizes itself in contact with the absolute nothing, quasi forms a center of the persona that has become itself as nothing; on the other hand, the absolute nothing can, impossibly, itself be part of this persona, otherwise, it would not be the absolute nothing. The matter here is obviously a mystical illustration that, however, different fromEckehart, has drawn a one-sided consequence in that the existing is supposed to be recognized as the unreal, since, within the real of this pre-supposition, it is no longer necessary that this real absolute nothing becomes part of the existing that is unreal; rather, this contact is obviously only an „imprint“of the absolute nothing, in which the existing that is unreal submits to the experienced realization of the real absolute nothing and allows its existence as person that is unreal to be „imprinted“ by this absolute nothing and, due to this, establishes, in unreality, by means of this imprint, a connection to this reality, which will only be completed at the time of its final leaving of the circle of unreal existence. Besides that, it would also be absolutely ridiculous to state that the absolute nothing is realizing itself within the unreality of (temporal) existence - that would be a peculiar nothing, that would know how to connect itself with „something“, and even with something that is illusion! The absolute nothing, that, which in western thought is only thought in contrast to existence, requires for its realiztion as absolute nothing, however, necessarily that which exists which, in its experience with it is confronted by it, for, without this realization it would be superfluous in all of its absoluteness! Therefore, nothing itself cannot be identical with the self, it can not exist as such in the illusory world of the unreal, for the nothing cannot be in „something“, it can in no way or manner combine itself with „something“, since, for this, there would be required the correlationship between that which is different respectively that which is identical as well as the limitation of the respective singular which attaches itself to the other.

Now, Nishitani maintains that at the primary source, at the source of the self, the absolute nothing is „lighting up“, lighting up not as a thought, idea or concept of reason, but as something that is experienced, not experienced in one of the functions of the existing egos from instinct up to double reflection, but experienced in and probably also as primary source. In other words, only in this contact there opens itself the primary source to the persona as such. This is ultimately identical to that which here is designated as the „sphere of the lively inner self“, and yet, in this, there exist again those differences, namely in the way the functional realities that ultimately lead to the east-western difference in the understanding of the nothing, are seen. For, Nishitani searches that „point“, the primary source, „under“ the personal functions, here, it is seen above them. Thus there stand opposite to each other the Eastern transcendence in the direction of „down-back“ toward that (static) nothing, out of which, ever since, all that exists broke and breaks forth and to which it is striving, and that Western transcendence in the direction of „forward-up“, in which that „liveliness“ as primary source of the person is not statically remaining „at the bottom“, but where that primary source itself, there, where it is alive, has worked itself up through the functions and, on this path, has changed its quality and constitutes the respective „lively topmost boundary“ of the persona. In the transcendence of the functional top the self, today in desperate double reflection, wants to realize itself, in order to ground this true self in the finding of the opposite of this transcending at a higher level anew and to bind its personal functions newly from there. In this Western transcendence, something new is brought forth in the world of that which exists, in that it sets itself as the true self at the top of phylogeny with that higher level that, for that which exists proves itself as this higher level, which it is missing and which it needs: a new level of openness in the direction of the elevation of awareness and communication.

Contrary to this, in the transcendence of Buddha/Buddhism, unreal existence wants to find its actual place of reality and tranquility in always the same way in the absolute nothing that also remains always constant. That the phenomena of the existing world can have nothing in common with eastern transcendence, is obvious: in it, they are, after all, only illusory phenomena that have no bearing on the true self and on true existence. Therefore, it is clear that, in the east, there has never been the same emphasis on the conscious investigation of the existing as in the west; the “unreal” levels of the existing up to man is simply of no interest here, it is sufficient when these are mythically-mystically “understood”-these unreal or illusory levels can not have any important content, for importance and meaning lie in the absolute nothing alone. To western eyes, this nothing appears as metaphysical background world that prevents eastern man from becoming adequately aware of the existing including its history. With this background world, he (eastern man) does not arrive at the ancient Greek “gnoti se auton”, the point of departure of western thinking, rather, he leaps over this illusory appearance of the auton/self, directly into the nothing, into the self as nothing.

III. Singularity, Nothing and the "Field of Emptiness"

“In the beginning there was the force”: forms of the force, in the existing, are, for example, the atomic forces, electric energy and also still the human mind - the quality of the force increases through the levels of existence. On the other hand, neither the existing nor the force are in the existing “God”, himself. In this lies a problem of the function of language as understanding in order to show the relationship between “God” and force in the right light; for, on the one hand, “God” is not again next to this world (as the nothing of Nishitani), on the other hand, he “is” not the force; rather, the force is “divine”, which means that, with respect to its source, it points towards it as being in God. A connection should be made here in a proper manner to Eckehart’s “unity”, namely from the other side than Nishitani does, even though Eckehart, as well, can say: “As Godhead, God is the nothing.”

For, as long as “God” is still attributed with certain “qualities”, as, for example, that of force, then this alleged attribution occurs, first of all, with an awareness that is limited with respect to and towards the Godhead, which it (awareness) is not even in a position to make; and, secondly, by the identification with an attribution, “God”, in his “God-Head” is not even reached, but rather missed. Still, even in the description of “God” as ”all”, there would have occurred such an erroneous attribution (and, besides, a false pantheism): that which makes up “God” as “God-Head”, can only be expressed in the nothing-and thereby in reality not at all.

The attribution of “God” with and as the singularity of force is, therefore, as much of a misconceived attribution-however, such an attribution does also not want to express that, rather, it only wants to point into the “direction” in which and as which the divine reveals itself in the existing! This view finds itself diametrically opposed to that of Buddha’s nothing that, in the temporal self, does not reveal anything of itself, but rather merely becomes revealed and made known for the purpose of that which exists in the singular, in order for it to flee existence.

In the perception of this difference of activity/force in West and East, Nishitani resorts to the juggling trick of denouncing Western viewpoints as “scientism”, since, in doing so, one quietly smuggles into one’s discussion also an acceptance of the “fact” that, of course, there is at least still one other possibility or viewpoint that is qualitatively different from the method of scientism, and, according to Nishitani’s opinion, with respect to the “ultimate matters” such as “nihil” and “emptiness”, is supposed to be superior and “deeper”. This smuggling-in of another quality of perception is occurring in such a “matter-of-course” manner that it is not questioned respectively described as to what it is actually characterized by or what it actually consists of. The only comment made in this respect is that of the described “experience” after the “great doubt”, thus the Satori, as it is, for example, described in Zen Buddhism.

It is neither revealed how the “nihil” and the “emptiness” are understood by “scientism”, where reason takes that knowledge from, on which Nishitani writes in his entire book, nor what thinking itself is supposed to be, the thinking with which the few “facts of enlightenment” are presented by Nishitani on over 400 pages. Certainly, he enlists the western concept of transcending; this word, however, does not contain more than a movement; it expresses the striving for a beyond.

Without presenting the process so that we curious westerners can at least attempt to follow it, Nishitani states that by this illuminating transcendence, the “true self” can be attained at any place, by anyone in the same manner, in the confrontation with the absolute nothing in the field of emptiness, at any time. In this, he considers this mystical experience and contemplation as the more valuable and the truer quality. This could, perhaps, be discussed if, in this way, the “true self” could be formed at any time-he, himself, however, actually does not present this “truth” from his own mystical experience, no, rather than that, he has to rely on witnesses by the examples of whom he studied the mystical transcendence, studied it with what means, other than those of science/scientism? Everything that he states are topical constructs of scientism that, if at all, can only be experienced mystically and that, actually, can only be described by means of scientism in an illustration of an actual experience, not, however, second-hand! This, however, seems to be the case with Nishitani-all the more peculiar appears his rejection of the “western” method of scientism: with what capability(ies) other than those of understanding and reason is Nishitani able to tell us anything? Moreover, it would also be peculiar for a second reason if he would be able to present to us a true experience of his own and as transcending “enlightenment” from within the second category, since, in our position of today, the categorical (pre)conditions for a mystic leap as transcendence of the existing category can not exist, since we, ourselves, find ourselves at its end. As far as today, however, someone who, perchance, has not differentiated the category of reason out at an individual basis, experience for himself something like a “mystical leap ahead” towards the edge of this category (what is entirely possible in the repetition of phylogeny by means of ontogenesis), then he can only appear to us comical, outdated and esoteric, plagued by an idee fixe, insofar as the stages of this path already belong to “scientism”, to the traditional stock of the reflection of reason.

However, not only with respect to the path to the “true self”, there are to be raised concerns, but also with respect to the question as to what “true self” would actually mean. Nishitani’s use of this term or concept is remotely reminiscent of the “intelligible character” of Kant, of a certain predestination of this self as self, since this actual self is not supposed to have anything to do, at all, with all of its functions; rather, it can only find to its “true self” in the negation of all of these functions. Thus, this self has to, however, have existed forever, lie “directly under or at the feet” of the individual and is only preliminarily not visible, yet.

In this, this self has to be static and always constant; it can not have anything to do with the individuality that would possibly emerge out of its functions. Considered in this way, every human being would have the same self, and this self would not have any development, but only an existence. This is a necessary question of negation which is supposed to be the actual path to the “true self” in the “field of emptiness”: “non-fire” is, rather, supposed to describe the true nature of fire than “fire”, which means that, in the emptiness of the abyss of the nothing, negation is supposed to convey the closer “meaning” than the substantial term or concept itself. This is a reversed conclusion as to how man can, by his statement alone, approach the Godhead: as absolute nothing for the Godhead itself there, where it can not even be called Godhead, anymore (Eckehart). According to Nishitani, this is the same for man: if the “true essence of God” is the absolute negativity of the nothing, then one should be able to find the “true essence” of man precisely in the negation of the existing that is unreal: “non-human” would, therefore, say more about the “true” essence of man than “human”, for, in order to express the “true essence” of things such as that of man, all determinations that emanate from existence, have to be negated, since these, as much as in the experience of God, would be determinations of our awareness that we, thus, carry into ourselves as well as into the things, and thus do not meet them in light of their “essence” (Kant would have said, “das Ding an sich” [the thing as such]).

Much sooner, we would still meet the determination(s) of things and of man in our rational attempt, if we would incorporate their negation into their concept “at their source”, so that man could still rather be understood as “non-man/non-human” than as “man/human”; the unity of the tandem concepts of man/human - non-man/non-human could only be established in the field of emptiness that forms the opposite to the absolute nothing of God, since only in such an “absolute emptiness”, the entire “primary factum” “man/non-man” could open itself up. If one tries to find an analogy for this in a “western” manner of “scientism”, in this process, we would notice a similarity to Spinoza: the question is the “true self” as the essence of the existing in such a manner that transcends the present/existing capabilities of realization (understanding, reason) that, in scientism, belong to the existing. For this purpose, all determinations that arise out of the existing manners/capabilities of realization have to be negated, which, insofar, is a further step of abstraction (as that of reason itself), as the first abstraction draws conclusions from the single thing to its essence, which, however, as realization of reason, is itself still of an “existing” essence (and where the ancient Greeks located “true” existence). Therefore, in a second step, even the essence of the first abstraction, which itself was a negation of the coincidental, has to be negated. The “field” of this “true essence” of all things can, however, not be the absolute nothing, for this is God’s field, God himself.

And the quality of the existing such as its “true self/essence” is quite a different one than the absolute negativity of God, since the existing is strewn into the “nihil”, into the eternity of the absolute nothing, which is God himself. Therefore, this “essence”, in its confrontation with the absolute nothing (God) has to light up in another field, in that of emptiness.

Since, at first, the abyss of the existing is the nothing (God), subsequently, for man who has negated himself in this confrontation (as non-human), the field in which this takes place is that of emptiness: here, all things are supposed to be without any basis for determination, emptied-out. And thus, in this field of emptiness, for man, in an emptying-out that can be neither fixed time-wise nor place-wise, the “true own self” as well as the true essence of all other things can be “experienced”. The identity of rational determination and its negation in the field of emptiness is supposed to be the “primary fact”; and that field is now not supposed to be a different, possibly an intelligible world of ideas, but rather the only real world and thus that absolute side out of which all things as such come forth that are one with emptiness. To express this in a more Kantian manner: Obviously, in the field of emptiness, man is supposed to recognize himself as well as all things in that primary fact as "things as such” by experience, in that the difference between the existing and existence is eliminated in such a manner as if man would recognize himself as the identity of man/non-man.

If “true existence” reveals itself to all things only in the “field of emptiness”, then this has a peculiar consequence: the attaining of the “true self” requires a movement so that one can enter the abyss of “the emptiness that lies before one’s feet” in a confrontation with the abyss of the “nihil” and, in this union with one’s own negation one can find one’s own complete essence; let us admit this. What is then, however, the position of all those things and living beings to the “true essence” to whom the abyss of the nothing and the own field of emptiness cannot light up if they do not have a level of awareness that allows for it? Is, therefore, every from of existence besides the human one condemned to remain in the unreality of illusion, or are all other things “a priori” of a complete essence? Therefore: there is put an unbearable gap between humans and all other forms of existence of which one would like to know where it comes from to us, perchance as “original sin”? How does man arrive at this unique, special position in the abundance of life? Are “things” and other creatures “a priori” identical with their “primary factum”, or can they never arrive at that state? And if they, indeed, can, how does a “thing” negate itself without having consciousness, in order to attain the self identity of its “primary factum”? What can all those souls do that, by way of re-incarnation due to a lack of ethics, are, at present, stuck in pigs? This differentiation between humans and other forms of existence that is, by the way, prevalent in the same way in Christianity, can be taken as a sure sign (as this also applies to all philosophy that contains this differentiation as, for example, in Heidegger), of the fact that one is dealing here with fantastic metaphysic that sacrifices to the claim of reason to absoluteness in reality even the inter-connectedness of all that exists. A further sign of metaphysic are routinely repeated statements, in Nishitani’s case, “that this true existence” is supposedly the “absolute this-side”: this statement, Nishitani’s teaching (or, to illustrate this with the homophonic pun of the words "Lehre” [teaching] and and “Leere” [emptiness] in German) still has this in common with those other forms of metaphysic; in each instance, since the ancient Greeks and since the reception of reason, metaphysic wants to uncover “true existence”, since all metaphysic of the second category and its comparison capability comes out of the mirror of reason. The difference between the traditional metaphysic of two worlds and Nithitani’s one-world emptiness lies in his turning the world of the existing upside down by means of the negation of the existing by this existing itself. Thereby, one does not directly receive a second world but rather a kind of doubled “this-side”, in which two different kinds of “selves” live next to each other, the “true” and the unreal “selves”.

Once, one should also ask this question in this way: Would an absolute nothing exist without humans? The world of the existing can certainly be imagined without humans and their awareness - that was the state of the world for billions of years. What about the absolute nothing during this time? To put the question differently: Is the absolute nothing the “everlasting a priori”, that can only be seen by man’s reason, or is it something that man’s reason had to “create”, in the first place? Create in that man, with his reason, sees himself forced to unfold his “true self” as the “origin” of which is postulated the absolute nothing respectively God? However, since nothing including man of the first category feels this need but rather merely is by nature, these stages of the existing can not come upon and confront this alleged origin of nothing in which they alone are supposed to be the self: the self of fire in the identify of non-fire, the nothing as well as the supposed own “true existence” does not show itself - for all the existiing, it is enough “to be” according to its own kind, even if man of reason feels himself urged to deny it its existence and to qualify its existence as unreal and illusory.

All that exists obviously rests “necessarily”, until to the arrival of man, in the prison of not-being-within itself, out of which it is now, fortunately, liberated? Fire-you are rather non-fire-now I know you! At the bottom of this lies a confusion of existence and awareness-awareness is supposed to determine existence, instead of letting itself be determined by the existing: here, too, reason wants to become divine.

How important can such a theoretical myth, such mystical metaphysic be, if everything, really everything that has happened in the world and as the world would not have happened in any other way? That thus, all that exists up to him who preaches such metaphysic unfolded completely independently from it? Wherein it is, after all, demonstrated that this “absolute negativity” as well as the “field of emptiness”, for existence including first-categorical man, was entirely of no importance and effect and still is not? Does this not point towards the fact that here, second-category man does not find a real a priori, but that he “creates” an artificial a priori? Fire has been burning for billions of years, the earth quakes and destroys tens of thousands, completely oblivious as to whether the “true” nature of fire and non-fire, the true nature of a quake or non-quake! What do things care about their “true nature”? They behave according to what they are. Likewise, after man, the world will exist without the nothing, as much as it will be without “God” if man can not manage to grow beyond himself.

Sooner or later there will arrive a point at which such metaphysical constructs become a nuisance and sound like prattling, namely when they move too far away from that which we as those who we are can know and thus also are supposed to know (as it is the nature of all limited existence). Ultimately, such constructs confuse themselves with “God” in pretending that we could shake off our limitation in the existing and “be like God”, since, this would be like truly being the “self” in the “emptiness” and equally close to all things in their true “self-hood”-like “God”. This mixture of true (Buddha) and mystic of reason (Nishitani) does not even realize that here, in reality, something like “blasphemy” occurs…if that would be possible, at all, yet even that is still pure metaphysic and self-elevation and exaltation of reason, namely to believe that one could “mock God” and also still know how that would be done.

This “taking offence” with Nishitani points toward Jesus’ word of taking offence and, thus, points to the inner contradiction that Nishitani “conscientiously” overlooks: that understanding necessarily balks at those statements that are meant for faith. This constructed separation of concepts, Nishitani constantly blurs in creating the impression that he says that what he says about the this-side of emptiness, about the self-hood of the existing, about the abyss of nothing and all related constructs; from his understanding for the understanding of others.(10) Nowhere does he say, “the self-hood of emptiness as immediate this-side, I have experienced myself as the highest truth and reality; and ever since, I believe in it, thus you should believe in it, too, if you can!” Quite to the contrary, he talks as if he “logically” deduces those ominous “places” (that appear as anything but numinous, but rather metaphysically-fantastic) in a western manner with “ratio”, like one of these is supposed to be interrelated with the other, and to the realization of which everyone who only engages his understanding adequately, would and should come. Nishitani-and quite similarly Heidegger-prove with their metaphysic that even reason as such is still capable of believing, not only in itself as reason, that would be trivial, for that has always been the two-categorical existential networking. No, quite obviously, reason is capable to create for itself, if not directly mystical, yet concepts of belief that are mystified in the leadership takeover, and then to believe in them...

What are we to think of that? Can such a belief of reason be compared to true religion? In the high forms of religion, the believer does not create his own content of faith. This, the metaphysicist of reason also senses, and, accordingly, neither Heidegger nor Nishitani have the audacity to ascribe the actual content of their metaphysic to man as his own accomplishment. Thus Heidegger, at first, fabulated in the manner of the “phenomenological fundamental ontology” with the means of “pure reason” about “existence per se” that supposedly alights at the abyss of nothing (here the similarity to Nishitani), and on this he builds a rather philosophically reasonable than a truly existential belief in that “true alighting of existence” in man, that he himself, however, cannot realize. This is his limitation that he is not able to overcome, and therefore, here, he retreats into a guardian’s position; his belief is therefore not a belief in the religious sense, since he can not trustingly rely on his self as self in faith and only thereby turn into his “true self”, since, to him, “existence per se” did not alight. Not so Nishitani who, at first, takes contents of belief and their verification(s) from the tradition of Buddhism in order to analogously investigate and symbolize them rationally-metaphysically by applying western thought patterns (as, perhaps, those of Heidegger)-a similar movement as it can be seen in the increasing symbolization and adaptation of biblical exegesis. However, whether that which he (Nishitani) presents of eastern religion in a rational and transforming manner (namely how his reason sees those contents and reconciles them with his own self) really believes in a religious sense, can not be decided here, since, nowhere does it become clear to us as to whether he himself experienced that “leap” which to him means the confrontation with the “origin” of the absolute nothing and the experience of the “true self” as well as all that exists as “primary facts” “human/non-human”, “existence/non-existence” in the field of emptiness, or if he only “deduces” this from hearsay. In any event, it does not become clearly apparent on what his undoubted religious trust is based: on tradition, on his own personal experience or on reason-or on all of it to some degree?

IV. Existence and Illusion

Of what concern to man is the “thing as such”, of what the “true essence” of things including his own self as well as non-self in the “field of emptiness”. Are those not all metaphysical products of “pure reason” that do not add to or take anything away from that lively play in which categorical matters interact with each other, and thus are simply superfluous? If someone has ears to hear the “absolute this-side” in the “field of nothing”, he is very welcome to do so; is it, however, not much more important to actively deal with individual existence, in which this existence and existing is confronted by its own self, than to meet things in the “field of emptiness” as they “truly” are? Also that nihil at the origin of the world as well as the field of emptiness at the origin of the self do not need to be visited separately, since it is always inherent: when the existing deals with the existing, then in this concept there is already contained the contention that the existing is, above all, something passing and temporal! The “activum” and joy of life, however, is, to meet the existing in its existing state, precisely since all that exists has at its source the “nihil”. And therefore, the “true essence” of all things should gladly be left in that emptiness. That even the Godhead is of this opinion, is, at least in western religion, expressed in that it is God’s joy when everything that exists behaves according to its own category, fulfilling creation in communication and bringing forth the new.

What does that have to do with realization? First of all this, that we should not be misled by any kind of “pure” reason to transform the fact of existence into illusion? With this, we would eradicate the liveliness of the only here and now that we have and ever will have. Further, we should bring our reason to the point of the realization that it should stop, on the basis of its incapability and inability to be like God, thus out of the entirely correct realization of our own limitation, so assume the existence of beyond oneself and beyond the existing of something that can grant “true existence” to the existing-and thus to de-value the existing. Further, we should not overdraw the justified criticism of our capabilities of observation and interpretation from our senses up to reason to the point that we discard these by means of reason in order to dive into the “depth” of the mystic-what an ingratitude! Before coming to such a verdict, these capabilities would first have to be investigated as to what they are capable of and of what not. Even a superficial observation will reveal that their potential is obviously greater than our present command of it.

Moreover, we should consider the problem of the relationship between subject and object: that we are forced to imagine the existing including ourselves; this circumstance cannot be overcome “absolutely” and statically, but only empirically and dynamically-categorically. It has already been proven that the belief in the absoluteness of the capability of realization in the first category in form of sensuality, interpreted by understanding, was as wrong as the belief in “pure reason” in metaphysic from the ancient Greeks to the philosophies of idealism and materialism. Thus it can already now the prognosticated that the existing, by however many more categories it may be enriched in future, will not be capable of absolute realization.

This false belief in the possibility of the absoluteness of realization, obviously, appears at the same point as mystic: at the zenith of the receptive phase of a category. While mystic pre-empts the second half of the category, and, precisely in this pre-empting as pre-empting deems itself justified, in having reached the absolute by thus pre-empting of the final stage of that category and while it transforms this into images, at the same time, the beginning reflection not only “senses” the fact of a path but also the fact that this path will lead to an end: the “future” state of the “absolute” realization after the end of and arrival at which there will not be anything left to be realized, thus still every discoverer of an interim step of reflection considered himself already as the final “solution” until he, too, was superceded. Here, the self-confusion between capability and the existing is the source, since every new capability that is not yet reflected through, necessarily, considers itself as the highest (possible) form of realization and equals the end of its own capability of realization as the end of any capability of realization as such.

The belief in this absoluteness is thus based on psychologically wrong evaluation or judgment, in both mystic an rational reflection, and this erroneous belief has a strong ally: at this point, at the zenith of reception en route to transfer to reflection, existentiality and functionality network themselves together so that, with respect to each category it could be said that in this belief in the absolute, be it on part of mystic, be it on part of reflection, the maximum of interpretation of the existing by the existing is reached which can be equaled with “true existence”-this experiencing of the networking between capability and existence is, after all, also the neural-physical and psychic basis of the “unio mystica”. This experience is interpreted as “closeness to God”, and evidence of the “being beside oneself”. Moreover, it is this “being beside oneself” that, already at the level of the first category, in its cruder form, represents the “saint” of the first category, when the shaman binds magic forces or in a bacchanal rage (“sacred insanity”). However, this proof by the lively experience (the “burning”, the “fire”) is an illusory proof, since, at this point, the actual self-annihilation, the confrontation with the nothing has to take place-not in order to throw senses and reason out but in order to move the existential sphere out of this illusory state in which it has united with reason and in which reason presents to it the absolute, instead of, in its own transcendence, as in real mystic, sinking into itself. This determination of the lively introspective in its networking with reason is unworthy, non-lively, not, however, the fact that one, with one’s senses, understanding and reason, enters the world and becomes aware of the world through them, with capabilities that one has received for precisely that purpose!

Therefore, the very first question in the critique of realization has to be: for what purpose do we possess the capability of realization? After all, it is precisely in this way that this capability is developed, just as everything else that exists has not only developed in this way, but rather, as, for example, a particular animal species, is precisely that, for which purpose it has become what it is in response to an existing stimulus. Going out from this one should continue to ask as to whether the addressed capability is a closed one (such as a “species”) or if it is an open one, and what this openness is possibly about.

With respect to realization, the most general answer has to be that such a realization is always correct then when with it, the purpose that is aimed for can be fulfilled with that capability. Not without reason, this is still precisely the way in which we form theories at the reflective level of reason: thus, for every theory it is not important that it is “absolutely true”, but that it functions without being able to be falsified. Aside from an omniscient deity, a capability that is limited as an existing entity, nothing else can be expected: it responds to that which is presented to it according to its appropriate mode. The “true existence” of the imagined (at least objectively) is of no relevance here (even the theory, at least subjectively, is considered the “last word of wisdom”), if only the aimed-for purpose of this capability can be fulfilled with it: that the frog can recognize the fly that constitutes its food “recognizes” it as its food and is able to catch it. Why should the frog be interested in what a fly “as such” is?

Otherwise, the much-discussed subject-object relationship of man to things that often is overdrawn into metaphysic, is in reality only a sub-structure of the trivial and generally acknowledged fact that, in the world of things, existences that are categorically differently equipped, are not only put next to each other, but rather have emerged out of each other in a “chain of events” and in a constantly necessary relatedness, thus they are presented to each other, everything that exists spreads itself into its environment in it own manner, in order to have its purposes fulfilled in this way and in order to, at the same time, fulfill other purposes of those whom it again is presented. Therefore: in the existing, everything it subject and object at the same time. Subject is all that exists, as far as its own capabilities actively stretch into the environment for a certain purpose; object is all that exists, as far as it is that which has been presented to the environment, thus to other subjects. In the chain of existences holds true that, the more and the more differentiated capabilities a subject has, the more objects it also has. Subsequently, one should also ask whose object humans are supposed to be? Well, humans are the object(s) of all that exists that has an active-subjective (purpose) relationship and thus also the equivalent “capabilities” directed at man, from the atoms to the molecules to the viruses and bacteria, from the crocodiles to fellow humans up to the … Gods. Are humans, however, also “the object of God”? Then, God would have to be thought as subject, endowed with certain capabilities that are connected to humans - and with that God would be failed or missed, for whose object should then the “subject God” be? “God” as well as the nothing can not be thought at all, neither as subject nor as object nor as their “somehow” constructed union. Nothing that exists has a relationship to “God” via its immanent functional capabilities - that which exists stand in a relationship to “God” by its existence, as communicative relation in the existing, as “life”. It is thinking as a function of the existing that wants to make “God”, by thinking, to the object of the existing (!) and with this creates a fantastic metaphysic instead of living “God”. It is the “objectifying” of God by thinking that creates the appearance as if man, different from all other existing things, could even live against “God”-what a self-elevation of the capability of reason! Everything that exists “lives” “God”, including man; what is in question is merely as to whether the particular “life form or way of life” of the species and individuals finds itself in accordance with the “divine way of life”, or if capabilities of life become independent in their self-relatedness and in this fore-going are foregone.

Thus western God speaks, “I am the life”, where Buddha says, “everything is nothing.” The western mistake, however, is that this word is misunderstood since one confuses mind with reason and with this drives out liveliness. This can certainly be compared to the behavior of animal species, in case they are, for example, endowed with superior capabilities and thus, out of inner necessity in the application of these capabilities destroy their own basis of existence and life. Thus also man: when he does not meet the “divine path” (of the living spirit), the regulating forces of this path he is also subjected to as much as any animal species, will soon teach him otherwise. This regulating force is not “God”; rather, with it, all existing forms of existence show that they, as receiving respective as reflecting forms of existence (at the levels of the atoms, matter, life, man), they show that they represent an ascending line and form in their lively communication a direction. The respective superior form of existence thereby devolves up to its maximum, in order to finally be formed and determined by its surrounding regulative forces that surround it as existence per se (world), according to the prevailing conditions of the regulating forces.

Basically, also man in his confrontation with his fellow humans and the world, he already has devolved the regulating force belonging to reason-which is ethic. The problem lies in the fact that ethic of reason has not yet achieved an as undoubted validity as for example the feeling of emotion and the utility of understanding, since the prevalence of the connection of existentiality and reason, in relation to the overall population, is still very rare: the “learning” capability of the species is far behind the development of the possibilities of reason and its effect.

The achieved developmental state thus sets two tasks for the “true self” of humans:

a) the realization of ethic within the species

b) the transcendence of ethic as well as of reason as a moving forward and as an unlocking of a lively existentiality, as acceptance of the “living God”.

“True self” within the meaning of the essential as true existence is always and exactly there, where the transcendence of the individual unites itself with the “living God”-and this applies to all categorical levels and “per se ipsum” leads to the realization of ethic by the resolved individual, since this is the matter-of-course basis to true existence. Therefore, the ethical values do not necessarily have to be received respectively reflected by the capability of reason, for also the “type of understanding” will realize the ethical without any reflective awareness in a confrontation with true transcendence, when and since he follows the lively, directed existentiality that points beyond him.

“True self” is based on life, not on its fleeing denial as illusion, but rather in a reverse manner in the embracing acceptance of the liveliness of existence as essence, and “true self” founds life, insofar as transcendence from emptied out contents of the old capabilities after their double reflection unlocks a further revelation of the “divine” embracing of communication in the existing. The immanent mode of expression and, simultaneously the evidence of this liveliness is love in all its categorical forms from the quarks to man: love is the sublimation of that attracting force that embraces the existing and that, in this embrace, brings forth its own forms of acceleration.

Therefore, “will” is merely a erroneous emancipation of that love; the consequence of love, to be related, is turned into the cause by ratio. If one does not see this connection between will and love, and if one rejects will as the driving force of suffering, then, with this, one also rejects the love of the lively! This true love of the lively is rejected by reason, since it is it that imagines that it wants to “love” and that it can do so (see also Kant’s “duty to love”): It is reason that esteems the “absolute” that it postulated higher than the lively. The “true self” in the “field of emptiness” is a “reasonable” self, in which the subject-object relationship is thought as being removed, in that man is supposed to experience himself as “primary factum” of “non-human/human”. However, with this experience, this mostly remains a claim; and this claim is nothing else but a derivation and prolongation out of the manner of reason itself: the receiving and ultimately the reflecting comparison leads to the only-true, and its maximum is that absolute, in which the subject-object division that is realized in individual reflection, is supposed to be removed in the “totality of the true”.

With all nations that already have arrived at the reflection of reason, the absolute is the same answer of reason in the reflecting interpretation of the existing and leads in each case to a metaphysic of two worlds, thus also with Nishitani. While he maintains that precisely with his absolute negativity and the “true self” out of the confrontation with it in the “field of emptiness” that lies before one’s own feet, these two world are thus united, that the “existence” that is thereby attained so-to-say is supposed to embrace the existing, and the “lower” form of existence is supposed to be elevated to the only true one. This, however, is still the same misconception that already Plato was subject to, when he accorded true existence only to his “ideas”. Also Plato was not in any way aware of conducting metaphysic in form of a two-world-theory but believed to interpret one world as the world of “true existence” of the ideas, in the face of which the reality of the existing would only partake in a lesser manner in the quality of the existence of ideas. Already Aristotle arrived at an opposite view than his master, and confronted the first substance of the existing (hyle-matter) with the second substance of the “essence of the thing” (morphe=form), whereby he made a meaningful connection between understanding and reason, between the sensory illusion of the empirical and the essential “entelechia” of the forms.

Out of the limitation of the capabilities of realization of the existing, there is to be drawn quite a different consequence than to fantasize about an absolute, be it as “God”, be it as nihil, in order to possibly become God-like in the field of emptiness: that true self, that should be actually found in the existing, does not exist in the absolute essence of the “primary factum human/non-human”, but in forming a new mode of expression of the existing in the existing. The true self differentiates itself from the “normal selves” by the fact that it is not a repetition or variation within the framework of tradition, but rather that it, triggered by its inherent capabilities including its pressing existentiality, transcends this framework, or at least tries to do so.

It is the concretized creative lively self in the individual (therefore the necessity for concentration) that strives towards a heightening of the reaching-out in communication. Herein, there neither lies anything absolute nor are the normal selves degraded to unreal ones, rather, here, the chain of the existing is lived and continued in that living. The existing as a whole, thus the world, keeps its “value” and is still put into such a relation to existence as a whole so that the openness that transcends the existing as a whole (as a respective snapshot of the timeless eternity) is contained in the latter, that we can also become aware of in reflection as much as this openness, simultaneously, is that dark and live-giving womb in and out of which those existing individuals at the phylogenetic top uncover their true self as a new existing and that add to existence a new quality of reaching-out.

The functional path of this pressing and striving is taken, in all forms of the existing, via reception and reflection, as the two semi-circles of one category; in today’s stage, the self reflection of reason has led to the emptying-out of the human introspective with all its negative forms of dissolution and desperation, at the same, however, also to the chance for a new beginning if one only forbids oneself to search for this in the wrong direction. Not self-reflection of reason and all its pre-existing forms will reveal something new, but alone the lively striving beyond those, using those in that process; for only in reason as the hitherto last form of the existing will this liveliness become aware of itself-as much as it, once, in its striving beyond understanding towards reason understood itself in it: transcendence does not show itself in mystical realms of emptiness, but always on the basis of the last “old” capability.

The inner evidence of transcendence is the sacred as inner realization of the lively itself, in the core experience, unconnected with images and feelings, yet using those functions: the content of the direction is, in this experience, transformed in thoughts of reason and in images of understanding, and, in this, produces the most concentrated feeling of happiness (bliss). This “positive” definition of the sacred is the equivalent of western religiosity, while in the pessimism of the Buddhist religion, only partial realms of it can be realized. While there is, admittedly, no lack of equivalent levels of the sacred, that could be described as “purity” (ethic), “humility” (annihilation of the self) and “unification” (transcendence of the self), in eastern understanding, all of these forms have a certain blandness to them: the enlightenment delivers one from the existing, the soul saves itself by negation in the field of emptiness, existence as the absolute nothing is everything, the existing is unworthy, ethic is a strategy of avoiding life and living.

Nowhere can be found the glory of the sacred, that makes up the positive part of transcendence and streams out of the fire of illumination: that concentrated burning, that, out of the contact with transcendence turns towards the existing with that illuminating force that confirms to the environment the experienced numinous. With this, it is not intended to favor a western anthropocentric, self-elevating glorification, in which man paints his own assumed glory across the sky or heavens; however, the consequence of the nihil at the basis of all capabilities of the existing can, as a whole, not be found in a “white emptiness”, in which the self unifies with “existence”, but in a lighting up, in that glory of the sacred or numinous that is a reflection of the burning. This positive sacred is -- and that is why it is shining! - not in existence for itself, perhaps only for the enlightened one, so that he can escape from the karma into the nirvana, no, the sacred and its glory exist for the entire world of the existing!

This elevating directedness towards the world is missing in eastern thinking. The directedness towards the wold of the best and of the highest consists in sacrifice: the hero of the category of understanding sacrifices his life for power or for the survival of his fellow men; the hero of the category of reason sacrifices his life respectively his existence for an idea, be it justice, be it art. And the hero of transcendence sacrifices himself for mankind-he takes the cross upon himself, representative for all of mankind. This “sacrifice” is not an “existential” that is limited to the human species; rather, it was carried on in a trial- and error method through the entire evolution as mutation and selection: the acceleration of the expanding path of life puts both the respective phylogenetic top and even more the real transcendence/innovation to ever greater tests of endurance in its interaction with the existing.

In eastern thinking, it is precisely the observation of sacrificing and being sacrificed that leads to the fleeing of existence: the compassion that arises out of this prevails, while, on the other hand, the existing is only supposed to have an illusory nature (one does not seem to become of the inherent inconsequence of this). With this, eastern thinking does not only find itself in contradiction to the wholeness of the lively in the introspective as suffering and as glory, but also in contradiction to nature itself, as the path of the existing manifests itself as a whole (in the world). Does not, in this, existing man betray existence as a whole (“God” in his singularity) when he has nothing more urgent to do than to take himself out of his own existence, out of that existence that is the un-folding of that nothing? The attempt, in contact with the nothing in the field of emptiness, of setting a self as “primary factum human/non-human”, does not mean anything else than not to accept one’s own existence, and to reject the un-folding of the nothing.

This flight into the absolute arises out of the misconception of a correct observation: of the openness of the species towards the “forward” direction, that, in the reflective awareness, is reflected as a dissatisfaction with oneself as well as with one’s own species, as incompleteness, which, again, is a consequence of the state of non-determination. This becoming aware of the non-salvation, the Asian basic understanding of existence, is trying to overcome in one great leap into the absolute of “true existence”, where it, in the reality of the existing, is aimed at a “higher” form of reaching-out, towards a further differentiation of the existing itself-this basic premise is more followed by western thinking, since here, to reflect the divine in oneself means: to “recognize” the inner relationship and essential creature existence in the sense of being created and of existing in the nothing (“God”) as its origin and aim, and with it “to be recognized by God”. This reflection has to take place in such a manner as all that exists reflects “God”: that it, in its manner in and as createdness (as existence) in this condition “bears witness”. This “divine” “does not exist” once again besides this world of the existing (two-world metaphysic), there is also no field of emptiness beneath the feet of the existing, but “God” is in it, or he is not at all, not even nothing: this “divine” is what, in existence and into existence, out of its nothing, creates all that exists and into which nothing all that exists dissolves-existence and nothing are not opposites, but identical. The opposite to both would be, in the bipolar thinking of reason, precisely the existing. Existence does not unfold out of nothing, also not as a “true self” in the field of emptiness, but in the existing. Being can in no way unfold in the existing, since it cannot be terminated: terminated can only be the existing. If being would unfold out of the nothing, the existing would be surpassed in a leap, and it would not even exist.

Nishitani does not understand the existing as an opposite to existence, but as a difference: this difference between existence and the existing is supposed to be dissolved in the contact with the absolute negation in the field of emptiness and the entire being is supposed to be fulfilled as “primary factum” in the unification of its opposites. Only a static and backward-directed reason that has not freed itself from the erroneous metaphysical perspective of the ancient Greeks, can arrive at such a pessimism in a further heightening of the concept of essence and of value, in which, in reality, reason postulates the realization of its own emptiness as absolute negativity, postulates it for the purpose of dis-individualization, in order to lose itself in the “unity of existence”, since the existence of the individual is causing the suffering in the world.

From a psychological viewpoint, two judgments work together here: at first, the right, even if rather intuitively-unconsciously than reflectively-deductively arrived at realization of the emptiness of reason, which realization forces one to seek for the value of existence and with it for the essence in another place. Again in a hurried manner and without any rational lucidity, here, the alleged “realization” of the suffering in the world is mixed into it: the com-passion as reacting lively empathy of the category of reason only looks besides itself and calls this “beyond itself”, although, in the pessimistic prejudice, the positive side of transcendence as acting and real “beyond” is not seen, at all.

Herein lies the crucial difference to Christianity that - at least in its further development in connection with ancient Greek philosophy-embraces both perspectives: in the double commandment of the New Testament, the idea of reason of the essential equality of humans as compassionate love of one’s fellow man as well as the lucid power of the “idea of the good, true and beautiful” in the glory of the sacred of divine love beyond oneself-for reductionist reason and its reflection ultimately based on the also reason-born concept of the theory of evolution: preservation of the existing in an unstable equilibrium as basis and as its transcending acceleration/elevation of matter through the lively to the spiritual.


(1) To express it differently: from the modern differentiated development of thinking and its inherent interrelated neural networking through cultural evolution.

(2) Diehls/Kranz 28 B 6,7,8: "Man soll es aussagen und erkennen, daß es Seiendes ist; denn es ist (der Fall), daß es ist, nicht aber, daß Nichts (ist)." ... "Denn niemals kann erzwungen werden, daß ist, was nicht ist. Im Gegenteil, du sollst das Verstehen von diesem Weg der Untersuchung zurückhalten." ... "Einzig also noch übrig bleibt die Beschreibung des Weges, daß es ist." (Paraphrased in English: That which does not exist can never be forced to exist. To the contrary, one should keep understanding away from this path of investigation).

(3) To express it in terms of science: the uncompleted, non-teleological path of the material, biological and cultural evolution.

(4) Here, we are dealing with the same problem as in “Fides et Ratio”, when the Pope, for the “Revelation of Faith” states another source of realization than the rational one.

(5) "Heaven and hell”, “black and white”, “thesis and antithesis”: the western nothing would, here, only be like this “antithesis” of existence, while the eastern nirvana quasi represents the synthesis of this western antithesis-here, the inner relationship to metaphysical-speculative idealism becomes clearly visible.

(6) It should not be coincidental that, fairly simultaneously with Buddha (5th century BC), in ancient Greeks, after the reaching of reflection with Plato and Aristotle as well as in Epicurean thinking, in Stoicism and with the skeptics, this immovability has been established as a goal of life under different pre-conditions.

(7) Also this is certainly no coincidence: when god can only be expressed in a negative theology, then the same must hold to for the soul that is corresponding with this God.

(8) Both great religious founders of reason, Buddha and Jesus, have not been the only ones in search of the “religio” of reason, but in the “dice game of God” (i.e. the contingency of selection of a certain formation of an “idea”, that is “necessary to a certain time”, through cultural evolution), the dices favored them that could just as easily have favored any other searchers.

(9) One should consider his famous “memorial”: "... Seit ungefähr abends zehneinhalb bis ungefähr eine halbe Stunde nach Mitternach FEUER ... Freude, Freude, Freude und Tränen der Freude ... Ewige Freude für einen Tag geistiger Übung auf Erden ..." (Paraphrased in English: “Since approximately nine thirty at night until about half an hour after midnight, FIRE … joy, joy, joy and tears of joy …everlasting joy for one day of spiritual exercise on earth …”).

(10) Here, of course, no form of religious belief is intended to be favored: here, faith means that existential re-solution that every human, be it conscious or in the various mixed forms between reason and emotion carries within himself unconsciously due to the fact that he leads his existence along quite certain values and judgments and with this brings a certain directedness into them, be it “backwards”, based on religion or “forward”, open as a hypothetical teleology that directs itself based on conscious decision at quite certain values: “faith” belongs to the existential sphere, knowledge to the functional sphere.

Translation by Ingrid Sabharwal-Schwaegermann
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