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October 28, 2009


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Ted, if we're talking about a standard definition, my Webster's dictionary defines metaphysics as "the branch of philosophy that treats of first principles, includes ontology and cosmology, and is intimately connected with epistemology."

Objective language is fine for communicating facts that can be verified through direct sensory perception. But if a person who never saw asked you to explain "red" to them, how would you do it so that they could understand it in the same way you do?

Your comment does stir a lot of thought but I'll stay with a couple things considering space and time. (poor pun)
I understand metaphysics to be about the relation between matter and form, no?
A person that has been blind their entire life has no knowledge of the form of redness and this is not saying they do not know of things that are red.
The words "hot", "passionate", "dangerous", "intense", have no qualities of red inherent to them and one that can see the form of redness can be just as blind to them being red without first having an association. To ask a blind person to know the form of redness is to ignore the question being of poor form. :)
Using the citchy book, there is no motorcycle without it's parts. "It" is the Zen of motorcycle maintenance.
The problem is not with language, but mis-recognized subjectivity as languages job is to point to "It". There is no lack in language as much as a perception of lack by the speaker, or human being.
I'm still confused at what makes the first and last paragraph of the post different.
That wasn't the full Neitzsche quote, either.

Ted, the post on this site defined "metaphysics" in a particular way, which may not be the same as other usages. Metaphysics here was more or less equated with "armchair mysticism," "speculative meanderings," "all talk and no walk," etc. This is in distinct contrast to Zen, or any mystical system, which emphasizes direct experience and perception. Practice, not theory. Knowledge, not belief.

I'm not surprised you haven't heard anyone say exactly what it is they're exploring in Zen. I would be surprised if you had. It's due to the same reason you haven't gotten an example from me of the Zen experience beyond phenomena. The problem is language. It simply can not adequately describe the state beyond or behind phenomena. This has always been known by those who experienced the state. It's why Jesus spoke in parables, why the Zen monks used koans, and accounts for sayings such as "Those who know don't speak, those who speak don't know" and "The Tao that can be described is not the true Tao."

It's like if you were to explain the color "red" to a person who was blind their whole life, you wouldn't be able to get them to understand red in the same (visual) way you do, because you have a direct perception of red that they do not. You could try and say it's "hot" or "passionate" or "dangerous" or "intense" or "not as blue as purple yet not as yellow as orange," but it still wouldn't transmit what red is really, and "red" would remain an unfathomable mystery to that person.

I'd say that, at most, language can point the reasoning mind in the direction of what is beyond phenomena, and act as a catalyst for shifting attention. Hence, the history of spiritual teachings and literature.

You disagreed, but you haven't given an example of "Zen, which is an experiential endeavor at the level beyond or behind phenomena", yet, that would give a basis to your question to me.
(This is still to Alex)
My interpretation of the first quote of HfBA is that the conon wants us to challenge what we think we already know. And where in the conon does it say we shouldn't be metaphysical?
As I have said before in other conversations, when someone is "Exploring Zen", they can't say exactly what it is they are exploring. No offense HfSB. Maybe you could help with this?

"But the Buddhist canon doesn't want us to become metaphysicians, pretending to have grasped ultimate reality. It asks us to directly apperceive the transcendent reality that underlies the phenomenal universe—or better still, is the stuff from which phenomena is composed."

Beautifully put! I completely agree. This has been a difficult journey to this realization for me myself. Although I had heard of Zen a long long time ago, I had never chosen to even remotely explore it. I came to the realizations myself, and then found out that there is a whole body of teachings that matches my own realizations.

Although I do not identify myself of a particular belief system, I completely agree with this.

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