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A Zen Connection?

The following was posted on 1/14/2002 to the Spinoza Ethics Slow Reading list (see Related Sites)

[In a discussion about Spinoza's "Third Kind of Knowledge", reference had been made, by another list member, to the term "Satori"]

    I have seen and heard this word "satori" before but have little sense of what it means so I looked it up in "The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion". Of course, here in the Spinoza slow-reading list it seems useful to try to relate this to his expressed ideas:

========== Satori: Zen Jap.:
Zen term for the experience of awakening (enlightenment). The word derives from the verb satoru, "to know"; however, it has nothing to do with "knowledge" in the ordinary or philosophical sense, because in the experience of enlightenment there is no distinction between knower and known. The word kensho is also often used as a synonym for satori.

"...has nothing to do with "knowledge" in the ordinary..."

    In much the same way Spinoza's Intuition of God or Nature (it might come to be seen), "...has nothing to do with..." Still, Spinoza defines what he means for us to understand by his use of the term knowledge and the three kinds he distinguishes.

"...there is no distinction between knower and known."

    Perhaps as Spinoza says:

========= E5: PROP. 36:
The intellectual love of the mind towards God is that very love of God whereby God loves himself, not in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he can be explained through the essence of the human mind regarded under the form of eternity; in other words, the intellectual love of the mind towards God is part of the infinite love wherewith God loves himself.

    Now this "experience of awakening" it says is also expressed by:

========= Kensho: Zen Jap.:
lit. "seeing nature"; Zen expression for the experience of awakening (enlightenment). Since the meaning is "seeing one's own true nature," kensho is usually translated "self-realization." Like all words that try to reduce the conceptually ungraspable experience of enlightenment to a concept, this one is also not entirely accurate and is even misleading, since the experience contains no duality of "seer" and "seen" because there is no "nature of self" as an object that is seen by a subject separate from it.

Semantically kensho has the same meaning as satori and the two terms are often used synonymously. Nevertheless it is customary to use the word satori when speaking of the enlightenment of the Buddha or Zen patriarchs and to use the word kensho when speaking of an initial enlightenment experience that still requires to be deepened.

    Also, under "Kensho-jobutsu" ("self-realization -becoming a budhha") it says:

..."Becoming a buddha" is to be understood here in experiential terms, since according to the teaching of Zen every sentient being is fundamentally already a buddha, that is, endowed with immaculate buddha-nature and thus perfect. However, one who is not enlightened is not aware of this identity with buddha-nature. Thus for him it seems that he "becomes a buddha" when in enlightenment he realizes his true nature for the first time.

    This seems to me similar to Spinoza's statement [regarding the Third Kind of Knowledge]:

======= E5: PROP. 31, Note:
--In proportion, therefore, as a man is more potent in this kind of knowledge, he will be more completely conscious of himself and of God; in other words, he will be more perfect and blessed, as will appear more clearly in the sequel.

But we must here observe that, although we are already certain that the mind is eternal, in so far as it conceives things under the form of eternity, yet, in order that what we wish to show may be more readily explained and better understood, we will consider the mind itself, as though it had just begun to exist and to understand things under the form of eternity, as indeed we have done hitherto; this we may do without any danger of error, so long as we are careful not to draw any conclusion, unless our premisses are plain.

    ...in particular where he says: "...we will consider the mind itself, as though it had just begun to exist and to understand things under the form of eternity..."


I welcome any thoughts on the above subject.
You may send email to:
tneff [at] earthlink [dot] net

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