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Setup, Punch Line, and the Mind-Body Problem: A Neo-Tiantai Approach

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By Brook Ziporyn

This essay will attempt to apply certain general principles and ideas deriving from the Tiantai Buddhist tradition to the classical mind-body problem, an issue that is not posed as such in the tradition but that nonetheless is given an implicit solution there. It is my contention that this implicit solution can provide us with a new and exceptionally useful insight into this old riddle.

The Tiantai tradition is a complicated phenomenon, both historically and philosophically. It reached its first full flowering in the works of Tiantai Zhiyi 之顗 (538-597), was developed along new lines by Jingxi Zhanran 湛然 (711-782) partially in response to the ascendancy of the Huayan and Chan movements in the mid-Tang, and became the site of a bitter but philosophically fruitful schism in the Song. Tiantai is generally considered the first truly "sinicized" school of Buddhism, laying the theoretical groundwork for all later developments of East Asian Buddhism in one way or another, either as inspiration or as foil. Its Japanese form, Tendai, shaped the mainstream of traditional Japanese Buddhism, in the bosom of which Kamakura reformers such as Hōnen, Shinran, Nichiren, and Dōgen were nurtured and against which, to some extent, they proposed their reforms. Its influence on other forms of East Asian Buddhism, then, has been extensive and multifarious; but its own internal development also represents a broad array of positions developed in the course of intricate ideological struggles, most notably the so-called Shanjia-Shanwai debates of the Song dynasty already mentioned. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that Tiantai represents the most comprehensive and intricate system of thought, played out in the richest and/or most prolix technical vocabulary, of any indigenous East Asian school of thought, Buddhist or otherwise. From among the leavings of this whirlwind of intellectual and spiritual activity, particularly as interpreted by the Song Shanjia school, represented by Siming Zhili 知禮 (960-1028), I have chosen one or two strands that I find useful in considering the present question, that is, the mind-body problem.

In particular, I will be focusing on the implications of two central Tiantai notions. The first of these is the doctrine of the Three Truths, usually considered the central pillar of the Tiantai edifice. These are the Truths of Emptiness (kong ), Provisional Positing (jia ), and the Mean (zhong ), and are understood most straightforwardly as the claim that all determinacies that appear in experience -- let's call them quiddities -- are, since they invariably arise conditionally, without self-nature, without any characteristic independent being -- hence "empty." In spite of being empty, however, quiddities appear qua temporary and conventional designations -- hence "provisionally posited."


To this standard Mādhyamikan observation, Tiantai adds a decisive twist: there is no hierarchy of reality between these two contrary statements. The first is not more true than the second; it does not indicate a deeper or even spiritually more important aspect of reality. Moreover, the first implies the second, and the second the first. To be empty is to be provisionally posited and vice versa. This consideration is what is referred to as the Mean. Of this there are, in Tiantai thought, several types. An "Exclusive Mean" (dan zhong 但中) reestablishes the hierarchy of levels of reality in a new register: the Mean is more true than its two forms of appearing. The truth is that something that is neither Emptiness nor Provisional Positing appears as these two alternate aspects and thereby underwrites their identity to one another. On the other hand, a Nonexclusive Mean, characteristic of the Integrated Teaching of the Tiantai school, eliminates this hierarchy as well. The Mean -- the identity between the two opposed terms -- is no longer any more real than the terms, and the "reduction" of the apparent to the real here proceeds in all directions at once: the Mean is nothing but the identity between Emptiness and Provisional Positing, but likewise Emptiness is nothing but the identity between Provisional Positing and the Mean and, mutatis mutandis, for Provisional Positing.

It is important to note here that this final elimination of levels of reality is not understood to mean that the gesture of reduction of appearances to realities is now made illegitimate, but rather that it is the more firmly established in the structure of all experience -- is structurally "inherent" -- but is now seen to proceed equally in all three directions at once. The interfusion of the Three Truths here means that it is exactly as true to say that any one of these underlies the other two -- that, say, Provisional Positing is the ultimately real level to which the others can be reduced, appearing sometimes as Emptiness and sometimes as the Mean, or that Emptiness is the deepest level, appearing sometimes as Provisionally Positing and sometimes as the Mean, and so on. When any one of the three appears, it is the other two appearing as this one; the mention of any one implies all three.

For a quiddity to exist is for it to be Provisionally Posited qua Empty and the Mean, Empty qua Provisional Positing and the Mean, and the embodiment of the Mean qua Provisional Positing and Emptiness. This notion is the cornerstone of all Tiantai thinking, and, as we shall see momentarily, the implications of this simple idea are extraordinarily far-reaching.

The second key Tiantai notion of concern to us here is that of the Opening of the Provisional to Reveal the Real (kaiquan xianshi 開權顯實). This was originally a hermeneutical tool used in Zhiyi's "classification of teachings," that is, an ordering of the relation between conventional and ultimate truths in the Buddhist canon. According to this schema, the Lotus Sūtra, by revealing all previous teachings to have been part of the larger project of revealing the One Vehicle (ekayāna), has made these previous teachings, just as they are and in their precise provisional incompleteness, identical to the complete and ultimate doctrine of the Lotus itself. Simply by appearing, the Lotus redefines all other teachings as versions and expressions of itself; simply by being recontextualized in this manner, the meaning, significance, and indeed the very identity of all the other teachings has been changed,

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without changing one jot or tittle of the teachings themselves. Here we have another deployment of the notion of "reduction" of appearance to reality, which melds nicely with the one just discussed. In this case, too, the final issue is for the reduction to proceed in all directions at once: all teachings end up being expressions of each other, not only of the Lotus. This doctrine, like that of the Three Truths, also generates an unexpectedly broad set of insights when applied as a paradigm outside this original concern, for example to more general ontological matters -- a move that is itself characteristic of Tiantai thought, and which will be explored more fully below.

Before developing and applying these particular fruits of Tiantai doctrine, however, a few remarks should be made on the exact status of our present inquiry concerning the mind-body problem, in the context of this tradition. Although this is an issue that is arguably peripheral to the Tiantai edifice, it is useful to show that I will not be departing all that far from the sources into flights of purely fanciful speculation. The basic ingredients for the mind-body doctrine of Tiantai thought are quite explicit in the traditional dogmatics. Three primary sources come to mind in this connection: first and foremost, Zhanran's "Form and Mind are Non-dual," the first of his "Ten Gates of Non-duality"; [1] second, the correlation of the "Track of Contemplation" with the Truth of Emptiness, among the Three Tracks and Three Truths, respectively; and third, the direct statement that mind is emptiness and that body is Provisional Positing in post-Song Tiantai works such as the "Sanqian youmen song" of Chen Guan 陳瓘, [2] a fifth-generation dharma descendent of Siming Zhili. Let us briefly examine these three sources one by one before allowing ourselves to draw out their implications.

Zhanran's famous text on the non-duality of form and mind (se and xin ) is notorious for its ambiguity, which indeed was one of the dominant causes of the Shanjia-Shanwai debates of the Song. This ambiguity is due not only to the exceptional terseness of the text and the alternate versions that had come down even to the Song, but also to the ambiguities of Zhanran's own thought, as developed elsewhere, on the topic of the status of mind and its relation to matter. For our present purposes, however, a few uncontroversial points can be noted. First, when considering the relation of the Three Truths to body and mind, Zhanran states that the Truth of Provisional Positing pertains to both body and mind while that of Emptiness and the Mean is exclusively mental. This is to be recalled when we consider Chen Guan's direct equation of Provisional Positing with the body and of Emptiness with the Mind, while characterizing the Mean as neither-mind-nor-body. But what Zhanran seems to have in mind here is that Emptiness and the Mean are pure conceptual or mental conclusions about reality, while Provisional Positing is meant to refer to the immediate appearances of both mental and physical phenomena, prior to any analysis of disconfirmation of appearances. Zhanran quickly retracts this neat division, however, in classic Tiantai fashion. He states:

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All dharmas [both the apparently physical and the apparently mental) are the nature of the mind. This one nature is also no nature, and the Three Thousand quiddities are replete therein. It should be known that mind includes both itself and form (rupa, matter);precisely mind is called transformation and transformation is called the creation [of determinate physical and mental forms). This is what is meant by a substance having [various] functions. Thus in the end it is neither form nor mind, and yet at the same time both form and mind -- and in the end, can be described either as exclusively mind or as exclusively form... [3]

Allow me to attempt a dejargonized paraphrase of this dense passage, in accordance with the interpretation of it that emerged in Zhili's school, and henceforth became Tiantai orthodoxy: "All phenomena can be categorized in many different ways. For present purposes, let us adopt the common distinction of body and mind. Of all observable phenomena, some are placed in one of these categories, some in the other, some in both. But our Tiantai analysis of the nature of the mind, via the Three Discernments, as the Three Truths, reveals that this nature, namely the Three Truths, is in fact shared by all dharmas whatsoever, even those initially categorized as matter. In a sense, then, they all share one nature or essence, but this essence is no particular essence, and is equally describable in any of Three Thousand alternate ways. That is, the essence of mind is to be not only mind, both mind-body, and the essence of body is to be body-mind. Either way, you have a picture of some unseen substance manifesting in various ways -- either mind is the substance that functions as both mind and body, or body is the substance that functions as both body or mind. Either way of describing the case will be equally adequate. So we could say that it is ultimately neither matter nor mind, but functions as both, or that there is nothing but mind, functioning as two opposite manifestations, or that there is nothing but matter, functioning as two opposite manifestations."

The classic formulation of the principle involved in this turn of thought, marking a sea change in all Buddhist metaphysics, comes in Zhiyi's Sinianchu 四念處, in a critique of the unidirectional reductionism of the "consciousness-only" school, and by the same token, of any unilateral foundational metaphysic:

In Vasubandhu's theory of consciousness-only, there is only the one consciousness, but it is divided into the discriminating and the undiscriminating forms of consciousness; the discriminating consciousness is what we usually call consciousness, while the undiscriminating consciousness is "consciousness appearing to be an object" (sichen shi 似塵識). All the physical objects in the universe, vases, clothing, carts and carriages, are all this undiscriminating form of consciousness... But since they are all one nature, we can equally say that there are two forms of matter, the discriminating and the undiscriminating... It is in this sense that mind and matter are non-dual. Since he (Vasubandhu) is able to say there are these two different forms of consciousness, we can equally say they are two different forms of matter... In the Integrated Teaching, we can also say that all things are matter only, or sound only, or scent only, or flavor only, or tactile sensation only, or consciousness only. In sum, every dharma inherently includes all the dharmas throughout the dharma-realm... [4]


"Discrimination" is, initially, the characteristic feature of consciousness that distinguishes it from matter, which is "undiscriminating." However, as soon as we say that all is consciousness, we have to allow that what appeared to be matter, because it performed no discriminations, was in fact just a deceptively undiscriminating "form" of consciousness. The meaning of the term "consciousness" has thereby been expanded; but if the meaning of this term can thus be expanded to include what was precisely its opposite, in distinction to which it was defined, why can't any other term also be so expanded? That is, if we can say that matter is really just a deceptive form of mind, we can equally say that mind is just a deceptive form of matter. As soon as we admit the principle of "one thing expressed in many forms," or the possibility of explaining any one thing in terms of another, interpretability as such, whatever X we happen to posit as this center will be emptied of its specific meaning by the very fact that it is, by this very hypothesis, also something that appears as its opposite.

This way of viewing matter is, of course, a direct consequence of the two central Tiantai doctrines (Three Truths and Opening the Provisional to Reveal the Real) discussed above. Once the notion of reducing some quiddity to another dissimilar quiddity is allowed, there is no nonarbitrary reason to keep from pushing it to its limit, whereby it ceases to be unidirectional; it works in all directions, among all the terms adduced, just as happens with the relations between the Three Truths and the relations between the various teachings of the Buddha. "Consciousness" turns out to mean "everything that appears, either as consciousness or as matter." But then, says Zhiyi, matter can also have two forms of appearing, qua consciousness or qua matter; it can also mean "everything that appears, either as consciousness or as matter." Hence matter and consciousness are non-dual. But the real import of this theory is just that anything can be used to explain anything else, that all things interconnect and transform into each other such that any particular quiddity may be read as pervading everywhere. When any "all is X" theory is taken seriously, it implies that "X really means everything we formerly called X as well as everything we called non-X," and thus "non-X also means just this same X, which really means X plus non-X," and therefore ends up meaning equally that "all is any X" and, moreover, that "X is therefore identical to anti-X." The extent to which any form of explanation of one thing in terms of another, any interpretation of phenomena at any level whatsoever, inevitably brings with it some kind of "all is X" claim, at least for a particular designated field of reference, is well worth considering. [5] The consequences of this distinctive Tiantai turn of thought will be the central concern of the pages that follow.

What all this boils down to, in the context of Tiantai's triadic systematics, is that the relation between mind and body is analogous to that between the truth of Emptiness and the truth of Provisional Positing. In fact, they are more than analogous: the relation between body and mind is, in fact, a special case of the relation between these first two of the Three Truths. This is best expressed in the Tiantai doctrine of the Three Tracks. These are the "tracks" of Contemplation (guanzhao gui 觀照軌), Practico-inert Support (for Contemplation) (zicheng gui 資成軌), and the Real Nature (which is Contemplated) (zhenxing gui 真性軌), which are related to one another exactly as the Three Truths are -- indeed they are merely another name for the Three Truths, within the context of a particular set of concerns. [6] As we have seen, the Tiantai tradition claims that all things have a triadic structure, with three discernible


aspects, which may be analyzed as Emptiness, Provisional Positing, and the Mean, although these are not to be considered ultimately separable. In terms of human praxis, however, Emptiness pertains to various forms of Contemplation (including subjective states ranging from deluded passions to meditational trances and insights), while Provisional Positing pertains to the Practico-inert Supports thereof (ranging from deluded physical and volitional actions (karma) to advanced forms of Buddhist praxis).

The Mean pertains to the real nature, the truth that is realized by means of these practices and contemplations, which turns out to be none other than the identity between these Practico-inert actions and subjective passions as determined by the structure of the Three Truths. In other words, Practico-inert aspects of reality, such as the body, its functions and practices, and the physical environment, are the concrete conditions that make possible subjective states (Contemplations) that reveal the True Nature, which in the end is revealed to be just this identity between the mental states and their physical conditions, on the principle of mutual reducibility that is characteristic of the Three Truths, as discussed above. These three aspects are really one and three: the subjective apprehensions of reality and the material conditions that make them possible are all part of the reality that is being apprehended. The principle reveals itself through the physical conditions and mental states that are identical to itself and that are at once the revealed and the revealer. The exact nature of this relation of identity between material conditions, subjective states, and the object apprehended by these subjective states is the main topic to be explored in this essay.

At the climax of his main work, the Song Tiantai layman Chen Guan provides a simplified formulation of the Tiantai position: "Emptiness is mind, Provisional Positing is form, and what is neither form nor mind is called the Mean. Where mind and form are both cut off the essence of the Mean is manifested; this essence is inherently included in every dharma without exception." [7] His Ming commentator, Zhenjue, is quick to point out that the Mean here should indicate the fact that mind and form are neither the same nor different and, in the next line, that it can be described equally well as "neither mind nor form" or as "both mind and form" [8] -- in line with the Zhanran passage discussed above and, needless to say, the whole Tiantai tradition as already described. But this unembellished equation of Provisional Positing with matter of body and Emptiness with mind should give us pause. After all, one of the main points of contention between the Shanjia and the Shanwai, of course, was the relation of body to mind. The Shanjia, whose position was to become orthodox and which we follow here, claimed, in line with the Sinianchu passage just quoted, that either was reducible to the other and that all things are reducible solely to either one, while the Shanwai claimed that all things were reducible to matter only in the sense that matter itself was wholly reducible to mind, but not vice versa. The Shanjia position would seem to entail that all Three Truths would have to apply to any dharma at all, and hence to both body and mind equally. But the apparent simplicity and radical symmetry of the Shanjia notion of mutual reducibility is deceptive; it must be understood against the background of Zhanran's work, quoted above, and the omnicentric understanding of the Three Tracks qua the Three Truths.

Let us return to the latter concept, the Three Truths, to tease out a more extensive and detailed set of implications from it. In this process we can distill the insights into the mind-body problem we are seeking.


The Omnicentric Mean: Provisional Positing and Emptiness as Local Intelligibility qua Global Ambiguity

The position to which we are brought by the traditional Tiantai dogmatics about the "Three Truths," described briefly above, can be reformulated in a contemporary idiom in the following manner: Any determinate form or quiddity -- let's call it X here -- that exists or is imaginable, anything experienceable or conceivable, has a fundamental triplicity to it.

Its appearance "as" X occurs only in some specific context, but it is always in some context and is always appearing as some particular X -- that is, it is experienced as some particular determinate qualitative quiddity. That is, it will never appear as anything, as having any identity or determinacy at all, unless it is presenced in some particular context; its appearance is always necessarily accompanied by the presence of some particular, determinate, restricted context. This "context" must be construed broadly, to begin with. It means here any obligatory relationship with an otherness, with non-Xness in some form. According to the traditional account, this may consist either of (a) elements into which it can be analyzed, (b) prior and subsequent states in a temporal sequence, or (c) the conceptual contrast to "non-Xness" that enables its phenomenological appearance. In any of these dimensions, it must be viewed in connection with at least one other, or otherness, per se, in order to establish an identity. At every moment of experience, there is always some X, and this X is always appearing in some "context" in the sense described above.

But in this case, by the same assumption, its Xness will not be self-sufficient; it will be, in a word, context-dependent, which is to say, brought about by a relationship to a specific configuration of non-X quiddities. This means that the same token, unchanged, seen in another context will no longer be experienced as X, but as some non-X. In other words, any X that may appear to any form of consciousness will be locally established and globally disestablished. This establishment of a quiddity relative to a particular local context we will call Provisional Positing, while the disestablishment of the same quiddity when recontextualized, its fundamental ambiguity as a semiotic token of experience, we will call Emptiness. It will be noted again that these are not to be construed as two separate claims, but as two ways of stating the same claim, namely that all identity is context-dependent. This being the case, both the local establishment and the global disestablishment are simultaneously implied, and accomplished, as it were, by the same gesture.


The point, which is merely an expansion of what was said earlier about the function of reducibility and contextualization in the doctrines of Three Truths and Opening the Provisional to Reveal the Real, can be put as follows: all terms of experience are fundamentally ambiguous until connected to some "ultimate value," some final independent variable, of which they are all then seen to be partial expressions. Considered in themselves, it cannot be said that they simply are one thing or another; they get their meaning, content, and identity from their relation to a grounding, explanatory other.

An example, posed in terms of the relation between apparently differing belief systems, may make this more clear. [9] In any system of terms, there will be one master term by reference to which all the other terms have their content fixed. For example, if I am a feminist, I may also support Marxist and ecological movements, because I see them as aspects of the general problem of patriarchy and as contributing to that struggle for equal rights for women; in that case, I would believe that, once the real problem, patriarchy, has been solved, the ecological crisis and capitalist exploitation will automatically also be solved, for the feminist problem is the real root of the others. "Feminism" in this case is the ultimate value, the "center" of my system. However, if I am a radical Green ecologist, I will feel on the contrary that only a solution to the ecological crisis can solve the problems of patriarchal and capitalist exploitation; man's warped relation to nature is the real root problem, the "center," the ultimate value. A Marxist, of course, will feel that feminism and ecologism are just epiphenomena of the root problem of capitalist exploitation and class struggle. Similarly, if my ultimate value resides in egotism, I may support feminism, Marxism, of ecologism if I think they will benefit me personally. My personal interests, in that case, form the center of the whole of value signifiers that I employ. Feminism is good to the extent that it furthers my interests as a woman; Marxism is good because I am a proletarian, and so on. In this case, feminism and Marxism will merely be forms, indirect expressions, of my egotism, which is what they would be revealed to have always actually been when analyzed to the bottom.

This means that the "noncentral" terms are always fundamentally ambiguous until tied to some center in a particular context. Their identity and contents are not otherwise fixed. As Slajov Zizek points out:

Ecologism['s] ... connection with other ideological elements is not determined in advance; one can be a state-oriented ecologist (if one believes that only the intervention of a strong state can save us from catastrophe), a socialist ecologist (if one locates the source of merciless exploitation of nature in the capitalist system), a conservative ecologist (if one preaches that man must again become deeply rooted in his natural soil), and so on; feminism can be socialist, apolitical...; even racism could be elitist or populist..." [10]

It is the connection to a center that fixes or stabilizes these terms in any particular case, bestowing on them a definite content or identity.

Here we must distinguish between two possible understandings of this situation, corresponding to the Exclusive and Nonexclusive Mean discussed above. The first of these may be called the unicentric or foundationalist approach. This view would hold that there is among all terms one unique term, no more and no less, that is to be granted the ability to fix the meanings of all the others. If the feminist in our previous example has a unicentric underlying conceptual system, she will have to claim that feminism truly occupies a special and privileged place among signifiers, that is, that it is the real and true root of all the other problems, the uniquely adequate way of regarding the problem as a whole. Ecologism and Marxism are merely parts, or partial, indirect expressions or forms of feminism. If properly analyzed, they will reveal themselves to have always been nothing but local and limited forms of feminism. The same will go, mutatis mutandis, for the other examples. If we are outside observers, if we are unicentrists ourselves, we will have to believe that one and only one of these three contesting views is correct. Only one of these terms truly and adequately represents the whole; the others are just partial representations, limited expressions of this real essence, and they have mistakenly elevated their own status to the central position.


The second interpretation, which I will call "omnicentrism," holds on the contrary that we may in fact take the part for the whole, since any part, simply considered in itself, in its own characteristics, already implies the whole of which it is a part. The part, in other words, is the whole, and any part can thus adequately stand for the whole. An omnicentrist, observing the disagreement above, would not have to insist that one of these three combatants was correct and the other two mistaken; he would say, instead, that the whole field of phenomena and the questions to which they are all referring can be described equally in these various ways or any other, that the master signifier can in fact be located anywhere at all in the whole. This is the way the Tiantai tradition understands this situation. The entire complex functions meaningfully in all these ways at once; feminism can indeed be seen as the unifying thread running through capitalist and ecological exploitation. On the other hand, class struggle can also be viewed as the unifying thread -- or ecological exploitation, or my personal interests, or anything else.

The holistic mutual dependence of the parts, established by the insight into Emptiness and context-dependence outlined above, is so thorough that the system of causality cannot be conceived of simply as one-way, with one unique root that causes all the other parts of the whole. The concept of root or cause here is only provisional. And yet it is not illegitimate; the claim here is not that we must forget about having any master signifier or center at all, that nothing is the root of anything else and all are simultaneously present, but is rather a both/and position. The categories of cause and effect or of root and branch are unavoidable if there is to be any meaning at all, but it always works in both directions at once. It is not that there is no real center (and "centrality" is therefore a mere ideological invention); rather, "centrality" is an indispensable category, such that all points are center, all points are periphery. [11] What is ideological distortion, if anything, is just the claim that some one of these centers is the sole point over which centrality can be asserted. In short, omnicentrism holds that the identity and significance of any entity is so thoroughly and completely a function of its relations to others -- so completely "holistic" -- that every identity is a sliding identity whose significance is always susceptible to grounding in something else, always ambiguous, revisable, changeable, and instrumental. However, since this is also true of all the other entities in which it is so grounded, every entity equally can and must itself serve as a ground, as a master signifier from which everything else attains its significance and identity as a center. It is this insight that, in Tiantai tradition, is described as the Nonexclusive Mean, the unique relation of neither-identity-nor-difference that is said to obtain between provisional and ultimate truth -- and thus, as we shall see below, between matter and mind.


We can perhaps understand this better by recalling the comment above about the ambiguity of the identities of all noncentral terms prior to their connection with a determining center (in Tiantai terms, their emptiness). At first glance, this seems to suggest that the center is the one entity that is definite, fixed, "full," unambiguous, that is, which has a fixed meaning or identity that need not depend on the connection to something else. This is true, but for omnicentrism it is only part of the truth. In omnicentrism, the holistic premise is pressed to the point of rendering this center at the same time completely empty of its own meaning or identity as well. For example, to use the ideological example of meanings cited above (in which context it is perhaps easiest to grasp this point), if "class struggle" is the center of my meaning system, it will seem as if all other particular issues get their meaning just from class struggle; they all end up to be nothing but particular expressions of class struggle. The meaning of class struggle seems to remain constant and prior, while the meaning of terms like "feminism" is transformed by the connection to this center. But if this mode of interpretation succeeds to the ultimate extent, it will come to explain everything as forms of class struggle, and when this happens, "class struggle" will turn out to be not the most meaningful term in the system but the one term that is completely devoid of meaning, since it means literally everything. It will have come to be so modified by its use as the one term that explains all these disparate phenomena, of which the others are various forms of expression, that it will end up being no more than a null point in the system with no specifiable content. When this happens, it is the dependent peripheral terms that actually provide the content and meaning for what had been the center. Thus, when any one of these centerings (interpretative systems) succeeds to the utmost point, the center in question comes to mean both nothing and everything.

At this point, any given term in the system can function equally well as the center -- all the terms explain each other, and the starting point can be anywhere, as long as its function is thought all the way through, pushed to its ultimate, which in this context means "applied in every possible context." When "class struggle" completely succeeds as a center, it can be seen even in quiddities that appear to be precisely the opposite, that can be seen as expressed even in all forms of apparent class harmony, or in patriarchal oppression and ecological irresponsibility. At this point, this term has become non-disconfirmable and therefore strictly meaningless; it ends up revealing in all things not just the character or quiddity of "class struggle" but simply the fact of interconnection itself, the fact that one thing can be used to explain another -- that, indeed, when its work is complete, any term can be used to explain all others. It reveals omnicentrism.


Similarly, when "feminism" completely succeeds as a center, it shows that gender issues are everywhere, which similarly empties the term "feminism" of meaning and ends up revealing most centrally just interconnection itself. When they succeed fully, these two opposite centers end up revealing the same thing; their meaning ends up being one and the same -- the fact of interpretability from all perspectives, omnicentrism. However, this "sameness" of their ultimate meanings does not strip them of their specific validities as starting points. In terms of feminism, all is feminism, and in terms of Marxism, all is Marxism, and these two characteristics are maintained in both their identity and their difference to the very end of the inquiry. Marxism always ends up meaning "Marxism expressing itself in a multitude of varying forms, including feminism, ecologism, and so forth," while Feminism also ends up meaning "Feminism expressing itself in a multitude of varying forms, including Marxism, ecologism, and so forth." In each case, the distinctions between the varying forms are included in the final meaning of the master term rather than being destroyed by its universal application and identity in contrary master terms.

To put the same point in a "classical" rather than a "postmodern" idiom, let us suppose that I say, with Thales, that "all is water." That is, "water" is the center, that all other things -- fire, air, and earth -- are to be understood in terms of water, that they are "really" water, that they are all identical to water. Initially, this term "water" means the wet element as opposed to the fiery, earthy, or airy elements. But if this theory is really taken seriously, then the explicator changes along with the explicated; that is, by my own theory, "water" refers not only to the wet element, but also to all things that appear to be fiery, earthy, of airy. "Water" no longer means that which appears as wetness, but rather that which appears sometimes as wetness, sometimes as fieriness, sometimes as earthiness, and sometimes as airiness. In effect, the term "water" now really means "water-fire-air-earth," with an emphasis on the central term "water." So, in saying "Water, fire, air, and earth are all water," I am just saying, "Water, fire, air, and earth are water, fire, air, and earth." But actually I am asserting a little more: I am saying that when I name one of these four, I am really referring to something that includes all four. I may think that I am saying, at the very least, that the wet is the uniquely most direct manifestation of this something, while the hot, airy, and earthy are all derivative or indirect expressions of it.

But the application of these terms in all possible contexts, their full thinking through, deprives this claim of any specifiable meaning by making it reversible: if tire can be a form in which water is manifested, why cannot water be a form in which fire is manifested? Once we have allowed the concept of "forms of manifestation of varying degrees of directness," we have opened the door to name anything at all as the fundament of which everything else is the expression or manifestation. By the same token, then, if I now say "fire," since tire is just water and water is just water-fire-air-earth, I can equally say "all things are fire." Any term can be the center, since each of the four really refers to all four at once. This also means that I can say "fire is identical to water." In all this, I have really just asserted that all four terms transform into one another, that they are inseparable, and that any starting point can serve as a point of reference by which to explain the others. This is omnicentrism, which can thus be viewed as simply a fuller thinking-through of the basic premises of holism per se.


To review: the identity of any token of experience is fundamentally ambiguous and dependent on a particular restricted context for its establishment. This ambiguity is what is meant here by Emptiness. The provisional, dependent identity acquired in this fashion is equivalent to Provisional Positing. However, since this same ambiguity applies also to whatever term might be chosen as the grounding center, and since, once successfully extended to explain all other parts as expressions of itself the initial grounding center loses its determinate character, obtaining all its contents and identity solely from the "expressions" of which it was posited as the ground, all points end up equally being the grounding center, and any point can be chosen as the starting point for a system of interpretative connections and groundings. This further reversal is equivalent to the Mean. The fact that any entity thus ends up being both center and periphery, the ground and the grounded, the explainer and the explained, the root and the branch, is the Nonexclusive Mean. The final effect of setting up some X as the center, the grounding term by reference to which all others are explained, is not just to show that all are expressions of this particular X, but, more importantly, to show that any X can serve to explain everything else, that all things are expressions of any chosen X, that every X pervades all times and places, because the interconnections of things are precisely what comprise each thing's identity.

But, it may be asked, is expression or instantiation the only form of contextualization? That is, when something "derives its identity from its relation to an other," that is, its context, does this necessarily take the form we have mainly been discussing in the examples above, namely the form of instantiation, as "feminism" may be seen, if contextualized in a certain way, as merely an expression or facet or instantiation of "Marxism" or "ecologism," or as "water" may be seen to be an indirect "expression" of fire? The implicit model of the situation in the slightly jargonistic postmodern idiom we have been using, speaking of "contexts," or of Gestaltist figure-ground relations, would suggest not. For in neither of these pictures do the "contexts" or "backgrounds" seem necessarily to involve the "self-emptying" of the determinate content. It does not seem to be the case, at least prima facie, that the identity of a background is changed when it serves as a background for a figure. For example, black remains black when it is used to contextualize a white figure. It is possible to argue that the context of background is itself contextualized of grounded in some larger context or ground, thus again making its identity nondeterminate. This may well be so, but it raises certain difficulties of infinite regress and the identity of the whole, as well as old ontotheological specters of first-cause arguments, in which we may not want to involve ourselves. It is also possible to assert that the identity of the context is in fact modified by the mere act of serving as context. It has at least one additional characteristic that it did not have before -- that of serving as the context for something -- and this would perhaps, on some holistic or internal-relations-only accounts, be considered a change of identity. According to this view, more or less plausibly, the content and identity of a metaphor, or any other explanatory sign, is always modified by the content of that to which it comes to be applied.


However, I would rather suggest at this juncture that this is just the place where our metaphors of context and background break down and must be replaced by a more nuanced one. This will really account for the omnicentric properties of Tiantai speculations and allow us to pursue their implications in the realm of the question at hand, in this case, the mind-body problem. That is, it has become necessary to specify exactly what kind of contextualization we have in mind here. Contextualization of semiotic tokens in differential networks is only the general notion here, and this explicates the Tiantai omnicentrism only to a limited extent. To get us over the remaining hump, a more precise specification of the relevant subset of semiotic contextualization is especially necessary here. The new metaphor that I am suggesting is based on the uniquely Tiantai doctrine of "Opening the Provisional to Reveal the Mean" (kaiquanxianshi). This notion is best understood by the metaphor not of figure and ground or of semiotic marker and context (although both of these are involved and, as it were, presupposed by the modified metaphor), but by the model of a joke -- in particular a joke with a setup and a punch line -- as we shall explicate presently. To understand the applicability of this concept, however, let us first take a look at the Tiantai doctrine from which it derives.

Opening the Provisional to Reveal the Real: Setup and Punch Line as the Basic Categories of Existence

In these reflections I have simply adumbrated what is writ large and in another idiom in the Tiantai system of omnicentrism. The central pillar of this system, however, by the consideration of which I hope to explicate the manner in which the real meaning and content of any center ends up being just the principle of "centrality" (mutual explication) itself, is to be located in the Tiantai view of the purported Lotus Sūtra teaching of "opening the provisional to reveal the real" as the ultimate truth revealed by all teachings. That is, the Lotus, a text with minimal doctrinal content, except for a meta-level consideration of the relationship between different teachings, is, in the Tiantai view, the ultimate truth. It is not some specific teaching about what the real is, but just the act of opening and revealing, of bringing teachings together so that they are revealed to be versions of one another -- one may say versions of teaching per se, that is, the ultimate teaching. Omnicentrism here is viewed not as one specific teaching among many, but as the real significance of what it means for there to be any teaching at all, what is really at stake when anyone suggests any center, any way of interpreting experience. [12]


The Tiantai tradition's unique position rests on its claim concerning the relation that obtains between Provisional Positing and this Emptiness. It will come as no surprise for those familiar with Buddhist rhetoric that they turn out to be "neither the same nor different" or "both the same and different," denoted here as the "Non-exclusive Mean." But as the reflections above have already begun to suggest, rather than relegating this claim to a facile unthinkable identity of contraries or a blank "everything is everything" story, the Tiantai tradition has something very specific in mind here: the neither-sameness-nor-difference of the provisional and Emptiness in the Mean is to be understood on the model of the relation between provisional and ultimate doctrines preached by the Buddha, the process of preaching false but necessary provisional doctrines, on the basis of one's realization of ultimate truth, in order to lead other beings to that ultimate truth, especially as described in the Lotus. The ontological problems of the relation of appearance and reality, and of oneness to multiplicity, are to be understood here according to the blueprint provided by this basic paradigm. That is, Provisional Positing is to Emptiness as provisional truth is to ultimate truth. And what precisely is this relation?

According to the Lotus, the provisional doctrines, valid in some local context, are posited (1) on the basis of the ultimate truth and (2) in order to reveal ultimate truth. That is, a Buddha creates these doctrines on the basis of his own wisdom and compassion, his own embodiment of ultimate truth, and designs them for the sole purpose of leading other sentient beings to the same state. The doctrines, understood in the sense specified by their original local context, do not literally describe this state of realization or match its contents, but do both derive from and lead to it. However, this is not yet the whole story, for according to the Tiantai understanding of this relation, in terms of "opening the provisional to reveal the real" this content is itself purely context-dependent; that is, just the same content, when "opened up" and revealed in this context of deriving from and leading to ultimate truth, suddenly reads differently without having changed in the least. It is not that the provisional is refuted and replaced by ultimate truth, but rather that it is revealed in this manner always to have been, token for token, ultimate truth itself.


According to this picture, it is possible to be practicing both ultimate and provisional truths at the same time, in that one may believe oneself to be practicing a particular practice, which, when recontextualized, turns out always to have had quite a different meaning and efficacy. Hence, in the Lotus, the śrāvakas (Hīnayāna disciples) are told that they have actually been practicing the Bodhisattva path all along, as have been the tormentors of the Bodhisattva Never-Disparage. As Zhiyi points out, [13] these tormentors are not instructed to change their behavior in any way; rather they are told that in doing what they are doing (tormenting Never-Disparage) they are now actually practicing the Bodhisattva path, which proceeds from and leads to enlightenment, and hence they will all become Buddhas. This claim is made possible by the presumption that the Bodhisattva path is a particular state of being that is understood as having at least the following two attributes: (1) it can assume any form because it is (2) always involved in responding to and bringing enlightenment to other sentient beings. Hence any particular form may turn out to be an instantiation of the Bodhisattva path and have the effect of bringing enlightenment to both oneself and others. The previous teachings are shown to have been provisional (merely forms of Bodhisattvahood), and their real intention and source is revealed (they are forms of Bodhisattvahood). They were not literally "true" as understood in the original context, but when placed in the context of the ultimate intention and result underlying them (both of which are the Bodhisattva path), a beginning before the previously supposed beginning and an end after the previously supposed end, it is revealed that these very teachings, token for token, were revelations of the ultimate truth as well -- that is, they were forms assumed by enlightenment and which reveal enlightenment.

Again, when a previous teaching is "opened up" in this way, it is not exactly refuted; instead, the hermeneutic context in which it reveals itself always to have been speaking the ultimate truth is revealed. The teaching itself is not changed, but now it is seen that all along it was teaching the ultimate truth, the content and implications of which are very different from those assumed to pertain when this provisional teaching was heard in isolation or taken in its literal sense. As Zhiyi says, "When we open up the upāyas to reveal the real ultimate truth in them, we see that precisely the former bodies [of Buddhas preaching inferior doctrines) are the perfect eternal body, and that the former doctrines are all the perfect Integrated Teaching, that the former practices and former principles are all precisely the ultimately real." [14]

This entails also that once the ultimate is revealed, it reveals itself both in contrast to the previous upāyas and as a new contextual nexus in the light of which the former teachings are themselves revealed as identical to this ultimate teaching, thereby in the same gesture overcoming this very contrast. This is made most explicit in the Tiantai doctrine of the "two marvels," the relative and the absolute, which is traditionally explained in the following terms:


Q: Since the Lotus is revealing the one reality, why does the "Explanation of the Title" section of the[[Fahua] xuanyi]] 法華玄義 describe it in terms of two marvels?

A: The Lotus is the teaching that opens up the provisional to reveal the real, and thus is the returning point of all the teachings, the ultimate of all the five periods. If it is not understood by means of the two marvels, it is quite difficult to reveal the one-vehicle marvel that reveals the real. Initially, the "relative" (xiangdai 相待) discusses the distinction between marvelous and coarse. "Xiang" means "this" and "that" giving shape to each other, and "dai" means to have another in reference to oneself. Here it means waiting on the coarseness of the previous four periods and seven provisional teachings and only then [in contrast] revealing the marvel of the one vehicle of the Lotus. Truly it is because earlier the karmic situation of the [listeners to the] other sūtras was not yet ripe, so that the flavor of their teachings and contemplations ... are unequal to the pure comprehensiveness and absolute marvel of the Lotus, and hence these are called "coarse." ... Because this (Lotus) sūtra is pure and undefiled, it alone gets the name of marvelous, and for good reason. But next the section on the absolute (juedai 絕待) discusses opening the coarse to reveal the marvelous, cutting off the previous coarseness so that there is nothing any longer with which this [marvel] can be contrasted to and depend on [i.e., define itself in contradistinction to]. This is because the marvel of the Lotus has the power to put an end to the coarseness of the previous four periods and seven levels of teaching, such that once their coarseness undergoes the Lotus' opening and revealing procedure, using the marvelous single vehicle to string them all together and cut off their coarseness, this coarseness is henceforth identical to marvelousness. Outside the marvel there is no further coarseness. Provisional is thenceforth identical to reality, and outside the reality there is no further provisionality. It is like when a divine immortal transforms cinnabar sand, or forges iron until it becomes gold. Once it has become gold, it is no longer iron. Thus the sūtra says, "Pulling open once and for all the Śrāvaka dharma, showing it to be the king of all sūtras." This means that what you all have been practicing (as śrāvakas) was in reality the Bodhisattva way. This is to open up the gates of upāya and reveal the true real-mark: once it is opened up, there is no longer any difference between the levels, no Hīnayāna or Mahāyāna, for all return equally to the realm of Buddhahood, and all dharmas are Buddhadharmas. There exists no other vehicle; only the one real-mark has been revealed, and this is called the discussion of marvelousness in the absolute sense. But of these two types of marvel, if the division is not made in the relative sense the Lotus will not be revealed as transcending all other teachings, whereas if the opening up and revealing of the ultimacy is not done in the relative sense, then we wouldn't know that the marvel of the Lotus is able to make a marvel of all other dharmas and teachings as well. [15]


Here we are talking about the relative status of various sūtras. But this is the model for the Tiantai vision of reality. Let us draw out the implications. Both the distinction between value and antivalue and the subsequent abolition of that distinction are necessary here. By means of the distinction, the concept of value is gained; without first having the contrast, there would be no notion of what was meant by value. Moreover, this alone assures that value will be able to perform its work of transforming antivalue into itself. Once this concept is in hand and granted its place hierarchically above antivalue, with which it is given meaning by contrast, it is revealed that this value subsumes antivalue within it, that by virtue of itself antivalue is no longer antivalue, but is instead itself also, paradoxically, value itself. This can serve as a template not only for the relation between the Lotus and other sūtras, but for the development of the Mahāyāna claims of identity between Nirvāṇa and saṃsāra. We begin with suffering, deluded beings, which have always existed. The Buddha comes along and says "Notice that you are suffering and deluded, that all reality is nothing but delusion and suffering." By grasping these concepts, they simultaneously grasp the contrasting opposite concepts: enlightenment and bliss, defined so far only as far-off ideals contrasting in every detail with ordinarily experienced reality, Nirvāṇa.

Nirvāṇa is so far quite simply the pure opposite of ordinary reality, its unmitigated negation. Reality is impermanent, painful, selfless (unfree), and defiled: therefore Nirvāṇa means the opposite state, the state that is permanent, blissful, free, and pure. Nirvāṇa defined in this way is the relative marvel. Then comes the punch line, the twist: this further revelation is made that existing reality is Nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa is saṃsāra. It is ordinary reality itself that possesses these qualities of permanence, bliss, and so forth, precisely by virtue of the impermanence and pain that led to their positing. Value consists of revealing that the antivalue with which it was contrasted in order to become defined is itself the source and locus of this value, is itself identical to value. To say from the beginning "This is all value" would have no meaning at all, would not reveal anything to sentient beings, because they simply would not know what value (marvel) means. [16] As Zhiyi says, "How could the coarse thinkable be different from the marvelous unthinkable? Without leaving words and letters we can thus speak the meaning of liberation. The crux is just to realize how the thinkable is identical to the unthinkable." [17]

As noted, this notion of opening and revealing does not apply only to doctrines and teachings, much less merely to the groupings of the Buddha's teaching, although this is its initial and formative point of reference. It is deployed as a general metaphysical notion. Zhiyi says:


All existing dharmas are marvels. Each color and scent without exception is the Way of the Mean itself. Sentient beings capriciously cut themselves off from this marvel. [The Buddha's] great compassion is such that he goes along with beings and does not contend with the world, and thus he propounds all the various provisional and real teachings... Here [in the Lotus) he opens these various provisional upayic gates to reveal the ultimate truth ... thereby allowing all of them to enter into the ultimate reality... If we decisively open up the provisional conventional teaching (shijian xitan 世間悉檀) to show how it is itself the marvelous conventional teaching ... we see that the very names of the ten thusnesses, the nature and appearance of each, throughout all the nine deluded realms together become the nature and appearance of the Buddha's own dharma-realm... [18]

Here we see not only an emphasis on the preservation of individual deluded forms and even names in their glorified form but also the way in which the actual qualities, appearances, and characteristics of the "nine realms" (that is, all forms of existence other than Buddhahood) are treated as a kind of upāya, and are opened up and revealed to be none other than the Buddha realm. By this very act they are all again both provisional and real at the same time. [19] The relation between provisional and ultimate teachings is used here as a model for the relation between the ontic realms themselves; ordinary reality is to the realm of enlightenment as a provisional teaching is to the ultimate teaching to which it leads. The final form taken by this ontological application of the notion of opening the provisional to reveal the real is in the famous Tiantai doctrine of the "mutual inclusion of the ten realms" (shijie huju 十界互具), or, even more pithily, "the three thousand suchnesses inherent in each moment of experience" (yinian sanqian 一念三千).

The implication of stating the standard Chinese Buddhist notion of mutual inclusion in this very particularist manner must not be overlooked here. That is, by referring explicitly to the "ten realms" or to the "three thousand," rather than simply stating, in the Huayan manner, an ambiguous "everything is each, each is everything," the Tiantai version of this doctrine explicitly ensures the inclusion also of subjective states of delusion and suffering, since these ten realms include the specifically enumerated realms of purgatory, animals, asuras, hungry ghosts, and so on as pervading and being pervaded by the realm of Buddhahood. Since, in pan-Buddhist mythology, all such realms are constitutively subjective as much as objective (that is, creations of karma), this means not just that a set of morally neutral entities, the things making up the world, are all mutually pervasive, but specifically that delusion and enlightenment, which in Tiantai terms means provisional and ultimate truth, are mutually pervading, each one being an adequate description of the whole process of delusion-enlightenment.


We may say, then, that the ultimate truth cannot be separated from provisional truth and would not be itself without the lesser teachings that precede it. The provisional truth can never be eliminated or left behind, because then the ultimate truth would fail to be the ultimate truth; it is only ultimate by virtue of its mutual inherence with the provisional truth, which is also, therefore, ultimate. Here the real nature of all phenomena is asserted to be none other than the principle of upāya itself, of a provisional positing that is perpetually exposed as false and superseded. The truth, in other words, is the process of falsehood (partial truth) leading to truth. The world is thus to be experienced as a teaching device, something that is in itself false if taken literally but true in that it is manifested by and in fact inherent in the truth itself, as a means devised skillfully to lead one to the truth, which will turn out to be this principle of truth and half-truth itself, fleshed out. But this is only half the story, since it is just as true to say "the Buddha realm, too, is merely a provisional upāya" as it is to say "the nine realms are really the ultimately real Buddha realm." In fact, all have to be both at once, and thus we could say that all our evils are teaching devices of the Buddha or that even the Buddha is just another delusion resulting from ignorant clinging. Both of these must be equally valid for all experience.

This structure adumbrates the procedure Zhiyi uses in every section of the Fahuaxuanyi and his other main works. First he makes a distinction, allowing the contrast to define the two poles -- usually a hierarchical contrast or a straight value contrast -- and then at the end he "opens the provisional to reveal the real," showing that actually all lower or negatively valued parts are identical to the higher or positive part, and have been all along. All falsehoods will turn out always to have been the truth. This is not to say they already are the truth, or that they will become the truth; there is both a necessary forward motion ("will turn out") and a realization, constituted thereby, that this opposite value has been copresent all along ("always to have been"). But how in the world are we to understand this and gain an intuitive sense of its plausibility?

It is here that I must beg the reader's indulgence while I suggest what I have found to be a highly useful comparison; for the entire Tiantai concept of the relation between provisional and ultimate truth can, as I have already hinted, be illuminated by means of a very commonplace example: I refer to the structure of a joke. Provisional is to ultimate as setup is to punch line. Enlightenment is equal here to humorousness, delusion to seriousness. The whole setup of the joke is experienced as serious until the punch line appears, but once the punch line is understood, the entire setup is also seen to have been "funny." One does not say, after all, "The punch line is funny, but the joke as a whole is not." One simply says that the whole joke is funny, including the seriousness of the setup. Every atom of the setup is thereby also understood to have been funny. But this does not mean that one was laughing while hearing the setup. On the contrary, the punch line will only work, will only be experienced as funny, if the setup has been temporarily, "provisionally," taken seriously. It is precisely the contrast between the solemnity of the setup and the absurdity of the punch line that constitutes the humor of the latter, and thereby of the entire joke, including the serious setup. In this way we can see how the setup can be simultaneously "serious" and "funny," and how these two are identical to one another and yet exist in a necessary conflict and contrast.


As I understand it, this provides a remarkably close approximation of the relation between provisional and ultimate in Tiantai and thereby of the relation of value and antivalue. This is one model by which to understand how "antivalue" (purgatory, karma, afflictions, sentient beings, provisional teachings) can be both identical to and opposite to "value" (Buddhahood), without changing in the least and without renouncing the experienced conflict between the two. Their conflict itself is experienced as harmony, just as the contrast between the seriousness of the setup and the humor of the punch line is also experienced as their harmony, in the retrospective understanding of the humor of the joke as a whole. Thus, Tiantai writers can say "All things, including evil, are Buddha, Nirvāṇa, enlightenment, ultimate truth, and so forth," without thereby destroying the meaning of these terms through the paradox of asserting any predicate of "all things," without denying the contrast between evil and good, and without absorbing all the particulars and distinctions among individual things into one indeterminate universal Suchness or "night in which all cows are black." On the contrary, the goodness of all things is dependent on the eternal, uncompromising contrast between evil and good. The Lotus Sūtra is the punch line of the universe, which reveals all provisional positings -- without altering in the least their immediate coarseness, illusion, and evil -- simultaneously to be marvelous, to be the ultimately true and good, like the marvelous Lotus itself. Once the punch line appears, everything is always both funny and serious.

It is the last point that needs stressing, for it is here that our new model comes to our aid. For we can now understand not only how the recontextualized token (here the setup) comes to be entirely characterized by two opposite qualities (here humorousness and seriousness, each of which will apply to the entire setup once the punch line appears to recontextualize it), but also how the same can be true, in an asymmetrical manner, of the punch line itself. For, as in the examples developed in our discussion above of master signifiers and centers, the quality of "humorousness," once it is revealed that it can also "turn out always to have been present" even in the most serious, and even tragic, of qualities (the setup), no longer has a determinate and identifiable significance in contrast to the serious. Nothing, however serious, can be imagined or pointed to, of which it could be said with assurance that "This is not funny." "Funny" no longer means anything in particular, no longer has a specifiably limited range of meaning. It no longer means, for example, that when you are in the presence of something "funny" you will burst out laughing, or experience pleasure, or even not be in misery and terror. All and any experience can turn out always to have been funny. Hence funny no longer denotes any determinate meaning. This being the case, the predicate "funny" empties itself of determinate concept, in the manner required for a truly omnicentric picture.


This same point can be approached from another angle. The stunning content-lessness of the Lotus, its relative lack of any substantive doctrinal insights, has often been noted, and the high regard in which it is held in East Asian Buddhism has been the cause, therefore, of considerable bewilderment. In an important sense, we may say that for the Tiantai tradition the Lotus is even more purely empty than it appears. It does indeed recontextualize and "open" all other teachings, but it does this not by adding exactly another teaching, another content above and beyond the previous contents. Rather, it merely makes explicit the positing of the other teachings, as contextualized, as all expressing the same intent, as belonging together, as conditioned by one another, as interconnected, and therefore, in the Tiantai reading, ulti-mately as expressions of one another. But this, in the Tiantai view, is all that any content ever is; this is what it is to be a content, a quiddity, a something at all. That is, all that the Lotus provides is a kind of formal gesture that makes the previous teachings explicitly what they always implicitly were: it makes their conditionality, their context-dependence, explicit, not by adding one more context-dependent content but by reiterating the previous contents and remarking them, saying them all together and saying that one has been saying them all -- that is, simply making it explicit that the teachings are "teachings," as it were.

If we apply this structure to our joke model, we can perhaps add an important nuance here. The function of the punch line here does not reside in the addition of one more content, but in the clashing or connection of contents in such a way that what they always already were, that is, context-dependent determinacies, becomes explicit. The simultaneous belonging-together and mutually transforming (because mutually recontextualizing) incongruity of the contents of the setup and the punch line are what is disclosed by the dawning of the punch line; when the punch line occurs, both setup and punch line are explicitly posited as "contents." What is revealed is not some one content, but what it is to be a content. What is funny in the punch line is not the content of the punch line per se, but the revelation thereby that the setup, which appeared just plain determinate, was actually always already determinate-qua-context-dependent, and indeed that determinacy is itself always just context-dependence and hence indeterminacy. It is thus merely a kind of restatement of the setup, its remarking in the new context established by the punch line, that provides the punch of the punch line, rather than the punch line qua additional content. We might then describe the true punch line as simply the setup restated qua setup, or the interface between setup and punch line. What makes the joke funny is just seeing the setup as setup. In this sense, too, nothing is changed, and, more importantly, nothing is added; the recontextualization here does not require the addition of some further content to provide literally another context. The identity and opposition between the two is complete. This consideration will be of some importance when we come to consider the mind-body relation below.


This modification of our model along the lines of setup and punch line has many important consequences. One, which I will not go into in depth here, is to provide a possible response to Whiteheadian critiques of Chinese Buddhism (usually based on a picture derived from the Huayan tradition, where this notion of opening the provisional to reveal the real is no longer of any real importance) concerning the symmetrical relation of mutual inclusion between past and future (in preference to which process philosophers suggest an asymmetrical situation where future prehends or includes past but past does not include future). [20] In the Tiantai picture, past indeed includes future and future includes past, but this is itself an asymmetrical situation, as suggested by the setup-punch-line structure: the sense in which "inclusion" (the copresence of two contrary identities) occurs in the two cases is quite distinct. Although it is true to say that the serious part of the joke is both serious and funny, and the funny part of the joke is both serious and funny, this is so for different reasons in the two cases, as explained above. Another important consequence is the

one that forms the focal point of this essay, namely the light that this picture sheds on the traditional mind-body problem. It is to this question that I now turn.

The Mind-Body Problem: a Neo-Tiantai View

Now if this is the relation between provisional and ultimate, it is also the way we are to conceive the simultaneous identity and difference of Emptiness and Provisional Positing, which in Tiantai terms is called the Mean. This relation will also be, for reasons delineated in the first section of this essay, the relation between mental and physical phenomena. That is, to put it in a formula, mind is to body as punch line is to setup, or as the humorousness of the punch line is to the seriousness of the setup. This is the position that I am suggesting will provide us with unusually fruitful and novel resources for dealing with the traditional mind-body problem. In order to clarify the relevant implications of this position, it is first necessary to review the nature of the problem and the impasses to which it has so far led.


We may broadly characterize this problem in the following terms: given the prima facie assumption that there are some types of phenomena commonly identified as mental -- thoughts, emotions, opinions, sensations, and so on -- and some types commonly called material -- chemical, electrical, physical, and biological processes -- then what is the relation between these two types? Are they two subsets of a larger set? Is one of them a mere epiphenomenon of the other, such that in all cases one and only one of these two types of phenomena will be the dependent variable and the other the independent, or one a more or less rough or deceptive description of what is more accurately and strictly described in terms of the other? We can crudely characterize the four most common traditional attempts to comprehend this relation as follows: (1) mind is merely a local form of matter, reducible to matter; (2) matter is merely a local form of mind, reducible to mind; (3) mind and matter are separate and distinct realms, neither of which is dependent on or reducible to the other; or (4) some sort of parallelism obtains between the two, either because they are both aspects of some larger set or because they are correlated according to a preestablished harmony. Each of these views seems problematic, and the refusal of this issue to die in the annals of philosophy is, as usual, a strong indication that there may be something insoluble about the problem as it is stated.

Solutions 1 and 2, which we may call "monistic solutions," seem to neglect the empirical distinction and even opposition between these two types of phenomena, or at least consign this distinction to the category of illusion. But this sense of distinction between mind and matter is quite central to our ordinary sense of the world, and hence its relegation to illusion brings with it a radical alienation between existential and theoretical realities, consigning most of our lives to a second-class status of something premised on a ridiculous illusion. Solution 3, the "dualistic" solution, is unsatisfactory for the opposite reason: it does not account for either the felt or the observable correlation and connection between these two types of phenomena, and indeed by definition makes more or less insoluble the question of how these two separate realms of being could possibly be connected. Alternative 4, on the other hand, seems to explain very little, consigning the relation between the two sets of phenomena to a realm that is necessarily inaccessible to any possible experience, thus offering merely another mystery as a solution to the first. In addition, this hypothesis gives us no insight into the peculiar nature of the oppositional and yet interlocked and inseparable nature of the relation between the two, the asymmetrical fact that mind is somehow "referential" to matter but not vice versa and that this referentiality contains what might be called a kind of constitutive negativity that is nonetheless not exclusive of a relation of identity.


This last objection is perhaps obscure, but forms, in my view, the crux of the problem. For both mental and material phenomena, close phenomenological examination reveals that there is a basis in experience for both the monistic and the dualistic views of the relation, which helps explain why neither alone has succeeded in winning universal acceptance. I refer here not so much to the empirical correlation between mental and bodily phenomena, combined with the difficulty of comprehending or asserting a token-by-token identity of the two, although this, of course, is also relevant here. Rather I have in mind the point stressed by Husserl and Sartre, that consciousness is always a consciousness of something. Its structure is such that it necessarily and constitutively entails a reference to something besides itself, some positive existence. At the moment of this experience of consciousness, there is no identifiable distinction between, say, red itself and the consciousness of red; it is impossible to point to a borderline between red itself and one's seeing red. Moreover, it is impossible to imagine consciousness without some object, existing as some entity which is then brought into relation to its object. Instead, we find that consciousness is nothing but its object at any given moment. This is the phenomenological support for the monistic doctrines. On the other hand, when this object to which consciousness is apparently identical changes or vanishes, consciousness does not change or vanish; rather it becomes equally identical to the next object, which means that it could not have been identical to the first, or else it would have perished when that first object did. This pure negation or transcendence of the consciousness of the object, which suggests that consciousness always transcends any given or possible object, that it is separable and flee, underwrites the dualistic hypotheses. This being the case, neither the monistic, dualistic, nor parallelist hypothesis seems to provide any satisfactory insight into the most salient features of the relation.

It is here where I think that the setup-punch-line model can help us. For in this model we have a powerful and intuitively accessible picturing of a relation that preserves both radical opposition and uncompromising identity at the same time. We have here neither a mind-body dualism, nor a reductionism of one to the other to produce a monistic idealism or materialism, nor exactly a Spinozistic parallelism or a Leibnizian correlative harmony. We have a necessary contrast and relation of negation between mind and matter, and a reason, pace Spinoza, that they manifest as exactly two opposite categories, which nonetheless can be understood as also a relation of identity. This accounts for the observed incongruity of the two, as in dualism, while also avoiding the sundering of the unity of the personality, and of all experience, that would be entailed by taking this incongruity as unconditional and ultimate.


The picture we arrive at looks something like the following: there are preconditions for every mental state that has ever been experienced -- for example, a particular arrangement of molecules in physical objects, sense organs, and nerve tissue. That total configuration is provisionally determinate, that is, consistently finite when viewed within a particular local context, but to be so is equally to be profoundly ambiguous. These are not two separate facts about this configuration of putative objects. Indeed, the whole thrust of the Tiantai notion of the Nonexclusive Mean is to elucidate this point, as discussed above. Matter is self-identical determinacy, facticity, the old Sartrean in-itself. Mind is the transcendence that always projects beyond any determinacy, the for-itself that calls itself and all other determinate quiddities into question; it is recontextualization itself. But, as we have seen, to be determinate is to be contextualized, and to be contextualized is to be recontextualizable and, indeed, incapable of bringing recontextualization to an end; to be contextualized is to be recontextualized. These are distinct, indeed opposed, but at the same time identical. So it is for mind and matter.

Matter as determinate would then be identical to its own indeterminacy, and the word for the latter would be Mind. The function of mind, be it noted, is here characterized not as some sort of still, pure awareness, as seems to be the case in some trends within Chinese Buddhism, but as the process of recontextualization itself. Wherever recontextualization, and hence the change in the meaning and identity of tokens of experience without changing their content, occurs, we have what is called a mental phenomenon. The most basic form of recontextualization, that is, of mental experience, known to us is simply time, or subjective Bergsonian duration. That is, a particular experience is first presenced as real, as now, as present. But it is immediately recontextualized; without changing its content in the least, the same token has become past, gone, memory. The old Buddhist notion of impermanence is here recast as recontextualization, which is precisely the mark of the mental as opposed to the physical. Time, we may say, is just the opening of the provisional to reveal the real, and this is the essence of the mental.

Spinoza saw the mind as the idea of the body -- that is, the thought version of the particular part of extension whose mind it is. The view suggested here is that the mind is the punch line of the body. Where mind occurs, all of the physical becomes mental -- as all of the setup becomes funny when the punch line appears. More exactly, the ambiguating mental apprehension or expression of any determinate physical state is the punch line to that state. As indicated above, however, this does not necessitate the elimination of the physicality of the physical, that is, its resistance to and opaqueness to the mental; on the contrary, these are precisely the preconditions of the mental, just as the contrast between the seriousness of the setup and the humor of the punch line was the precondition for the simultaneous humor of both. It is the provisionally posited (locally constituted) determinacy of the physical, the world as self-identical, as in-itself, as opaque facticity, that calls forth the indeterminacy that makes it also equally indeterminate, without sacrificing its provisional determinacy. Mental phenomena are the self-recontextualizations of physical phenomena. These recontextualizations are self-recontextualizations because they are necessarily entailed by contextualization, that is, meaning or determinacy, itself.


The view propounded here has something in common with the Whiteheadian view that all actual occasions consist of both a physical and a mental pole, an approach that, it should be granted, does not fit neatly into any of the four general typologies (monistic, dualistic, and parallelistic) outlined above. The view of time suggested by Whitehead's view, rooted as it is in Bergson's notion of duration, elegantly provides for the asymmetrical progression that is also of central concern to the Tiantai model. Two features should be noted, however, that distinguish the two views. The first is the great stress on the necessary negation of the relation in the Neo-Tiantai view; Whitehead is well aware of this feature of the mental, [21] but arguably seems to stress the prehending and progressively inclusive nature of the mental pole in relation to the physical. The second difference is far more crucial: the polar view of process philosophy, while making the two realms inseparable and elucidating their relation in a highly illuminating way, perhaps cannot quite make the seemingly paradoxical claim made by the Neo-Tiantai view, namely that it is equally accurate to say not only that both matter and mind are present in every event but also that all events are nothing but mind, and also that all events are nothing but matter. That is, on the setup-punch-line model, the entire joke, from beginning to end, can be described as funny, once the punch line has occurred, but equally, for asymmetrical reasons outlined above, as non-funny. The universe is nothing but matter, and the universe is nothing but mind.

This omnicentric feature, so central to traditional Tiantai dogmatics, which allows the entire field to be characterized adequately in terms of any one of its instantiations, would suggest a radical modification of the Whiteheadian view: the physical pole is itself mental, the mental pole is itself physical, and each is also both and neither. In terms of the mental, all the physical is actually mental; in terms of the physical, all the mental is actually physical. Without recourse to the setup-punch-line model, it is difficult to get a grip on this claim. But I do wish to suggest that it corresponds to something not only true but also central to our lived experience of the relation of body to mind, which forms the basis not only for the parallelistic claims of correlation but the much stronger (materialist and idealist) monistic doctrines of identity. For everyone can, with very little effort, appreciate the force of the Berkeleyan claim that being is perception, that all is vorstellungen, that there is no outside to mind, that everything we experience is an aspect of our own mind. The Neo-Tiantai view will grant full citizenship to this intuition.

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On the other hand, it also seems intuitively obvious that this is both the whole picture and decidedly not the whole picture. Schopenhauer tried to preserve both these intuitions by allowing that while the world is in one sense nothing but representations, the sense that there was something more to it, that there was some insurmountable and impassable facticity to things, was justified in that the world is also something else entirely, namely Will. The Neo-Tiantai view helps to articulate this Schopenhauerian insight; it allows both intuitions to be all-encompassing, each embracing the other at the limits of its own local intelligibility. The intuition that all is funny is true after the punch line is told, from the point of view of the punch line. The contrary intuition, that some non-funny facticity pervades all, is also true, both because the punch line is funny if and only if the setup is taken fully seriously, as intractably non-funny and contrasted to any escape hatch of humor, and in that the determinate concept of humorousness is emptied of content once any and all seriousness is seen as an adequate embodiment of it. All is mind, in that once mind appears on the scene, it transforms everything into an aspect and precondition of itself, recontextualizing and integrating every fact in the process and thereby denuding each of its original given facticity. On the other hand, all is matter, not only in that mind must take facticity as factual and intractably other, as opposed to itself, in order to function as mind, but also in that the quality of "being mental" becomes devoid of content once it is seen to apply to any and all instances of material facticity -- and also perhaps in that humorousness itself may be viewed as simply one more neutral and unfunny fact, when we are talking about what neutral and unfunny facts constitute the world.

According to this view, then, it is equally true to say that the body is a mere aspect or reflection of the all-embracing mind, and that the mind is a mere reflection or epiphenomenon of the functions of the body. My claim here is that this paradoxicality is not to be considered an argument against this view, since an account has been given in the setup-punch line of how such a thing could be possible, but actually as a recommendation of the Neo-Tiantai view, for only the full acknowledgment of both of these opposite claims would, I submit, be a complete and adequate correlate of our lived experience of being body and mind.

We may note here in passing that this also gives us a strong interpretation of what is meant by the relation between consciousness and self-consciousness, or between Sartre's positional and non-positional forms of consciousness. "Consciousness" (or non-positional consciousness) is what matter is called after the appearance of the punch line of self-consciousness (positional consciousness). Consciousness in this sense is an always retrospective positing by self-consciousness. There is in this relation something of a "missed encounter": there is never consciousness without self-consciousness; we jump straight from matter to consciousness plus self-consciousness, which retroactively constitutes (non-positional) consciousness as its (always) already superseded precondition. Here we may recall the contentlessness of the Lotus and, by extension, of the punch line in our joke paradigm. The Lotus, as I suggested, posits no new content or teaching of its own; it simply reiterates or even merely mentions all the previous teachings, puts them all together in one place, states that it states them, and contextualizes them with one another, as expressions of one another. It simply states that all the previous teachings were teachings; it is no new content, but merely makes the meaning of what it is to be a "content" explicit by placing all the contents in one place, binding them together.


A similar structure may be observed in the mind-body relation, on the extended setup-punch-line model. A determinate fact and the awareness of that fact, as we said, are indistinguishable at the moment of their appearance; the awareness of the fact cannot be construed as a new content added to the content of the fact. It is nothing but the fact itself, made explicit; if anything, it is more "the fact," the facticity of the fact, than the fact was. Awareness of the fact (or awareness conditioned by some factual conditions) is as it were a merely formal gesture, reinscribing the same content in such a way that what it always already was is now made explicit. When the setup appears as a setup, as something whose meaning depends on what comes next, it is already the punch line. Red is just red, but when red appears as red, it is already precisely the awareness of red -- that is, red as superseded, mentalized, contextualized in the field of the possibilities and the connections that are the redness. It is revealed to be what it is solely due to its constitutive relationship with a non-circumscribable field of othernesses. Awareness of a contextualized determinacy is merely the determinacy becoming explicitly what it always already was, that is, a determinacy qua contextualization, and hence also an ambiguity. When it is revealed to have always been a contextualized determinacy, it is thereby revealed always also to have been recontextualization, ambiguation -- in our terms, a mental event.

The Lotus teaching transforms all imperfect teachings into the perfect teaching merely by recontextualizing them, and it recontextualizes them merely by stating that it has stated them. The provisional teachings qua provisional teachings are the ultimate teaching. Mind is ambiguity and indetermination, as opposed to matter as determinacy. But according to the Tiantai line of thought that we have been developing here, this opposition means "determination qua determination is indetermination." Finitude qua finitude is infinity. Facticity qua facticity is possibility. Matter is merely matter, but matter qua matter is mind. Hence the strict Tiantai conclusion: the more determinate something is, the more indeterminate it is; the more material, the more mental.

Another consequence of the Neo-Tiantai setup-punch-line view is of equally great significance: namely that the appearance-reality structure, with all its implications of ontological hierarchy, is here judged to be essential to all experience, to be ineradicable (pace the postmodernists); there is also something being revealed to be an expression or form of something else, an immediate appearance being disconfirmed to reveal that there is more to it than had first appeared. On the other hand (pace foundational metaphysics of any kind), there is no content that ends up falling on one side or the other of this reality-appearance split; there is no set of determinacies that is real once and for all as opposed to some other set that is merely appearance once and for all. Rather, it is the very structure of ground and grounded, of foundation and founded, which is basic and inescapable, but no particular thing, essence, or determinacy that is the foundation or source itself. The act of disconfirmation of an appearance is called mind. What becomes apparent in the wake of this clearing-away is called matter. The fact that these two are merely aspects of the same act -- namely the clearing away of appearances to reveal the real -- is the Mean.

We may also say that it is essential and ineradicable that there be, in the ethical or axiological realm, some standard of right and wrong, and in the epistemological realm, some notion of true and false; there must be some putatively normative perspective operating at all times. For the observed coherence of the world to be accounted for, this particular category will always be in play. But, again, no particular content can ever land once and for all on one side or the other as definitively true or false, right or wrong. Here we have perhaps the blueprint for an elegant escape from the dichotomy between absolutist and relativist epistemologies and ethics, which, as another of those dilemmas in the history of philosophy that seems to be intrinsically incapable of solution, again draws suspicion on itself as a faulty question or set of categories.

Another point to be made here is that in this setup-punch-line structure we have a picture of mind-body relations that can accord with our intuitive picture of progressive scientific knowledge as well as of the transcending function of mind to matter, without sacrificing mind-body unity. We may say that an old Gestaltist paradox of change is embodied here: the setup will be revealed to be something other than it seemed, to have another identity than that which is currently appearing -- but this will happen if and only if it is taken dead seriously as a facticity for the moment. The necessary condition for its self-transcendence is that it be accepted and accorded full attention as real and "serious" -- that is, intractably factitious -- while in operation. Indeed, all aspects of it must be attended to and taken seriously, for often the punch line will depend on the unexpected recontextualization of what appeared to be an insignificant detail that is revealed thereby to be central. It is crucial to reiterate here that taking the setup seriously is the very means by which the humor comes into being; one must be "taken in" by the setup of the joke for the punch line to have any effect. Similarly, the facticity of matter must be taken seriously for it to be revealed to be a transcendable provisional appearance. The very means by which it can be transcended, that is, is by taking seriously the very stubborn structures and functions by which blind matter operates -- a picture that again accords very nicely with the overcoming of material conditions, not by relegating them to unimportance or ontological second-class status but by studying and taking them seriously. The Neo-Tiantai system may then perhaps recommend itself as a sort of non-dreamy idealism.

One more consideration should be briefly adumbrated before bringing this discussion to a close: the impact of this view on another perennial philosophical dilemma, namely the question of freedom and determinism. Given the discussion above, what will freedom mean in the Neo-Tiantai picture? The answer can be given rather formulaically: freedom here is a word for the fact that everything is relevant. That is, whatever assumed horizons for relevance one may be interpreting one's present experience in terms of, there is always more that can be relevantly brought into the picture, thereby creating a new context that will change the identity of this experience. This, in the view developed here, may be regarded as an adequate definition of human freedom, and this neither separates it irreconcilably from the determinacies and regularities of material facticity nor robs it of its full experienced meaning in human existence. Indeed, it can be said both that all is free and that nothing is free, applying once again the setup-punch-line model. The question, then, is just when and how the freedom will assert itself and encompass its other, which will then reveal itself to have always been susceptible to this reinterpretation, to have always harbored this multiplicity of meanings. The distinction between determined and free, like that between matter and mind, is not a question of substantial difference or identity, but simply of asymmetrical but mutually embracing moments before and after a contrasting turning point, a question of time -- or, we may say, more accurately in both the Chinese and comedic contexts, a question of timing.


I would like to thank the two anonymous readers for Philosophy East and West whose suggestions and observations have greatly improved this essay. T in the notes below refers to Taishō shinshū daizōkyō, edited by Takakusu Junjirō and Watanabe Kaigyoku (Tokyo: Taishō issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924-1932).

1. Zhanran, "Ten Gates of Non-duality," T 46.702-704. This work, originally a short section of Zhanran's commentary to Zhiyi's Fahuaxuanyi, was often used as a sort of shorthand catechism for later Tiantai thought.

2. Chen Guan, "Sanqian youmen song," in Xuzangjing 101, pp. 324-338.

3. Ibid.

4. T 46.578b-c.

5. It may well be that the only way to avoid this "omnicentric" conclusion is to eschew all explanation whatsoever, returning to the old Abidharmic notion of momentariness, where each appearance is just itself, totally unconnected to anything else. And yet the historical connection of these two extreme possibilities is itself an intriguing clue to what may be a necessary relationship between them.

6. For the classical formulation of this correlation, see, as one example among literally hundreds, Fahuaxuanyi, in T 33.741 b-745c.

7. Xuzangjing 101, p. 335.

8. Ibid.

9. I have borrowed this example from Zizek's brilliant exposition of the Lacanian concept of the "quilting point." See Slajov Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 1989), pp. 87-89; For They Know Not What They Do (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 16-20; and The Indivisible Remainder (London: Verso, 1996), pp. 214-216.

10. Zizek, Sublime Object, p. 87.

11. We may think here of the Kantian categorical imperative, which demands that all other persons be treated not only as means (periphery) but also as ends in themselves. This gives us a picture of all persons as ends in themselves, but also as means -- an intriguing ethical form of omnicentrism.

12. For the sake of completeness, and to avoid any misunderstandings, I should spell out the connection between these considerations and the Tiantai teaching of inherent inclusion and the Three Truths. I have just shown that any center will end up being both the most meaningful and the most meaningless term in the system. Its totalizing meaning corresponds to the Mean, its meaninglessness corresponds to Emptiness, and its character as some specific starting point (e.g., "Marxism" as opposed to "feminism") corresponds to Provisional Positing. The doctrine of inherent inclusion seeks to preserve the specific starting points with all their differences, in spite of the fact that at their ultima they all end up meaning all-and-none. This is possible essentially due to the doctrines of intersubjectivity and compassion in Tiantai, which means that both sides of the process must always be in operation; it is always possible to speak of everything in terms of specifically Marxism or feminism or fascism or democracy, rather than forcing us into a final situation where all we can say is "everything means everything."

13. "This is the opening of the provisional to reveal the real, so that in all dharmas one sees the Middle Way. Hence the text says, 'What you are practicing is the Bodhisattva path.' They did not need to change their road or move into different tracks to seek the truth, but rather could reveal the glorious within the coarse" (T 33.740.b.21-23).

14. T 33.691b.

15. Siming zunzhe jiaoxing lu, in T 46.883a-b.

16. In passing, let me note that we have here an answer to Schopenhauer's complaint about pantheism: he said he agreed with it, except that it really said nothing. If you took away the emotional associations with the term God, then to say that everything is God just means that everything is everything. Thus, what pantheism really means is that the awe and love that were formerly accorded to God should instead be accorded to the world. This Schopenhauer rejected (see Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. E.F.J. Payne [[[Wikipedia:New York|New York]]: Dover Publications, 1966], vol. 2, pp. 640-646). But the Tiantai position is that these are two steps in one process, the only way to sanctify the world. First the world must be contrasted with God, so to speak, so that the awe and love can be established. Then this contrast is broken down: God is the world. Now we have these notions of value in hand and can apply them to the world.

17. T 33.700b.

18. T 33.690b-c.

19. Zhiyi says, a little later on, "Each dharma realm possesses ten thusnesses, so the ten have a total of a hundred. But since each inherently includes the other nine, each has a hundred dharma realms with a total of a thousand thusnesses. Now these can be arranged into five levels: (1) the evil (hells, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras), (2) the good (humans and gods), (3) the Two Vehicles, (4) the Bodhisattvas, (5) the Buddhas. If we divide these in two, we can say that the first four are provisional (quan) and the last one is the real (shi). But a more detailed exposition reveals that each one possesses both the provisional and the real" (T 33.693).

20. The most extensive treatment of this theme is surely that given by Steve Odin, in his Process Metaphysics and Hua-yen Buddhism: A Critical Study of Cumulative Penetration vs. Interpenetration (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982), esp. pp. 69-159.

21. See A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), p. 245: "Consciousness is the feeling of negation." Note, however, the elaboration on p. 372: "In awareness actuality, as a process in fact, is integrated with the potentialities which illustrate either what it is and might not be, or what it is not and might be. In other words, there is no consciousness without reference to definiteness, affirmation, and negation... Consciousness is how we feel the affirmation-negation contrast. Conceptual feeling is the feeling of an unqualified negation; ... Consciousness requires that the objective datum should involve ... a qualified negative determined to some definite situation."