By Kenneth K. Inada
Philosophy East and West
Volume 47, Number 2(April 1997)
(C) by University of Hawai'i Press

P.117 Different traditions, East and West, have come up with different ways to treat the subject or nature of aesthetics, from the bare perceptual data to the sophisticated logical forms, from the emotional, to the psychological, and from the imitative to the highly abstract quality of things. All of the theories have presented us with some sense of what aesthetics is all about, but at the same time none has captured that sense with absolute certainty and universality. At this moment, to be sure, we are unable seriously to engage aesthetic elements that are absolutely certain or universal in either the East or the West, but here I would like to narrow the field by concentrating on the East, especially aesthetics as it has evolved in the unique fusion of Buddhist and Taoist principles of experience. Once the task is done, the discussion of aesthetics could move on to the more lucrative and interesting realm of comparative aesthetics, a discussion worthy of another essay. Suffice it to say here that it is time to take stock of things and correct misguided views on aesthetics, especially where it is relegated to a secondary status in Western philosophy. My essay, in a way, is a critical examination of aesthetics as a legitimate field of philosophy, indeed as a most basic part of it, especially as seen in Eastern thought and culture. The heights of cultural achievement in many respects reflect directly on the profundity of a philosophy of life based on the aesthetic nature of things. I shall attempt to justify this statement. Eastern Metaphysics If there is one word that characterizes Buddhist and Taoist metaphysics it would be "dynamism," a word that, so far, is hardly germane to Western metaphysics. The nature of things for both systems functions on the basis of impermanence (anitya) or constant transformation or change (yi, hua),(1) which poses a most challenging orientation in the seeking for an understanding of a philosophy of life. The historical Buddha's famous Fourfold Noble Truths focus on the universal nature of suffering (du.hkha), which begins at the very inception of life and continues until death is rooted in the subtle nature of experiential dynamics. The flip side of experiential dynamics is, of course, stasis or permanence (nitya). It is precisely here that the Buddha's singular contribution lies. That is to say, he revealed how normal minds are deluded by falsely adhering to permanent characteristics in the experiential dynamics and that the presence of these characteristics not only impedes but drastically distorts the natural holistic flow of experience. Moreover, he revealed that we tend to be empirically and rationally bounded, and P.118 this results in dichotomous acts, though they may be unconscious for the most part.(2) Indeed, to a Buddhist the very terms empirical and rational are suspect and come under strong indictment. To elaborate, the Buddha's insightful perception told him that the initial passionate nature (t.r.s.naa) relies on the dichotomy created between the perceiver and the perceived, and consequently attaches (upaadaana) to the dichotomized elements of the passions themselves. To use a popular metaphor, the empirical and rational functions are locked in a "catch-22" situation wherein the dichotomy renders any resolution impossible. As the saying goes, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too"-and thus, in the experiential dynamics, there is constantly a desire-attachment (t.r.s.naa-upaadaana) phenomenon inherent in each ordinary perception, which in turn becomes the basis for the incipient rise of stasis or permanence in our experience. The epistemic consequence of this phenomenon is the alleged postulation of the concept of a self (aatman) in perception, which in turn is the basis for continued suffering. The profound instruction of the Buddha, however, turned our attention to the fluid, unimpeded, non-static nature of experience, pointing to the pure, unclouded nature of existence (Dharma), otherwise known as nirvaa.na. Taoist philosophy also developed along similar lines. It, too, promoted long and auspicious life based on the fluency, resiliency, and transmutability of ordinary experiences. Ordinary passions or desires relative to life are quite natural, but those that are strained or forced are not. The enlightened or illumined (ming) life knows nothing positive or negative as such but everything in terms of fluid naturalness (tzu-jan). The Tao is ubiquitous, exists everywhere (which is at once nowhere), and yet it is actuated at any time. It cannot be manipulated, especially in empirical and rational terms, but nevertheless it leaves its mark everywhere in subtle ways.(3) It is change itself exhibiting neither the yin nor the yang aspect separately since these two aspects of the Tao are dynamic conjunctives in a mutual and correlative bond at all times. The Tao is then the criterion for true natural existence, though invisible for the most part, and comparable to the Buddhist Dharma, the true norm of existence. Both systems are in essence philosophies of process or becoming. In the West, especially from the early Greek period, the process thought of such thinkers as Heraclitus, for example, was overshadowed in time by the brilliance and dominance of Plate, who argued cogently for being over becoming, permanence over impermanence, in laying the foundation of epistemology. Henceforth, we have been heirs to this Platonic legacy for over two millennia. The introduction of Christianity undoubtedly had a great role in perpetuating this legacy, for example in sustaining the spirit over the flesh. By the end of the nineteenth century and moving into the twentieth, however, our P.119 perception of things began to change and we even began to question and challenge the legacy. With such theories as relativity, quantum mechanics, and indeterminacy, the notion of permanence had to give way to impermanence. And with thinkers such as Bergson, G. H. Mead, Whitehead, Heidegger, and the postmodernists and poststructuralists, the trend had now decidedly moved in the direction of impermanence or becoming over being, although the manner in which becoming is matched with being differs greatly from one system to the next. Thus the dynamic nature of perception became the common ground for any discourse. In many respects, then, where the Western perceptual view on things has made a full circle from becoming to being to becoming, the Eastern view remarkably has held to its steady course on becoming at all times. The Eastern view went further to probe the very nature of becoming itself. It realized that being and becoming are not to be treated as equals on the metaphysical plane, nor are they to be seen as opposing each other. In other words, the Eastern view of things prevented any dichotomous treatment of anything from the outset and in turn fostered exploration into the fullness of the becoming process. For, metaphysically speaking, becoming is the most fundamental concept to which all phases and elements must harmonize or conform. In this harmonizing and conforming process, the nature of being has an important role to perform, that is, to exhibit becoming in its so-called "visible" or "objective" nature. Yet this role, however necessary, is still regarded as secondary or peripheral to the nature of becoming. All this, to be sure, poses formidable questions. How does all this take place? Or, how can being be dynamically involved in becoming? More precisely, how can an alleged permanent character of being be accommodated by the fluidity of becoming? These questions and many more most certainly must have buzzed through the minds of the early thinkers. The profundity of Oriental thought is taxed at this very crucial point. It is the point where, I firmly believe, the clearest break occurs between East and West, a break that exhibits their differences in issuing forth disverse cultural forms. On this point, we may speculate that the Eastern thinkers came to realize the inadequacy of being itself to justify and manifest the fullness of becoming, and this further encouraged them to search for a fuller accountability for what is intimately involved in becoming. The answer they came up with was bizarre, to be sure, since something besides being lies at the bottom of becoming. The insight into this "something besides being" has strong shades of a scientific spirit where, in astronomy for example, a new star is found in virtue of the existence of unaccountable forces in the ambiance of existing stars, thereby providing a complete or holistic condition and view of that portion of the firmament. P.120 With similar exploratory spirit, both Buddhists and Taoists came to realize that another aspect of becoming is involved in providing a fuller view.(4) This view is really an exercise in understanding the dynamics of complementarity. The coincidence of arriving at this complementarity by both traditions is perhaps one of the unmatched wonders of ideological ventures in the world. What, then, is the content of this coincidence? For the Buddhist, to make a long story short, it is the "discovery" of emptiness (`suunyataa) in the becomingness of things or emptiness in the beings-in-becoming. For the Taoist, again to shorten the story, it is the "discovery" of nothing (wu) in the Tao of things. For all intents and purposes, we may group emptiness and nothing together as depicting nonbeing.(5) Nonbeing of course is not the opposite of being but functions as a unique cosmological basis of all experiences. In both traditions, there is no denial of being and its place in becoming as a complementary element of nonbeing. In a sense, there is more than complementarity because there is also accommodation, as we will soon discuss. So now, as we return to the metaphysics of becoming, we have a fuller accounting by reference to two vital aspects or components at play, as seen in the following simplified diagram: Becoming (experiential dynamics) / \ / \ Being Nonbeing (elements, dharma, yu) (`suunyataa, wu) The two vital aspects of becoming are discussed in similar fashion by the two traditions, as both speak of the conventional or ordinary nature of things and the nonconventional absolute nature of things; the former refers to ordinary perception in the nature of being and the latter to inordinate, enlightened perception involving the realm of nonbeing. It should be clear from the outset that this is not promoting duality of any sort--not, at least, on the metaphysical level. If any strain of duality were to occur, it would be strictly in the epistemic realm, resulting from misguided empirical and rational functions. In the complementarity condition, it can be asserted that non-being is a more inclusive concept than being and that, paradoxical as it may seem, nonbeing includes or absorbs being of all kinds. Nonbeing is more extensive in this sense. In addition, it has universal traits, such as resiliency, malleability, flexibility, and absorptive and accommodative powers. Being, on the other hand, is static, limited, isolated, and non-accommodative of nonbeing. And yet, in the final analysis, both being and nonbeing function within the selfsame realm of becoming. On this point, it was the great Buddhist thinker Naagaarjuna (ca. 150-250) who affirmed the coexistent and coevolving nature of the conventional and P.121 nonconventional (ignorant and enlightened or limited and unlimited) nature of things. He clearly stated: "Without relying on everyday common practices (i,e., relative truths), the absolute truth of existence cannot be expressed. Without approaching the absolute truth of existence, nirvana cannot be attained."(6) Thus, without the function of the conventional realm, the nonconventional does not transpire at all, which is to say, more specifically, that the empirical and rational functions are quite necessary for the realization of truth in the penetrating sense (praj~naa), that is, one that collapses both functions into the emptiness of things (`suunyataa). Oriental Dynamics and the Aesthetic Nature The realization of the truth of existence is, of course, the final goal in both Buddhism and Taoism--an elusive goal for ordinary souls, to be sure, and yet it must be kept in mind as we proceed to understand the dynamics involved in becoming as the basis for an aesthetic theory. It has also been revealed that there is a so-called parity of existence inherent in becoming in terms of the coexisting and coevolving natures of the conventional and nonconventional realms. As conventional creatures, we are bound by epistemic functions based on empirical and rational data; that is, from a tender age we have been conditioned by these data and have become unconsciously biased and have even developed some form of habit toward the perception of the tangible, substantive, and manipulable nature of things. But all this is a divisive or dichotomous function, a mere differentiating scheme from which we may or may not sense its futility. Should we by chance sense its futility, however, it would most likely be because at some point we become aware of the limitations of the divisiveness or fragmentation within the ambiance of the fullness of existence. That is to say, perception involves particular elements not in isolation but as they are nestled within the total nature of things; or, in the language of our discussion, being or beings do not exist independently but belong to a larger realm of existence. To elaborate further on the dynamic tension involving being and nonbeing, I would like to resort to two highly technical terms: symmetry and asymmetry. I use them in special ways, as in process thought, in order to amplify the dual-faceted nature of becomingness. Although the terms do not exactly correspond to being and nonbeing, respectively, they are close to them and will permit us to have a better idea of the dynamics at play and open up the way toward the projected nature of the aesthetic. It will be allowed that some would find it difficult to associate with the correspondence of the two sets of terms, claiming that this correspondence is a bit strained, if not distorted, in our actual perceptual process. P.122 This dynamics, then, refers to the becomingness or the momentariness of existence. It means specifically that becomingness or momentariness has had a being-nonbeing or symmetric-asymmetric character all along. This dual aspect exhibits at once the internal linkage in the dynamics wherein one side is the "seen" (being or symmetric side) and the other the "unseen" (nonbeing or asymmetric side); where the former refers to the measurable, spatial, temporal, causal, and manipulable--in brief, all of the tangible nature of things--the latter refers to the opposite--all of the intangible nature of things. It was earlier mentioned that nonbeing is extensive and accommodative of all beings and indeed gives the latter their raison d'etre. All of this occurs constantly without either being or nonbeing dominating the other in the dynamics. If anything, it shows that our momentary perception of things has fuller, wider, and deeper dimensions than normally thought of, dimensions that go beyond mere surface appearances. It further shows that the symmetric and asymmetric round out the ongoing momentary perception. This dynamic perception is similar to the surging surf at a beach, where its active foamy appearance belies the constant support and content it is receiving from the unseen, intangible forces. With some imagination, I delineate the surging and rolling nature of perceptual phenomena thus: If the symmetric nature depicts the so-called forward thrust in ordinary perception, the asymmetric nature, contrariwise, depicts a backward thrust, but here the nature of the thrust is significantly different in that it is without an act of dichotomy and consequent attachment. In this sense, the asymmetric represents the "pure" content as contrasted with the "impure" content of the symmetric.... In its non-attached nature, the asymmetric is not only pure but also open. And so in its backward thrust, it absorbs and accommodates everything including the content of the past as it gives way to the forward thrust of the symmetric. But prior to giving way to the symmetric, the open and pure asymmetric thrust has already incorporated fresh new grounds which will be taken over by the symmetric forward thrust. The asymmetric serves then as the pure potential in momentariness, i.e., the moment in its full realization, steps back, so to speak, before stepping forward. In this way, the symmetric-asymmetric relationship is a continuum of cyclic phenomena, a unique pulsation of interlocked momentariness.(7) The illustration above has presented a speculative microscopic view of perceptual dynamics. We are able to conclude that perception is not merely a one- or two- or even three-dimensional phenomenon but has deep grounding in the being-nonbeing (symmetric-asymmetric) dynamics, thus revealing its natural fullness and completeness at all times, however unconscious we may be to the elements of the process. This is yet another way of describing the dynamic nature of perceptual complementarity. P.123 Oriental dynamics, then, is always full or holistic, with the "presence" of the unseen nonbeing or asymmetric component at play in the process. To ignore this component is to remain with a truncated vision and understanding. But its "presence" means the opening up of a whole new realm and vision of things that is in store for us. In this dynamics, the initial point of contact between being and nonbeing or symmetric and asymmetric is most significant and crucial. It is precisely here that I wish to make bold to assert that Oriental aesthetics begins at the very contact point of being and nonbeing (symmetric and asymmetric), a point where there is a "balance, " though short-lived and momentary, within the becomingness of things. Yet it "exists" in becomingness by virtue of its "presence" as sensed in subsequent becomingness. How does one capture its "existence" and "presence"l Not an easy task, to be sure, but at the same time not an impossible task. We are already anticipating much in Oriental aesthetics but the answer is quite simple--so simple, in fact, that many would simply brush it aside. The answer is: "Be the becomingness itself."(8) The answer seems redundant, and it is. Why? Because we are becomingness, pure and simple. The story goes that Ch'an Master Ma-tsu chided a monk for saying that the wild geese had flown away. He countered: "You say they have flown away, but all the same they have been here from the very first."(9) The meaning is subtle and profound in that the master was instructing the monk that the flow of becoming has neither a direction nor elements to be attached to, and that the truth lies in the immediacy of becomingness rather than in following the data presented by the senses. In a similar vein, Chuang Tzu referred to goblet words (chih-yen) as indicative of the nature of becomingness; that is, a conversation using these words could transpire without a word being spoken, so to say, and yet, paradoxically enough, it could be carried on all day long. So where could Chuang Tzu find someone with whom to convene in goblet words?(10) Incidentally, a goblet is an instrument that conveys water when filled and empties itself only to be filled again. The process is interminable but the job is done with ease. So should it be with all dialogues! So long as we live, we are organic creatures ceaselessly carving out niches in the total surroundings every waking (and even every sleeping) moment. There is no lapse in this carving out (Buddhist karmic acts) experiential process. The only lapse is lodged in one's perceptual process when the empirical and rational faculties take brief (at times extended) missteps by attaching to the data themselves. This is of course a diversion from one's own becomingness, a diversion where mere phenomena rule and influence the nature of the perceiver and subsequent becomingness. Should there be no lapses or diversionary acts, becomingness would naturally be in order such that one would be in rhythm with it or at home with one's own function. This state, however, depicts an ideal situation, P.124 most difficult to attain and very rare indeed, and thus the average person could only hope to strive for an assimilation of this state of affairs. The whole Buddhist and Taoist traditions, with their respective cultural pursuits, have for centuries been guides and lures for individual assimilation and emulation. Be that as it may, the initial contact and balance of being and nonbeing or simply being-in-nonbeing can be looked upon as the crucial basis for the rise of aesthetic nature. It is also the beginning of the rounded, holistic view of perception where more than the nature of being is involved, though this perception is largely unsensed and unobserved. Yet the ordinary perceiver, surprisingly, retains an unconscious balance in his/her perception, although the balance may disappear at any time, in which case the imbalance points at the polarization toward the mere beingness of things. However that may be, the sustained balance is always a goal that is attainable by serious and dedicated training to fend off any movement toward the realm of being. It should be noted that the well-trained expert in any field, such as the martial arts, has by and large mastered this balance in perception and is thus able to function creatively. The expert is also at home with whatever techniques are required, but these are, in the final analysis, secondary and ancillary to the basic retention of balance in being-innonbeing. In the creative realm, the aesthetic quality exhibits itself in terms of the sustenance of the balance in becomingness. That is to say, rather than a once-displayed phenomenon of balance, the expert is able to preserve it in such a way that his work will issue forth something novel and unique. The aesthetic quality arises in virtue of capturing the balanced dynamic becoming or the fluid complementarity of sustained being-in-nonbeing. It should be noted that any polarization in the realm of being and attendant attachment to its elements will prevent the rise of any aesthetic quality since becomingness will now be dominated by a mechanical nature/procedure wherein elements are repeated in a strained sense. We could refer to this mechanical and repetitive nature as a form of ontological lag because such a nature deviates from and blocks the harmonious function of becomingness. The lag specifically refers to the attachment to the diversionary elements and slows down, so to speak, the natural flow of things. Oriental Art We are all too familiar with the remark "Oriental painting is monochrome"-that is, it consists of black brush strokes on a white piece of paper. While the remark seems reasonable and fair, it is, unfortunately, grossly wrong and misleading. Basically, it is a dichotomous statement that is, in terms of black over white. More specifically, the perception of a monochrome painting arises because one is merely concerned with the aspect of being, the visible, tangible, and manipulable nature of things, P.125 and thereby judges the painting on the basis of the black configuration. But the painting is more than the black brush strokes on a white surface; the black strokes are not alone for they are the result of a complementary process that includes/involves nonblack components or the nonbeing aspect. In our discussion, the painting is a vital display of beings-innonbeing, a black-in-nonblack phenomenon. Consequently, rather than monochrome the painting should be referred to as nonchromatic or achromatic in order to preserve the series of holistic becomingness of the finished painting. In this sense, the color black happens to be merely a color without prejudice, for it could have been any other color used. A Zen story heard years ago illuminates this point very well. To a drawing class one day the Zen master assigned the subject of bamboo. With clean sheets of rice paper, black India ink, and a brush, the monks began to draw bamboos. The master observed each monk and his drawing very carefully but noted a monk whose work was not particularly on track. He summoned the monk to his quarters and prepared to draw the bamboo but this time with red ink. After the drawing was done with great verve, he handed it over to the monk saying, "This is the way to draw bamboos." The monk looked at the drawing with a puzzled face and responded, "But master, I haven't seen any red bamboos." To which the master immediately replied, "You are perfectly correct but I haven't seen any black bamboos either!" Now, if any color will do in Oriental painting, the metaphysical implications are profoundly great. It means, first and fundamentally, that the spectrum of colors is limiting as well as inexhaustive. Second and more importantly, it impels one to go beyond the spectrum itself, to the realm of no-realm,(11) that is, to a preconscious realm, if you will, where discrimination and selectivity have yet to arise but which is still within the becomingness of things. In brief, this is the realm of nonbeing. The nondiscriminative or nonselective nature is not mere passivity or inaction since there is constant interpenetration and involvement of being and nonbeing--in short the beings-in-nonbeing. But what makes the latter possible? As intimated earlier, the presence of the nature of emptiness or nothingness within the becomingness complements and actuates the total function. For the uninitiated, this function is the most difficult aspect of Oriental dynamics to accept and to incorporate into one's thought and action. Francois Cheng, in a recent work titled Empty and Full: The Language of Chinese Painting,(12) has covered in some detail the nature and function of emptiness and its flip side, fullness of being. He says: "Emptiness is not merely a neutral space serving to defuse the shock without changing the nature of the opposition. It is the nodal point where potentiality and becoming interweave, in which deficiency and plenitude, self-sameness and otherness, meet."(13) P.126 Thus, emptiness is quite vital to the fluidity of beings-in-nonbeing, and without it the movement and evolvement of the so-called phenomenal- in-nonphenomenal would not be possible. It is akin to the lubricant that keeps the flywheel spinning forever. Cheng goes on to cap his discussion by asserting that any Chinese work of art consists of four notions, namely vital breath (ch'i), inner principle or structure (li), intention or active consciousness (i), and spirit or divine essence (shen).(14) It would be too lengthy to discuss each of the four notions, but suffice it to say that these notions are so fundamental to the artist that he/she will spend interminable hours perfecting them, singularly at the beginning but collectively or in a unified way in the end. In brief, the artist must capture his/her own vital breath in harmony with the primordial breath that permeates all of nature. At the same time, he/she must assimilate his/her inner principle of life with the principle that extends to the world at large. Even before the brush is picked up, he/she must already have developed the earnest intention that will guide the hand toward broadening and deepening the principle and vital breath. In such a way, then, the artist captures the spirit or divine essence in the very becomingness of things. All this is not merely an exercise in realizing the closeness of humanity and nature, nor is it an imitation of nature. Most significantly, it refers to the artist's creativity, which exhibits the aesthetic quality in every brush stroke.(15) A thing of beauty is always fresh, vital, principled, and divine; it is the exemplification of a work in graceful and disciplined motion, as seen, for example, in the performances of a dancer, an athlete, or a devotee of t'ai-chi. I recall a visit to a Japanese professor's home once when he pointed to a scroll of a tiger emerging from a bamboo grove and remarked, "What a beautiful painting! Just observe carefully, the tiger is looking at you from whatever angle you view the scroll." In brief, the tiger was alive and its piercing eyes covered all directions, truthfully reflecting the disciplined nature of the artist that extended his vital breath, inner principle, and intention, including the viewer's realm of existence, and there by produced a work imbued with divine essence, a marvelous thing of beauty. Buddhism and Taoism have naturally influenced Chinese art forms from the very beginning, but the influence took on added dimensions with the prominence of Zen (Ch'an) Buddhism during the T'ang dynasty (618-906). Zen experience, that is, the inner content of the enlightened person, has given great impetus to the development of various cultural forms that were later brought to Japan. Daisetz T. Suzuki, in commenting on the most conspicuous and characteristic features of Japanese art and culture, lists the following: imbalance, asymmetry, the "one-corner" (painting), poverty, sabi or wabi, simplification, aloneness, and other cognate ideas.(16) The three terms that P.127 come to our immediate attention are imbalance, asymmetry, and one-corner painting, which leaves vast spaces open not without reason. These are, of course, in line with our discussion in terms of detaching ourselves from the lutes of the realm of being where one would be entrapped in the visible, measurable, and manipulable nature of things. But cultural pursuits are not to be limited by this realm and instead should go beyond it to include the nature of nonbeing. Zen, following basic Buddhist teachings, teaches us to abide in no fixed natures or permanent characteristics, for the fluidity of becomingness will not allow this, although human beings tend to manipulate the natural flow. A famous Zen poem shows us the way: The bamboo-shadows move over the stone steps as if to sweep them, but no dust is stirred; The moon is reflected deep in the pool, but the water shows no trace of its penetration.(17) Wabi and sabi are two distinct Japanese contributions to aesthetics. Wabi refers to the sadness/sorrow attendant with the failure to cope with the somewhat unkind vicissitudes of life within the context of the inexorable forces of impermanence or the transience of things. It is subjective in the sense that there is something aesthetic about it, a feeling/mood of poverty; or, as Suzuki says, a life of wabi is "an inexpressible quiet joy deeply hidden beneath sheer poverty,"(18)--to which I might add: when exposed to certain intimations of beings-in-nonbeing. It is a feeling of inadequacy arising out of the overwhelming presence of the macrocosmic nature of things. Sabi, on the other hand, although close to wabi on the nature of personal feelings, has an objective character of its own, as, for example, when we view art objects such as a teacup or a flower vase. These objects have beauty in their own imperfection, accompanied by antiquity or primitive uncouthness, and contain inexplicable elements that raise a particular object to the rank of artistic production.(19) In sum, both wabi and sabi, in subjective and objective modes, respectively, or to a degree jointly, stem out of aesthetic nature, the expression arising out of the capture of the natural balance and/or seeming imbalance in the becomingness of things. The one-corner painting originated in China and quickly came to Japan. It utilizes in a harmonious way what is called in painting empty space but which in reality depicts the continuum of beings-in-nonbeing, The seemingly empty nature of space is the "hidden" potentiality waiting for the appearance or creation of any and all beings. The one-corner painting is a plenum from any angle, but at the same time it evokes in its scantiness of brush strokes feelings of solitude, quietude, and serenity. The grand scenic paintings of nature, especially in the genre of P.128 "mountains and waters," remind human beings of the ecexistent phenomenon of the finite and infinite realms of existence but, simultaneously, educe a feeling of aloneness in the vast universe. But the feeling is merely initial since the viewer will in time sense the intimacy with nature that will in turn bring forth joy and pleasure at the wondrous continuity or relatedness of existence. Thus aloneness is but a prelude to the complete understanding of natural phenomena. This is especially so in our discussion of the dynamics of beings-in-nonbeing where finite entities find a welcome home in the ever-present receptacle of nonbeing. Hoseki Shin'ichi Hisamatsu, a tea master and Zen enthusiast, confirms much of what Suzuki has elaborated. He in turn speaks of his own Zen-inspired seven characteristics of art forms.(20) They are asymmetry (fukinsei), simplicity (kanso), aged beauty in witheredness (koko), naturalness (shizen), profundity (yugen), otherworldliness or transcendence (datsuzoku) , and tranquillity (seijaku). Once again, the term asymmetry appears at the top of the list to emphasize the unique feature of Zen experience. The single underlying concept in all seven characteristics is the consciousness of the nature of nonattachment to any form. Culling from Zen literature, he reiterates the cardinal doctrine of the form of no-form (muso-no-so). This doctrine is actually a derivative of the Buddhist concept of nonself (anaatman) but is now applied specifically to nature and function in the cultural arts. In Japan, the doctrine is manifested in every work of art, such as chanoyu (tea ceremony), ikebana (floral arrangement) , the noh play, painting, music, archery, gardening, and haiku. Zen has had the greatest impact on chanoyu because of the initial patronage by the shogun, the military ruler, who quickly saw in Zen-inspired art a vital contribution to the samurai way of life. After all, the samurai was constantly in life-or-death situations, which are but deluded forms of existence, not conducive to proper battlefield conduct, and therefore concern for them must be removed by the practice of Zen meditation and chanoyu. The four principles of chanoyu are wa-kei-sei-jaku, popularly translated, respectively, as harmony, reverence/humbleness, purity, and serenity/tranquillity. Needless to say, these principles come directly from Taoist and Buddhist teachings. Chanoyu is a simple, unadulterated form of enjoying tea in unadorned surroundings but also at once with a deep consciousness of beings-in-nonbeing. The great tea master Sen Sotan (1578-1658) once wrote a poem: "if asked the nature of chanoyu, say it's the sound of windblown pines in a painting.(21) This statement is enigmatic but profound for its multilayered imagery. First, there is the painting itself, second, the sight of tortured and twisted pines, and third, the sound of windblown pines. In stark contrast, the movement of the pines reveals the presence of a strong breeze blowing through them, and this, in turn, wakes the soul of the observer to P.129 the beautiful (divine) sound of the wind. The observer's deep vision and enjoyment are only broken temporarily by the soft beckoning voice of the master, "Have a cup of tea." NOTES 1 - Tao Te Ching 42, for example, describes transformation or production from the Tao to One, One to Two, Two to Three, and Three to Ten Thousand Things (i.e., the world). This is normally taken to be in logical and temporal order, but that would be too simplistic. Rather, in a very subtle and profound sense, it refers to a non-logical, nontemporal cosmological theory wherein the Tao, One, Two, Three, and Ten Thousand Things are all in dynamic relationship at all times. See Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 160. 2 - Historically, it is said that the Buddha, after his supreme enlightenment (nirvaa.na) , was confronted by his five erstwhile fellow truth seekers to reveal the reason for his change in countenance. He refused to respond to their entreaties because, he told them very plainly, those who engage in empirical (sensory) matters have no means of achieving enlightenment. In modern terms, those who engage solely in empirical and rational matters are from the very beginning hampered and blocked in their search for the truth of existence because they are victims of attachments to the data reported by the senses and later entified by the mind. 3 - Tao Te Ching 1 asserts that the Tao has two facets, the sensory perceivable realm of the named (yu-ming) and the nonsensory, non-perceivable realm of the nameless (wu-ming). The dynamics of both facets opens the doors to the wondrous (hsuan) realm of existence. See Wing-Tsit Chan, Source Book, p. 139. 4 - I submit that my analysis is purely speculative, for there are other means, for example yoga discipline, of realizing that something other than being is involved in becoming. The point, however, is that being alone cannot justify the dynamics of becoming. 5 - I am well aware of those who would not group emptiness (`suunyataa) and nothing or nothingness (wu) together as depicting the nature of nonbeing. There are differences between the two concepts, especially as they appear in their respective systems or traditions. Buddhist emptiness is strictly an experiential achievement, and Taoist nothingness is both an experiential achievement and a cosmo- P.130 logical fact in terms of depicting the ways of nature or the Tao. My position is that, given the above two subtle differences and taken within the general cosmological context, it would not be wholly wrong to treat them together in order to have a closer look at the dynamics of becoming. Moreover, as we will later discuss under the section on Oriental art, Buddhist and Taoist artworks seem indistinguishable in terms of delineating the aesthetic nature and quality. 6 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa (Verses on the Fundamental Middle Doctrine), XXIV.10 (Kenneth K. Inada, Naagaarjuna: A Translation and an Introductory Essay [Original publication, Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1970; first Indian edition, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1993], p. 146. To Naagaarjuna's eternal credit, he firmed up Mahaayaana thought by sifting through the doctrines developed since the historical Buddha and enunciated in philosophic terms the true teachings of the Buddha. The middle way (madhyamaa-pratipad) was the key doctrine around which he identified in penetrative ways the dynamics of emptiness and experiential process (pratiitya-samutpaada). He insightfully asserted that the realms (ko.ti) of ordinary perception (samsaric activity) and inordinate perception (nirvanic nature) function in tandem and thereby give justification to the mutuality and passage from the samsaric to nirvanic realms. This mutuality and its embodiment or realization in ordinary experiences have yet to be understood clearly and appreciated. Hopefully, the discussion of Oriental aesthetics will further the understanding. 7 - "The Buddhist Aesthetic Nature: a Challenge to Rationalism and Empiricism," Asian Philosophy 4 (2) (1994): 145-146. 8 - This type of statement is replete in Zen literature where, for example, the Zen master instructs succinctly: "Be the green bamboo!" or "Be the fresh young willow tree!" 9 - Daisetz T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism (New York: Grove Press, 1964), p. 89. 10 - See Burton Watson's translation, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), chap. 27 on "imputed Words," pp. 303-308. 11 - The realm of no-realm reminds us poignantly of Zen and Taoist masters, who harped on this theme to get to the bottom of experiential reality. They discoursed on the fact that there is no permanent persisting nature to rank or position, even with masters themselves, and in classic ways they asserted, "I am a man of no-rank." Thus any dialogue between master and disciple should be carried P.131 out on the level of no-rank, a level that is neither debased nor exalted, but one that makes direct/immediate contact with the reality of things. 12 - Francois Cheng, Empty and Full: The Language of Chinese Painting, trans. Michael H. Kohn (Boston and London: Shambala, 1994). 13 - Ibid., p. 51. Cheng seems to speak only from the classical Chinese standpoint, but the quote already has strains of Buddhism in China. 14 - lbid., pp. 100-101. 15 - Ibid., p. 62. Cheng discusses the fact that cosmology in terms of the permeation of microcosm and macrocosm is foremost to the painter and introduces the famous words of Wang Wei, "By means of a slim brush, re-create the immense body of emptiness." 16 - Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 27-28. 17 - Daisetz T. Suzuki, Introduction to Zen Buddhism, p. 132. 18 - Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, p. 286. 19 - lbid., p. 24. 20 - Hoseki Shih'ichi Hisamatsu, Zen-to-bijutsu (Kyoto: Bokubi-sha, 1958), p. 24. This book was later translated into English by Gishin Tokiwa as Zen and the Fine Arts (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1971). 21 - Dennis Hirota, comp. and ed., Wind in the Pines: Classic Writings of the Way of Tea as a Buddhist Path (Fremont, California: Asian Humanities Press, 1995), pp. 25-26.