Seeing and Not-Seeing Are Not Things, How Could They Not Be You?

Seeing and Not-Seeing Are Not Things, How Could They Not Be You?

The Surangama scripture says, “When I do not see, why do you not see my not seeing? If you see my not seeing, naturally that is not the characteristic of not seeing. If you don’t see my not seeing, it is naturally not a thing – how could it not be you?”

The Blue Cliff Record, Thomas Cleary & J.C Cleary, p.514

 Where the prevailing epistemology (i.e. the representational theory of knowledge) regards the sense organs as keyboards, conveyors, interpreters, or translators of objective reality to the subjective self, Zen recognizes the sense organs as bridges, channels, or joints connecting/separating objective reality to/from subjective reality.

‘You’ don’t see ‘my’ not seeing, ‘I’ don’t see ‘your’ not seeing. Of course this applies as well to ‘my’ seeing, as Yuanwu (compiler of the Zen classic Hekiganroku) underscores by citing some context from the scripture that is the source of this koan:

“If seeing were a thing, then you could also see my sight…”

The Blue Cliff Record, Thomas Cleary & J.C Cleary, p.515

In any case, the main point is, if dharmas consist of sentient experience, each dharma must be unique to a particular sentient being. The moon that I see and the moon that you see are not the same moon. In fact, the moon that I see tonight is not even the same moon I saw yesterday:

So although the moon was there last night, tonight’s moon is not yesterday’s moon.

Shobogenzo, Tsuki, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross