What is Kongo-Zen? Part II

What is Kongo-Zen? Part II

This is a continuation of Doshin So’s write up about Kongo-Zen.


Kongo-Zen, which focuses its attention on man as an expression of and participant in the infinite circle of reality and as endowed with a share of its vast potentially for wisdom, strength, courage, and love that life can best be lived.  It is man himself drawing from his inner sources who must discover new morals rooted in the nature of things, actively strive to create a meaningful life, and bear the responsibility of establishing a heaven on earth where men can live in harmony and happiness.

Another important aspect of Kongo-Zen philosophy is represented by the flowing lines contained in the circle.  They signify the interaction of heaven and earth, of the positive male principle—reason and strength—and the negative female principal—compassion and love.  All these symbolize the actuality of our universe: that all reality as we know it is dynamically governed by the continuous flux and motion of separate and unique, yet interdependent systems coexisting in unity through interaction. Thus there is no thing, fact, being, or event which can stand by itself. What appears to be a polar relation is actually a relation of interdependent elements. For duality arises in man’s effort to delineate, classify, and compartmentalize everything and is not in the nature of things.  This truth is beginning to be realized as recent integrative movement in all the sciences clearly point to unnatural dichotomies between , for instance, the mind, and the body or man and nature. It is even more apparent in our personal encounters and actual experiences in life. The fact that all things are interrelated and interacting to the fullest reach of space and time cannot be denied. This is, however, easily overlooked, as is sometimes evidenced by the values men choose to direct their lives and objections toward which they elect to proceed.

The implications and application of this truth are of great relevance to a man’s way of life. Since all things are interrelated and interacting, it can be said that the golden mean, the world and man that exert direct influence on life, we will discuss three conflicts—mind versus matter, selfishness versus selflessness, life versus death—as seen from the middle path of harmony.

Concerning the first issue, mind versus matter, we find that there are those, like the hedonist, who negate mind in favor of matter and others, like the ascetic, who denounce matter and uphold mind. But as modern pathological and psychical studies have increasingly verified, there are some aspects characterizing man that can be classified as physical—that is located in space and time—whereas others involve consciousness and are, therefore, mental.  Both matter and mind are inseparably united and, in spite of their difference in type, enter into sequences in which either can generate the other, as it is readily seen from such familiar facts as tranquilizing drugs, which modify mental states, or excessive worry and tension, which produce lack of appetite, insomnia, or ulcers.

The way of life most expressive of the real nature of man would necessarily have to embrace both mental and physical needs, the intellectual as well as the emotional facets of being. In the light of this truth, it is most important for each individual to reevaluate his way of life particularly with regard to whether both his mental and physical potentialities are harmoniously cultivated and given equal expression. Of equal importance is the individual’s assessment of his natural and social environment with respect to its conduciveness to both spiritual and material needs.

Regarding the issue of selfishness versus selflessness, ego assertion versus ego-less existence, individualism versus conformity, substantial evidence point to the importance of both preserving and developing one’s unique identity as well as nurturing the vital bond which exists among individuals. Men are not self-existent but mutually depend upon one another not only for survival and insurance of other basic needs, but also for the development and betterment of life. This fact of functional togetherness is clearly evidenced by the existence of the family as a universal institution, a truly genuine organic unit in which individuals, because of biological needs, must depend on a symbiotic relation in order to survive and lead a meaningful existence. It is also witnessed in the tendency to conglomerate in even larger and larger aggregates.  This interdependent nature asks that certain restraints be placed on individual freedom, whereas certain attitudes and habits such as honesty, tolerance, impartiality, and unselfishness are cultivated to insure good human relations. This is vital, for free indulgence of one’s ego would only lead to endless friction and chaos, the consequences of which would be disastrous.

Although man’s very nature calls for close association with other men, this by no means implies that the individual should forfeit his identity or always conform with the group. Multiplicities and divergences have proven themselves to be valuable as they present new and stimulating potentialities and alternatives and require critical examination of their worth and truth. The individuality of the individual must be preserved; self-reliant, secure, critical, responsible, individuals must be fostered. Each individual must be allowed to be himself as the universe is an interaction of unique elements.

The issue of life and death warrants new examination in the light of man’s increasing awareness of the world and of himself. As nothing in the universe remains static or changeless but is a dynamic interaction of interdependent systems, it would seem in order for all existence to fall into the middle category of becoming instead of there being a clear-cut distinction between living and dying.  There are not merely two states that man experiences—living and dying—but numerous states, even during life. For just as a wheel in motion rolls only at one point of the tire, so man is an embodiment of a continuity of changes. This fact is evident when one compares the different stages of life, infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. It is not difficult to realize that they are in no way identical.  Although by pragmatic convention, an individual bears the same name through life, this by no means representative of inner reality. For the substance of body and mind undergo rapid changes from moment to moment.  What can be grasped is the now, this very moment. Each moment is its own lifetime, unique from all other moments. But as we have seen, all things are interrelated and interacting, the moment of the present must necessarily be linked with the moments of the past and the future. Just as a pebble thrown into water transmits as infinite number of rip lets, the present moment is a reflection of the past as well as a mirror of the future. 

This outlook on all existence as a state of becoming thus emphasizes the preciousness of living each moment with all one’s heart and mind but does not neglect accompanying responsibility since each moment is casually related with other moments of time; that is, with other states of becoming. The expression of the middle path between life and death can be of great significance in making life meaningful. Since life significance must be created by the individual himself, a necessary condition is the earnest endeavor to live and make each moment worthwhile.


To be continued….

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