Image: Venn diagram: there are only four possibilities about the opposites of any duality:
ex. yellow / different, blue / identical, green / both yellow blue together,
white / neither. I cannot see a fifth possibility to grasp.
Li, Shi, and Ji in Huayan philosophy
(i.e. clarifying the concept of the inconceivable Identity / Harmony / Union of the Two Truths, or Union of opposites in general)
[Section of an article:] … Which brings us to Huayan itself. Though this kind of Buddhism flourished for only a short time in China, it was, perhaps, the most theoretically sophisticated form of Chinese Buddhism, and it had an enormous impact on other Buddhisms, such as Chan (and indeed, on Chinese Neo-Confucianism). The school is named after the sutra which it took to be most important, the Huayan Sutra. It is also known by its Sanskrit name, the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Chinese Huayan and Sanskrit Avatamsaka both translate into the English Garland of Flowers. The sutra is a very long one, composed of a number of originally independent pieces, probably written in Central Asia in the early part of the common era, possibly the third and fourth centuries. It is certainly available in Chinese translation by the early fifth century.
[A. ‘Li, shi, ji’ = The Ground with its three inseparable qualities = Union of the Two Truths.]
We can start to understand Huayan by looking at some of its key terms, and especially li, shi, and ji.
[Essence / 2nd truth / Ultimate truth / Emptiness of inherent existence:]
The easiest is li. This means, literally, principle, and it is simply the Huayan name for ultimate reality, emptiness, Buddha nature.
[Nature / 1st truth / Relative truth / Conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances:]
Shi is more complicated. Its basic meaning is affair or event. But in various contexts, it can mean any of: situation, event, thing, manifest phenomenon, topic, state, scene—and maybe other things as well. The Huayan use it as a term for the elements of phenomenal reality. One might ask whether these are objects such as mountains and molehills, or situations, such as mountains being above sea level or molehills being made by moles. The answer is probably both. I suspect that the Chinese didn’t place much importance on this conceptual difference. Indeed, the Chinese language might well make the distinction difficult to see. For a single character, say that for a horse, ma, might well mean, a horse, this is a horse, a horse is the kind of thing in question, depending entirely on the context. Indeed, maybe there is not that much difference anyway. Situations are, after all, objects of a certain kind. And with a bit of juggling, we can simply identify an object a with the situation of a’s being an object, or of a’s being the very object it is.
Crucially for present purposes, however, shi includes states of affairs—or better, their phenomenal manifestations. This is important because our present inquiry concerns the relationship between the two aspects of the semantic bearers in the 5-valued catuskoti, and these are states of affairs.
[Dynamism / Compassionate energy / Union of the Two Truths:]
Finally, ji (Jap: soku). This is the hardest matter of all. In the vernacular, ji means something like is the same as (Union). It is clear, however, that the Huayan philosophers use it as something of a term of art. The notion is translated into English in various ways, such as mutual identification, mutual containment, interconnectedness, interpenetration, non-obstruction, non-interference. I will stick with ‘interpenetration’.
This is a start to understanding ji, but does not get us very far. In what follows we will find a very precise understanding of the relationship involved. And since this is exactly the relationship between li and shi (the Union of the Two Truths), it will provide, amongst other things, exactly the answer to the question of the relationship between the two realities in Huayan which we are looking for.
[B.] The Net of Indra (i.e. Does the ‘relationship / Union’ mean that apparent opposites, like the two truths, are identical / the same / one containing the other(s) / that they are interpenetrating? Like in this metaphor:)
Let us approach the matter via the metaphor of the Net of Indra, alluded to many times in the Huayan Sutra. This concerns a net that a god, Indra, has spread through space. At every interstice of the net, Indra has placed a jewel which reflects every other jewel. Fazang himself puts matters as follows:
“It is like the net of Indra which is entirely made up of jewels. Due to their brightness and transparency, they reflect each other. In each of the jewels, the images of all the other jewels are [completely] reflected. This is the case with any one of the jewels, and will remain forever so. Now, if we take a jewel in the southwestern direction and examine it, [we can see] that this one jewel can reflect simultaneously the images of all other jewels at once. It is so with the one jewel, and is also so with each of all the others. Since each of the jewels simultaneously reflects the images of all other jewels at once, it follows that this jewel in the southwestern direction also reflects all the images of the jewels in each of the other jewels [at once]. It is so with this jewel, and is also so with all the others. Thus, the images multiply infinitely, and all these multiple infinite images are bright and clear inside this single jewel. The rest of the jewels can be understood in the same manner.”
Thus, each jewel reflects each other jewel; but it reflects each other jewel reflecting each other jewel; and each other jewel reflecting each other jewel reflecting each other jewel; and so on. The relationship between each jewel is rather like that which obtains if one puts two mirrors opposite each other. If one then looks into either, one can (in principle) see each mirror reflecting the other to infinity.
In the metaphor, the jewels represent the elements of reality, and what the metaphor indicates is that each encodes every other, in some sense. This is exactly the relationship ji. The metaphor is certainly beautiful and suggestive. What we are after, however, is a non-metaphorical understanding of the notion.
[C.] Identity (i.e. Clarification about the concept of ‘Identity / Union’ between apparent opposites: they are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither. But we say they are ‘identical / in Union / One / Non-dual / Equal as a temporary imperfect antidote to our usual position.)
A somewhat flat-footed interpretation of the notion is simply as one of numerical identity. Thus Fazang says—or is translated as saying And his commentator, Cook, says, concerning another passage by Fazang:
“This passage makes it clear that Fazang does in fact assert
the identity of the rafter (part) and the building (whole), or, in other words,
[the identity of] the part and the whole, or
[the identity of] the particular and the universal.”
Now, a feature of identity is that it is normally taken as supporting the substitution of identicals: if x and y are identical, then anything true of x is true of y. And we do indeed find Fazang reasoning sometimes in a way that suggests this:
“Question: since the building (whole) is identical with the rafter (part), then the remaining planks, tiles, and so on, must be identical with the rafter, aren’t they? Answer: generally speaking, they are all identical with the rafter.”
The reasoning here would appear to be that if r is any rafter, p is any plank, and b is the whole building, then since = bandp = b,r = p. This is an instance of the substitution of identicals.
Note that Fazang endorses the interpenetration between the part and the whole. This, itself, would seem to rule out the interpretation of interpenetration as identity (i.e. Apparent opposites, like whole & parts or the two truths, are interdependent but identical.). A car is not identical with its steering wheel. But worse follows. The interpretation quickly collapses into what amounts, effectively, to trivialism: nearly everything is true. (i.e. They are not really interpenetrating, but interdependent.) Consider me. Take any property, P, and some object with that property. Then since I am that thing, I have the property P. This seems far too strong. There is clearly some sense in which I am not a slice of toast; and for all that George Bush and I may be one, I am not responsible for the invasion of Iraq and its disastrous consequences in the way that he is. Indeed, the passage just quoted does not, in fact, require the relation to be identity. Any transitive relation will do. So it would seem that whatever the notion is, it is not one of literal identity. (i.e. More precisely: They are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither.)
[D.] Emptiness (i.e. Everything is of ‘one taste’ in emptiness; but, still, they are not truly identical / the same / one -- that would be falling into the extremes of monism / radical oneness, leading to complete non-differentiation between good & bad, leading to hell.)
Cook himself gestures at another understanding of what the relation might be.
We often say that things are the same, meaning by this that they have a property in common. The ripe strawberry and the top traffic light are the same in that they are both red. In the present case, this seems far too weak an understanding, however. Any two things have some properties in common—for example, the property of being one thing. So this is to reduce the relation in question to a banality. But maybe, says Cook, to say that things are related in the way we seek, is to say that they have some really important property in common. What? Says Cook:
“First, we must accept the basic concept of emptiness itself. Second, we must consider emptiness to be so fundamental to the being of things that despite their obvious and real differences, they are alike in a more essential way in being empty. If we can accept these premises, then the claim that all things are identical does not seem quite so improbable, because identity is claimed on the basis of this common emptiness.”
As we have seen, emptiness, or being empty, is the central notion in the analysis of reality in Indian Madhyamaka Buddhism (i.e. It is more like the Union of the Two Truths free of all extremes & middle.), and it was certainly taken over by Chinese Buddhism in general, and Huayan in particular. As Fazang himself puts it:
“The all is the one, for both are similar in being non-existent in Nature [GP: svabhava].
(i.e. More precisely: They are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither.)
[Things] are produced by the mind (1st truth) and have no self-nature at all (2nd truth).
This is called the absence of characters. (i.e. This is called the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths about all dharmas)
The scripture says, “All dharmas are originally empty in their nature and have not the least character (2nd truth)”.”
Now, according to Cook, to say that all things are one is to say that they share this one important property. They are the same in this most fundamental of ways.
That all things are one, in this sense, is stating an important truth of Buddhism, and one of the appropriate profundity. However, it really doesn’t seem to do justice to the metaphor of the Net of Indra. According to the metaphor, all things interpenetrate with all other things. To grasp one is, in some sense, to grasp all. This seems to go a lot further than the simple claim that all things share the same fundamental property. You can know everything about a and know that a and b share this most fundamental property without knowing much else about b.
[E.] And it’s Structure
But Cook’s insight, that emptiness is important to what is going on, at least takes us in the right direction. To understand how, let us go back to the discussion of emptiness in 4.5. As we saw there, if something is empty, its being is determined by its locus (location) in a network of relations. Something’s being the thing that it is, is its bearing a bunch of relations to other things ...
-- From: The Fifth Corner of Four: An Essay on Buddhist Metaphysics and the Catuṣkoṭi by Graham Priest
Via: Scott Pierson
💖 Li, Shi, and Ji in Huayan philosophy are exactly like the three inseparable qualities of the Ground in Dzogchen, they are
Li / essence / ultimate truth / emptiness of inherent existence,
Shi / nature / relative truth / dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances,
Ji / dynamism / compassionate energy / the energy of the Union of the Two Truths (that one implies the other) / Union li <==> shi.
So this is about the Union of the Two Truths as taught in San-lun / Chinese Madhyamaka.
This section of Graham's article tries to clarify the notion of Identity / Union (Ji) between those two truths (Li, Shi), or between opposites like whole & parts.
I don't know where he is going because I do not have the full article, but he seems to be missing the point that this 'Union' means that the two apparent opposites are 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 / 𝘀𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 / 𝗺𝘂𝗹𝘁𝗶𝗽𝗹𝗲 / 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 / 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 / 𝗼𝗻𝗲 / 𝗻𝗼𝗻-𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗼𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗼𝗴𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗻𝗲𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 (and there is no fifth). Simply meaning that the apparent opposites and their true relation / Union are beyond all conceptual elaborations, beyond all extremes & middle, beyond all conditioning / karma. That we need to directly realise their true nature & relation, to directly realise the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths about all dharmas.
In short, they say that apparent opposites, like whole & part or the two truths, are Identical / the Same / One, but that is just an impermanent imperfect adapted skillful means / antidote to our usual position. In fact, they are 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 / 𝘀𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 / 𝗺𝘂𝗹𝘁𝗶𝗽𝗹𝗲 / 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 / 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 / 𝗼𝗻𝗲 / 𝗻𝗼𝗻-𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗼𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗼𝗴𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗻𝗲𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 (and there is no fifth).
The Amazing Living Beings -- Hongzhi Zhengjue
“Our house is a single field (i.e. GROUND), clean, vast, and lustrous, clearly self-illuminated. When the spirit is vacant without conditions, when awareness is serene without cogitation (i.e. samatha / calm abiding), then buddhas and ancestors appear and disappear transforming the world (insights).
Amid living beings is the original place of nirvana.
(i.e. Union of the Two Truths. Union samsara <==> nirvana.)
[Samsara:] How amazing it is that all people have this but cannot polish it into bright clarity. In darkness unawakened (ignorance / marigpa), they make foolishness cover their wisdom and overflow.
[Nirvana:] One remembrance of illumination (wisdom) can break through and leap out of the dust of kalpas.
(i.e. Samsara is transcended / purified / self-liberated / transmuted into nirvana here & now through the direct wisdom of becoming fully aware of the true nature & dynamic of Reality) .
Radiant and clear white, [the single field] (i.e. the Ground) cannot be diverted or altered in the three times; the four elements cannot modify it.
(i.e. This Ground is self-arisen, unalterable, eternal / timeless, pristine; everything is this Ground, and is beyond all conceptualisation, discrimination / dualities, causality / production, matter-energy, space & time.)
Solitary glory is deeply preserved, enduring throughout ancient and present times, as 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 (i.e. the real meaning of the Ground, the 'Union of the Two Truths', the Union of opposites) becomes the entire creation’s mother.
(i.e. this 'Union' is the compassionate energy at the source of everything in the Universe, in both samsara & nirvana. And everything co-emerge as apparent opposites / pairs -- like matter & anti-matter, or positive & negative subatomic particles spontaneously emerge in pairs from empty space.)
This realm manifests the energy of the many thousands of beings, all appearances merely this [field’s] shadows.
(i.e. Union Ground <==> and its displays. Union of the Two Truths about the Ground and its displays.)
Truly enact this reality.”
(i.e. Always be mindful / aware of this Ground: as pointed by the concept of the Union of the Two Truths about the three spheres; or the Union of the Ground and its displays.)
- Excerpt from: "The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza" by Taigen Dan Leighton.