Friday, 17 September 2010

Mind and reality (Thich Nhat Hanh)

‘Recall a simple and ancient truth: the subject of knowledge cannot exist independently from the object of knowledge. To see is to see something. To hear is to hear something. To be angry is to be angry over something. Hope is hope for something. Thinking is thinking about something. When the object of knowledge (the something) is not present, there can be no subject of knowledge’ (1991:45-46).

‘Consider the example of a table. The table’s existence is possible due to the existence of things which we might call “the non-table world”: the forest where the wood grew and was cut, the carpenter, the iron ore which became the nails and screws, and countless other things which have relation to the table, the parents and ancestors of the carpenter, the sun and rain which made it possible for the trees to grow’ (1991:47).

Hanh, Thich Nhat (1991) The Miracle of Mindfulness. London: Rider.

‘When we have a concept about something, its image appears within that concept. For example, when we have a concept of a table, we see an image of that table, but we must remember that our concept is not the thing itself. It is just our perception, which might in fact be very different from the table. A termite, for example, may perceive a table as a feast, and a physicist may perceive it as a mass of rapidly moving particles’ (1992: 54).

‘The notion that things can exist independently of one another comes from the perception that they have a beginning and an end. But it is impossible to find the beginning or end of anything’ (1992:60).

Hanh, Thich Nhat (1992) The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion. Berkley: Parallax Press.

(with thanks to Melanie Chan for the quotes)