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Jerry Katz
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#2457 - Friday, April 28, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz

One very nondual explication by long time list participant Greg Goode.  

One expression of desire for nonduality in haiku and art by great Japanese woodcut artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.  

One subtly startling depiction of nonduality in painting by the celebrated Canadian artist Charles Pachter.    

Greg Goode  

Do you exist?

(From Nondual Philosophy list, message 14980, 4/25/2006)


Q:  Would you say that you exist?  Not as a separately existing individual, but rather as Existence itself?


A:  I would not say that I exist.  I wouldn't say that I don't exist.  The 'exists' word adds nothing, says nothing, illuminates nothing.


The "Do you exist?" question is what they call in philosophy and rhetoric a "complex question" such as "Have you stopped robbing banks?"  The banks question assumes that I am robbing banks.  The existence question assumes that I am something separate to which the predicate "exists" can be sensibly applied.


Other than the "car keys" kind of everyday situations, the "exists" predicate can't be applied sensibly anywhere.  Because there is nothing there for the predicate to apply to.  Similarly for its opposite "doesn't exist."  Of what can "doesn't exist" be said???


In advaita vedanta the "exists" predicate is not used too much either.  Rather, Existence as in "Sat" or "Being" is used.  But it's not a predicate or an attribute.  To get this point across, the three words Existence, Knowlege and Bliss (Sat, Chit, Ananda).


But these words are not qualities attributed to any thing.  They are said to be Brahman, but not to describe a pre-existent entity called Brahman.  They are said to be "non-qualifying attributes."  How do they work?  They are teaching tools, used pragmatically to dispel the misconception that Brahman is characterized by non-existence, by ignorance, or by suffering.  Brahman is not characterized by non- existence, by ignorance, or by suffering.


Brahman, as the Self, as the I-principle, is not some individual thing that exists.  Brahman is not a thing that fails to exist. Brahman is not a thing in the first place.  (To be a thing is to be numerically and separately single out of a possible multiplicity of similars).  Numbers don't apply.  It is without a second, that which there cannot possibly be two of.


  ~ ~ ~     Greg provides counseling services for those who feel there are dramas of the flesh that have been going on for too long. Maybe we can't even see the drama properly because there's a tall guy sitting in front of us. A guy like Greg gets the tall guy out of his seat and then he takes it from there:    

    holding back the night

with increasing brilliance

the summer moon

~ ~ ~     Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) was the most important Japanese woodcut
artist of the Meiji period (1868-1912). He saw his work as the culmination
of the Ukiyo-e tradition of the preceding Edo period, but he also developed
new elements of western style and depicted contemporary events in a way that
heralded the modern era. His use of daring design and expressive colour to
turn the screw of violent and cruel situations made him the most vivid and
shocking witness of Meiji Japan. Yet he could also conjure a refined poetry
to give a new twist to traditional subjects.

Yoshitoshi was a pupil of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), whose influence
modelled his early work. Throughout his career he repeated subjects familiar
from Kuniyoshi's prints, but his depictions grew more individual and
penetrated deeper into the psychology of his subjects. He was a direct
witness of the conflict and change as Japan was forced to open up to the
rest of the world in the 1860s. He watched when the Emperor's forces
replaced those of the Sh˘gun in Edo (soon to be renamed Tokyo) in 1868. His
early prints bear testament to the turmoil and violence around the time of
the Meiji Restoration, and in the following decade he was recruited by
newspapers to document current conflicts and news events in print.

In the early 1870s Yoshitoshi was ill with depression and commissions grew
scarce, but he emerged with a more considered and characteristic style. He
still depicted subjects of violence and cruelty, but the blood and gore was
no longer explicit: he chose instead the psychological moment before or
after the event, thus bringing the implicit violence inside the viewer's

In the 1880s Yoshitoshi produced a flow of his most charismatic prints. Many
of the later prints, including his most famous and successful series, One
Hundred Aspects of the Moon, looked back to subject matter of the past. He
was increasingly dismayed at the threat western influences posed to
traditional Japanese society, and he joined the group of historians and
scholars called Kyűkokai (Committee for Research into the Past) formed by
his friend, the actor Danjűr˘ IX, to uphold the cultural heritage of
pre-Meiji Japan. They were concerned that western innovations like
photography and lithography threatened woodblock prints, just as bright gas
and electric lighting threatened the traditional effects of Kabuki theatre.

Yoshitoshi's memorial poem seems to acknowledge not only his attempt to stem
the tide of western culture sweeping Japan, but also his own struggle with
the demons of mental illness which returned in his final years.  


Woodcut by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi    


Painting by Charles Pachter inspired by his trip to India in 2005. See more from this series at

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