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On Zen (Ch’an) Language and Zen Paradoxes
Hakuin's Daruma

Chung-ying Cheng
University of Hawaii, Queens College of the City University of New York
Journal of Chinese Philosophy, V. 1 (1973) pp. 77-102
© Copyright 1973 by D. Reidel Publishing Company

The content of this essay was presented at the Long Island Philosophical Society of New York Meetings, November 1972, under the title ‘Ontological Reduction and Zen Paradoxes’. It was also presented at the University Colloquium on Oriental Thought and Religion at Columbia University, January 1973 under the title ‘Ontological Transformation and Zen (Ch’an) Paradoxes’. Then it was finally presented at the Philosophy Colloquio of the University of California at Berkeley and the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale respectively in February 1973 under the title ‘Ontic Non-Commitment and Zen (Ch’an) Paradoxes’.


Zen (meditation school; Ch’an in Chinese) [1] as a form of Chinese Buddhistic religion and proto-philosophy [2] seems to be constantly puzzling and persistently inscrutable to modern philosophers in the Western world. Even philosophers of religion with the most broad-minded approach to religion do not seem to be able to make intelligible and intellectual sense of Zen thinking and Zen practice. To explain this failure of understanding, we may mention at least three areas of paradoxical facts of Zen. First, there is the doctrinaire aspect of the puzzlement: The doctrine of Zen holds that no rational and intellectual doctrine is pertinent and necessary for the realization of the ultimate truth called Buddhahood. This doctrine also holds that no form of language or speech is essential for expressing or realizing Enlightenment (wu in Chinese; satori in Japanese) which is the attainment of Buddhahood. [3] Second, there is the following puzzling historical aspect of Zen. Throughout its long development since the 5th Century A. D., the Zen Buddhists have recordedly engaged themselves in various intellectual endeavors such as studying regular Buddhistic sutras and writing testimonial explications or descriptions bearing on Buddhahood and Enlightenment. Yet in their search for Enlightenment they produced a vivid and vigorous body of brief and pithy dialogic exchanges named ‘public cases’ or ‘public documents’ (kung-an in Chinese; koan in Japanese), [4] which seem to defy intellectual understanding. One is thereby tempted to ask: Why is there a gap between theoretical training and practical life in Zen?

    Finally the contents of the dialogic exchanges are a source of paradoxical puzzlement. Though highly disconnected, unorganized, and extremely difficult to draw significant generalizations from, these dialogic exchanges are intended and used and in many recorded cases indeed succeed as instruments for expressing, conveying, inducing, inviting, testing, and verifying the achievement of Enlightenment. In a sense they both collectively and individually show what Enlightenment is by saying, asserting, questioning and answering in a manner which exemplifies contradiction, inconsistency, irrelevancy and nonsense. With this we are baffled because apparently bona fide language and discourse are freely used to create a state of mental comprehension and personal transformation which transcend both language and reason.

    In the light of the above paradoxical facts of Zen doctrine and Zen practice, it is not surprising that Zen must mislead and mystify modern philosophers who emphasize such virtues as conceptual clarity, logical consistency and semantic meaningfulness. It is again not surprising that modern philosophers of religion who look for interpretations of religious languages and religious experiences under the guide of one theory or another will find Zen language and Zen experience most puzzling and most unintelligible. But as Zen language and Zen experience are claimed by devout masters to be most significant and appear indeed to possess a certain potency to trigger off religious and philosophical insights of lasting value, they can not be easily dismissed as nonsensical or irrelevant. Therefore they continue to puzzle as well as to challenge philosophers in general and philosophers of religion in particular.


For the purpose of eliminating the puzzlement and meeting the challenge as posed by Zen, this essay plans to inquire into the logical and semantical significances of the dialogic exchanges (kung-an, koan) in Zen language and discourse as well as to clarify their methodological and ontological basis. It is obvious that an inquiry on this matter will help to resolve certain philosophical puzzles in Zen, but will not help to remove all the puzzles concerning Zen there are. Specifically I shall endeavor to answer two very fundamental questions regarding the kung-an-generated puzzles and paradoxes in Zen. These two very fundamental questions are:

    Question 1: In what logically intelligible way does a puzzle or a paradox as generated in a dialogic exchange derive its extraordinary meaningfulness as a tool for reaching or revealing the ultimate truth?

    Question 2: How is the paradoxicality or puzzlement of such a puzzle or paradox to be rationally explained and logically dissolved?

   As we shall see, my answers to these questions are based on the view that the Zen puzzles and paradoxes generally arise from an intentional breakdown of the link or connection between the surface semantic meaning and the deep ontological reference in the Zen dialogic exchanges. In such a breakdown the language with the surface semantic meaning is devoid of its referential framework so that it loses its ontological referent in an ultimate sense. But at the same time the same Zen language can be seen to acquire freely new semantic meanings or to give rise freely to new language forms with new surface meanings but to the same ontological reference, that is, the ontological reference with no specific ontological referent whatsoever. The former points is formulated in the principle of ontic non-commitment, [5] whereas the latter point is formulated in the principle of contextual demonstration or reconstitution. My main thesis in this article is that the elucidation of these two principles will enable us to make good sense of Zen language and its puzzles and paradoxes. Though these two principles as formulated by me will enable us to answer the two fundamental questions above and therefore explain the significance and logical dissolvability of Zen puzzles and paradoxes, I wish to suggest that these two principles are actually presupposed in any lively Zen dialogic exchanges and thus form an intrinsic justification of such dialogic exchanges with its paradoxical products, not only a mere extrinsic explanation of them. Thus to perceive and understand the relevance of these two principles in a concrete Zen dialogic exchange is for the Zen masters to perceive and understand the puzzle and paradox from such a dialogic exchange, namely to see that what are engendered by such dialogic exchanges are no puzzles and paradoxes at all. Doubtless this constitutes part of what is intended by the term 'Enlightenment'. Thus my explication and eludication of puzzles and paradoxes in Zen dialogic exchanges in light of the two principles above will conduce to a partial, if not a full, clarification of the Zen experience called Enlightenment.


In order to make precise the nature and method of my inquiry we must now clarify practical features of the use of language in Zen dialogic exchanges and indicate the methodology which the Zen masters recognize generally as valid for the pursuit of Enlightenment involving the use of language.

    Concerning the practical features of the use of language in Zen dialogic exchanges, one must first note that these dialogic exchanges take place in unique situations involving encounters between people with either deep experiences of Zen or ardent and sincere inclination to have such experiences. These people are Zen masters and their actual or would-be followers who normally have had a background of Buddhistic and/or Taoistic ideas and sentiments. Because of this, one may regard their dialogic exchanges as basically oriented in living contexts of Buddhistic and/or Taoistic thought and thus as forming an integral part of such contexts. We may indeed consider these dialogic exchanges as direct manifestations of total experiences in encounters between religious persons. Therefore they interact with any other presentation or manifestation of the total situation in the form of sound, gesture and bodily movement, and thus form with them an organic whole. Whatever puzzles and paradoxes may be engendered in dialogic exchanges must therefore be seen as part and parcel of such total situations. When seen in this light, there may appear to be no more puzzles and paradoxes, because of the use of language becomes purely practical and performatory and loses cognitive appeal and assertive force. Thus the use of language in dialogic exchanges embedded in contexts of religious encounters should not be seen to give rise to puzzles and paradoxes, but instead to perform the function of religious transformation: it either succeeds or fails to effect the religious transformation.

    Granted the contextual interpretation of the Zen dialogic exchanges, one may conclude that the use of language in Zen dialogic exchanges is thoroughly practical and thus is not intended to make any statement or to ask and answer any question. One might also say that it is even implicitly requested in a Zen dialogic exchange that no assertion can possibly be made. The reason why there appear to be puzzles and paradoxes in Zen language is then that the uninitiated or the unenlightened mistakes the non-assertive use of words for assertive use of language and try to create questions and answers which lead to more assertions. If assertability is ruled out as an illocutionary force of the speech act in the use of Zen language, then truth and cognitive meaningfulness will become basically irrelevant and indeed there would be no point of talking about Zen puzzles and paradoxes.

    In this article we are not to accept a pure or thorough non-cognitivist interpretation of the use of language in Zen dialogic exchanges, as indicated above, because this will impoverish and destroy the rich texture of language use in a Zen Buddhistic dialogue or in any profound religious dialogue. Instead we must recognize language use in a living situation of religious encounter as having many dimensions each of which has its own function to fulfill and yet at the same time interplay with and reinforce the other toward fulfilling one larger goal, namely the achievement of Enlightenment or religious transformation which in my view always involves a dimension of cognitive understanding.

    Given this many-dimensional model of language use in religion, we must recognize both the practical and metaphysical imports of language use in Zen dialogues. Thus the use of language in Zen is not simply practical or performatory nor simply cognitive or assertive. It must be described as requiring both cognition, insight, decision and direction of mind. It has a complicated structure in a single process of speaking.

    Without detailing on a thorough analysis, I wish specifically to point out that the Zen dialogic exchange relates the practical use of language to the assertive use of language in a peculiar way: it functions to direct the mind to or to point the mind to the ultimate reality by way of apparent use of assertion, interrogation and exclamation. This on the other hand means that the assertive use of language under certain conditions [5a] which guarantee the genuineness of religious encounters, shows that every form of language reference can be and should be reduced or transformed into the ultimate truth of non-being or emptiness and thus that it can be freely and naturally substituted for every other according to the principle of ontic non-commitment and the principle of contextual demonstration (or reconstitution). This directional-demonstrative use of language is possible in Zen dialogic exchanges because Zen Buddhism is basically Buddhistic as well as basically Taoistic and both Buddhism and Taoism identify the ultimate truth with the truth of non-reference or voidness. In this article I will not argue for the Mahayana Buddhistic and Taoistic spirits as foundations of Zen Buddhism, but instead will assume that this is indeed the case. This suffices to vindicate the fact that there do exist puzzles and paradoxes of ontological significance which pose a challenge to rational and logical explication and justification.


What we have said about the directional-demonstrative use of language in Zen dialogic exchanges in fact underlies what might be called a Zen methodology as recognized by Zen masters in their expression and verification of Enlightenment. From an authentic Zen master's point of view, reason, language and intellect can be used as instruments for the purpose of achieving and realizing the ultimate truth and therefore need not be rejected [6] . The Zen Master customarily points to the idiom of using a net to catch a fish in the writings of the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu. As a net is used to catch fish, reason, language and intellect have their usefulness and relevance for inducing or testing and verifying Enlightenment. Difficulty and confusion enter only when one loses sight of one's ultimate goal in the use of an instrument or when one takes the means as an end and becomes obsessed with the means. In light of this lesson, the Zen methodology can be said to be that of strictly separating the means from the end in one's pursuit of truth and that of discarding the means as soon as the end is reached or as soon as the means creates a burden which obscures the vision of the truth. But for one who is strongly in command of oneself and has a firm view of the end, the use of language in whatever way need not be forbidden or abolished at all. In fact it becomes an occasion where life exhibits its creativity and language manifests the very end of life in a spontaneous way. This creative use of language is very often exemplified in the poetry of the Zen masters.

    Even though the Zen methodology permits creative use of language which should include both the practical and assertive uses of language, one must pre-condition this creative use of language with strict training in self-control and understanding so that one will not only keep sight of the goal but will work toward it with thorough command of language. This perhaps explains why in the orthodox Zen tradition, before one attains Enlightenment, one must discipline oneself in the readings of sutras and observance of religious rules. In the light of this fact, perhaps we can theoretically distinguish three stages of the Zen training in the use of language.

    Stage 1: The pre-Enlightenment stage where reason and language must be thoroughly commanded and understood with regard to their intended meanings and referents.

    Stage 2: The Enlightenment stage where reason and language as means have achieved their goal and must be abolished or discarded so that they will not obstruct or dominate one's experience of Enlightenment.

    Stage 3: The post-Enlightenment stage where one is able to freely use language for various purposes of instruction and verification of certain relevant experiences toward Enlightenment and where such use of language becomes an integral part of the goal achievement.

    With regard to the three stages of Zen training in the use of language, we can see that meaning which can be ascribed to a Zen dialogic exchange together with its resulting puzzle and paradox can be structured accordingly. Thus on the one hand and before Enlightenment Zen dialogues can be seen to generate genuine puzzles and paradoxes. On the other hand and in Enlightenment these puzzles and paradoxes can be seen to be instrumental for the attainment of Enlightenment. Finally and in the post-Enlightenment stage the Zen puzzles and paradoxes become non-puzzling and non-paradoxical and instead show themselves to be the most meaningful and natural ways of expressing one's experience of the ultimate truth. It needs no elaboration to see that the Zen methodology and the many dimensional model of use of language in Zen coincide.


A few words must be said about my approach to the understanding of Zen in relation to Zen experience. Although my purpose is to render rationally intelligible the puzzles and paradoxes in Zen language, I do not intend to rationalize Zen experience of Enlightenment, nor do I intend to reject Zen experience of Enlightenment from the possibility of rational understanding or explanation. It could turn out that Zen experience of Enlightenment, like any religious experience, is most unique and most individual and thus cannot be adequately described in any mode of speech. But, however, this should not entail that no consistent rational explanation and explication for such experience cannot be constructed which is not intended to be a substitution for such experience. One should therefore make a distinction between a mode of speech which indicates an experience which surpasses rationality and a mode of speech which embodies a rational explanation or explication of such an experience.

    To illustrate this distinction, we may consider our attitude toward a piece of painting. A piece of painting can be enjoyed as an exquisite work of art on the one hand, and on the other can be examined or studied in terms of scientific concepts. Each activity cannot be substituted for the other or made identical with the other. Consequently the language of art appreciation can be distinguished from the language of scientific measurement. Experience itself is perhaps ultimately ineffable as C. I. Lewis uses the term, [7] but the rational explanation of the experience is not. In fact, we might explain the ineffability of experience in the following sense: An experience is ineffable if no conceptual system can adequately characterize the experience and if it is open to different conceptual characterizations which are not equivalent or compatible with one another. Once this explanation of ineffability of experience is understood, we need not subscribe to the general impression of Zen experiences as conveyed and promoted by some of the mystically-inclined exponents of Zen Buddhism such as D. T. Suzuki [8] . We need not consider Zen experiences as irreducibly irrational or that it must be understood in separation from reason and language. In fact no such possibility should be absolutely excluded. But one must also realize that there is nothing in Zen experience or any experience which precludes a theoretical rational explanation which in not intended to be substituted for the experience itself. My approach to the explanation of Zen puzzles and paradoxes in Zen dialogic exchanges will follow this line. It is therefore basically philosophical, rationalistic and metaphysical. It is to be contrasted with any anti-rationalistic or irrationalistic account of Zen experiences on the one hand and to be significantly distinguished from psychological description and explanation of such as suggested by Carl Jung and Alan Watts on the other. [9]


What is a Zen paradox? When a contemporary philosopher speaks of paradox, he normally refers to a paradigm of paradox illustrated by the logical paradox of Russell or perhaps the semantical paradox of liar. The rough generalized form of such paradoxes in contemporary philosophy of logic is

    (A) P is true if and only if P is false,

where P is a proposition containing a disguised truth-predicate or a reference to sets. [10] As it is well known, the truth condition of (A) is derived from the semantical meaning of the disguised truth-predicate in P or is derived from quantification in P over indiscriminate classes or sets. Now it seems to me that we can go one step further in extending this structure of paradox in the direction of substituting the terms 'true' and 'false' for some other significant sentential predicates. A number of such predicates which are philosophically useful suggest themselves. They are for example semantically speaking terms such as 'meaningful', 'intelligible', 'relevant (for some relation)', and pragmatically speaking terms such as 'acceptable', 'satisfactory', and 'relevant (for some purpose)'. Based on such sample predicates from semantics and pragmatics, we may generate a number of schema of paradoxes in the following:

    (B) P is meaningful if and only if P is not meaningful.
    (C) P is intelligible if and only if P is not intelligible.
    (D) P is relevant (for some relation) if and only if P is not relevant (for some relation).
    (E) P is acceptable if and only if P is not acceptable.
    (F) P is satisfactory if and only if P is not satisfactory
    (G) P is relevant (for some purpose) if and only if P is not relevant (for some purpose).

We can imagine that similar forms with suitable predicates can be similarly generated. A generalization over these forms therefore is

    (H) P is q if and only if P is not q,

where 'q' is some suitable sentential predicate of either logical or semantical or pragmatical significance. [11]

    Given the generalized form of paradox such as (H), we can see now that the puzzles and paradoxes engendered in Zen dialogic exchanges are paradoxical in virtue of this generalized form of paradox underlying them. But what is peculiar about these Zen paradoxes is that they are not confined to any single instance of (H) such as exemplified by instances from (A) to (G) but instead may assume the form of any single instance of (H) or several or even all forms of instances of (H). These Zen paradoxes may even take one form of one instance of (H) under certain circumstances and then take another under other circumstances. Thus as we shall see from the actual examples in the next section, either the question or the answer to the question or the whole conjunction of the question and answer in a Zen dialogic exchange may appear to be unmeaningful, or unintelligible or lacking relevance for revealing the ultimate truth and thus lacking relevance for inducing or testing Enlightenment, yet at the same time it is held with all sincerity and seriousness of mind by the Zen masters that it is in virtue of such unmeaningfulness, such unintelligibility and such lack of relevance for revealing the ultimate truth that that question or that answer or that conjunction of that question and that answer are genuinely meaningful, genuinely intelligible and genuinely relevant for revealing the ultimate truth. As a matter of fact, the question or the answer of the conjunction of the question and the answer in a Zen dialogic exchange is intended to be understood as relevant for revealing the ultimate truth or for inducing or verifying Enlightenment, but then it is precisely in virtue of this intention that such question or such answer or such conjunction of such question and such answer is given a linguistic appearance that violates the conventional rules of logic, usage and common sense and thus becomes non-sensical and un-acceptable in the eyes of them. It is not difficult to see that one can test and verify the paradoxicality of any actual intuitively paradoxical Zen puzzle or paradox engendered in a dialogic exchange by formulating the puzzle or paradox in the form of paradox as suggested by (H) and its exemplifications from (A) to (G).

    In order to understand how a puzzle or paradox arizes from a Zen dialogic exchange, we may look into the dialectical situation in which we experience the paradoxicality of the dialogue. After a Zen question or answer is given (see actual examples in next section), we are to immediately look for justification of its meaningfulness or relevance or truth in what we know about the language and the world in reference to logic and common sense. But we find no such justification. On the contrary, we find that logic and common sense are severely violated. We feel frustrated, outraged and lost. Are we to reject or ignore such question or answer or their juxtaposition? Not so, because we feel or are told or even trust (if we are original followers of the Zen master who poses the question or gives the answer) that the question of the answer or their conjunction is a significant way for revealing the ultimate truth. To look for a way out conforming to the goal of achieving Enlightenment is to recognize the existence of a puzzle or paradox in such a situation. Hence we are confronted with a Zen puzzle or a Zen paradox.


I shall now list all the important types of paradoxes in Zen language which directly illustrate the forms of paradoxes discussed above.

    Type I: Paradoxes with paradoxicality in a simple demand or in a single question:

(1)     'Show me your original face before you were born'.
(2)     'What is the clap of one hand' ('Listen to the sound of one hand.')
(3)     On producing a pitcher, Pai Chang asked: 'Don't call it a pitcher, but tell me what it is?'
(4)     'I am him and yet he is not me.'
(5)     'Call this a stick and you assert; call it not a stick and you negate. Now you don't assert nor negate, and what do you call it? Speak and speak.'
(6)     'Assertion prevails not, nor does denial. When neither of them is to the point, what would you say?'
(7)     'A long time ago, a man kept a goose in a bottle and it grew larger and larger until it could not get out of the bottle any longer; he did not want to break the bottle, nor did he wish to hurt the goose; how would you get the goose out?'
(8)     'Suppose a man climbing up a tree taking hold of a branch by his teeth, and his whole body is thus suspended. His hands are not holding anything and his feet are off the ground. Now another man comes along and asks the man in the tree as to the fundamental principle of Buddhism. If the man in the tree does not answer, he is neglecting the questioner; but if he tries to answer, he will lose his life. How can he get out of his predicament?'
(9)     'When I pass away, I will become a buffalo in the cottage. I shall write my name on my left front leg: I am Monk Kuei Shan. At that time if you call me Monk Kuei Shan, I am a buffalo. But if you call me buffalo, I am Monk Kuei Shan. what should I be called?'
(10)     'I see mountain not as mountain; and I see water not as water.'
(11)     'What is gained is what is not gained.'
(12)     'Attach to this, detach from this.'
(13)     'Don't speak about being and don't speak about non-being.'
(14)     'When all things are reduced to oneness, where does oneness reduce to?'
(15)     'The Bodhi tree is not a tree, and the bright mirror is not a mirror (platform). There is originally nothing,     where does the dust attach?'
(16)     'I hold spade empty-handly. I walk on foot and yet I ride on horseback. When I pass over the bridge, the water  flows not, but the bridge does.'
(17)     'A cow in Chia-chou consumes the grass. But the horse in I-chou is satiated. (Instead of) seeking a good physician, (you should) cauterize the left arm of a pig.'
(18)     'When I say there is not, this does not necessarily mean a negation; when I say there is, this does not signify an affirmation. Turn eastward and look at the western sand; face the south and the north star is pointed out there.'

    Type II: Paradoxes with paradoxicality in the dialogic relation where either the question or the answer is paradoxical.

(1)     Consider Type I, example (1) as an answer to the question:
         'What is the principle of Buddhism?'
(2)     Consider the following answers to the question in Type I
          example (3): 'It cannot be called sandals.' Or the answerer does not speak but instead kicks down the pitcher.
(3)     Consider the following answer to the question in Type I
          example (5): The answerer snatches the stick and throw it at the ground while saying: 'What is it?'
(4)     Consider the following answer to the question in Type I,
          example (7): The master calls out the personal name of the disciple and when the latter answers, says: 'There, it is out.'
(5)     Consider the following answer to the question in Type I,
          example (8): 'if one climbs up the tree, no question will be asked; If not in the tree, then you must answer.'
(6)     Consider the following answer to the question in Type I,
          example (15): 'When I was in Chin, I made a robe of seven pounds.'

Type III: Paradoxes with paradoxicality in the dialogic relation, but where the question and the answer itself do not contain paradoxicality.

(1)    'What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?'
         'How tall these bamboos are! and how short those over there!'
(2)    'What is the significance of Buddhiharma's coming to China?'
         'There are cypress trees in the front yard.'
(3)     'Who is the Buddha?'
          'One made of clay and decorated with gold'. Or
          'The bride rides on a cow and his father holds the bridle.'Or
          'Your name is Hui-chao.' Or
          'See the eastern mountains moving over the waves.' Or
          'Three pounds of flax.' Or
          'Here comes a man with the chest exposed and the legs all naked.'
(4)     'What is a drop of water from Chao Brook?'
          'It is a drop of water from Chao Brook.'
(5)     'What does Buddha say in remaining silent?'
          'The doves chirp in the trees.'
(6)     'What is ordinary mind?'
          'The foxes and wild grasses are ordinary mind.'

Type IV: Paradoxes with paradoxicality in the contrast of the plain discourse and the background intention of the questioner.

(1)    Pai Chang follows Ma Tzu in an outing and sees wild geese flying by. Ma Tzu: 'What is it?' Pai-Chang: 'Wild geese.' Ma Tzu: 'What do they do?' Pai-chang: 'They fly away.' Ma Tzu then twists the nose of Pai-chang and Pai-chang cries out in pain. Ma Tzu remarks: 'Did they really fly away?'
(2)    Chao Chou once asks a new monk: 'Have you ever been here before?' Monk: 'Yes, Sir, I have.' Chao-chou: 'Have a cup of tea.' Later on another monk came and he asked him the same question: 'Have you ever been here?' Monk: 'No, I have never been here.' Chao-chou: 'Have a cup of tea.' Afterwards one resident monk asked the master: 'How is it that you make the same offering of a cup of tea no matter what a monk's reply is?' The old master called out: 'O, monk.' The monk at once replied: 'Yes, master', whereupon Chao-chou said: 'Have a cup of tea.'
(3)     A monk who was still a novice came to Chao-chou and asked to be instructed in Zen. Chao-chou said: 'Have you had your breakfast yet?' Replied the monk: 'Yes, Sir, I have had it already.' Chao-chou: 'If so, wash your dishes.'

    An analysis will show that case (1) of Type IV essentially belongs to Type I, and cases (2) and (3) of Type IV essentially belong to Type III. Thus there are essentially and basically three types of paradoxes in Zen language and Zen dialogic exchanges. If we represent a question by the symbol 'Q' and a statement by the symbol 'R' and the dialogic relation by the symbol ' ? ' and finally the existence of paradoxicality by the symbol 'p' then we can represent the Type I paradoxes by the form 'Qp' or the form 'Rp' , the Type II paradoxes by the form 'Qp ? pR' or the form 'Q ? pRp' and the Type III paradoxes by the form 'Q ? pR'.


In the above we have seen how we come to experience the paradoxicality of a Zen dialogue and thus how a Zen puzzle or a Zen paradox comes into being from an dialogic exchange. Pragmatically speaking, Zen paradoxes are paradoxical to those who are not enlightened in Zen. Once a person has Enlightenment, the paradoxes are no longer paradoxical to him even though they remain the same in their linguistic appearance. It is noteworthy that these paradoxes are intended to induce or verify Enlightenment so that they will not appear to be paradoxical any more. In this sense Zen paradoxes are self-resolving, for the paradoxicality is intended as a force or power to transform a person from seeing or experiencing the paradoxicality into a person who will not see or experience such paradoxicality. From a logical point of view, the person involved must achieve a certain understanding of the paradoxes in the light of which the paradoxes lose their paradoxicality. But on the other hand, his understanding must be caused by the paradoxicality of paradoxes in the first place. To see how this is possible is to look into the logic of the formation and dissolution of the Zen paradoxes. It is to find explanation of the paradoxicality of the Zen paradoxes and their dissolution relative to certain understanding.

    It is simple-minded to say that Zen paradoxes result from violation and negation of logic and reason [13] , for this view will preclude one from giving a rational and logical explanation of the formation of Zen paradoxes and their self-dissolution. The correct way to understand the paradoxicality of Zen paradoxes with their self-dissolution in view, is to see how Zen language functions as well as how Zen methodology applies. In the light of what we have said about these, we might simply say that the language of the Zen paradoxes has a surface semantic structure which is not embedded in or correlated with any common-sensical ontological structure which is its framework of reference. This means that the language of the Zen paradoxes contradicts the background reference presuppositions of surface-level terms in ordinary usage and by doing so points to the singular absence of reference or that of reference framework for the language of the paradoxes. We are caught in a conflict and experience the paradoxicality of the paradoxes if we feel we have to look for the reference of the Zen question or the Zen statement in virtue of its surface semantic demand on the one hand and at the same time feel we have to abolish the surface semantic structure and reformulate it in light of some standard framework of reference on the other. But the crucial point about the paradoxicality of the Zen paradoxes is that the paradoxicality resulting from the lack of link between the semantic structure and the ontological structure of the Zen dialogue is intended to have the force to bring out a deeper meaningfulness for the Zen question or the Zen statement without changing or rejecting the surface form of the semantic structure of such a question or statement. In this sense the language of the Zen paradoxes can be regarded as a dialectical process for revealing a very deep ontological structure by means of or in virtue of the incongruity of the surface semantic structure of the paradoxes in reference to a standard framework of reference.

    The deep ontological structure thus revealed is a framework in which no reference to any category of things is made. It is a framework which does not admit any description of things according to a framework of specific categories or paradigms. For understanding this, we have to mention that this is where the Buddhistic doctrine of non-attachment comes into play. [14] In the spirit of this doctrine, the semantic incongruity (the breakdown of the link between the semantic surface structure and the standard framework of reference) in a Zen paradox leads the mind of the hearer to a state where he realizes that he could not and should not attach any reference to the given semantic structure, and for that matter, to any semantic structure, and thus should directly look into an uncategorizable ontological structure of no specific reference which has been referred to as the ultimate reality of self-nature or mind. The paradoxicality of the Zen paradox therefore forces the mind of the hearer to acquire an ontological insight into the ultimate reality of things and this insight is acquired by foregoing all ontological commitments to all semantic structures or semantic categories of language. Clearly this insight is a generalization based on the abandonment of ontological commitment to a specific semantic structure in a given Zen paradox. Without this ontological generalization or jump one cannot be said to have reached Enlightenment or to have resolved the paradoxicality of the given Zen paradox. Because it is in virtue of this ontological generalization or jump that this particular semantic structure loses its claim on truth and meaning in comparison with other possible semantic structures and that the emptiness of reference for this ontological structure is justified by the emptiness of reference for the totality of ontological structures.

    For the purpose of illustration, consider the imperative 'Listen to the clap of one hand.' This sentence has a semantic structure which demands the existence of the clap of one hand. But there is no standard framework of reference in which this demand can be satisfied. Thus the mind of the hearer is pulled apart by the semantic force (demand of the semantic structure) on the one hand and the ontic pressure (emptiness of the ontological reference) on the other. In order for it to unite or link these two structures of the sentence, the mind is forced by the conceptual conflict it experiences to make an ontological jump, that is, to gain an ontological insight: namely to forego all ontological commitments to all possible semantic categories, in the light of which the question of the ontological commitment for this semantic structure will not arise. With this ontological insight, both the conceptual conflict of the mind and the paradoxicality of the imperative vanish simultaneously. This is when the hearer may be said to reach Enlightenment.

    Granted that one reaches Enlightenment on resolving the paradoxicality of the imperative 'Listen to the clap of one hand' or any other imperative such as 'Show me your original face before born', 'Get that goose out of that bottle without breaking the bottle and hurting the goose' and so on, one wishes to know how one indicates that one has thus reached Enlightment. It is clear that no regular answer will do the job, for a regular answer is one in which one declares or implies one's ontological commitment (and thus one's attachment) in one's answer relative to the question. But this clearly contradicts one's understanding of Enlightenment, namely one's abandonment of all ontological commitments. Thus an answer under such circumstances, if there be one, must be totally irrelevant to the given demand or question, so that it is expressive of the Enlightenment without being assertive of it. The answer to the demand about the clap of one hand therefore could be a kick or an apparent assertion about a different matter. In the goose case, one sees that changing the framework of reference and the topic of speaking is an answer to the question and the questioner. By suddenly and unexpectedly calling the name of the questioner, the answerer who is an Enlightened master creates a radically different context in which the original question was shuffled out of existence. This form of answer apparently is logically irrelevant. But ontologically it is relevant: it reduces the original question to the status of a tool for pointing to a reality beyond semantic descriptions.

    The process and method of resolving the paradoxicality of a Zen puzzle or paradox in terms of forbidding any ontological commitment to any semantic structure of language may be called the principle of ontic non-commitment. The request that this principle embodies is twofold:
(1) For a given semantically incongruous sentence or conjunction of sentences all ontological references must be suspended; (2) An ontological structure of no reference should be recognized for all semantical structures of language. In the light of this principle and its request, one can easily see how the paradoxicality of any Zen paradox should disappear once the paradoxicality is recognized and serves the purpose of focusing on a reality which gives rise to the principle of ontic non-commitment.

    In this connection a little elaboration of the principle of ontic non-commitment is in order. In my view there are two internal cases of ontic non-commitment. One I shall call ontological reduction or ontological abnegation, the other ontological substitution. Ontological reduction or ontological abnegation refers to the case where the semantic structure of a paradox is negated of its ontological reference and thus gives rise to the ontological insight into a reality to which no ontological commitment can be or should be made. One who acquires this understanding may indicate this by remaining silent or making some gesture or giving some meaningless sound. [15] On the other hand, when a person who acquires this understanding indicates his understanding through presentation of a totally different and irrelevant semantic context and topic in speech is making an ontological substitution. As we have explained, once the ontology of a sentence in a Zen paradox is negated of its ontological reference through ontic non-commitment, all semantic structures of language are so negated. Thus the operation of ontological substitution has the same effect as the operation of ontological reduction, precisely because it is based on the latter or at least presupposes the latter. One must, however, recognize that the operation of ontological substitution serves a positive purpose which the operation of ontological reduction does not serve, and this is to be explained in terms of the principle of contextual demonstration or contextual reconstitution which will be discussed later.


The principle of ontic non-commitment in its primary sense of ontological reduction seems to be comparable to the technique of interpretating non-designating terms in modern logic. In modern logic if a term X is non-designating, then X can be assigned a particular referent to which all non-designating terms will be so assigned. For instance, X can be assigned a null set according to Frege. But for Zen Buddhists the assignment must be the ultimate reality beyond all possible semantic descriptions. This ultimate reality can be regarded as a null set. But there is no reason why it cannot be regarded as the universal set since it is believed by the Zen Buddhists that all things are to originate from it. The important point about this assignment comes to this: Ontologically speaking all terms in language are ultimately referential in pointing to this ultimate reality, but conventionally speaking they are ultimately non-designating. What follows from this is that the substitution of context and semantic structure, no matter how irrelevant it is, will be justified on the ground that it will have the same ultimate reality as its referent and therefore is logically equivalent to any other. [16]  

    We come to the second logical point on the principle of ontic non-commitment. This principle has the capacity to explain the apparent semantic incongruity in the celebrated gatha-statements given in items (15), (16) and (17) of Zen paradoxes Type I. Take the case (16), for example, one has to just ask oneself how one can be empty-handed and yet holds a spade in one's hands or how one can walk on foot and yet rides on horseback, or how bridge flows while the water does not. The explanation of these on the basis of ontic non-commitment is fairly obvious. The two terms 'the empty hand' and 'the hand holding a spade' refer ultimately to the same reality but are semantically understood in two different senses. Similarly, the person who rides on the horseback does not really ride on the horseback in a framework in which only the ultimate reality can be significantly referred to, for this is equivalent to the reality of his walking on foot: They both ultimately refer to the ultimate reality in which all experiences become incomplete portions or representations. By the same token, if river and bridge are signs to point to the same ultimate reality, why can't one see that river stays and bridge flows? But of course this is not to say that one cannot also see that river flows and bridge stays. The whole process and principle of ontic non-commitment will enable one to gain insight into the ontology of the subject and predicate of a statement in language, so that he can realize the possibility of their free substitution on the basis of ontic non-commitment.


The principle of contextual demonstration or contextual reconstitution is the principle whereby the ultimate reality will be shown or demonstrated in a form determined by the context of the speaking or in a form which determines a context of speaking. [17] This means that, after the ontological reduction has been performed, the ontological substitution for a given semantic structure will have to take a special form and therefore re-assert or re-present a specific semantic structure free from any determination of the original semantic structure or its apparent ontological structure. The very purpose of contextual demonstration is to present a form or a semantic structure free from any ontological determination, and yet at the same time, to show that any preceding or succeeding form or semantic structure is or should be similarly free from any ontological determination. As a given speech occasion in principle can instantiate any semantic structure, its actual instantiation and assumption of a specific semantic structure are directly dictated by the free and spontaneous reflection or reaction or choice of the speaker in the context of speaking. Even when a specific form or semantic structure is chosen and instantiated, the operation of ontological reduction and that of ontological substitution make it equivalent to any other specific forms or semantic structures. [18] This thus explains why Zen answers to a semantically meaningful question may appear to be so totally irrelevant and so completely arbitrary and thereby occasions the typical paradoxicality of Zen paradoxes as exemplified in those of Type III.

    To illustrate the above principle, some analysis of an example may be helpful. When a disciple asks about the fundamental principle of Buddhism or the significance of Bodhidharma's coming to China, the question is well put and well-intentioned and is formulated in a semantic structure with an extant and genuine ontological reference. There is no apparent paradoxicality in such a question. But when we look at answers to this question and the like, we find that they are not directly or indirectly relevant to the question on the surface and therefore are not meaningful in relation to it. But these answers are indeed seriously intended as answers which should exhibit or bring out Enlightenment. Then the crucial question of our inquiry is: Why are these answers considered illuminating in regard to the goal of the initial questioning? The answer is: They are considered illuminating because they demonstrate the ultimate reality and reconstitute the ultimate truth in a context which is freely determined and presented by the speaker after the speaker has made the ontological reduction of the question. They are therefore free ontological substitutions in contexts the concreteness and spontaneity of which demonstrate their being free substitutions. They can refer to anything or any subject. The bamboos or flax or foxes or wild grasses are free subjects for the statement or expression intended as answers. They came to be taken as subjects because they were instantiated in the broader and free context of the speaker, as it might be the case that in answering the speaker was occasionally thinking about the flax or was seeing the bamboos nearby.

    To clarify the process of achieving the result of contextual demonstration, we might point out that the speaker must realize the next two points.

    First, the speaker must treat the original question as if it is intrinsically paradoxical even though it does not appear to be paradoxical. The speaker must do so in order to avoid making a literally correct answer to the question which only will create some conceptual block and defeat the very purpose of answering. Thus the question must be ontologically reduced to having no specific ontological reference or simply having no reference at all. Then by the operation of ontological substitution a free subject or a free predicate can be formed for formulating a statement as an answer to the question. This answer will then point to a deep-level framework of reference in which no reference can be made.

    Second, the speaker must recognize that the very juxtaposition of two or more independently semantically meaningful expressions which do not embrace any logical or semantic connection is a paradoxical demonstration that some deeper or more intimate relation subsists between the question and the answer which is to be only realized by achieving ontic non-commitment. It is on the basis of this realization that the contextual demonstration becomes a means of providing an ontological link between the question and the answer.

    It is clear that the above two points are equivalent to making possible a free substitution of the subject and a free substitution of the predicate in any given question or statement in so far as this free substitution results in a plain statement bearing on the concrete and natural contexts of life. This is to let the truth of a lively statement speak for all possible truths and for the ultimate truth. To see this is to see truth in its pure, universal, ultimate and unlimited form and to realize truth in connection but not in fixation with a question or a statement, which merely serves the purpose of pointing to the truth in the light of the principle of ontic non-commitment. To see this is also to impart logical relevance to apparently logically irrelevant statements in virtue of a deep ontological understanding of truth by way of ontic non-commitment, which results in creating or introducing a new form of presentation.

    The general schema for the application of the principle of contextual demonstration or reconstitution can be symbolically formulated as follows: Let X and Y be two logically or semantically unrelated semantical structures. On the basis of the principle of ontic non-commitment, both X and Y will refer to the same ontological reality Z and thus they are ontologically identical. The virtue of this ontological identity between X and Y become semantically related in their juxtaposition. This is what is meant by contextual demonstration in a concrete sense. Thus we have the next steps of contextual demonstration: -- (X ? Y) => (X0 = Y0) => (X ? Y).

    In the light of the principle of contextual demonstration, an interesting comparison between the resolution of the Zen paradoxes and the resolution of the logical and semantical paradoxes can be made. We have seen that Zen paradoxes can be resolved or dissolved on the basis of the principle of ontic non-commitment. This resolution of the Zen paradoxes does not entail the reformulation of the language of the dialogic exchanges which give rise to these paradoxes. On the contrary, with the aid of the principle of contextual demonstration, they are in fact preserved and encouraged to multiply, and no intrinsic or extrinsic restrictions are imposed on the use of language. In the case of the resolution of logical and semantical paradoxes on the other hand, axiomatic restrictions are introduced to guide use of language and formulation of statements so that no paradoxes are allowed to arise in a given system. Both axiomatic set theory and type theory are developed in this spirit. But this move to curtail the rise of paradoxes is based on the presumption that paradoxes serve no useful purpose and has no ontological significance and thus should be outcasted from the very beginning in the formulation or use of language. This is definitely to contrast with the Zen spirit according to which paradoxes freely arising from the use of language must be ontologically anchored and should serve the purpose of focusing our mind on a reality which is their cause of resolution.


In the light of our discussions of the principle of ontic non-commitment and the principle of contextual demonstration, we can clearly see now how Zen paradoxes are formed and become paradoxical and how they can be resolved on the one hand and preserved on the other. On the basis of the principle of ontic non-commitment we see specifically how Zen paradoxes are extraordinarily meaningful as tools for reaching or revealing Enlightenment. On the basis of the principle of contextual demonstration we see specifically how the use of Zen language embodies freedom and creativity of life. To summarize, one may indeed regard the two principles discussed in the above as constituting two primary conditions which resolve the Zen paradoxes and which yet give the reason for the formation and continuous use of the Zen paradoxes. [19] For without the understanding of these two principles the Zen masters will not continue to use language in the unique way in which they do continue to use language. One may thereby define 'Enlightenment (wu, satori)' as a state of being in which the understanding of these two principles is concretely experienced and embodied in life and reason. All these answer to the two fundamental questions of our inquiry in this essay and hopefully set the scene for more detailed future studies.


1 .    By Zen (ch'an in Chinese) I refer to the historically uniquely developed Chinese Buddhistic school founded by Bodhidharma (78?-528), and Hui Neng (637-713), and enriched by many others in 8th to 10th century in China. For a short historical survey of Zen Buddhism see D. T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, first series. New York 1961, Essay IV; H. Dumoulin and R. F. Sasahi, The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriach, First Zen Institute, New York, 1953. For description and discussion of the Zen spirit and experience and the disciplinary aspects, see D. T. Suzuki, op. cit., and An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, New York 1964. For both history and content of meaning, see Chang Chung-yuan, Original Teachings of Ch’an Buddhism, New York 1969. In the context of this philosophical and hermeneutical essay I refer to Zen (ch'an) as a historical experience as well as a religious phenomenon of purported universal significance.

2 .    Though Zen in its pure and ultimate form is a form of experience, a complete understanding of it and its background nevertheless involves many references to philosophical and practical teachings. It is not a philosophy in a proper sense, but there are philosophical and historical presuppositions and implications of Zen. To speak about it we can make both philosophical and metaphilosophical observations. Similarly Zen is not religion in a narrow sense, but it is nevertheless describable in religious terms. Both philosophy of experience and philosophy of religion have yet to yield a place to Zen experience and Zen religion in their frameworks.

3 .    The well-known motto representing the position of Zen Buddhism is 'It does not establish words, but directly points to the mind of man (so that) one can become Buddha on seeing (one's) nature.' Apparently this is a form of speech about Zen; it is a metaphilosophical way of speaking about Zen. The teaching of no teaching therefore need not be paradoxical if we recognize its two levels of reference in this speech. The very point of the teaching of no teaching is that no teaching whatsoever is a substitute for the authentic experience of Zen. As we shall see, the methodology underlying Zen position is that of separating means and end and a recognition that there is no general and necessary connection between a means and its end, and that means-end relation is to be realized in a most concrete practical context of life and activity or non-activity such as meditation.

4 .    There are many collections of such brief dialogues and their comments since the 11th century in China. Suzuki's works have provided selected translations of them in English. Both Dumoulin's and Chang's works mentioned above have more systematically rendered some important ch'an dialogues collections into English.

5 .    Such a principle of ontological or ontic non-commitment will be explicated in late part of the paper. But it can be here briefly formulated as follows: references to things in language are apparent. Language refers universally to non-being or emptiness or empty-class, and all language forms of reference are therefore freely transformable and substitutable. In essence this principle means that nothing is a value of a quantificational variable, but this does not deny existence and use of quantificational variables. The principle implies a reduction of quantificational variables to functional relations of predicates, which can be related to what has been traditionally referred to by the doctrine of co-arising (yuan-chi in Chinese and pratitya-samutpada in Sanskrit). An explication of this and a discussion of W. V. Quine's related principle of ontological relativity has to be done in a separate paper.

5a .    This of course is a natural assumption. In other words we must assume that Zen masters and their disciples' use of language must satisfy some of what J. L. Austin referred as Happiness Conditions of speech acts. C.f. J. L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1962.

6 .    Perhaps to use reason, intellect and language as an instrument for attaining some practical purpose such as achievement of Enlightenment and what will be seen as paradoxical use of language in the Zen paradoxes can be regarded as some form of transcendental use of reason, intellect and language in the Kantian sense. Reason and paradoxes generated by a narrow rational point of view are intended merely to point to or show or guide one to the ultimate reality and nothing else.

7 .    See C. I. Lewis, Mind and World Order, New York 1961, Chapter 2.

8 .    D. T. Suzuki has a vivid introduction to Zen Buddhism in many of his works, but he often tends to proclaim on the irrationality and absurdity of Zen experience and statements. In his An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, New York 1964, he refers to 'Illogical Zen.' This stress gives rise to many undeserved criticisms of Zen as a form of mysticism. Even though Zen may have its mystical aspects, its mystical aspects do not exhaust the total understanding of Zen Buddhism. Besides, there is no reason why one cannot make a rational and scientific study of mysticism as argued by Fritz Staal in his mimeographed manuscript The Study of Mysticism, Berkeley, Spring 1972. One must also point out that paradoxicality of a statement need not be identified with a form of irrationality.

9 .    For Carl Jung's position on Zen, see his Foreword to Suzuki's book mentioned in note 8. For a convenient understanding of Alan Watts' position, see his The Spirit of Zen, New York I960.

10 .    This form of logical and semantical paradoxes perhaps is in one sense limited as it presupposes truth values of P. In another sense it is too general, for it makes no distinction between what Quine calls veridical paradox and what he calls falsidical paradox. The veridical paradox among other things presupposes the existence of the referent in P whereas falsidical does not. For this, see W. V. Quine, The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays, New York 1966. In my generalization over this form of paradox my attention is focused upon the substitution of truth values for other values of evaluating discourses, statements and sentences.okok

11 .    The question has been asked whether this generalization is indeed a generalization or an analogy to the narrow form. The objection to treating it as generalization is that the positive meaningfulness or the relevancy for a certain purpose, the intelligibility or the acceptability value is not a condition for the negative values of such and vice versa. The rebutal is why not? In a concrete example of Zen paradox it can be readily seen that P is meaningful and et al. in virtue of its lack of meaningfulness et al. and vice versa. This can be brought out even more distinctively if we reformulate (B) in

(B') P is intended to be meaningful if and only if P is intended not to be meaningful.

If one says that paradoxicality of this generalized form of paradox depends on ambiguity of the meaning of terms such as 'meaningful' or 'intended to be meaningful' et al., this would be also true of the narrow form of logical and semantical paradox. The ambiguity in the later case is found in that of the terms 'true' and 'false'. The type theory as a solution relies on the existence of such ambiguities. To resolve the paradoxes in Zen language, one could adopt the similar type-theoretic approaches. Thus we could have 'meaningful[1]' 'meaningful[2]' et al. in different metalanguages. However, the philosophical solution to Zen paradoxes as I advocate here and which conforms to the basic spirit of Zen Buddhism consists in reducing all referring terms to non-referring terms. This amounts to regarding all paradoxes as falsidical paradoxes in Quine's sense. This is a drastic and radical move. If this move is adopted toward resolving logical and semantical paradoxes, one has to assert non-existence of sets and truth values. But in principle there is no metaphysical reason why this cannot be done. In a way the Zermelo-von Neuman approach to resolving logical paradoxes consists in partially ruling out existence of certain classes from the very beginning. Another important difference one must observe between logical paradoxes and Zen paradoxes which can be regarded as a kind of semantical paradox is that the former is basically assertive, cognitive, and explicitly formulated whereas the latter is non-assertive but performative (in the form of question and answer or dialogue relation) and not explicitly formulated. My paper only argues that the Zen paradoxes (koans) can be given an explicit and general form of paradox as formulated by me in the metalanguage as contrasted with the implicit and informal object-language of Zen masters' utterances in living contexts of life. Finally, we must notice that my use of the term 'paradox' is well-founded. Paradox in its Greek origin ' pa?ad??? ' simply means 'contrary to common belief or opinion.' It is quite clear that all the Zen paradoxes as one can see are basically statements or sentences contrary to common sense in appearance. Some are simply aporia ( ap???a ), that is, without a way out in common sense or common belief.

12 .    These examples are taken from various collections of Zen dialogues, Zen anecdotes and Zen stories in original Chinese sources most of which have not yet been translated into English but some of which has been available in Suzuki, Chang and others.

13 .    See note 8.

14 .    The Buddhistic doctrine of non-attachment consists in negating and eliminating all forms of attachment (or clinging) to things in intellection or in feeling. This is considered a way in which our illusions of things will be removed. This is ontologically formulated as the doctrine of sunyata in the Madhyamika school (the middle-way school). The Buddhistic doctrine of mere ideation consists in explaining all appearances of things in terms of levels of activity of mind, and is intended to reveal the self-nature of things as nothing but the non-activity of mind. This doctrine is basically elaborated by the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism (the mere ideation school.)

15 .    On this basis one can easily see the distinction between the Zen masters' ontological reduction and the phenomenologists' phenomenological reduction. Whereas phenomenological reduction consists in 'bracketing out' categories of things and merely preserving the immediate appearances (phenomena) of experience, ontological reduction goes far beyond this in its realization of non-existence of reference for language and perception or experience in general. This is to realize that language whatsoever has no ontological reference and that all apparently ontic reference is merely a function of commitment of self and commitment of such will dissolve if one realize that there is nothing whatsoever of ultimate nature to be committed to. A lesson to draw from this principle of ontological reduction or ontic non-commitment is that there is no necessity why one paradigm must replace another and one framework must replace another. In the history of science, there is search for frameworks. Now this attitude is to be rejected. There should not be necessity, conceptual or otherwise, that removing of a paradigm or framework must entail replacement by another.

16 .    Of course one might also suggest that the empty class is in fact assigned universally for every referring term in Zen language. This can be regarded as a negativistic way of formulating Zen's metaphysical position. But Zen Buddhism is also positivistic and naturalistic. My second principle shows that it emphasizes creativity and expressiveness, thus the positivistic interpretation by assigning universal class is perhaps more appropriate. Indeed, from the ultimate Zen point of view, the universal class assignment and the empty class assignment are logically equivalent for no ontic commitment should be made to either.

17 .    The principle of contextual demonstration could be also called the principle of experiential reconstitution as it is intended to indicate the fact that after ontological reduction reality will be experienced in whatever way it happens to be experienced. The religious import of this principle is that it underlines the naturalistic and indeed Taoistic spirit of creativity and this-worldliness.

18 .    There is no contradiction here between the principle of contextual demonstration and what is said in the last paragraph in note 15. What is asserted in note 15 is that no replacement of a paradigm or framework is necessary but not that non-necessary replacement is forbidden. The principle of contextual demonstration affirms that all replacements of paradigm or framework are non-necessary but instead must be results of spontaneous natural substitution from the living contexts of one's perception or understanding.

19 .    One might ask why we can solve or resolve all the Zen paradoxes by one or two single principles, and why one cannot solve each paradox in each individual way. The answer to this is that although individual resolutions of individual paradoxes (koans) are possible and are indeed often emphasized in the meditative exercises, there is no reason why all individual solutions or resolutions may not reside in the existence of some general principles. This article is precisely an attempt to propose a formulation of these principles for the purpose of philosophical understanding.