Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Excerpt from the Platform Sutra

Learned and virtuous friends,

Here's my translation of the last two paragraphs of Chapter Four of the Great Master Sixth Ancestor's Dharma Treasure Platform Sutra.

I recently attended a 7-day Zen retreat (sesshin) with the Pacific Zen Institute. The PZI "Old Teacher" (Roshi) John Tarrant is working with koans in a way that harkens back to the ancient Chinese open assembly presentations of koans. In the opening talk of retreat, he presented the koan "There is one treasure hidden in the body" as a theme for the retreat.

This section of Huineng's Platform Sutra arose in mind as an appropriate context for the inquiry of this koan:

"Learned and virtuous ones. A person who is without is without what? A thoughtful person thinks of what thing? A person who is without is without the characteristics of duality and without the various dusts and troubles of the heart-mind. A thoughtful person thinks of the original nature of True Suchness. True Suchness, as it is, is the essence of thought; thought, as it is, is the function of True Suchness. One's nature of True Suchness gives rise to thinking; neither the eye, ear, nose, or tongue is able to think. True Suchness is present as nature, therefore it can give rise to thinking. If one is without True Suchness, what is regarded as seeing and hearing, color and sound, as they are at that time are destroyed.

"Learned and virtuous ones. When one's nature of True Suchness gives rise to thinking, even if the six organs are present to see and hear, perceive and know, they are not contaminated by the 10,000 objective phenomena, and the true nature is always autonomous. For this reason the [Vimalakirti Nirdesa] Sutra says, 'Being able to properly differentiate the various characteristics of things is being at the primary meaning and immovable.'"

善知識! 無者無何事?念者念何物?無者無二相,無諸塵勞之心。念者念真如本性。真如即是念之體,念即是真如之用。真如自性起念,非眼耳鼻舌能念。真如有性,所以起念;真如若無,眼耳色聲當時即壞。


[T48n2008_p0353a28(03) to T48n2008_p0353b06(02)]

The English term "True Suchness" is the translation of the Chinese term 真如 which is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit Bhūtatathatā. Other possible translations could be "Actual Thusness", "Real Suchness", "Genuine Thusness," etc.

The English term "characeristics of things" is the translation of the Chinese term 法相 which is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit dharmalaksana.

I remembered this section of the Platform Sutra from several translations including Wong Moulam, Charles Luk, and Fung and Fung, and each of course has different nuances and interpretations of the text, so I've now done my own translation to zero in on this most important section. As I see it, this section is one of the core expressions of the variations on the central theme of Huineng's teaching.

This aspect of the teaching is pointing directly to how the Eight consciousnesses function. The Eighth Constiousness (Alayavijnana) is the essence of thought spoken of here by the name True Suchness. Awareness flows as the function of True Suchness and beoomes thinking. As thinking awareness flows into the senses the objectivity and appearance of a world is formed. In meditation, the function of the koan is to direct attention and awareness to "turn around" to the essence of thinking as it arises directly from True Suchness. This turning around is the paravritti referred to in the Lankavatara Sutra.

It should be understood that the term for "thinking," as a technical term, is inclusive of all mental formations including remembrance and thus memory. In this context D.T. Suzuki wrote in his Studies In the Lankavatara Sutra:
In short, the world starts from memory, memory in itself as retained in the Alaya universal is no evil, and when we are removed from the influence of false discrimination the whold Vijnana system woven around the Alaya as sentre experiences a revulsion toward true perception (paravritti). This is the gist of the teaching of the Lankavatara.(p. 184)

From this we should understand that Huineng's teaching about directing awareness to that which gives rise to thinking is exactly the teaching of Bodhidharma and the Lankavatara Sutra and not be under any delusions that Huineng did not accept the teachings of the Lankavatara and in some way preferred the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

Enjoy the Dharma.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Three-state Solution is the Way to Get Out.

Again, it’s time to recognize that a new path, a new road map, is needed for the resolution of the Israeli and Palestinian situation. I propose once again that the way is neither the One-state Solution” nor the “Two-state Solution” but the “Three-state Solution.” I say “again,” because this is an update on my previous blog of one year ago on January 25, 2008 at
Letter To Hamas and the Valiant Ppeople of Gaza Unfortunately, there has been no change in the political outlook of solutions in the last year, and not surprisingly, apparently the people of Gaza haven’t taken note of my blog. ;-)

I cannot agree with the pessimism of such renown Middle East observers like Juan Cole who say that the time has passed for any reasonable Two-state Solution and that the only three paths ahead are variations on a One-state solution with (1) continued Israeli apartheid by a minority of Israelis managing the majority of Palestinians, (2) actual democracy which would of course mean the end of the Jewish state, or (3) ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza so that a greater Israel may be created by annexation of Gaza and the West Bank. (January 6, 2009, Juan Cole interview on The Young Turks ) Of course, none of these variations of the “One-state option” is realistic, thus leaving anyone who believes these are the only remaining options in a cul de sac of pessimism. First, Israelis will not accept actual democracy with a majority of Palestinians. Second, neither the Palestinians nor the rest of the world will accept the apartheid or ethnic cleansing options. Thus if both the One-state and Two-state solutions are untenable what solution is there. I say the Three-state Solution.

I agree with Mr. Cole that the Two-state solution is dead on arrival because the Palestinians themselves can not act in a unified manner across the territorial and emotional divides between Gaza and the West Bank. The idea that Gaza and West Bank can become a unified Palestinian state is as wrong headed as the notion was that East and West Pakistan could survive as a unified nation. Just speaking practically, there is no realistic way for a sovereign corridor through Israel to be established which would be a necessary condition for a single Palestinian state. The Two-state solution is also not going to happen because as long as it is on the table as an option it allows Israel to continue to play the Palestinians against each other. For example, from the “Israeli viewpoint,” the question of settlements in the West Bank can’t be resolved because of the Gaza situation and the Gaza situation can’t be resolved because of the West Bank settlement problems. Also, there is not way that the people of Gaza and the West Bank can agree on the questions of unified governance and structure. As long as Israel can continue to be allowed to play the Palestinian interests against each other, then Israel is satisfied with the situation and can continue both to encroach on the West Bank and occupy and blockade Gaza as it wishes.

The Palestinians themselves share in the responsibility of playing along with Israel’s strategy of keeping them in a stasis of inaction as long as they grasp onto the dream of a single Palestinian state geographically separated by Israel. Also, as long as the Palestinians refuse to act like people who are ready for independence and sovereignty than the rest of the world won’t view them as being ready for sovereignty.

The problem today with the analysis that says the Two-state solution is dead and the only the unsavory options of the One-state solution are the remaining choices is that it ignores the way out provided by the Three-state Solution. The Three-state Solution allows the questions of Gaza and the West Bank to be delinked and takes out from under Israel its chief excuse for not dealing honestly with the situation.

The Way Forward

The way forward begins with the Gazans. The Gazans must assert their sovereignty as a contiguous territory of sovereign people and announce their independence as a sovereign nation. They can announce that they can keep the door open for a federation or Palestinian Union with the West Bank in the future but in order to establish their independence they must now establish a constitution for themselves and seek international recognition, support, and protection for themselves as a sovereign people.

By asserting their independence the phony issue of the recognition of Israel can be put on the table in an honest way. Israel’s continued complaints about not being recognized as an independent state will now be placed along side the necessity of recognizing Gaza as an independent state as a direct quid pro quo. Today Israel makes its argument against Hamas, not against the Gazans. Israel says it doesn’t have to recognize Hamas as the governing party because Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel and Hamas is a terrorist organization so Israel doesn’t have to recognize Hamas. Though I don’t agree with this logic, it is the logic that Israel hides behind. It is up to the Hamas and the people of Gaza to make this position of Israel untenable by changing the dynamic on the ground. Hamas needs to assert the independence of Gaza and say that if Israel accepts the existence of Gaza then Gaza will accept the existence of Israel. If Hamas won’t take this lead then the Gazans need to tell Hamas it no longer has their confidence and support.

The greatest emotional barrier to the Three-state Solution is that the people of Gaza may feel they are abandoning or betraying Palestinian unity and their family and friends in the West Bank. Not so. By asserting their independence Gaza will take the Gaza situation off the table as a linked obstacle for moving forward in finding a solution to the West Bank settlements. Also the question of a land corridor through Israel can be taken off the table. By asserting its independence, Gaza will help the West Bank be able to assert its own independence. Instead of being a weakened smaller part of the Palestinian “problem” that never gets the attention it deserves at the bargaining table, an independent Gaza would be in a stronger position to help the West Bank Palestinians in their bargaining for the return to the 1967 borders. By having Gaza taken out of the West Bank issues then the West Bank will be in a stronger position to assert its goals including the return of the 1967 borders, the return of settlements and a resolution to the Jerusalem question.

An independent Gaza will be able to establish its own security agreements with neighboring states such as Egypt. An independent Gaza will be able to protect itself and any attack by Israel will be an attack against an independent nation and an act of war instead of an act of occupation. Israel won’t be able to blockade an independent Gaza with the kind of immunity it now has when Gaza is just a disorganized territory.

What can Gaza do to assert its sovereignty? It is not that difficult. First and foremost the Gazans need to simply stand up and assert it vocally. Hamas can issue a Declaration of Independence. This would frame the question of Gazan independence in a way that the people of the United States could not ignore. In its Declaration of Independence, Hamas should promise several steps including a Constitutional Convention of Gazans. Of course Hamas is a political party and can not be expected to be any less partisan then the Republican Party in the USA, however, they can be urged to act in the best interests of the Gazans to let Gazans create a nation of plurality interests rather than a one-party nation. Certainly the USA with a two-party dictatorship can’t complain about any form of democracy that a convention of Gazans may develop. In fact, if Gazans move toward a parliamentary system of proportional representation then their democracy may be potentially more democratic than the USA democracy. In my blog of last year I went into some detail about the three axes of the three dimensions of democracy and the potential for Gazans to develop a democracy based on their own values system without merely adopting an American style of democracy. In fact I wouldn’t wish an American style of democracy on the Gazans.

I suggest that a Gazan Declaration of Independence do the following:

1. - State the necessity for the action to protect the people from the current condition of occupation that violates international law and to seek the aid of free nations for the support of the people of Gaza;
2. - Affirm the right of the people of Gaza to self-rule;
3. - Promise to initiate a process for the creation of a constitution by which the people of Gaza will express their aspirations for democratic self-rule;
4. - Affirm that Hamas accepts and abides by UN Resolution 242 and that as soon as Israel withdraws its armed forces from the occupied territories as referenced in Resolution 242 (i.e., the 1967 boundaries) that the provisional government established by Hamas will recognize the territorial inviolability and political independence of Israel;
5. - Affirm that when the people of the West Bank achieve independence that talks for a Palestinian Union or some form of political federation or reunification between Gaza and the West Bank will be held;
6. - Affirm that Hamas and any provisional government will abide by International Humanitarian Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the rulings of accepted international tribunals on that law and that Hamas expects that the nations of the UN will also abide by such rulings and specifically come to the aid of Gaza and the people of the West Bank in upholding the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Israel's construction of a wall on Palestinian land violates international law;
7. - Ratify the importance of human rights with a statement of commitment to the principles spelled out in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
8. - Ask for the assistance of the UN and individual nations toward establishing an independent nation of Gaza;
9. - And ask that the nations of the world immediately send diplomatic delegations to Gaza in order to begin the process of mutual recognition and to provide political support and assistance to Gaza for the ending of the blockade.

Following their Declaration of Independence, Hamas should take the lead in the following steps:

1. Organize and convene a provisional independent government of Gaza. In order to show the world that self-rule is not a one-party dictatorship Hamas must include people of other parties and independents in the provisional government.

2. The provisional government should immediately send out diplomatic envoys with the express purpose of requesting help to end the Israeli blockade and guaranteeing the freedom of navigation through international waters under UN Resolution 242. The provisional government needs to start a worldwide campaign for a Gaza Sea and Airlift similar to the Berlin Airlift that ended the Soviet Union’s similar blockade of Berlin.

3. The provisional government should set a date for a constitutional convention and allow for direct election of delegates to the convention on a proportional basis.

4. After the convention put the proposed Constitution to the people for ratification.

5. Ask for UN assistance to prevent incursions by Israel and to prevent rocket attacks on Israel. The provisional government should appeal to the UN to resolve any claims of international aggression by either side. Ask for UN protection of Yasar Arafat International Airport so that it may be reopened to end the air blockade of Gaza..

6. The provisional government should promote municipal autonomy by community elections and governance.

There is no viable One-state Solution and the Two-state Solution is dead. It is time for the Palestinians to take the Three-state Solution. Most importantly, this route to independence doesn’t require approval by Israel or the USA. If the people of Gaza want to convince the world they are ready for independence then they have to take the risk of acting independently and show the world they don’t need approval for their own sovereignty. As soon as some nations recognize the national sovereignty of Gaza then that will make it inevitable for the European Union and eventually the USA to recognize Gaza as an independent nation.