Our “Being-in-the-world” experience by Katsuki Sekida


There is obviously a dimensional difference between adult life and the mood of a child. Let us imagine that an infant is born. As it grows and develops awareness, it is colored by the action of its consciousness. In the course of its growing up, through the years from two, three, four, through five, six, seven, through eight, nine, ten, and to eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen, consciousness more or less completes its development. Consciousness from the start finds itself as “Being-in-the-world,” for others are an essential background against which its existence is defined. From its first appearance, consciousness identifies itself as being coexistent with others. And it happens that the necessity of living makes consciousness look on things in the world as being in the nature of equipment. This encourages the development of the egocentric “I,” and this development in turn reinforces the tendency too view the world as so much equipment. This placing of things in the category of equipment in not limited to relationships with things but applies also to relationships between man and man. Your employees are your equipment. Your father and mother and brothers and sisters are many times treated as equipment, if not constantly. Even your dearest wife— if you carefully introspect yourself you will find that she is no exception and that at least in a thoughtless moment, or at times when you are more than usually egocentric, she is treated, in Heidegger’s phrase, in the context of equipment.

The man who said for the first time,

“Brothers are the beginning of strangers !’

Must have begun to say it

With a breaking heart.

You cannot help being engulfed by this abyss of heartlessness, exclaiming, “It should not be so! It should not be so!” Others, of course, also treat you as equipment. The situation has now reached a point where  man has completely isolated himself from the world. While “Being-in-the-world,” he is the most forlorn, desolate, and  miserable creature. He has no one to help him except himself. This relationship with the world leads him into a terrible condition. Opposition after opposition: wherever he may go he is faced by opposition. He is surrounded by hostility. Ultimately the world begins to descend upon him as soon as he awakens in the morning, when his unprepared mind is not yet ready for combat.

Fighting against the world, fighting against his loneliness, fighting against himself, man has lost the sense of richness of his childhood. Everything is looked upon in the context of equipment, assessed in terms of its utility and serviceability. The cup on the table is simply for carrying teas to the lips (while the tea master, acting in the spirit of Zen, passes his hands lovingly over his bowl, gazing at it untiringly with aesthetic affection). The bee that flies across the sun does not catch the adult’s eye, because it has nothing to do with him ( while to the eyes of a child the flight, like a meteor shooting across the Milky Way, is infinitely beautiful) . He shows no interest in the falling leaves (while a child is immediately caught up in the falling itself). His vividness of sense and mood has died out, replaced by a conceptual way of thinking. He is an intellectual being and has killed the precious sense and mood of a child.

Need our existence develop only in this way? Can no other way be found? Could our existence continue to develop in the mood of a child? In fact, this type of existential development is preserved in man. An infant does not discriminate himself from his mother. As the infant becomes a child and plays with is friends, he is often forgetful of the difference between himself and his playmates. They play as a united group. Sometimes the awakening activity of consciousness interferes and makes the child discriminate himself from others, and the world of opposition appears. However, the next moment it is all forgotten. Children quarrel but are soon friends again. Thus, sometimes the world of unity, sometimes the world of opposition appears in the lives of children. This experience is repeated daily and the two discrepant worlds gradually settle down. Side by side, in their minds. Children are very adaptable, and in ordinary daily life the two worlds do not conflict. Their flexible minds accept things as they are.

By Katsuki Sekida

Zen Training  Methods and Philosophy

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