Thing-in-itself Means Thing-knowerless


How, then, did philosophers come to consider reality to be unknowable

and hidden behind or beyond appearances? They investigated all the

possible presentations in different relationships, and put them all

aside as appearances, and brooded on the thing-in-itself, shut out

from all possible relationship, and declared it unknowable.

Thing-in-itself means thing cut off from all possible relationships.

To, put it in anothe
way: thing-in-itself means thing deprived of

its relation to its knower--that is to say, thing-knower-less. So

that to declare thing-in-itself unknowable is as much as to declare

thing-unknowable unknowable; there is no doubt about it, but what

does it prove?

Deprive yourself of all the possible relationships, and see what you

are. Suppose you are not a son to your parents, nor the husband to

your wife, nor the father to your children, nor a relative to your

kindred, nor a friend to your acquaintances, nor a teacher to your

students, nor a citizen to your country, nor an individual member to

your society, nor a creature to your God, then you get

you-in-yourself. Now ask yourself what is you-in-yourself? You can

never answer the question. It is unknowable, just because it is cut

off from all knowable relations. Can you thus prove that

you-in-yourself exist beyond or behind you?

In like manner our universe appears to us human beings as the

phenomenal world or presentation. It might appear to other creatures

of a different mental constitution as something else. We cannot

ascertain how it might seem to Devas, to Asuras, to angels, and to

the Almighty, if there be such beings. However different it might

seem to these beings, it does not imply that the phenomenal world is

unreal, nor that the realm of reality is unknowable.

'Water,' the Indian tradition has it, 'seems to man as a drink, as

emerald to Devas, as bloody pus to Pretas, as houses to fishes.'

Water is not a whit less real because of its seeming as houses to

fishes, and fishes' houses are not less real because of its seeming

as emerald to Devas. There is nothing that proves the unreality of

it. It is a gross illusion to conceive reality as transcendental to

appearances. Reality exists as appearances, and appearances are

reality known to human beings. You cannot separate appearances from

reality, and hold out the latter as the object of aspiration at the

cost of the former. You must acknowledge that the so-called realm of

reality which you aspire after, and which you seek for outside or

behind the phenomenal universe, exists here on earth. Let Zen

teachers tell you that the world of birth and death is the realm of

Nirvana; the earth is the pure land of Buddha.