The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory

The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory

The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory

The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory

Excerpt

Human understanding uses categories and analysis. To understand a phenomenon, we superimpose a conceptual grid by which we relate it to the known and define what must be investigated further. But the grid itself always conceals a bit of reality. When the study's focal point is not hidden by the lines of the grid, there is generally no problem, but when that obfuscation does occur, there is a critical blindspot. The more intently we look for the answer in terms of the grid, the more impossible the task becomes. In such instances the only solution is to readjust the grid, to alter the categories through which we understand the world and our experience. Such an alteration may eventually involve a full-scale reorientation in our ways of knowing.

In this book, Professor Yuasa suggests such a reorientation in our understanding of the body. Yuasa is fully at home with Western methodologies. Yet, as an astute scholar of Japanese philosophy, he discovered a locus of ideas in modern Japanese thought that cannot be readily plotted within the ordinary Western parameters. He finally isolated the factor: modern Japanese thinkers held a view of the body incommensurate with Western philosophical categories. But what exactly was this view and why could the Western concepts not articulate it? These questions took Yuasa deeper into the Japanese, and eventually other Asian, traditions.

His studies revealed that Asian traditions typically do not sharply separate the mind from the body. Although the mind and body may be conceptually distinguishable from some perspectives, they are not assumed to be ontologically distinct. This is an interesting, but not in itself remarkable, claim. One could argue, for example, that even Spinoza, with his theory about the two modes of a single substance, would be sympathetic to such a thesis.

Yuasa's next discovery, however, is not so easily ingested into the Western tradition: Eastern philosophies generally treat mind-body unity as an achievement, rather than an essential relation. This insight relates a number of formerly disconnected observations about Asian culture. First, it is clearer why medita-

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