Cross-Reanimating Martin Buber's "Between" and Shin'ichi Hisamatsu's "Nothingness"

By Kramer, Kenneth P. | Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Cross-Reanimating Martin Buber's "Between" and Shin'ichi Hisamatsu's "Nothingness"


Kramer, Kenneth P., Journal of Ecumenical Studies


   There is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to
   the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the
   boundless future). (1)

Does juxtaposing the thought of Martin Buber (1878-1965) and Shin'ichi Hisamatsu (1889-1980)--one Western, one Eastern; one Jewish, one Buddhist; one Germanic-speaking, one Japanese-speaking; one pointing to God, one pointing to True Self--seem, at first, a bit strange to you? It may not if we recognize the possibility that Buber's central subject, the "Between," can fruitfully interact with Hisamatsu's central subject, "Oriental Nothingness." If we place these two writers in dialogue with one another, how, and in what ways can Buber's "Between" be clarified and more deeply appropriated when viewed through the very specific lens of Hisamatsu's "Nothingness"? Vice versa, what new insights and fresh realizations can accrue when we view Hisamatsu's "Nothingness" through the lens of Buber's "Between"?

To initiate this inquiry, I will place Buber's important essay,"Elements of the Interhuman" (first published in 1957 and appearing as a chapter in The Knowledge of Man), side-by-side with Hisamatsu's equally important essay, "The Characteristics of Oriental Nothingness" (first published in Japanese in 1946; E.T., 1959). In his "Elements of the Interhuman," Buber attempted to clarify his philosophy of dialogue as he had expressed it in works such as I and Thou (1923), "Dialogue" (1929), and "What Is Man?" (1938). In "Elements of the Interhuman," Buber focused specifically on his concept of "the Between." Hisamatsu's essay, meanwhile, focuses on the theme of "Nothingness," which he treated in a fragmentary and unintegrated manner elsewhere. Here, Hisamatsu presented concisely what he believed "Nothingness" was not--along with six positive characteristics of what it is.

My primary intention here is neither to compare the strengths and weaknesses of Buber's "Between" and Hisamatsu's "Nothingness" nor to contrast these two concepts against one another. Rather, I examine each thinker's expression of his central subject--which for both writers was the subject of authentic humanness--through the eyes of the other for the purpose of clarifying, challenging, and opening new possibilities for understanding and applying the implications of each thinker's insights. First, I discuss what each thinker held was the fundamental problem of human existence, the problem of the egoistic "I." Next, I explore what I call "the humanly human" in each work. "The humanly human" is a nondualistic resolution to the human problem of the self-seeking ego. Finally, I suggest several ways in which Buber and Hisamatsu, when each is looked at through the eyes of the other, can shed light not just on this human condition but also on each other's religious traditions and perspectives. (2)

The Two I's: The Fundamental Problem of Human Existence

Buber, a European philosopher of Hasidic Judaism, said that "if ["each mortal hour's fulness of claim and responsibility"] is religion, then [religion] is just everything, simply all that is lived in its possibility of dialogue." (3) Hisamatsu, a Japanese Rinzai Zen philosopher, said that "it is the living experience of Self-realization which constitutes the concrete base of my own religion and philosophy." (4) Buber was concerned with "the fundamental fact of human existence," the relationship between person and person in genuine dialogue. (5) Hisamatsu was concerned with "that awareness of Oneself in which the subject and object of awareness are one and not two." (6) As Buber lived his life on the "narrow ridge" in the "holy insecurity" of what he called the Between, Hisamatsu lived his life in present-moment Awakening to true Nothingness.

What Buber and Hisamatsu were attempting to establish in their uniquely situated and culturally specific ways was the personally life-transformative outcome of a central subject they shared in common--authentic humanness. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cross-Reanimating Martin Buber's "Between" and Shin'ichi Hisamatsu's "Nothingness"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.