A thought

I never actually collect together, or call up simultaneously, all the primary thoughts which contribute to my perception or to my present conviction.

— Merleau-Ponty 1945, 71)

No particular thought reaches through to the core of our thought in general, nor is any thought conceivable without another possible thought as a witness to it.

— Merleau-Ponty (1945, 465)

In more Peircean terms, a ‘particular thought’ is an abstraction from the continuum of semiosis, whose ‘core’ is living the time. Sign, object and interpretant (Merleau-Ponty’s “thought as a witness”) are all abstracted from the process in order to symbolize and explicate semiosis.

… thought is not at all only the moving around of fixed entities, concepts that are defined, ‘pieces’ of knowledge. Thought is always very largely implicit and, as I tried to show (in ECM and in ‘Thinking Beyond Patterns,’ 1992) the implicit is not some fringe or periphery around what we centrally think. Rather, the sense we are making, the central point we are making, is had only as a carrying forward of an implicit complexity. What is implicitly functioning is the point itself, of what we are saying or thinking, just then.

— Gendlin (1998, 8a)

One thought

How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop!

Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán ¶107

Wan-sung says: ‘The moment one particle is brought up, the whole earth is contained in it. Who is it that can open the borders and extend the land as a lone rider with a single lance, and so can be the master anywhere and encounter the source in everything?’

— Cleary 1997b, 323

Do not think that to face a person is to understand a person. Do not think that not to face a person is not to understand a person. Those who understand a speck of dust understand the entire world. Those who master one thing master myriad things. Those who do not master myriad things do not master one thing. Because those who study mastering see myriad things as well as one thing through penetration, those who study a speck of dust simultaneously study the entire world.

— Dogen, ‘Shoaku makusa’ (Tanahashi 2010, 102)

One thought. fills immensity.

— Blake (MHH)

This is the abode of those with unobstructed eyes
Who perceive infinite lands, buddhas, beings,
And ages, in a single point, going in and out
Without encountering any boundaries.

Gandhavyuha Sutra (Cleary 1984, 1459)

One statement removes obstructing fixations; one statement fills everywhere. Tell me, which statement do the enlightened ones use to help people?
I have a statement that the enlightened ones have never made, and which I will quote to you.


— Dogen (Cleary 1995, 47)

A single total experience

There is only one phaneron, and there is no difference between this and the experience of this. In its Firstness, the buddha-nature is the buddha.

All buddhas are realization; thus all things are realization. Yet, no buddhas or things have the same characteristics; none have the same mind. Although there are no identical characteristics or minds, at the moment of your actualization, numerous actualizations manifest without hindrance. At the moment of your manifestation, numerous manifestations come forth without touching one another. This is the straightforward teaching of the ancestors.
Do not use the measure of oneness or difference as the criterion of your study. Thus, it is said, “To reach one thing is to reach myriad things.” To reach one thing does not take away its inherent characteristics. Just as reaching does not make one thing separate, it does not make one thing not separate. To try to make it not different is a hindrance. When you allow reaching to be unhindered by reaching, one reaching is myriad reachings. One reaching is one thing. Reaching one thing is reaching myriad things.

— Dogen, ‘Gabyo’ (Tanahashi 2010, 444)

To ‘reach one thing,’ 法 通 (ippō tsū), is ‘the total experience of a single thing’ in Hee-Jin Kim’s translation:

‘The total experience of a single thing’ does not deprive a thing of its own unique particularity. It places a thing neither against others nor against none. To place a thing against none is another form of dualistic obstruction. When total experience is realized unobstructedly, the total experience of a single thing is the same as the total experience of all things. A single total experience is a single thing in its totality. The total experience of a single thing is one with that of all things.

— Dogen, SBGZ ‘Gabyo’ (Kim 1975, 66)

In the Firstness of its Thirdness, there is no difference between these two translations of ‘Gabyo’, or between the total experience of a single thing and 法 通.

For Dogen, the enlightened person was adept at appropriating the semantic possibilities of ordinary words in order to express and act out the extraordinary, and even the ineffable, according to the situation. Dogen’s characteristic way of thinking here in connection with the use of language was that the meaning of an ordinary word was totally exerted so that there was nothing but that particular meaning throughout the universe at that given moment. This was the idea of the total exertion of a single thing, which was central to Dogen’s entire thought.

— Kim (1975, 88)

The total exertion of a single meaning is a pure expression of what Peirce called thought, which comes naturally to children learning to use language, before they learn about the difference between words and meaning, or thought and expression.

The child, with his wonderful genius for language, naturally looks upon the world as chiefly governed by thought; for thought and expression are really one. As Wordsworth truly says, the child is quite right in this; he is an “eye among the blind,”
“On whom those truths do rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find.”
But as he grows up, he loses this faculty; and all through his childhood he has been stuffed with such a pack of lies, which parents are accustomed to think are the most wholesome food for the child,— because they do not think of his future,— that he begins real life with the utmost contempt for all the ideas of his childhood; and the great truth of the immanent power of thought in the universe is flung away along with the lies.

— Peirce, MS 464-5 (CP 1.349, 1903)

Hence the advice of all the sages that realization of this great truth, or of the buddha-nature or the Kingdom of Heaven or the Firstness of Thirdness, depends on learning from little children.

Phenoscopy 5

All things and all phenomena are just one mind; nothing is excluded or unrelated.

— Dogen, ‘Bendowa’ (Tanahashi 2010, 15)

Everthing is related
to everything else. More or less.
All right. But do you see, feel or know
how this relates to that?
Do you relate to that relation?

Or as we say, Does it make any sense?

Sense-making is semiosis,
the Thirdness of things,
triadic relations
waking up the wind
making up the mind,
winding up the wake.


A seed, as ‘an embryonic reality endowed with power of growth’ (Chapter 18), is a symbol of the Point. Another is the dewdrop, as for instance in Yeats:

All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.

— ‘Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors’

or in Dogen’s ‘Genjokoan’:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.

(Tanahashi 2010, 31)

The pearl in Thomas 76, the big fish in Thomas 8, the hidden treasure – each is a symbol of the phaneron.

The timeless thusness of this one bright pearl is boundless. It is just that the entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl, not two or three. The entire body is one true dharma eye, the true body, a single phrase. The entire body is illumination; the entire body is the entire mind. When the entire body is the entire body, there is no hindrance. It is gently curved and turns round and round.

— Dogen, ‘One Bright Pearl’ (Tanahashi 2010, 37)


The end of a path is where it points,
the point where it ends.

Stops are punctuation marks (Latin punctum, a prick, point or spot). What is a period? A full stop, or a space of time? It comes from the Greek peri hodos, which means ‘road around.’ Think fast, or fast from thinking, and you find yourself back at the starting point before you’ve left. Stop here.

On a continuous line, a point is punctuation.
In speech, a pause is punctuation.
In written language a space is punctuation.


According to the Liddell and Scott lexicon, the word σημεῖον (the usual Greek word for sign and root of semeiotic) was also used by Aristotle for a mathematical point, or a point in time. In this sense it was synonymous with στιγμή (stigma).

Now upon a continuous line there are no points (where the line is continuous), there is only room for points,— possibilities of points. Yet it is through that continuum, that line of generalization of possibilities that the actual point at one extremity necessarily leads to the actual point at the other extremity. The actualization of the two extremities consists in the two facts that at the first, without any general reason the continuum there begins while at the last, equally without reason, it is brutally, i.e. irrationally but forcibly cut off.

— Peirce, “PAP” (R 293, 1906); NEM 4, 330

The same goes for time and semiosis.

Higher than existence

The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places people reject and so is like the Tao.

Tao Te Ching 8 (Feng/English)

The same text translated by Red Pine:

The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing

A comment on this text by Wang Pi (included in Red Pine’s edition, p. 17):

The Tao does not exist, but water does. Hence, it only approaches the Tao.

Charles S. Peirce would agree that the highest good does not exist, although it is real. In this he differed from most Western philosophers of his time.

The modern philosophers — one and all, unless Schelling be an exception — recognize but one mode of being, the being of an individual thing or fact, the being which consists in the object’s crowding out a place for itself in the universe, so to speak, and reacting by brute force of fact, against all other things. I call that existence.

— Peirce, CP 1.21 (from the “Lowell Lectures of 1903,” Lecture IIIa)

Turning words

‘“Turning words” are expressions that turn one to realization’ (Aitken 1991, 24) – whether spoken with that intention or not. Somehow they overcome the inertia that keeps you moving in the same habitual direction. But is this virtue, this power, to be found in the word itself? Perhaps it should be called instead a ‘pivot word’ (Heine 1999, 4): it marks the turning point.

From the Glossary appended to Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye:

turning point: 轉処 [tensho]. 轉機 [tenki], literally, turning event. A place where delusion is transformed into enlightenment.

— Tanahashi 2010, 1139

Only when you get here will you know (the meaning of the) ancient saying, ‘Mind revolves along with myriad phenomena; the turning point is truly mysterious.’

Blue Cliff Record, Case 22 (Cleary and Cleary 1977, 152)

How to discern the point? Even the Buddhas of the past, present and future, and even the Zen masters over the ages, cannot shoot this black star. How do you shoot it?

— Hakuin (Cleary 2002, 4)