Posted inMeditations, Videos

Going Back To The Source: The Dharma Is Clearly Visible {VIDEO Clip}

December 3, 2014

This is the 5th short video clip (4:46) from the conversation between Stephen Batchelor and Henry Shukman, on June 4, 2014, at the Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico on “Going Back to the Source.” 

The entire talk’s video (1:03:15) can also be viewed on our YouTube channel.

Their dialogue covers : Eastern and Western thought, the great doubt, dismantling of knowing, ancient greeks and buddhism, zen and classical philosophy, seeing with clarity, humanist enlightenment in the west, roots of being human, Zen’s transitional phase, like mindedness, sharing an identity with everything that lives, and releasing our reactivity. In their view, we arrive at the single source from many paths.

In this clip Stephen about “… Dharma is clearly visible …” … “Nirvana is also described as clearly visible, immediate, inviting, uplifting, intuited by the wise…”

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Stephen Batchelor: Yeah, as you’re speaking two things come to mind. First is this idea of Nagarjuna, the great 2nd-Century Buddhist philosopher. But, again, we need to think philosopher in that original Greek sense of a real love of wisdom where you actually transform your life. But he understands emptiness, which is often raised up as a very difficult metaphysical idea.

He says, “The Buddhas say that emptiness is letting go of opinions. It’s letting go of views. Believers in emptiness,” he says, “are incurable.” So I don’t think it’s an accident that Nagarjuna was also within the lineage of the Chan Zen tradition. This is, I think, the same idea.

Now it’s often thought also that early Buddhism, particularly when it’s thought of as, you know, the sort of Abhidhamma and the Theravada doctrines and so on, is very much a classic example of the sort of gradual path that Zen rebelled against. But, once again, if we go back to one of the earliest statements—it’s almost a slogan of early Buddhism—which I have no reason to doubt probably goes back to the Buddha himself, he says, “The Dharma,” which means conditionality, nirvana, the letting go of reactivity, this embrace of life.

“The Dharma is clearly visible.” It’s sanditthiko. It’s clearly visible. It’s right before your eyes.

And he says, “It is akaliko,” which Bhikkhu Bodhi translates as “immediate.” The word, in fact, is “time” and “less”: “a” and “kaliko”. But what that means is this: if something is clearly visible here and now, you don’t need a sequence of stages in time to get to it. And so to translate the Dhamma as immediate, unmediated, clearly visible.

And he says, “Inviting, uplifting, intuited by the wise.” This is a phrase that just runs again and again through the canon. Nirvana is also described as clearly visible, immediate, inviting, uplifting, intuited by the wise. Now this could come out of a Zen text. So what I find, again, is you go back to the origins of Zen. You go back into Nagarjuna’s philosophy. You go back to the most original sections of the early canon and we come very much to this very primordial, very— in a sense—non-conceptual opening one’s eyes and being—in a sense—dumbstruck by the fact that there’s anything happening at all.

And there you get to, again, this sense of wonder which is at the root of Aristotle, Plato. They both recognize that the origin of philosophy is wonder. It’s a sense of being astonished, a sense of waking up to the fact that you’re here rather than not here.

And I would take that also to be what the Buddha was awakened to on seeing sick person, old person, corpse.

What that shocked him, I believe, into understanding was, “Shit, I’m alive. What the hell does this mean? What is this about?” And then to stay with that question, essentially, you know, for six years, to struggle with that question.

There’s a wonderful Zen expression, which says you should gnaw on your question like as though you’re chewing a metal rod. Which is a rather horrible idea. But it very much communicates this sense of unconditioned urgency. Unconditioned urgency.

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Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. Click here for his Full BIO.

Henry Shukman is head teacher at Mountain Cloud Zen Center. Click here for his full BIO.

This video clip is from : Going Back to the Source : A conversation with Stephen Batchelor and Henry Shukman, Produced by Chris Hebard, Filmed by Luke Fitch (, copyright

This conversation, and the video, is presented by Stillness Speaks in association with Tricycle and Mountain Cloud Zen Center.

Full transcript of the conversation can be found at Tricycle by clicking here.

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