HEIDEGGER AND NlSHlTANl
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For Western readers, Heidegger seems both close and exceedingly dis-tant; his thought appears in some ways home-grown and quite familiar,and in other ways alien and strangely unfamiliar. Critics of his worksometimes attack it as narrowly parochial or provincial, because of itspresumed rootedness in a local habitat (the Black Forest region) yetcritics (sometimes he same ones) also object to its aloofness, unintelligi-bility, and penchant for "mysticism1'-charges which (more than per-sonal bias) reflect a sense of cultural rupture. Heidegger himself wouldhardly have been surprised by this conflicting reception.
his "VomWesen des Crundes" he described human
as a creature of "dis-tance" or farness, a distance which alone could nurture a true closenessto things and fellow beings. Likewise, in his comments on Holderlin, heportrayed "homecoming" not as a retreat into a native habitat but as ajourney homeward through the most distant peregrinations. These con-siderations apply to his own philosophical journey, particularly to hismuch-discussed "overcoming" of Western metaphysics-which by nomeans equals its simple erasure. Without encouraging a cultural leap,Heidegger's "overcoming" led him into distant and alien terrain, andultimately in the direction of Eastern culture and thought-a culturewhich Kitaro Nishida, the founder of the so-called Kyoto School, hascircumscribed as "the urge to see the form of the formless, and hear thesound of the soundless."' Attentiveness to this far-off sound,
believe, isat the heart of Heidegger's distance and seeming aloofness. More thanany other Western thinker in the twentieth century, his thought is cultur-ally decentered, lodged at the crossroads of East and West-and thus atthe site of a possible or impending global dialogue.
the present pages
want to explore one facet of this dialogue,namely, the relationship between Heidegger and Zen Buddhism, as thelatter is represented or articulated by Keiji Nishitani. The choice of thisfacet is not fortuitous. A leading representative of the Kyoto School anda former pupil of Nishida, Nishitani has also been a close student ofHeideggeis work and refers in his publications frequently to the latter'steachings. For his own part, Heidegger was not unfamiliar with the KyotoSchool, having become acquainted with its activities through visits byCount ShuzG Kuki, a contemporary of Nishitani and, like him, a pupil orassociate of Nishida. References to the same Count Kuki, one may note,
Dee Professorof GovernmentUniversity ofNotre DamePhilosophy East
WestVolume 42, Number
1992by University ofHawaii Press