I was “happily” reading my calculus textbook, reading about the arc length integral, when I saw this picture of circles with inscribed polygons approximating their respective circles. I quickly took a picture, sent it to Yang, and told him that the picture shows the relationship between nondistinction and infinite distinction.
Zhuangzi wrote that assigning attributes, or distinguishing, is like turning the circle into a square. The circle is considered to be boundless in having no corners and is meant to be a representation of nature. So by distinguishing nature, one becomes bound to their perceptions of nature.
The Effect of Infinite Distinction
Yet, what the picture shows is the effect of infinite distinctions on nature. Through assigning an infinite amount of attributes, one can come to an unbounded perspective of nature (and an unbound mind). By complexity or simplicity, one can singularly come to unboundness. This is strange, considering that the two are total opposites but come to the same end. But it does make sense because one ideal has to have another, opposite one. Note that regular distinction isn’t in the discussion because it surely won’t lead to sagehood or unboundness.
Which one: Nondistinction or Infinite Distinction?
People usually say, about nondistinction, that it is impractical but agreeable. I spoke to my philosophy professor about this topic and he asked me for the reason why nondistinction is the way to go instead of distinction. I didn’t know the answer and I’m not sure if I know it now. But, my intuition tells me that, between nondistinction and infinite distinction, simplicity and complexity, that the former’s path is less long than the latter’s path (similar to ignorance or omniscience; which one takes more to attain fully). This is not to say that nondistinction is easier, but rather both are very difficult yet nondistinction seems more practical, given the alternative. At least western thinkers know how they can come to unboundness, by infinite distinction.