Intentional Features of Consciousness in Phenomenology and Shingon Buddhism

  • Angelique Coralie Kendall
Keywords: Embodiment, Phenomenology, Intentionality, Buddhist Philosophy, , Kūkai


Fundamental commitments in Western Phenomenology rest on the assumption that subjectivity and intentionality are unassailable features of conscious experience. The dyadic, subject-object structure of experience that results, is thus a necessary condition for conscious awareness. In sharp contrast, Buddhist thought emphasises the fundamental error of subjective and intentional modes of awareness, emphasising instead non-dyadic conscious states. In the Japanese Shingon Buddhist philosophy of Kūkai, such non-dyadic awareness is metaphysically construed as the ontological horizon of the field of consciousness-as-such, interpenetrating all phenomena. The embodied state is highlighted as the means through which such awareness is realised. This paper explores these two perspectives with two questions in mind: how can an enlightened person experience non-dyadic states, and how can they act in the world without subjective agency?