I noticed a coincidence between something I read in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, and an article on research about a psychological phenomenon known to facilitate inner and outer peace. My question is: What Buddhist concepts are similar or have something in common with the "integration" and "differentiation" phenomenon mentioned below? My guess is emptiness and impermanence, I could be wrong about those and doubtless there are others.

Here's the coincidence.

Years ago I was reading Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh. I found it had my mind going in many interesting directions.

I saw some parts of the book, like those describing impermanence, encouraging the Differentiation of things. A book isn't a book. It's made of wood and glue, was put together by a machine somewhere and hauled to the book store by a guy in a truck. The book is made up of many non-book elements. Everything changes, so the book itself isn't even that book over the smallest amount of time depending one which features you choose to measure.

But there was also a call for Integration. Even as we distinguish between the book and the truck and the guy hauling the books in the truck to the bookstore, they are all part of the process leading to the experience of reading the book. The book might have one meaning to one reader, and a different meaning to a different reader. So many things depend on the context bringing them together. The same elements at a different time and place produce a different experience. The individual elements create the here and now into a unified whole, any part of which alters the thing when changed.

With my math background I was inclined to think of these things as Integration and Differentiation, just as helpful mnemonics, they are pretty different from the math concepts.

A few months back I was reading about Integrative Complexity.

"The measure of integrative complexity has two components: differentiation and integration. Differentiation refers to the perception[or weighing] of different dimensions[or qualities] when considering an issue. Integration refers to the recognition of cognitive connections among differentiated dimensions or perspectives.1"

It has some things in common with what Thich Nhat Hanh was talking about, in terms of understanding of all things as composed of not-that-thing elements. One can find similarities in different things, and differences in similar things. The interplay of those techniques are proving conducive to both inner and outer peace according to the researchers.


5 Answers 5


While I don't have any comments on the individual concepts of Differentiation and Integration, reading that wikipedia article about Integrative Complexity as a style of thinking - strikes me as being very similar to the "Buddha can see from all perspectives" idea I presented in my answer here.

Quoting the wikipedia:

Integrative Complexity is ...recognition and integration of multiple perspectives and possibilities and their interrelated contingencies.

For example, it could take the form of explaining why someone may view an event in a different way or in what ways a compromise could be made between conflicting values.

So by this definition Buddha is the champion of Integrative Complexity.

That said, these parts:

Integratively complex thinkers are also more prone to defer to others or put off making a decision when faced with difficult cost–benefit decisions.


Additionally, while integratively complex thinkers are more likely to reach a mutually advantageous compromise when dealing with reasonable opponents, unreasonable opponents are much more likely to be able to exploit them.

-- do not sound relevant at all. Perhaps whoever wrote this did not realize that one's ability to integrate diff. perspectives does not preclude one from having clear agenda. Buddha knows what is ultimately good (cessation of suffering!) and has no problem utilizing his Integrative Complexity skills to use people's own motives to their ultimate good.

So perhaps we could say that Buddha is the champion of Integrative Complexity AND ethics.


There is an important notion of conjoinment and differentiation in the discoursed.

Discernment and consciousness are conjoined elements; what one discerns that one cognizes but consciousness is to be understood and the latter developed. They are conjoined but are not the same thing, having delineated the difference it is still not possible to separate them.

An analogy i can offer is that of the Doppler Effect and Sound. The two are conjoined but are not the same and it is not possible to take them apart for that sound is the effect and the effect is sound.

There is this famous thought experiment where an observer watches a passing train being struck by two lightnings simultaneously on each end and in due time comparing his observation to a person located inside the train to whom it would appear as if the front of the train was hit by the lightning first, preceeding the second strike, that is because he was in motion and the light from the first lightning made contact with the external eye & consciousness elements before the second eventuality, thus the expression of causes coming into play is different.

Herein both the internal and the external contact are understood to come into play but both the external& internal elements are conceived and perceived internally. It is by analyzing what your senses present that one analyzes the world with it's internal and external elements to make sense of what the senses present and how it happens.


Interesting idea in regards to the realm of form, but it has little to do with emptiness or the experience of shunyata. What is left when there is no perceiver, no object, no components, and no form? When you can point to that, you’ll have identified what Thay was talking about.

See the following:

CASE 3 of the Mumonkan

Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When a visitor asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy raised his finger.

Gutei heard about the boy's mischief, seized him and cut off his finger with a knife. As the boy screamed and ran out of the room, Gutei called to him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.

When Gutei was about to die, he said to the assembled monks,"I received this one-finger Zen from Tenryu. I used it all my life and yet could not exhaust it" and then he passed away.

Mumon's Comment: Where Gutei and the boy attained enlightenment is not at the tip of the finger itself. If this simple truth is not comprehended, Tenryu, Gutei, the boy and you also will be bound together once and for all.

Gutei made a fool of old Tenryu,
With the sharp blade he did simply harm the boy.
That's nothing compared to the Mountain Spirit when he raised his hand
And split Kasan (the great mountain) in two.

  1. The impermanents come only with arisable-reality.
  2. The perspective of something can be reality or not.
  3. A present thing must be depending on widely factors. The factors could be widely present, past, and future factors.
  4. When each factor is present, it has widely factors as well.
  5. Every arisable-reality must has its own factors.
  6. Every arisable-reality is difference from the others, but is same impermanent, suffering, and uncontrollable.

An opened mind freed from worries and stresses has more space to understand things that catches its attention.

This includes seeing the painful actions of others more clearly.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .