Whenever you think “such is THIS” or “such is THAT”,
You are leaving the middle way.
All conceptual thoughts are intimately connected to their opposite,
And so all thinking is biased by default.
To get attached to thought is to lose the balance;
And to lose the balance is to disalign with Tao, the way of nature.
To remain in thought is to be caught in the dualistic web of the mind;
Forever Yin is emphasized over Yang, and Yang is emphasized over Yin.
There is no way out of this, for “out” is just another thought;
To transcend thought simply cease to take sides.
We cannot help but to think,
But believing one’s thoughts to the point of attachment is a choice.
By dropping out of “this” or “that” we gain our liberty;
By letting go of all fixed ideas about self and other we fall into grace.
Are you ready to pass through this “void”?
The promise is that it is filled with abundance.
“Everything is impermanent”, says the fool,
while looking for permanent enlightenment.
“Everything is interdependent”, says the fool,
wishing there would be good without bad.
“All is One”, says the fool,
while trying to go beyond duality.
“The Truth is here now”, says the fool,
while doing everything possible to get there.
“There is no self”, says the fool,
while struggling to get rid of it.
“We are all enlightened”, says the fool,
while setting out to heal himself and others.
“The finger is not the moon”, says the fool,
while sanctifying words and mantras.
“We should not be aggressive”, says the fool,
while engaging in asceticism.
“We should be more natural and spontaneous”, says the fool,
while the very trying to be prevents it.
The fools are many. They cry loudest for change and achieve nothing.
When will they wake up from the illusion that there is something wrong with what is?
If we call the experience of the only thing there is, “oneness”
We create a distinction between one and many.
“Oneness” is a subtle trap.
It does not liberate.
It keeps one tightly bound to duality.
One and many are non-dual.
They are fundamentally the same.
So if you were to say “one” and “many” are one,
you haven’t understood a single thing.
The many and the one are not different,
but they are not one.
Duality and unity are dualistic concepts.
To transcend the duality, think:
Neither one, nor many, but both.
Such realization is called “non-duality”.
When I am with my self, I miss you.
When I am with you, I am you.
You bestow abundance to life,
Putting to rest any quest for meaning.
Those who seek you don’t understand,
Where could you possibly hide?
In your presence the mind surrenders,
Collapsing into its own nouminous origin.
You yourself alone exists,
Forever perceiving yourself by yourself.
Being alone you are nothing containing everything,
You are the question and the answer.
Praising you I constantly praise myself,
Bridging the gap between inner and outer.
To whom ever dares to call out to you for no reward,
You indiscriminately distribute the grace of the heaven’s.
Although we could never abandon each other,
Beloved singularity, I will keep singing my song to you.
Before you read on, close your eyes quickly and ask yourself: what is the most important thing in life?
I bet you did not come up with specific acquisitions or achievements but with something emotional, something related to the quality of your experience, like to love, to live your dreams, to be of service to others, etc. What this little thought-experiment shows is that what we all seem to be striving for in life is not to accumulate ‘things’ or ‘success stories’ but experiences of life. Or in short: the most important thing in life is to be truly alive.
To truly live does not sound to be too hard a thing to accomplish, doesn’t it? The great Oscar Wilde would have disagreed, though, stating that “to live is the rarest thing in the world – most people exist, that is all.” Why is it, then, that although we are striving for more ‘life’ in our lives most of us seem to fail quiet miserably at it and end up merely ‘existing’?
The quest for the elixir of (more) ‘life’ is a recurring mythological theme. In the Grail legend, for example, there is the fisher king who reigns over a kingdom that has degenerated into an infertile wasteland ever since he had gotten a mysterious injury for which there was no cure. Only the legendary Grail was said to be able to heal the king’s wound and thereby restore the kingdom to its splendor of the old days. While the wound in this myth symbolizes the king’s impaired capacity to fully experience life (his kingdom!) in all its greatness, the Grail is that which can bring back the juice into a lifeless existence.
So, what is the ‘holy’ Grail? Where can it be found? In the Grail legend, the knights of the kingdom in demise who are called to find it, all set out in different directions. That is to say, the Grail can be found in many places. If you read my last post about the different ‘Way’s of the Bodhisattva’ you know that I posited that the Grail, whose healing powers are none other than those of the ‘Now’, is present in any self-referencing and self-sufficient activity or symbol since either possesses the capacity to -at least temporarily- cut through the subject/ object duality which otherwise covers the ‘Now’ in a thick cloud of fear and desire.
What the Grail legend with all the ordeals the knights have to go through is also telling us is that to live, to be truly alive, we first need to make sure we are facing our experiences. Although that sounds rather straightforward and easy enough, it actually isn’t. Because non-disalignment with our experience means that we not only ‘flow’ along with ‘pleasurable’ experiences but also with the ‘unpleasurable’ ones. It means saying ‘yes’ to everything. If we repress or hide from ‘unpleasant’ experiences, we become emotionally and experientially numb. Just like in the story of the fisher king, any inability to properly attend to our emotional pain slowly grows into a disability turning our worlds, our kingdoms, into dry wastelands ruled by hidden dragons in our unconscious. The famous motivational speaker Jim Rohn was spot on when he said that “the walls we build around us to keep the sadness out also keep out the joy”.
While the ‘artistic’ knight may use his or her artistic craft to deal with and release emotional pain, the ‘spiritual’ knight, lacking such a craft, heals his- or her psyche by surrendering to and, thereby, accepting all experiences unconditionally. (S)he does so by cultivating non-judgemental awareness to all that ‘is’. This cultivation, sometimes called ‘meditation’, reaches its climax when (s)he identifies with the indiscriminating, unconditionally loving awareness itself or, alternatively, when (s)he has realized that all that ‘is’, even the ‘unpleasant’ experiences are non other than the fundamental reality (emptiness) manifest as relative reality (form).
Surrendering is the process of purification (or purgatory) any ‘spiritual’ knight has to pass through to be eligible for the final, grand at-one-ment. The deeper (s)he dares to surrender, the more deeply buried, repressed emotional pain and trauma is released from the darkness of the unconscious to be subsequently burnt in the light of consciousness. As the difficult ‘healing’ process in this ‘dark night of the soul’ progresses, resistance to the phenomenal world starts to fade, calming the ‘spiritual’ knight’s mind and gradually tearing down the imaginary walls that create the sense of an isolated ‘self’. As a result, the whereabouts of the Grail become more and more intuitively known.
No matter how much the ‘spiritual’ knight surrenders, though, the notion of subject-object will still hold, and as long as this is the case, thought-waves of separation will have a recipient, a shore to crash upon. The ‘spiritual’ knight who wants to get hold of the Grail once and for all and, thereby, become a sage, thus, needs to go one final step further: the notion of a subject surrendering to an object has to let go of. (S)he needs to realize his- or herself to be inseparable of all that ‘is’, of this ‘One’ which encompasses both, ocean and waves, emptiness and form, of ‘That’ which is no-thing because it is every-thing. In this realization the ‘self’, finally known to be illusory, a mirage, ‘dies’ to be resurrected into the ‘spirit’. Henceforth, thought-waves ridden by fear and desire originating from the trance of separation between the individual and its environment, simply fade out in the vastness of the ocean unclaimed. Surrendering then becomes an impossibility, as it is known that there is no-body to surrender to any-thing since there is no-thing apart from every-thing (which of course, and quiet paradoxically, is the most complete form of surrender). In the discovery of the ‘un-reality’ of the self, the ‘holy’ Grail naturally reveals itself as having never been lost, yielding its boon to the ‘spiritual’ knight of being able to peacefully rest in the abundance of the eternal ‘Now’.
“What we are really living for is the experience of life, both the pain and the pleasure.”
The last post was concerned with a gradual approach to dealing with the seeking mind. It was explained that the seeking mind can be exhausted to such an extent that a permanent resting place in ‘what is’ (right here now) can be found. In this post, however, I would like to introduce the possibility of blowing the seeking mind by engaging it in paradox. (In no way I want to suggest that this latter, more sudden approach is better than the other, more gradual one. In fact they complement each other rather nicely)
The way we are hardwired to experience reality through our minds is in terms of pairs of opposites. Left or right, good or bad, black or white, etc. The founding fathers of quantum physics were the first Westerners to scientifically discover that our normal ‘either/ or’ approach to reality was somehow not how it really seemed to be. In a series of famous experiments they proved, for example, that two opposite outcomes could be simultaneously true or untrue. It was found that the occurrence of one or the other outcome was based on a probability distribution that only collapses into a definite event at the time of measurement.
While creating a lot of uproar in the scientific community of the West, this new paradoxical ‘both/ and’ / ‘neither/ nor’ view of the foundations of reality was nothing new to philosophers of the East. The scientific findings reflected what these philosophers had been saying for millennia: the mother of reality is paradox, a field of potentiality. There are no opposites, dualities, there is only paradox, non-duality.
It is rather straightforward to see why non-duality/ paradox is a more ‘realistic’ representation of reality than what our minds make us believe. All pairs of opposites are co-dependent and, thus, inseparable. We can’t talk or think about one without implicitly referring to the other. ‘Left’ only makes sense in conjunction with ‘right’. Hence, all opposites are actually two sides of the same coin, superimpositions on the ‘One’ reality. From this ‘One’ reality the ‘Many’ are created in our discriminating minds by means of establishing pairs of opposites. The mind is like a prism that breaks up the ‘One’ light into the ‘Many’ colors of the visible spectrum.
Let’s have a look now at some pairs of opposites that Eastern philosophers found to be exquisite mind-blowers when understood in terms of paradoxes (‘both/ and’ or ‘neither/ nor’) as opposed to opposites (‘either/ or’):
Form and Emptiness
From an Eastern philosophical standpoint this is probably the most important pair of opposites that needs to be transcended in order to understand reality how ‘it really is’. It is the ultimate mind-blower. No wonder it is most prominently featured in the most revered Mahayana Buddhist Sutra, the ‘Heart Sutra’ where it says that ‘Form’ is ‘Emptiness’ and ‘Emptiness’ is ‘Form’.
What it points to is that ‘Emptiness’ is the substratum of all ‘Form’ (which is a placeholder for the world perceivable by the senses). ‘Emptiness’ is the field of potentiality that manifests/ is actualized as ‘Form’. ‘Form’ is actualized ‘Emptiness’ and ‘Emptiness’ is potential ‘Form’. Just like the ocean is the substratum or the potential to manifest/ actualize as the waves, ‘Form’ and ‘Emptiness’ are inseparable and, thus, ‘One’ (and the same).
This ‘One’ is both, ‘Form’ and ‘Emptiness’ simultaneously. Or stated differently, since ‘Form’ and ‘Emptiness’ are inseparable, this ‘One’ is neither ‘Form’ nor ‘Emptiness’. Again, read slowly: since it is both, it is neither. This ‘One’ is all that ‘is’ and, hence, there is no ‘other’ in reference to which it could be defined. It (whatever it is) can never be grasped by the mind. If we seriously try, though, we need to prepare to have your minds blown.
Subject and Object
Any notion of a subject depends on a sensory object: if there was no sound, smell, touch, vision, taste nor mind-objects (thought, memory, imagination etc.) there would be no notion of a subject, just bare existence/ being. The notion of an object on the other hand is dependent on a sensing subject.
Object and subject arise in co-dependence: without objects, there is no subject and without subject there are no objects. Fundamentally, thus, object and subject must be ‘One’ (and the same) like wave and ocean, completely inseparable. There are neither subjects nor objects but only this ‘One’ perceiving itself by itself.
Cause and Effect
It is pretty straightforward to understand that every effect has a cause: something is pushed, it moves. Cause, however, also depends on effect. Every effect causes new effects just like every cause causes new causes. To assume that causes do not depend on effects would imply that causes can be uncaused, which is illogical. Eastern philosophers, thus, no not believe in the ‘Big Bang’-Theory because it assumes an uncaused cause to initiate the ‘Bang’. Rather, they have been saying that all that happens is (and has always been) the cause of all that happens. Effects cause themselves. Cause and effect are completely intimate, inseparable, ‘One’ (and the same) and, thus, there is neither cause nor effect. The only constant in the universe is perpetual change, impermanence. The universe is ‘One’ cosmic dance, always in flux.
Life and Death
Due to the perpetual changing nature of the ‘One’ universe, the minute a ‘Form’ manifests it irrevocably starts its process towards ultimate de-manifestation. Death depends on life. On the other hand, Scientists have discovered that the amount of energy (the potential for change) in the universe is constant. Hence, new ‘Forms’ can only manifest when other ‘Forms’ de-manifest. Life also depends on death. Life is the prerequisite for death and death is the prerequisite for life. Life lives on itself.
The cycle of life and death is but the perpetual change of actualization in the ‘One’ field of potentiality. Just like the wave does not go anywhere different to where it has always been when it sinks back into the ocean, life and death are fundamentally inseparable, two seemingly distinct aspects of this ‘One’ reality and, thus, there fundamentally is neither life nor death. There is but this ‘One’ constantly changing its appearance, destructing in the name of creation, creating in the name of destruction.
Here and There
Space is that which is in between two (or more) local reference points, a ‘here’ and a ‘there’. If all is but this ‘One’, though, there is no ‘other’, which means that this ‘One’ has no definable range or border. It is infinite. In infinity there is no center since from any local point of reference the ‘One’ stretches out infinitely in all directions. If everywhere is its center, locality does not exist in this ‘One’. All local points are effectively in the same (no-)place. Everywhere is always ‘here’. And because of that, this ‘One’ is spaceless.
Now and Then
Time is the succession of changes between two reference events, a ‘now’ and a ‘then’. If all always has been and forever will be but this ‘One’, there has never been and there never will be any succession of events in this ‘One’, because there has never been and there will never be something ‘other’ than this ‘One’. Although its appearance may change, fundamentally all there eternally is, is this ‘One’. It is always ‘now’. And because of that, this ‘One’ is timeless.
Samsara and Nirvana
Whatever we perceive, we experience ‘Emptiness’ manifest as ‘Form’. Every emotion, sensual perception, thought or memory: we are constantly experiencing the ocean in the form of the waves. Just like the waves are no impediment to sense the ocean, our experiences are never in the way to sense this ‘One’.
If samsara is the confrontation with ‘what is’ from a perspective of separateness, nirvana is the unconditional acceptance of (all!) the waves because they are known to be the ocean. It is the realization that all there ‘is’ is no-thing but this ‘One’ (without an ‘other’) which extincts all dualistic notions. Nirvana, therefore, is the extinction of itself. Nirvana is ‘this’.
The ‘divine’ union, as reported by the mystics of all spiritual traditions, is reconciling the opposites in the paradox that no-thing exists (in and of itself) because all is ‘One’. All is always and everywhere fundamentally inseparable from this ‘One’. There is neither ‘Form’ nor ‘Emptiness’, subject nor object, cause nor effect, life nor death, time nor space, samsara nor nirvana. Any notion of duality is an act of ignorance towards the fundamental reality of this truthless ‘truth’.
To conclude, let me reiterate that opposites (and their expression in the form of words) are conceptual abstractions and superimpositions on this ‘One’ which have the power to create an apprehensible ‘reality’ where fundamentally there is none. Since what has no distinctive features can not be understood, though, the only way to realize this ‘One’ is through the pairs of opposites. The ‘gateless gate’ to the noumenous is reached through the transcendence of the world of phenomena.
Nobody will ever be able to grasp what this ‘One’ is because it is so completely self-sufficient, self-entrenched, self-contained and self-instituted that it does not allow for an outside perspective to uncover its mystery. The mystic, thus, having once and for all blown his seeking mind remains silent, and awed in not knowing.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”