Friday, December 27, 2013

The Wall—Emptiness

The overall geometry of the universe is determ...Image via Wikipedia
The enlightenment of Gautama introduced an entirely new vantage-point to the human experience. In summary his grasp of reality addressed two, apparently different views which he said were the same thing looked at from alternate perspectives. Those two dimensions were the conditional and the unconditional realms of form and emptiness, which according to him arose dependent upon each other. Today and tomorrow we’ll consider these two, metaphorically through a model of a wall and a ladder that leans against that wall. The metaphor came to me in a dream following a day of contemplating the various understandings of the word dharma. I discovered in my research that dharma was derived from the Sanskrit root dhṛ, which means to support or hold, and often referred to a cosmic law. In my dream I saw a ladder leaning against and supporting by a blank wall.

The story is told that Bodhidharma sat in meditation staring at a blank wall for nine years. What did he see? Let’s take a walk into a realm almost too strange to imagine. In fact it is only possible to enter this realm through the imagination. It is the realm of a transcendent wall, which strips conceptuality down to the ground of all being. Think essence—pure essence, infinite essence, 100% essence, without any otherness. Such a realm is impossible to imagine because to imagine it requires separation and otherness: an imaginer as well as what is being imagined, and such essence is transcendent to all divisions. It is a realm where subject and object melt into one another. It is non-dual in any and every way. 

Form requires dimensions of at least the aggregation of time, space and circumstances. Not the imagination. Essence is the sentient eye seeing itself beyond all time, space and circumstance. This essence is what Eckhart said was, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and Gods eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” Form content needs context within which to exist but essence is both content and context at the same time, which is a contradiction already. Essence is entirely “+” and “-” fusion and such a thing cannot exist except in the imagination, or so it seems to conventional wisdom.

What would such a realm approximate? The closest thing imaginable would be a black hole, which instead of sucking in otherness, sucks in itself. An infinitely large (or infinitely small: size is a contradiction) sucking machine without motion or any defining characteristics. Why? Because this is primordial seed essence before mother and child. Form mother and children come next. “Large” is a defining characteristic. “Small” is a defining characteristic. “Motion” is movement from one space/time circumstance to another and this requires otherness which in the case of essence is so profound it cannot exist.

Defined thusly, in a dream, essence is transcendent to both life and death. It is beyond time, space and circumstances. Such a condition is non-conditional, non-contingent and non-everything. In fact it is transcendent even to that prior statement since “non” is otherness and pure essence is non-non and is indefinable. It is wholly beyond; even beyond imagination and logic and every other frame of reference, which requires discernment. This would be 100% potential energy without even a glimmer of kinetic energy.

Conceptually it is impossible to imagine. All concepts fail to capture essence. The closest might be an enso or a mythical Ouroboros, which feeds on and creates itself, with no beginning nor end. It is the symbolic representation of enlightenment and infinity. A self-generating dynamo feeding on itself but doing so without motion. I think this way of envisioning essence is a fairly accurate description of something that is 100% ready: neither alive nor dead but ready for either, neither or both, only this is transcendent to all such defining characteristics which imply life or death. Readiness is unborn and never dies. This would be an independent, wholly essential, unconditional non-thing with no other purpose except existence itself. This is a Self with no other. It would be the womb of creation without a child, forever and ever: an other with no otherness, yet transcendent to such distinctions. It would be completely empty of everything, yet completely full at the same time. It would be everything and nothing at once. It would be completely meaningless and completely meaningful—The Big Bang before either bang or big—pure singularity of the essential kind.

Is this what Bodhidharma saw? We’ll never know but countless Zen Masters have spoken about this ineffability using names like Mind Essence, Ground of Being, Original Face and Purity. Some have called it Buddha—the Dharmakaya. Others have used the word God. The founder of the Rinzai Zen (Lin Chi) used the idiom, “True Man of no rank” because within this ineffable sphere, there is no discrimination and discrimination is conditional, only possible when otherness is present. Bodhidharma simply called it “The Void” or the primordial mind and what he was experiencing for nine years was a view of his own mind. 

Names are mere handles to represent what can’t be and never will be adequate to describe what is utterly transcendent. Exodus 20:4 speaks clearly about the admonition by God: “You are not to make an image or picture of anything in heaven or on the earth or in the waters under the earth.” And the understanding of this admonition is clear: any and every word or handle harkens a conceptual image engraved in the mind: a filthy shadow—a surrogate, of the energy which inhabits and moves all of life. Essence is things exactly as they are, sans any and all defining characteristics. This is suchness. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. “Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.” — Stanza 56, The Tao Te Ching.
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