Thursday, October 23, 2014

You are THAT

There have been some great questions lately around this idea of existence.  We might as well talk about the Vedanta concepts of Mithya and Satyam.  These concepts have the capacity to cut away the delusion of separate "thing"- ness.

We have a paper cup.  We all know what that is.  It is identifiable.  We may use one every day for our coffee or tea, for our water at the cooler.  But what IS that "thing"?

If we look at the concept "paper cup" - we might ask a question.  Cup is the noun - the "thing".  Paper is the adjective - it describes the "thing".  So from our common language, we have the "cup" as the thing itself and paper describes the cup.  But "cup" isn't really a "thing" - it's a function - a purpose - a utility - a way to hold liquid.  Paper is actually what it IS.  So at this point, the "thing" is Paper in a particular shape "cup", yes?  We might now call it, instead of "paper cup," "cup-py paper."  Paper, in the shape, form, and function we call "cup".

So the "thing" is paper.  But is paper really what it is?  Well no, actually.  "Paper" is a word we use to talk about the stuff created when we take organic material - trees - grasses - and manipulate them so that they become "paper".  So "paper" really is that organic material we know in trees, and grass, and paper.  But what is that organic material?

A tree is basically a big plant - a plant that has a trunk and some branches - it might blossom flowers, oranges, apples, leaves, acorns, etc.  It is organic - that means basically that it is living material.  To say it is living material means - it is cellular - it is composed of various cells that give it the ability to interact with it's environment - to grow, etc.  But what is a "cell"?

A cell is the basic component of any organism.  It is a mass of molecules - the chemistry of which - the electrical charge of which - enables this cell to grow - to reproduce - to interact with the surrounding cells.  These molecules are masses of two or more atoms - bound together by chemical and reactions.  And atoms are even more refined "things" - they are protons and neutrons, surrounded by an electrical charge - electrons - mostly empty space - yet the unique makeup of each "atom" - the unique formation of the protons, neutrons and number of electrons, make one atom distinct from another.  The atomic "weight" or makeup is the difference between a puff of helium and a gram of iron.

So let's step back and restate this.  There is some "substance" of which the atom is made - the proton of the helium and the proton of the iron are not really different - it is instead the unique configuration of these pieces, and the number of electrons (or electrical charge) that creates the difference "helium" or "iron".  Yes?  If I take the proton out of the helium atom and the proton out of the iron atom, what is the difference?  If I compare the electron of the helium atom to the electron of the iron atom, what is the difference?  It's really the number of electrons, the behavior and how all those pieces interact, which makes the eventual form "helium" and "iron".  At that level of experience, they are vastly different - yet at the level of the atom they are really quite the same.  In fact, at this point, we might wonder what is the "substance" of the atomic pieces?  

We are really, in this exercise, trying to find where is the distinct existences in these "things" - at what point did they come into existence?  We can now rightly say - atom IS helium - atom IS iron - atom IS tree - atom IS paper - atom IS cup.  At the same time we see "cup" we are seeing "atom".  We don't have "atom" then that disappears once "cup" arrives.  The "cup" is simultaneously atom and paper.

So along the way - we had some carbon elements - some hydrogen - some nitrogen - all these were there - and STILL ARE - when it was tree and now while it is "paper cup".  The same "stuff" is there - only that "stuff" is shaped differently - formed differently.  It's still the same "thing", in essence.

So what is that "substance" - from the atom we must go to the sub-atomic level - the level of quantum physics.  Physics basically describes the way things behave.  We can't really "see" what the atom is, at that level, yet.  We can only derive theories around the behavior, then give those hypothetical sub-components a name - quarks - strings - etc.  We suppose that what the atom IS, is a series of quarks and strings - what those quarks and strings are we aren't sure, but at this point we must stop and ask - each time we dive into WHAT that "thing" is - we find a way to give it's components some names.  Yet the quantum string and the paper cup are one and the same - it isn't a quark now and then later becomes a cup.  It is simultaneously quark and cup - we see the cup - a quantum microscope might see the quark, when it looks at the cup.  So what that thing "IS" is NOT DEPENDENT on it's form or shape or function - it is NOT DEPENDENT on the present experience OF THAT THING.  In other words, WHAT that "thing" is, to someone looking with eyes, is "cup".  WHAT that "thing" is, to someone with a quantum microscope, is a "quark" - or a mass of quarks and strings, which are ALSO atoms, neutrons and electrons, which are ALSO molecules, ALSO cells, ALSO trees, ALSO paper.

When you're looking at the world, you can only see what your senses have the capacity to see.  Your eyes are not quantum lenses - therefore you don't see the quarks - yet right in front of you is a trillion-trillion-trillion quarks.  You just see what those quarks are, on the level of eyes, on the level of consciousness.  So in a way, our senses fool us - we take the world at surface - we take that pencil as something separate from the chair - we take the cheeseburger as separate from your watch.  What we BELIEVE - our IDEA of reality - is that it is made up of an infinite number of "things" - watches and cheeseburgers and chairs and pencils and cups and trees.  We forget that those things are ONLY watches and cheeseburgers and chairs and pencils and cups and trees FROM the perspective of our experience - our sensory capacity.  They are also, simultaneously, cells - molecules - atoms - quarks - strings...

But what ARE those things, in essence?  We have broken down every "thing" in the universe, basically, to the quantum level - to quarks and strings - but even a quark and string must BE SOMETHING - if our analysis holds true - a quark or string must really just be another level of experience - another form-ation of "something" - something which we have yet to discover through science yet we really can't deny at this point that "something" smaller must be there - the quantum material must have those components - WHAT the quark and string really ARE, in essence.

Let's say in 10 years we discover that the quark is made up of jibjabs and knickerdoodles.  So is that it?  Are we done?  Jibjabs and knickerdoodles must be the source of existence, right?  No - because once again we must find out what a "jibjab" and a knickerdoodle" really IS, in essence.  Because now we KNOW that a "thing" is just an appearance or expression based on the level of the ability to experience.  A jibjab is also a cup, yes?  

We can continue like this forever.  At some point we run out of experience-able "things" - we basically have this empty space which is behaving in ways that we can later identify as some "thing"  - electron moves slow and we have iron - electron moves fast and we have helium.  But electron is basically space with an electric charge.  So that eventual "thing"-ness is REALLY just the way "space" is behaving.  

Can we say that again?  Isn't that "thing" - the cup or tree or pencil or ham sandwich - isn't that "thing", in essence, just there due to the way "space" is behaving?

Once again, let's step back.  Look around you - look at all the "things" in your experience.  There is a cup - a pencil - a computer screen - a chair - a wall.  That wall is space - behaving in a way that appears solid - that appears a certain color - shape - size.  Yet "wall" is molecules - atoms - quarks - "jibjabs" - whatever else we might conceive to describe all the subsequent ways that space is behaving, yet we must consider that we have falsely applied separate "thing"-ness to that wall, as if that wall was born - AS IF that wall came about independently.  AS IF that wall has some separate EXISTENCE somewhere.  From this analysis, can you identify WHERE that separate existence IS?  At what level would it be?  

Really the "existence" of wall is what that wall really "IS" - when we boil it down this way, we must say that "wall" really is space-behaving-in-a-particular-way-as-to-appear-as-wall-to-our-present-ability-to-experience-it.  Well that would be very difficult to use in a sentence, yet isn't that really what that "thing" is?  Isn't that what the pencil is?  The paper?  The tree?  The ham sandwich?

This is a long way to go to talk about Mithya.  So Mithya says that any "thing" we can know does not exist on it's own but has "dependent existence."  "Wall" doesn't exist by itself - molecule doesn't exist by itself - it IS atom/proton/neutron/electron.  Atom doesn't exist by itself - it IS quark/string - and so on.  Quarks and strings are really the way "space" is behaving - the way space and the "energy" of that "space" is moving or behaving.  There isn't one "thing" here acting upon another "thing" - each having it's own existence.  It is one "thing" - in expression - those expressions are quarks - those quarks are atoms - those atoms are molecules - those molecules are cells - those cells are cups and pencils and everything else.

Cup is Mithya.  Pencil is Mithya.  That which has no existence of its own -that which has "dependent" existence.  Satyam is what-IS - well we never really could define WHAT that root essence IS - yet we might say that any identifiable "thing" in our analysis can't be it.  We can use the concept of space in expression, maybe - limitless space or no-thing-ness - whatever THAT IS which exists.  

Once again - we must step back.  Existence is both the limitless and the pencil -because they are really the same "thing".  Existence is both the limitless AND the ham sandwich - why?  Because they both are present right now - only available to us through our particular means of knowledge - eyes, ears, taste - or through an atomic or quantum microscope.  Vedanta calls spirituality that other means of knowledge - really to know WHAT those "things" ARE, in essence, because we don't have a scientific means of knowledge.  We can only measure what appears to our ability to see it.  Yet all the while, we are looking right in the face of that essence - we are seeing that limitless-ness in expression - right now.  Pick up the pencil - you are looking at existence, in expression.  

We know Satyam - what-IS - in any "thing" - why?  Because any "thing" IS THAT, whatever THAT IS.  To say pencil is a separate thing, to believe that pencil is a new existence, a separate existence, something that is subject to birth and death, is to overlook this sort of analysis, to be caught by our particular means of knowledge, to live, really, in an illusion where "things" have existence of their own, where all "things" are separate.  It is to be caught by Mithya.  

Realization is simply to see through Mithya - to see the simple truth that "things" have no real existence, no birth or death, of their own.  Realization is to see that our experience of a world of things is really an experience of one "thing" - one "Essence" - one "existence".  It is an experience of one essence, expressing as every - "thing".

Where does that leave you?  You are aware of these things?  So WHAT is aware?  WHO is aware?  If all things are that one essence - then you must BE THAT - you must be that one essence, expressing in a very complex way, so as to be aware.  That means that essence is, through this mechanism, aware of itself.  We might say that the universe has become self-aware - maybe we might say the universe has evolved so that it can look upon itself - it can know itself.  You are THAT.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


"I AM" is simply Life, aware of itself.  It is only when that "I AM"-ness gets mixed up with the particular experience, that we have a story of the individual, a story of the divided, the separated existence.  At some point we begin to question this story, this idea, this framework of existence.  When we ask "what AM I?" we begin to pull back the screen - we begin to pull back the curtain on that illusion of separated, independent existences.  Just to ask "what AM I?" is to reject our common idea that each thing comes into existence and later ceases to exist. 

The search, then, is to start from the unknown, to have put aside our present ideas and to start walking into the dark without a flashlight.  We are trying to find out where existence is split up, where it becomes divided.  We trace back the existences of each thing, trying to find any independence of existence in each.  Surprisingly, the deeper we look, we don't find evidence of separated existence in each but the same existence, the same IS-ness.  Ultimately we can only find one of THAT - that IS-ness - that FROM WHICH each of these "things" arise. 

It turns out that each thing is not it's own existence but a form-ation or pattern or expression of One existence, one essence, one indefinable, limitless-ness.  This is beyond existence or Being, beyond this or that, beyond any attempts to measure or define, beyond all attempts to put our finger on it, yet it is undeniable.  All "things" ARE that, in essence, and the only problem is that we give new existence to the patterns, we give the attributes of birth and death to that which really has no birth or death, except in that it appears and disappears to us.

That "I AM" is simply the light of knowing, knowing these appearances and disappearances - if we apply independent existence to each, we must also give that "I AM"-ness it's own existence - me vs. the world.  Yet if we see that these appearances are merely passing expressions of that one essence, like waves of one Ocean, then the necessity to divide yourself as separate of the world falls away.

Right this very moment, Life is aware of itself, through this capacity called "I AM" - Life is present and aware of itself as the sky, as the clouds, as the trees, as the singing birds, as the slight pang of hunger, as the racing thoughts... Life is aware of itself as the haunting flute in the song, as the feeling of butt in chair, the clang of pots in the other room. 

This present experience is a limitless capacity - an openness allowing any thing to arise - space for each expression.  It is only when we attempt to define these expressions that we must also give each thing a life of it's own.  And that's ok as long as we realize each thing is merely a mirage - a mirage we have to investigate.  Once we investigate it still appears as a mirage, only we no longer have the urge to quench our thirst, since we know it has no reality of it's own.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Form and Emptiness are the Same

It is critical to see the mistake we make about things and the nature of reality.  In the Buddhist Heart Sutra, they say "Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness."

Look around you - you see lots of "things".  What ARE those things?  There is a cup, a piece of paper, a computer screen...  are these things an independent existence?  Did they come into existence independently, apart from all other things?  Do they have their OWN existence?  Does existence work that way?

If we look at the cup - it's ceramic or porcelain or styrofoam - so we know the shape "cup" - it's identifiable.  But WHAT that cup IS, is really ceramic.  So we may say "ceramic cup".  But we really have it backwards.  Isn't it actually "cuppy ceramic"?  Isn't it really ceramic, shaped into the form of a cup?  We say "cup" as if that "thing" stands alone, missing WHAT it is.  It's ceramic, expressed in the form and concept (and function) "cup".

Look at the tree.  Tree is the concept - it's an identifiable shape and function, given a name.  But what IS the tree?  It's bio-organic material, expressing in the form "tree".  And what is that bio-organic material?  Molecules - atoms - electrons...  let's say there are hydrogen atoms there in the tree and hydrogen atoms there in the cup.  At that level, where is tree and where is cup?  We don't know the "thing" at that level, only the essential "stuff" from which those things are formed.

And the hydrogen atom - what is THAT?  Well it's basically empty space with a few particles flying around - electrons (electric charge) - etc.  And what are those particles?  Quantum physics tell us the atom is of a dubious nature - with strings and quarks.  At this level the atom doesn't really exist but is a product of how those quantum particles act.

So if we keep drilling down, into the cup and the tree, we still haven't found any independent, separate existence, but really just a soup of particles and empty space.   We find "something" - something in motion - some intelligence in action.  FROM that action, from those basic ingredients, we have both cup (ceramic) and tree (bio-organic material).  If we continue to drill down, we would basically come to a point where we cannot identify anything else - we would really just have an emptiness with an infinite potential to BE any "thing".  It is really an intelligent emptiness - with the capacity to "move" or swirl - from that movement the strings and quarks take shape - those formations are also atoms and electrons - those formations are also cups and trees.

So in essence, tree IS that essence - cup IS that essence. Simultaneously, tree is essence - cup is essence.  Form is emptiness - emptiness is form.

So as we drink our coffee or tea, and look out at all the beautiful trees, we might see past the surface - past the formations and ask WHAT, in essence, are these "things"?  We might ask - do those "things" really have independent existences?  Do those "things" arrive as new existences, and when they end, does their existence end?  Or does that "essence" just stop doing "cup" or "tree"?

Once we see this, our next question will be - what am I in all this?  There is a mass of organic material, quite intelligent in fact - so much so that it provides a means of knowing - knowing all these other "things".  But once we turn that spiritual microscope upon ourselves, once we see past the surface and look toward that root essence of WHAT we really are, we might realize that this formless intelligence is actually, right at this very moment, aware of itself through this mechanism, through this intelligent organism.  Right now, the tree and the cup and this body are, simultaneously, the same IS-ness - and that IS-ness is aware of itself as tree and cup and body. 

It is the mind which stays with the form and misses the essence - in that the mind identifies with that one form - body - and excludes tree and cup and universe.  The only solution is to recognize one's mistake - once realized, nothing changes.  WHAT you are is still that root essence, that intelligent emptiness, which is present at this very moment, both as the emptiness and the form.