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.

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