Friday, July 6, 2012

On Emptiness

I was rooting through old emails today and came across this response (dated Feb 12 2009) I had written to a fellow; he had written several emails and had sent me his analysis of 'sunyata' (emptiness, the void) in Buddhist teachings. So I decided to cut and paste that letter I had written, as an article. Warning to readers: It's a very heavy-handed, concise and non circumspect in-your-face reply to one specific person.

>>I would like to suggest that conceptual objects can be analyzed in a similar manner in so doing a concept is reduced to its parts and examined<< 

You seem to be well-read and well-rounded in theoretical material, so you should know that reductionism is no longer "vogue." Even Quine---"To be is to be a value of a variable"---gave it up a long time ago. I find that there is a paradigmatic trend toward the "whole," and it's a good one. 

We're very alike. I used to be the same way. When I was 33, I woke up. I had a library of thousands of books, and they all "neutralized" in a matter of a minute. It was a segue to the opening of all my energy centers. Speaking of emptiness, the void, nothingness, and so on, analyzing "it," is like trying to take quantum measurement without collapsing the wave function; it's like trying to get accurate information of both position and momentum notwithstanding uncertainty; it's like trying to photograph your shadow with a flash camera, it's like trying to videotape a hallucination, it's like trying to see darkness by turning the light on, it's like flying to the sun in a rocket ship at night so as not to get burned, it's like looking for lost keys outside of your house because there's more light outside, even knowing that the key was actually lost inside. When you speak of analyzing emptiness, you're not analyzing emptiness, but the concept of emptiness. 

Emptiness-itself cannot be analyzed, it eludes all attempt, as it is the ontological a priori with respect to the experience of being-as-such; it is beyond essence and existence, it is neither whole nor part, it is neither phenomenon nor noumenon nor epiphenomenon. It---"it"―is, after all, empty. And even saying this, I speak merely conceptually. It is called 'anupalabha' in Sanskrit/Tibetan and '不可得' in Tantrayana; essentially, it's a reference to paradox. Emptiness refers to the lack of self-nature with respect to the Ding an sich, it pertains to the primacy of consciousness. Quantum theory has been catching up in this arena, (since the early 1930's). 

Emptiness can only be experienced. "It" can only be "groked," only "assimilated" by way of practice and "epiphany," this is why the Zen approach uses the Koan method, for example. Too much training in the western paradigm of Aristotlean tertium non datur makes for poor habits. That kind of "chreode" is difficult to overhaul, but my hope is that there will be an ingression of Novelty. But that ingression must begin within. There is no other way. You're outside looking in. That's OK, at least you're looking and it shows that you're an old soul, and I have a feeling that you won't quit until you have your first experience of enlightenment. That is when it all begins. 

Esoteric tantra and esoteric Buddha practices do not focus on emptiness per se. Emptiness is a preliminary, as one must advance beyond it (or else we fall into what is called "emptiness sickness" and nihilism). You are correct in using the fractal metaphor for maṇḍalas, as that's what they are, interfused, interpenetrations of manifestations of consciousness. The 不可得 is only "accessible" to resonance and practice. Assimilate it, grok it, experience it, entrust yourself to the cosmos, which is your own enlightened nature, then analyze it all you want ... but trust me, after you've experienced your initial awakening, you won't care to any more :-). 

I'm sorry that my response is terse, but I'm also in the midst of a practice-vow in which I cannot say much, I'm swamped also with work :-). I look forward to more exchange after the current practice-vow is complete.