Sunday, March 28, 2010

Form and emptiness

By Taikkun Yang Li at
As the Sunday settles I'd like to highlight a quote from Dalai Lama on form and emptiness, a closely knit pair:

"Since form (phenomena) is emptiness and emptiness is form, then instead of a hand grasping at nothing, it is better to grasp at someone´s nose because this is closer to reality." How can anyone not be fond of this man?

And so, the subject matter. Empty and non-empty are two impossible ways of describing, in lack of a better word, emptiness. Form/phenomena and emptiness are viewed to be two sides of a coin, two ways of describing the same thing. One cannot, it seems, describe and name the things that surpass language, that lie beyond the scope of conceptualization. How, then, can one grasp this notion?

One is through paradox. By embracing paradoxical truths, sitting with them, walking with them, bending one's mind to them. 'Can I contain this? How does this make sense? What part of my being is touched by this?' And then to quiet one's mind to linguistic intrusion. Language is not the place to get what lies in the form/emptiness thought. Toss any pair of concept overboard, and concentrate on the direct knowing of reality: "At the still point of the turning world [...] there the dance is" (T.S. Eliot). Or

Not dependent on another, peaceful and
Not fabricated by mental fabrication,
Not thought, without distinctions,
That is the character of reality (that-ness). (Nagarjuna, Mulamadhyamakakarika, XVIII, 9. Transl. J. Garfield.)

At the same time: words are needed in order to get our thoughts out there, and of course to learn what other people are thinking. There's obviously a necessity to travel from a non-verbal state as an infant, into the world of concept and language and then to take a few steps (or more) into the wordless, timeless sphere. "Only through time time is conquered" (my friend Eliot again).
In this wilderness of concepts and words and what one really means by the words one speaks, Dalai Lama seems to have a wonderfully pragmatic and playful approach to it all - at least when he is speaking to us laymen. He seems to emanate a wonderful and easy lightheartedness, a true kind of contentment. To me, only a look at his face makes my heart lighten up. And forget about any tight knot of ideas and language and fuzzy thinking. Life can be so light!

No comments: