« Boundless existence—the backdrop to life’s meaning | Main

April 11, 2007


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I don't look for mystical states during meditation. I only have a limited amount of time and what I want from meditation is equanimity: relaxation and a calm mind. This is practical and useful in this life and if you believe in the afterlife, equnamity in this life make you fit for the higher realms there too.

I look at meditation as a time to let the mind calm down. Like a wild horse put in a pen, at first the mind runs around and around but after a time it calms down.

In this view, meditation is not a technique where you keep the mind still, it is a technique where the mind is given circumstances in which it naturally calms down.



In your earlier post on Boundless Existence, I mistakenly believed you were describing something that closely resembles the emptiness that forms the heart of the Buddhist meditation practice I've followed since 1973. But I see now that you've created your own definition, and although it is interesting, it clearly does not match my own experience of the formless.

Far from being the "yang" against which meaningful "yin" emerges, I find the realm of formlessness to be where genuine meaning is found. The foreground world of phenomena proves itself time and again to be illusory and empty of meaning, although often seductive.

I do, however, fully agree that these states are inextricably linked to one another. As we say, "Form is emptiness; emptiness, form."

It is an interesting perspective, though; thanks for offering it.

Bryan, I wouldn't say the definition (or lack thereof) of "emptiness" in my post is my own.

For one, I was echoing Munitz' ideas. For another, Munitz echoes the core tenet of a host (if not most) of deeply mystical philosophies.

Namely, that beyond everything human consciousness can know is More. Wonder. Boundless Existence. Mystery. We can know much about the "whats" of existence, but "that" existence exists...Wow! is the only possible relation to it.

I agree that this seems to be different from the Buddhist conception of "emptiness." But because that is a conception, in my opinion it shouldn't be considered as a benchmark of truth.

Munitz is very Buddhist-like in his emphasis on relationship in the realm of existents. Nothing stands alone, so in that sense is "empty."

However, you're right. He goes further and points to an emptiness that isn't form. This, I'd say, is a weakness of Buddhist thought. It's pretty dogmatic on the "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" front.

Who knows if that is true? Who knows if it isn't also possible to have an intuitive, direct, experiential understanding that "emptiness is emptiness, and form is form."

(I believe Buddhism also says that, but isn't it true that the higher realization is supposed to be "emptiness is form, and form is emptiness? This mashes all of the cosmos together, whereas Munitz posits two realms--that of existence or that of existents.)

There is a subtle trap being fallen into here in that this "boundless existence" is being made an object that exists somewhere but is not our current experience. I think we are fully immersed now AS this boundless existence. Awareness (existence) and phenomena are the same thing. The hang up is that we perceive objects and then say, "I perceive that". We go 'round and 'round as this "I" perceiving objects. This "I" is just another object floating around in the sky of boundless existence which we already really are. We make this reference point of "I" the center rather than seeing it as an appearance or concept which crops up now and then. Once the "I" is seen through as a conceptual phantom, then there is just the perceiving awareness unbounded, one and the same with what is perceived. There is just perceiving and no perceiver. At this point, according to traditions, one might say "I am That". But even this is incorrect. More accurately, one might say, "That", or better yet, "This". Best of all... one would say nothing.

(I believe Buddhism also says that, but isn't it true that the higher realization is supposed to be "emptiness is form, and form is emptiness? This mashes all of the cosmos together, whereas Munitz posits two realms--that of existence or that of existents.)

Hi Brian,

You can read this article by a Zen teacher who is not afraid to philosophize a little bit


Footnote 33 says
"This is a fairly difficult point to explain. It is, however, the basis of the Prajnaparamita tradition. In the Prajnaparamita Hridaya, for example, it is said, “Form is only emptiness, emptiness only form.” Nevertheless form is form and emptiness is



Still, your primary tenant is that this "void" is meaninglessness, which just has not been my experience at all. The void is not some matrix out of which existants emerges to form meaning—it is the very thing that creates meaning.

Secondly, I don't really buy into the segregation of "existence" and "existants." This is a very western prejudice, and seems quite contrary to the Hindu and Buddhist ideas that influence other aspects of your philosophy.

To say "form is emptiness; emptiness, form" is ultimately to acknowledge there is no division, that non-duality is truth.

Sorry, but I think I'll have to take issue with Munitz and you on this one.

The entire subject, being as murky as it is, without words to define what isn't (or what should not be defined), confuses me.

"Form is emptiness; emptiness, form."

Could anyone please offer a bit of elaboration?

Thanks in advance.


Yes... Go study the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra:





... Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra continued:




Ashwin, the source for study is truly where tao points.

Did you see tao point? Ah, no finger.

So, look out the window, which is the rectangular thing that is not wall. It is a thing, but it is a lack.

This stuff is closer than your own heartbeat.

Edward -

You couldn't confuse me more if you tried. Well, you probably could.

Oh, sorry.

It's like this: Emptiness is what makes a teacup useful. Looking out the window is not being out the window: the key is being.

There is no geometry independent of objects. I'm just saying the idea is not all that profound if you look at the world plainly.

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