The Sword of Manjushri

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The discontinuity – we might say – equals ‘zero entropy’, ‘zero slack’, zero ‘time-lag’ between the crest of the wave and the trough. It equals ‘the conjunction of the opposites’. It equals the ‘alchemical marriage’ of the King and the Queen. Contrary to what we might think adding PLUS to MINUS doesn’t merely cancel out everything and leave us with nothing – the two apparently irreconcilable opposites cancel out alright, but then instead of the result of this operation being ‘nothing at all’ (i.e. the mere blank deficiency of anything at all) we find – to our surprise – that the ‘Whole of Everything’ is revealed, the ‘One Thing’ of the alchemists, the ‘Mystical Unity’ outside of which there can be nothing. This is quite a turnaround therefore because whilst we had been under the impression that our polar world (the world of separated opposites) was the only reality, we now discover that what we naively took to be ‘the real world’ was actually nothing more than a hallucination caused by our ‘backwards’ way of looking at everything.

 

We could also say that the discontinuity (or Zero S) equals the absence of space-time, the absence of logical continuity, the absence of boundaries or categories, the absence of all dimensionality. Whilst this negative description seems to present the discontinuity in terms of the absence of everything that is most basic and essential to our understanding of reality this is not actually the case since as we have argued, logical continuity’ is a mere hoax, a scam that is ‘writ large’ so that we cannot easily see beyond it. This is a similar sort of idea to Adolf Hitler’s famous ‘Big Lie’ principle, which states that if a lie is big enough, all-encompassing enough, then we become incapable of questioning it. Little lies are easy to spot, very big ones practically impossible, in other words. We are not however the poorer for the removal of the deeply entrenched all-encompassing lie, no matter how attached we might have been to it – the sense of catastrophic loss involved in the ‘disillusion process’ has to do with the loss of the arbitrarily imposed external authority which was enabling us to treat life as if it were a vast simpler affair than it really is. As always, we fear and resist the removal of the convenient fiction, since we have adapted so thoroughly to it that there is nothing left of us that is independent of that spurious premise.

 

One hundred percent adaptation to the ‘given reality’ always put us in a situation where we are aligned with the ‘Big Lie’, and where therefore the struggle for our existence becomes synonymous with the fight against the truth. The ‘truth’ of the discontinuity is not that it is an absence of space and time, but rather that it is wholly beyond any limiting conditions whatsoever… From a pragmatic psychological point of view, the loss of limiting conditions represents a loss of security, but at the same time it also represents an absolutely unthinkable and unimaginable increase in freedom. The world as it is in its everyday, tangible manifestation corresponds to the ACTION or ‘swing’ phase of the pendulum – it corresponds to the continuity, to what we have been referring to as ‘the continuum of logic’. The tangible, measurable reality of the swing phase, of logical continuity, is therefore a manifestation of entropy. It might seem strange to say that the everyday world is a manifestation of entropy but the point is that we – when we are adapted as we are to this world – do not perceive entropy as entropy. In psychological terms, we can say that if redundancy presented itself straightforwardly as redundancy then it would not be redundancy at all but information. We do not experience the space-time continuum as some kind of ‘indefinitely extended redundancy’, or as an ‘infinitely expanded tautology,’ but rather we experience it as a field of possibility, a framework within which genuine development can take place.

 

From this perspective, which is for all practical purposes the only perspective we know, the REST phase has no existence at all – it is over so quickly that we can easily get away with paying no attention to it at all. It is a gap that is no gap, a gap that is so very small that we can completely ignore it with no apparent consequences. This is like the Great Pyramid of Cheops, where the mighty slabs of stone making the structure up are so skilfully cut and so precisely placed together that there doesn’t seem to be any space between them at all. The whole pyramid is one solid structure, one continuous, unbroken mass, which is of course how we experience the movement of a pendulum or some other oscillator to be. We really don’t experience ACTION-REST-ACTION…, we experience ACTION-ACTION ACTION…; we experience unbroken or continuous movement (as if there actually could be such a thing). And in the same way we do not experience the world we live in – which is made up entirely with oscillating systems – as having any breaks or discontinuities in it, it’s all ACTION PHASE as far as we’re concerned. If we were to have the REST PHASE, the discontinuity, brought to our attention, so that we couldn’t keep skipping conveniently over it, then we wouldn’t like that at all.

 

To say that it would be disconcerting to have the discontinuity brought to our attention in day-to-day life is putting it mildly! The easily-neglected little fact of the discontinuity threatens everything; to be more accurate, it doesn’t just threaten everything – it erases it completely. It erases it so completely that even the act of erasure itself is erased (because the negating of an unreal thing isn’t itself a real operation). What the awareness of the discontinuity does is to entirely remove, with surgical precision, the possibly of us taking our normal everyday logic (which is to say, ‘positively defined reality’) seriously. This is utterly devastating for us because positively defined reality is the only sort of reality we believe in – we don’t trade in any other sort of commodity. If we can’t define it, i.e. understand it with our rational minds, then ‘it’ simply doesn’t exist for us. It can’t be looked up in the ledger, and so it just isn’t there. End of story. Just as I might not be granted citizenship of a particular country – for whatever reason – then the element of experience that I cannot define or categorize is not granted existence by the system of thought, which is the absolute unquestionable tyrannical controller of the rational-conceptual side of our lives.

 

THE TERRITORY OF POSITIVE REALITY

 

The territory presided over by the system of thought is ‘the territory of positive reality’ and positive reality is made up of lots and lots of ‘positive statements’. A positive statement is simply a statement that is ‘absolutely true’, which is to say, it is true no matter which way you look at it. It is true at all times, and under all conditions. It is independently true – its validity does not really upon any other factor. But the discontinuity is the only true ‘independent’ reality – it is wholly outside of all limiting conditioned and therefore its reality obviously doesn’t depend upon any conditions. If there were any rules governing the discontinuity then the discontinuity wouldn’t be discontinuous! And if there aren’t any rules there then how could the discontinuity be dependent on them? On the other hand the logical continuum, which is ‘the realm of continuous, consistent and therefore measurable change’, undeniably, is dependent on certain underlying rules. The only way therefore that the continuum of logical, the system, can generate positive statements is if the rules underlying it are not arbitrary but absolute.

 

This is the lynchpin of the whole unspoken argument. But here is the twist – the absolute rules underpinning the existence of the system of logic only appear absolute because the system itself takes them for granted, and is predicated upon them. The effect is after the event, not prior to it. Another way of putting this is to say that the system doesn’t permit any other viewpoint to exist (that is what a logical system is, after all – a set-up where only logically-related statements or elements are allowed) and in the absence of any disagreeing or discontinuous viewpoint there is no way of falsifying the set-up. It is true because it agrees with itself that it is true, and there are no dissenting voices here because no dissenting voices are permitted. In psychological terms therefore, the positive reality generated by the system of thought is a prime example of a collusion.

 

The discontinuity represents a viewpoint from which the rules that are taken for granted by the continuity (the continuum) do not seem ‘necessary’ at all – from the viewpoint of the discontinuity it is perfectly clear that the rules elected as ‘special’ are no more special than any other rules, which is to say, they are not special at all… The discontinuity – because it is discontinuous, because it is not part of the continuum – sabotages the whole thing. A collusion can’t work if everyone doesn’t take part and the discontinuity is simply not part of the collusion. The discontinuity is a situation in which there are no special conditions, no rules, no limitations, etc and this negative fact, this lack of any conditions whatsoever, is enough to undermine the whole edifice of positive reality immediately, without any further ado. It is as if we live in a country where the tradition is for every person without exception to spend two hours each and every morning carrying out some convoluted ritual to supposedly ensure that the sun doesn’t fall from the sky half way through its journey – the fear of such a dreadfully catastrophic occurrence is pretty much guaranteed to make sure nobody ever forgets to put in the necessary work to offset the disaster, but if you were to travel to a neighbouring country, just over the other side of the mountains for example, and you see to your amazement that no one bothers with this all-important ritual, and that the sun travels through the sky quite happily anyway, then this lack of what you previously took to be an absolutely essential action or behaviour will straightaway disprove or falsify the whole hypothesis – the whole thing will be shown up as being a joke. The exception does not prove the rule at all, it falsifies it, it shows that there is no rule. As soon we are able to see that the rules are not universally valid at all, that there are situations in which they aren’t needed in the least (that they are of no particular importance at all in fact) then they can never be seen in the same way again. The rules underpinning the system of logic are now revealed as being not Universally Valid, but only valid for that particular system of logic (which up to now was of course representing itself not as ‘a particular system of logic’ but ‘the entirety of all that is, and was, and ever could be’).

 

Even the fact that the rules or assumptions are ‘valid for that particular system of logic’ doesn’t mean a thing. Even this is completely unimpressive, like a drunk trying to impress you with a card trick you have seen a million times. After all, it doesn’t in the least bit matter what rules you pick, what starting-off position you chose, once you have picked your rules, once you have chosen your position, any further logical development you make on this basis will be dependent upon the validity of those rules, the legitimacy of that position. Suppose I am the sort of person who has to believe in something, who has to have some sort organized belief-system to hitch my wagon to. This being the case you can be one hundred per cent sure that I will believe in something, that I will be totally convinced that some or other system of propositions is correct. But I can’t use the fact that I do believe so resolutely in whatever it is as evidence the system in question is true – after all, I would believe just as strongly in any old nonsense since it never mattered to me in the first place what I believed, only that I should have some ‘positive structure’ to believe in. My argument that X is true because I believe it to be true (which is a thoroughly ubiquitous argument, when it comes down to it) is perfectly and utterly redundant.

 

UNDISCLOSED INTENTION

 

We can also look at this business in terms of qualified and unqualified propositions. If I am aware of the discontinuity then this awareness cannot help but remind me that any statement or proposition that I might make has to be qualified. Normally, when I am thoroughly unaware of any discontinuous element to my experience, or to the universe at large, I can very easily get away with omitting any qualifications any time I go ahead and make a positive statement. I don’t say “Given certain underlying supporting conditions, X is true” I just say “X is true”. The underlying conditions are invisible to me, because they are always there, always underlying all statements no matter what those statements might be, I can afford to forget about them. It is only when I see that they don’t always have to be there, no matter what, that I start to see what is going on. I start to see that all of the propositions that I have taken for granted my entire life are only true when certain specific conditions are in place, and that these conditions are in place only because I have chosen for them to be. I see the element of undisclosed intention that underlies the positive world, in other words. So I can no longer say, in the time-honoured positive fashion, “It is like this…”, all I can say is “It is like this if I choose to look at the world in the particular way that makes it possible to say it is like this…” This, needless to say, takes every last bit of positive force out of my otherwise impressive utterance and since the only reason I would make a positive statement is to be impressive, I might as well just not bother. It is no good coming out with a dogmatic assertion if you then go ahead and spoil the whole effect by qualifying what you have just said – that would transform you from being a traditional dogmatist (complete with long beard, distinctly humourless temperament, hectoring voice and fist pounding angrily on the pulpit) to being a reflective philosopher, which is a different kettle of fish entirely. If we are aware of the discontinuity then this reminds us that if we want to be honest about things then we have to preface all positive statements, all rules, with “It is as if…” – as soon as all rules are scrupulously and properly prefaced the Kingdom of Positive Statements (which we have also been calling ACTION PHASE, following Itzhak Bentov) is shrunk down to its proper size and we can see it – in its entirely – as nothing more than an exercise in facile conjecture.

 

The exercise is facile because it is redundant – we can say that anything is the case, given that those particular conditions are put in place that allow it to be the case, but what is proved by this? I can make any statement at all to be ‘true’, if I agree with myself in advance that it shall be true, if I arrange this from the very beginning. If I am in control in this way of what does and does not constitute a true statement then the word true loses its meaning – it is simply a ‘rubber-stamp’ that apparently signifies authenticity but in fact signifies nothing at all, other than my own facile agreement with myself. Me agreeing with myself is in no way different from the situation where I find a handful of cronies who will agree in advance to agree with me – it is a collusion and a collusion is worthless. It is like a judge who has been paid off to find a certain defendant guilty; the judge appears to be a judge, he wears all the right clothes, he sits in the right seat, but really he is no judge at all but a corrupted version thereof – he parodies the very principle of fair-mindedness that makes a judge worthy of the title in the first place. In other words, the image sneakily conceals behind it the very inverse of what it proudly proclaims itself to be.

 

Just as long as we feel that the exercise was not facile and that on the contrary it actually demonstrates something very important and impressive, then we perceive the statements that are made as a result as being substantial – we perceive them as genuinely ‘taking up space’, so to speak. The more statements are made, and the more they are developed and elaborated, the bigger the ‘Empire of the Positive’ grows until pretty soon it has taken up all the available space, just like a virulent software virus takes over all the space on the hard drive of an infected PC. But when we gain awareness of the negative reality of the discontinuity, which can never be infected, then we see that all of these statements come down to the same thing and that this ‘thing’ is the essence of perfect fatuousness, and thus the ‘Empire’ is abruptly shrunk down to its proper size, which is where it takes up no space whatsoever.

 

ALL POSITIVE STRUCTURES ARE FATUOUS

 

What we have arrived at here is a model of the system of thought – the ‘continuum of logic’ which is the much-vaunted rational mind – which is distinctly unflattering, to say the least. We have reduced a system that appeared to be synonymous (or very nearly synonymous) with reality itself, to a mere point in space, allowing us to see the unmapped, the undescribed, the unstated, in its proper and rightful place – which is not somewhere on the neglected and unimportant margins or outskirts of the known, but right at the very heart of everything. Even this is understating the matter: the truth is that there is nothing that is not the discontinuity! This sort of view of the rational mind is profoundly unsatisfactory to us – we like our psychological theories to say something about the mind, to provide us with an intricate maze of positive statements, not simply to drop the whole subject as simply being unworthy of consideration. We value the mind and all of the structures it has created. I don’t want to hear that rationality is an empty game, and that all of the prized positive structures that the rational mind has created are vapid self-referential loops of logic.

 

One of those prized positive structures is me, after all! But even if it sounds very much like it, we are not saying here that the rational mind (or the mind-created self-image) is a useless illusion, that it is ‘a worthless lot of nonsense that we would be better off forgetting about’. The rational mind is clearly adaptive – the rules it takes for granted correspond to rules found in the universe we live in and as a result of this flawless match between the rules of logic and the rules that underpin the physical universe we are able to interact with this universe in a rational way. We are able to predict what it will do, how it will respond to our action; we are able to understand the world around us and control it, to a certain extent at least. The value of the thinking mind is of undisputed utility, therefore. Inasmuch as there is a determinate reality (a ‘positive territory’) out there, a guide to this determinate reality (or positive territory) is needed.

 

There seems to be a serious snag in our argument here however. If we say that the rational mind is perfectly adapted to the collection of regularities that make up the physical universe then this necessarily means that the two constitute a single logical continuum. But if that is so then because we have already ‘deconstructed’ the system of logic, because we have already said that it is no more than an expanded tautology, then that in turn means that the physical universe itself must be no more than ‘an expanded tautology’…

 

THE COSMIC ROULETTE WHEEL

 

Although this might sound too outrageous to consider one only has to read the following account of the development of the modern theory of cosmogenesis by physicist Paul Davies [see The Mind of God. 1992. P 49-50] to be struck by a starting similarity in what he is saying about the space-time continuum and our own discussion of the abstract continuum of logic –

 

There was a lot of resistance to the idea of a big-bang singularity among physicists and cosmologists when it was first mooted. One reason for this concerns the above-mentioned fact that matter, space, and time are linked in the general theory of relativity. This linkage carries important implications for the nature of the expanding universe. Naively, one might suppose that the galaxies are rushing apart through space. A more accurate picture, however, is to envisage space itself as swelling or stretching. That is, the galaxies move apart because the space between them expands. (Readers who are unhappy about the idea that space can stretch are referred to my book The Edge of Infinity for further discussion). Conversely, in the past, space was shrunken. If we consider the moment of infinite compression, space was infinitely shrunk. But if space is infinitely shrunk, it must literally disappear, like a balloon that shrivels to nothing. And the all-important linkage of space, time, and matter further implies that time must disappear too. There can be no time without space. Thus the material singularity is also a space-time singularity. Because all our laws of physics are formulated in terms of space and time, these laws cannot apply beyond the point at which space and time cease to exist. Hence the laws of physics must break down at the singularity.

 

 

The picture that we then obtain for the origin of the universe is a remarkable one. At some finite instant in the past the universe of space, time, and matter is bounded by a space-time singularity. The coming-into-being of the universe is therefore represented not only by the abrupt appearance of matter, but of space and time as well.

 

 

The significance of this result cannot be overstressed. People often ask: Where did the big bang occur? The bang did not occur at a point in space at all. Space itself came into existence with the big bang. There is a similar difficulty over the question: What happened before the big bang? The answer is, there was no “before.” Time itself began at the big bang. As we have seen, Saint Augustine long ago proclaimed that the world was made with time and not in time, and that is precisely the modern scientific position.

 

We might infer, therefore, that the space-time continuum is blown-up (or inflated) by entropy in exactly the same way that the continuum of logic is, and that both the space-time continuum and the logical continuum are self-referential bubbles of virtual reality that have existence only in their own terms. The much talked-about Big Bang of Creation, stupendously impressive though it might seem to us, is no more than a massive injection of entropy – it isn’t a creation at all but the very opposite, a catastrophic collapse, a loss of information on an unimaginable scale. The act of Creation by the Lord in Genesis is the uttering of a positive statement (the Word or Logos) but what is amazing here is not the actuality of the positive statement itself, but the fact of the inversion of perspective that allows the positive structure thus produced to replace, and thereby scurrilously simulate, the ineffable Negative Reality – the Pleroma of the Gnostics – itself.

 

Davies also points out that it is open to debate whether the rules or constants that underlie our universe are in any way special, or if they just happened to be ‘shaken out of the cosmic hat’, so to speak, during the process in which the space-time continuum  – in its own terms – ‘came into existence’. Twenty years or so after The Mind of God was published the question of whether there are actually innumerable different types of universes, all existing within the Set of All Possible Universes (‘the Multiverse’), all based on different rules, is still a current and popular topic, and one that shows no signs of being put to bed in a hurry. The crux of the matter is whether one is happy or not happy with the idea that there is a prior uncollapsed state in which no particular set of rules has yet been shaken out of the cosmic top hat. This idea is implicit in all symmetry-breaking models of cosmogenesis, such as the Weinberg-Salam theory, explained here by Stephen Hawkins (1988, p 79):

 

……The Weinberg- Salaam theory exhibits a property known as spontaneous symmetry breaking. This means that what appear to be a number of completely different particles at low energies are in fact found to be all the same type of particle, only in different states.  At high energies all these particles behave similarly. The effect is rather like the behaviour of a roulette ball on a roulette wheel. At high energies (when the wheel is spun quickly) the ball behaves in essentially only one way, – it rolls round and round. But as the wheel slows, the energy of the ball decreases, and eventually the ball drops into one of the thirty-seven slots in the wheel. In other words, at low energies there are thirty-seven different states in which the ball can exist. If, for some reason, we could only observe the ball at low energies, we would then think that there were thirty-seven different types of ball!

 

A very basic way of looking at cosmogenesis in terms of symmetry breaking is to say – as we have been doing in this discussion – that the uncollapsed prior state is where there is no [UP] and no [DOWN], no [IN] and no [OUT], no [+] and no [-]. It has been found that in a very minute volume of space, small enough for quantum effects to come into play, a phenomenon known as a ‘vacuum fluctuation’ takes place. Two subatomic particles of a complementary nature (such as an electron and a positron) come into being – because the plus and the minus cancel out neatly the account books have been kept in good order and there is no reason for nature to object to this sudden, spontaneous creation of a pair of particles. Instants later the pair recombine and the dissymmetrical situation where there is a [+] and a [-] has been recovered, so to speak, and all is returned to the prior state of symmetry – for all the world as if nothing had ever happened. We could also see the spontaneous production of opposites in terms of the separation of UP and DOWN in three spatial dimensions, and BEFORE and AFTER in the dimension of time, and say that the vacuum fluctuation involves not merely the production of two complementary short-lived particles, but the production of a short-lived mini space-time continuum. Particles or events clearly cannot exist without having a framework to exist within and so this is not really a contentious suggestion, particularly when it is remembered that vacuum fluctuations take place where one approaches the Planck distance of 10-36 M, which is, in a rough manner of speaking, close to the interface between our familiar space-time universe and unfathomable symmetry of the Discontinuity. Here, in this strange inter-zone, one might very well expect to find an innumerable profusion of pocket universes boiling up out of the Pleroma, and then disappearing almost immediately back into it, as if they had never been.

 

There is no reason to imagine that our ‘giant-sized’ universe is any different in kind to these mini universes – it is simply bigger and longer lasting, and even these two criteria are only relative! After all, our notions of size and duration are only relevant within the terms of the particular space-time bubble we ourselves exist in and are trying to say something meaningful about – outside of this framework our notions, naturally enough, mean nothing at all. Size and duration are of course only meaningful locally and once locality has been thoroughly dispensed with we find that we are talking about nothing at all – all such terms are now revealed as being profoundly inapplicable, and therefore profoundly nonsensical. Positive realities are inherently (and inescapably) fatuous, as we have already said.

 

THE PRODUCTION OF SPACE-TIME AS A ‘VIRTUAL EVENT’

 

We can’t help seeing the production of space-time (or the production of particular events / structures within it) as a positive phenomenon. The continuum of time and space seems as real as real can be to us – more than this, it is to us the ground of everything, the basis upon which everything that is real can take place. The discontinuity on the other hand, as we have said, does not seem real – or rather, we simply have no way of conceptualizing it since it is the continuum of thought that we use for conceptualizing everything, and the discontinuity is of course (negatively) defined in terms of it not being part of the continuity. The continuum of logic can map itself onto the continuum of space and time with perfect congruence but it cannot go beyond the framework. It cannot move out of the box because it is the box. It is because we take space-time (or logic-space) as the basis for everything that is real that the idea we have just looked at, the idea that a vanishingly small portion of empty ‘vacuum’ can fluctuate to produce a space-time continuum, which is ‘there’ for a period of time (all according to its own reckoning, that is!) and then ‘not there’ again, is so profoundly strange and unsettling for us to try to get to grips with. Because of course what we are saying here is not just that the continuum of space and time pops into existence for a while and then pops out again, but that the very conditions which we use reckon ‘existence’ and ‘duration’ pop into existence.

 

As Davies points out, the big bang cannot be said to occur in space and time because both space and time came into existence with the big bang. A naïve but perfectly natural question at this point would be – “So if the event – this Biggest of All Possible Events – didn’t occur in space and time then where did it occur?” The flaw in this question becomes obvious just as soon as we ask it, by asking ‘where,’ (or any other sort of questions, for that matter) we are still taking for granted the very conditions that we are talking about as not being there for us to take for granted. The point is that the event only took place within its own terms of reference, and that it is therefore only real within its own terms of reference. Outside of this framework, outside of this system of references, the event simply did not take place. and even to say ‘it didn’t take place’ is only a comment posted by the system of thought, which means that the comment itself ‘didn’t take place,’ and then of course we have to say that the comment about the comment (the meta-comment) also didn’t take place, since it to is a construct of the system of thought, and so on and so forth.

 

THE SUTRA OF COMPLETE ENLIGHTENMENT

 

What we are coming up against here is the ‘Mahayana Super-Negation,’ which is a negation so complete that in its operation it also negates the act of negation – which means that there isn’t any operation. We do not need to negate a tautology because a tautology already perfectly negates itself. If we take it upon ourselves to disprove a tautology then we are ourselves caught up in a redundant argument that we cannot see – we are asserting what we mean to deny, and yet there never was any need to deny anything in the first place. It is just that we thought there was. Because the event which is the grand appearance on the scene of the space-time continuum only takes place within the closed terms of that space-time continuum itself the whole shebang is quite clearly tautological. The thing is a self-created bubble, a loop of logic, and it is only when we are within the remit of that bubble, and can’t therefore see the redundancy that is inherent in all loops of logic, that we think something has been created. Within the bubble of space-time it seems completely meaningful to say that events occur in a particular place, and that they persist for a particular period of time. In other words space-time appears to exist as a genuine reality – it’s not ‘a way of looking at things’ but simply ‘the way things are’.

 

From outside of the bubble however, which is to say from the point of view of the discontinuity, the bubble never happened. This is something like a ‘self-erasing event’ – an event that occurs, and then runs backwards again in time so as to neatly erase itself, erasing even the process of the erasing, leaving not the slightest trace behind. This what happens when Manjushri , the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, cuts away all ignorance with his sword. At the time, when you were caught up in the process -in the thick of it, so to speak – it very much appeared that something had happened, that there had been an event, but when illusion has been cut through with Manjushri’s sword we can see very clearly that nothing really happened, that it was just a trick. The unreality of space and time was not produced, it was not created – it did not ‘come into being’ because the whole point about unreality is that unreality doesn’t come into being… Thinking that it does is the ‘sickness of the eyes’ that the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment speaks of here –

 

Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva then arose from his seat in the great assembly. He bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet and circumambulated him three times to the right.

 

He then knelt down with his hands clasped and addressed the Buddha, saying: “Greatly Compassionate World Honored One. Please, for all members of this assembly who have come for your dharma, teach us about the reality-[dharma] practice of the Tathāgata’s originally arisen pure causal stage. Also, please teach the bodhisattvas to arise pure mind in the great vehicle and become distantly removed from all dis-eases, such that they can cause the future sentient beings of the degenerate age who seek the great vehicle not to fall into mistaken views.” Having said this, he prostrated to the ground. He asked this question three times in succession.

 

Then the World Honored One, speaking to Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva said: “Excellent! Excellent! Good Son, you have skillfully asked on behalf of the bodhisattvas about the reality-practice of the causal stage of the Tathāgata, and have caused all the bodhisattvas to arouse the pure mind in the great vehicle. You have also caused all sentient beings of the degenerate age who seek the great vehicle to gain correct abiding such that they do not fall into erroneous views. Now listen well, and I shall explain for you.” Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva received the teaching with reverence and joy; all those in the great assembly became silent and listened.

 

“Good sons, the unsurpassed King of the dharma possesses the great dhāraṇī-entrance. It is called ‘Perfect Enlightenment.’ From it is manifested all purity, suchness, bodhi, nirvana and the paramitas which teach bodhisattvas. All tathāgatas in their originally-arisen causal stage rely on the perfect illumination of the attributes of pure enlightenment to permanently sever ignorance and directly accomplish the Buddha-Way.”

 

What is ignorance? Good sons, all sentient beings fall into various inverted views without beginning. Just like a disoriented person who confuses the four directions, they mistakenly take the Four Elements as the attributes of their bodies and the conditioned shadows of the Six Objects as the attributes of their mind. It is just like when our eyes are diseased and we see flowers in the sky, or a second moon. Good sons, the sky actually has no flowers—they are the false attachment of the diseased person. And because of this false attachment, not only are we confused about the self-nature of the sky; we are also mixed up about the place where real flowers come from. From this there is the falsely existent transmigration through life and death. Therefore it is called “ignorance.”

 

“Good sons, this ‘ignorance’ actually lacks substance. It is like a man who is dreaming. At the time of the dream, there is no non-existence. But when he awakens he finds that there is nothing for him to hold on to. Similarly, when the sky-flowers disappear from the sky, you cannot say that there is a definite point of their disappearance. Why? Because there is no point from which they arose. All sentient beings falsely perceive arising and ceasing within the unarisen. Therefore they say that there is ‘transmigration through life-and-death.’ “

 

“Good sons, in the practice of Perfect Enlightenment of the causal stage of the Tathāgata one understands these ‘sky-flowers,’ thus there is no transmigration, nor body/mind to undergo life-and-death. But they are not caused to be non-existent. It is because they lack original nature. Now, this [prior] awareness is in itself void, like empty space. Yet since this awareness that perceives it to be like empty space is none other than the appearance of sky-flowers, you also cannot say that there is no nature of awareness. Existence and non- existence both being dispelled is called ‘according with pure enlightenment.’ “

 

“Why? Because its nature is completely empty; because it is eternally changeless; because there is neither arising nor ceasing within the matrix of the Tathāgata, and because there are no fixed points of view. Like the nature of the reality-realm it is totally complete and perfect, pervading the ten directions. Therefore it is called the ‘reality-practice of the causal stage.’ Bodhisattvas, relying upon it arouse their pure mind within the Mahayana. Sentient beings of the degenerate age who practice relying on this will not fall into erroneous views.”

 

THE TREATISE OF GOLDEN LION

 

We have to be careful in our thinking here. We are not saying that actually ‘nothing’ was produced, that actually ‘nothing’ happened, or that ‘nothing’ is itself ‘unreal’. This goes back to the point we made earlier in our discussion of information theory – the accurate perception of zero-information is itself genuine honest-to-goodness information and so, when it comes down to it, everything is information. There is no such thing as ‘zero information’; in Roisin Murphy’s words, “You can’t run away from the truth because the truth is all there is…” There is however the possibility of ‘producing’ a virtual bubble of tautological meaning which doesn’t appear tautological to itself. If the tautology were to be seen to be tautological, then there would be no bubble – because we perceive it accurately, the misperception would merge seamlessly back into the ocean of truth.

 

Because the lie is admitted as a lie, it is then as true as any other true statement. So what we are saying here is that if ‘nothing’ was produced, then there would be nothing there to obscure that ocean of truth which is the unformed, the uncreated, the unbecome, but if nothing is produced and we actually see it as something, then the Pleroma is obscured, and hidden from our view by the illusion that we have fixated exclusively upon. There is a story that the Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-Tsang, in the year 699, was called upon to explain this idea to the Empress and he did so in his Treatise of the Golden Lion, the first two parts of which go as follow:

 

[1] Clarification of Dependent Origination – Gold has no self-nature. Through the agency of a skilled craftsman there is at length the coming-into-being of this phenomenon of the lion. But since this coming-into-being is dependent, therefore it is called ‘dependent origination’.

 

 

[2] Distinction of Matter and Emptiness – The character [phenomenon] of the lion is empty [of substantial reality]; there is nothing but gold. The lion is not existent, but the substance of gold is not nonexistent. Therefore they are called separately Emptiness. Also, Emptiness, having no self-character and manifesting itself through matter, does not prevent illusory existence. Therefore they are separately called matter and Emptiness.

 

Although there is nothing but gold, the golden lion appears to have an existence of its own because we focus on the form of the lion that the craftsman has created, and ignore the fact that actually there is nothing else there apart from the gold that makes up the form. Whilst it is the form that dominates our attention, because it is a ‘positive impression’ there is nothing very mysterious about it – there is nothing mysterious about it precisely because everything is stated, and because what is not stated is not worth bothering ourselves about. As we have said already, this is how boundaries get to be boundaries, by excluding everything that lies beyond them. If we were as interested in what is not stated as we are in what is stated, then the form would be lost – the lion would no longer exist as a discrete object. If we paid attention to what is not stated then the form would lose definition and without definition there is no form. But because the lion is entirely made up of positive statements this means that it is capable of being fully described with a finite number of descriptive terms. The matter of description is trivial, there is nothing to it. The lion can therefore be quite legitimately reduced to just a few lines of code – all we need to do is mark the surface of the lion with points separated by 1 millimetre (for example) and then map these points onto a three dimensional grid. We then read off the position of each point in relation to the X, Y and Z axis, tabulate the numbers obtained, and then – lo and behold – the lion has been translated into pure abstract data. This data can be stored in a computer and used to reproduce the original lion with perfect fidelity as many times as is required.

 

Now it might be argued that this proves that the form of the lion has a certain ‘information content’, which to our normal way of thinking about things, it does. It would take up space on the computer’s hard-drive, which is used for storing information. It can also be argued however that these few lines of code do not have any genuine information content at all since as long as we read them once (assuming that we are paying attention at the time and have a good memory) we will never ever be surprised when we read them again, and information – as we defined it earlier – is a measure of the unpredictability of a particular message. Of course it could be said that the message is unpredictable the first time we read it, but this isn’t really good enough – it is not enough to constitute complexity and if an object is not complex, which is to say, if it is fully representable in a fixed number of terms, within a particular framework of reference, then the matter is trivial. After all, even if I can’t guess in advance what coordinates are going to be read off when the form is being mapped, I do know that they are all going to be found within the closed remit of the X, Y and Z axes. From the viewpoint taken for granted by this framework there is genuine uncertainty involved, and the coordinates obtained via the measurement process are indeed ‘a surprise’, but – as we have been arguing in the preceding pages – because all linear axes represent a tautological development of a single point, from the perspective of someone who is not looking at the world from the view point of the continuum of logic, this so-called ‘information, is actually entirely redundant. If I can’t see the tautology then different positions on an axis really do seem to be ‘different’, and a table of positions really will seem to constitute information, but once I do see the tautology then it is clear that there is no difference at all between any of the possible positions, and as a result the very notion of position (or location) becomes meaningless.  The corollary of this is that if an object is capable of being fully represented within a three-dimensional system of reference, if there is no aspect of it which is not accounted for by the X, Y and Z axes, then that object is an abstraction – it is part of the ‘hyperreal that aggressively substitutes itself for the real.’ The hyperreal is the banal ‘wise-guy over-simplification’ deriving from the framework which – like a motor-mouth DJ on a popular radio show – insidiously covers over the subtly marvellous nature of reality with its non-stop outpouring of crass black & white ‘framework-orientated’ data. The hyperreal is all digital and the supreme crassness of the digital simulation goes completely unnoticed by us after a while because we very quickly adapt to it and forget that there ever was such a thing as a ‘non-digital reality’.

 

BALLOON WORLD

 

What we have actually done when we manage to exhaustively describe or define something is to successfully ‘pinch-off’ a portion of reality, like a clown who is making funny animals out of balloons at a children’s party. We create a closed system, a sealed-off ‘sub-unit’ which, in the absence of the connection which it previously had to the bigger picture, somehow supplies itself with its own being. There is no one else there to tell me how I am doing, so I tell myself. The only problem here being that I am bound to agree with myself no matter whatever I say and so my self-bestowed validation isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. We can look also look at this in terms of a drastic ‘reduction of perspective’ – the more different ways I have of looking at something the more perspective I have and so if I only have the one way (which is by default ‘my way’) then I don’t have any perspective. The downside about having no perspective is that I can’t see the truth about anything, whatever I happen to be looking at or thinking about is blown up out of all proportion and so there is simply no accuracy in my perceptions; ‘the up-side’ – insofar as we can call it that – is that I can easily get to believe in any nonsense at all and can quite happily ‘agree with myself’ without any fear of contradiction. A puny – which is to say virtual or non-existent – attainment can seem like a tremendous triumph when there is no perspective on the matter and so there is huge scope for short-termism here, huge scope for obtaining sneaky secondary advantages in the otherwise dismal scenario presented by the situation of ‘zero perspective’. I get feel secure in a universe that does not support cosy, small-minded security. I get to be ‘right’ in a universe where actually there are no black and white options, where actually there is no easy option of ‘following the printed instructions on the side of the packet’. I get to be a big fish in a miniscule pond. In fact, the ego or self-image that I unreflectively identify with and unquestioningly accept as an absolute datum, only gets to be believable (i.e. subjectively real) as a result of the drastic lack of perspective which it itself produces. Because the ego is absolutely important to itself  – that being the way egos work – the pay-off of having no perspective is so extremely important as to be ‘right off the scale’, and so ought to come as no surprise that consciousness or awareness is not really something that we have an awful lot of interest in, on the whole.

 

THE ‘PAY-OFF’

 

This is of course seriously understating the matter! It’s not that we are more or less uninterested in having any awareness of the fact that we are operating (on a full-time basis) on the psychologically-insightless level of Zero Perspectivethis awareness would be absolute anathema to us!  Is not just that it suits us very well indeed to be dumb in this particular way, but rather that it is a conditioned necessity for us. We are completely dependent upon that lack of awareness, that lack of perspective!

 

Another way of putting this would be to say that there is a ‘pay-off’ or ‘secondary gain’ for being dumb in the particular way that we are talking about here. There is as it happens an absolutely MASSIVE pay-off –

The ‘pay-off’ (or ‘secondary gain’) in question is that we get to believe that we actually are this concrete ego, that we actually are this ‘me’, that we actually are this totally defined, isolated or circumscribed self-concept…

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