Following a chat with a friend today I thought I would resurrect an old post of mine ~ Shoonyata
“The spiritual path is a pathless path. It is not ready made. We have to find it. Nobody else is going to help us. Buddha walked his way! Mohammed walked his way! Jesus Christ walked his way! Ramakrishna walked his way! But those paths are not going to help us because we are not them. We are unique. By walking on our own feet and by leading our own life, we can follow it. You are alone, you came alone, you will go alone. No one comes with you when you are born. No one goes with you when you die.”
”In the Beginning was the Word”. (John 1:1)
First time I heard this as a small child I did not pay any attention to the ‘Word’ part. It made no sense to me, beyond some large White-Haired man in the skies saying Amen. But what caught my attention was the ponderous ……..”In the Beginning.”
”Holy Moly!” I thought (or words to that effect), ”In the Beginning!!!???”
This Beginning suggested to me a time of No Thing. A time before ”was”. And that concept was fairly incomprehensible to me…..
Though raised strict Catholic I never really ”got” it – the religion. I wondered why they did not know that we came back again and again, why they did not see that we had big bright bubbles of light around us, (How we did not knock each other over in the street because of that, I could never figure out), why this God was so demanding that we should NEVER turn our face from Him (I spent many years as a child sleeping face up, scared to roll over, in case it would appear blasphemous to an ever-watchful and always capricious God).
But of all I heard in those years of indoctrination, it was those words ”In the Beginning” that troubled me most.
The Big Bang has made Idealists out of almost anybody who thinks. First there was absolutely nothing, then Bang! Something. This is beyond weird. Out of sheerest Emptiness, manifestation arises.
(Ken Wilbur – Buddhist)
Next time I came across a new idea of a ‘Beginning’ was when I encountered a Void meditation. It was late Spring in the mountains in Wales and my teacher was leading a Shoonya meditation based on the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra.
Dehantare tvagvibhagam bhitti bhutam vicintayet
Na kincid antare tasya dhyanann adheyabhag bhavet
The yogi contemplates the skin of their body as an outer wall and imagines “there is nothing substantial inside.” Meditating like this, they reach a profound state of transcendence.
Over the course of the practice we emptied out the space inside, of all the contents of the body, of all the emotions, of all the wandering thoughts, building steadily this inner empty Void, a space held apart from the Great Void without only by the thinnest sheath of our skin. Just as I thought I was about to merge completely into this idea of Void, the child within me suddenly began to somersault. He kicked violently against the walls of my womb as if to say ”Hey!! No void here, Ma!!!”. The ”space” filled up with Matter instantly. I was here. The birds were singing. The sun was shining. I was about to give birth. The Void was not my path for now.
My grandfather Guru used to be fond of saying ”If you want to become enlightened, you must think always on one of two thing – either God or Death”. Over the years, I have swung between both. When the thought of Death grows too much too bear, I swing towards God, and when the thought of God seems unreal I swing towards death.
This makes me think of Zero and One, a sort of spiritual binary. Of Sun and Moon. Of All and Void.
This teacher has also said…
”All (spiritual aspirants and) students of meditation, who have been and who shall be treading the path must remember that you have two possible destinies: one is the path of light, and other is the path of void. The path of void is shoonyata, complete and total annihilation of consciousness. The path of light is where there is someone, something, some experience, maybe a person, maybe a light, maybe music. These are the two paths; you must be certain for yourself about one of the two. ”
Swamiji said that the path of Shoonya is difficult. There is an absence of personal God or any image at all. The mind struggles with this – it has to be strong to hold attention on this absence. So, he suggest, the easier path is that of the Immanent God.
”If we pour water into a sieve, it will all flow straight back out again. The same thing happens when we try to meditate; all of our concentration and energy pours out through the holes, which are the distractions, whether internal or external. Our limited consciousness is like a sieve, full of holes. So, just as water cannot be contained without a solid base, in the same way the bliss of self-realization cannot remain apart from devotion to God. Why? Because when we bring God inside and focus our mind totally on his form, all the holes are plugged up.
The personal form of God is easy for the mind to focus on and becomes a constant and powerful support in meditation. “So thinking,” Kaka Bhusundi says, “the wise devotees of Hari reject mukti or liberation through the path of jnana and always remain enamoured of bhakti.” They reject the path of abstract meditation on the pure consciousness, shoonya or emptiness, and remain focused instead on the lovely form of God.”
However, in spite of this advice, the Shoonya remains. It is undeniable. Even to look up at the stars and wonder what is beyond them or what came before them, we must contemplate Shoonya.
”When you are proceeding along the path of spiritual evolution, you come to different points. When you transcend the gross consciousness, there is one full stop. This is the first shoonya. Then you transcend the mental awareness and there is another full stop, another gap. That is the second experience of shoonya. Finally, when you transcend this unconscious mind, the anandamayakosha, then there is another gap of shoonya. Therefore, in yoga, the experience of shoonya can be had at three different points.
Shoonya is a momentary suspension of our relationship with time, space and objects. The difference between the three points is that in the first two, the relationship is completely suspended, but the samskara is still there. Just as our mind enters into a state of suspension at night, but there is the samskara, so when we wake up in the morning we remember that we are the same person whom we were yesterday. Therefore, in the three different stages of shoonya, there are three different substances of individuality. In the first experience of shoonya, the samskaras are still very powerful. In the second experience, the samskaras become weaker, and in the third, the samskaras are almost at the point of elimination. There is complete suspension. This is what is known as shoonya.”
The Number 108
Just a very brief sidestep, related I feel….Satyananda’s interpretation of the sacred number 108..
”What is 108? One represents Purusha (Consciousness) and eight Prakriti (Matter), but to separate Prakriti from Purusha, you bring in the situation of vacuum, shoonya, non-existence, no mind. That is yoga. The number 108 represents the process of yoga, separation of Purusha from Prakriti by creating a state of vacuum, which is called dhyana or samadhi. The cipher means zero, and zero means there is nothing. When the mind becomes quiet, there are no ripples. The state of shoonya arises when the mind is totally devoid of every experience: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. So, shoonya separates Purusha from Prakriti, samadhi separates Purusha from Prakriti, and that is the significance of one – zero – eight.”
This concept of VOID is present in most if not all traditions, though definitions (if such is possible of Void) do vary, or rather perhaps it is the emphasis that varies.
Yoga describes Shoonya thus –
” a state where there is no worldly awareness”
”It is the experience of shoonya, nothingness, void, gaining control over the unconscious actions and reactions of the senses and mind, and stopping the interaction. Shoonya is only a transition from one state of meditation to another, from awareness to concentration, and concentration begins with dharana.”
Sage Vasishta (chief character in Yoga Vasishta by Valmiki – 11 CE) said
”He who, while living an apparently normal life, experiences the whole world as an emptiness, is a Jivanmukta. None is afraid of him; he is afraid of none ”
Mahayana Buddhists see the Shoonya as a ”fullness”, but a fullness that is empty of ”self”. They also interpret Shoonya as ”openness”. (Having said that, the interpretation of Shoonya in Buddhism is perhaps the most debated concept of all Buddhist terms – very difficult, in my experience, to pin down. ) The perceived world is insubstantial; not that it is not real, but it is ever-changing, ephemeral, and therefore Void. ”Things” are supported by the mind, they are dependent on the mind, they are constantly in flow and changing so cannot ever be seen as real, and this is Shoonya.
Nagarjuna was a famous Buddhist philosopher who explored the concept of Shoonya –
” Nagarjuna argued…. that what we make of reality inevitably depends on the cognitive structure of our mind, rather than on anything we can identify as fundamental, innate, or essential attributes of reality itself. There… (are).. no firm foundation(s) we can reach beneath the world of appearances. Indeed, we are stuck with our cognitive inheritance, which gives us our world of appearances. Our coming to this realization.. has profound implications for us. As our illusions fall away, we begin to regard ourselves as contingent beings, inextricable from a reality that we shape and which in turn shapes us, rather than as beings able to detach ourselves to contemplate reality as it truly is (the so-called ‘view from nowhere’).
The void is central to Taoism –
”Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind become still.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.”
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
”Wuji is the uncreated, the primordial, limitless void, the possibility for the created and Taiji is the created, Yang and Yin, heaven and earth.”
Mystic Mikail Aivanhov speaks of the zero point concept:
“..the symbol of the knowledge of the Initiates: a circle with a point in the center. … Understand me once and for all: I am speaking from experience, for me it is not mere theory, all my life has been based on this symbol of the circle with its central point. This center which is in us, we must find .”
(Love and Sexuality)
Blavatsky also speaks of Zero Point. It is from the Zero Point that Gods ”clothe themselves”.
In the Kabbala there is also this Void. I am not yet very familiar with the language of Kabbala, but I do feel all the language describes a Universal truth.
Ayin, meaning “nothingness”, is an important concept in Kabbalah. It is contrasted with the term Yesh(“something/existence/being/is”). According to kabbalistic teachings, before the Universe was created there was only Ayin,…From the perspective of the emanated created realms, Creation takes place”Yesh me-Ayin”(“Something from Nothing”). From the Divine perspective, Creation takes place”Ayin me-Yesh”(“Nothing from Something”), as only God has absolute existence; Creation is dependent on the continuous flow of Divine lifeforce, without which it would revert to nothingness.
‘the void of Unmanifest Existence was… the size of a dimensionless dot in the midst of the Absolute”
“The heart must make of itself a hollow space wherein Godliness can be revealed in stages. The verse thus states (Psalms 109:22), “My heart is hollow within me.” Thus the heart (binah) corresponds to the hollow of Creation, the Vacated Space. Within the Vacated Space is placed Godliness, but gradually, in stages. This is the meaning of (Exodus 31:6), “In the hearts of the wise, I have placed wisdom.” For Godly Chokhmah is concealed within Binah, which corresponds to the heart. Thus, even in the Vacated Space, Godliness exists in concealed form. Binah, then, is conceptually the Vacated Space wherein the formation of all the Universe takes place.”
(Anatomy Of The Soul, by Chaim Kramer)
This concept of a hollow empty space is also there in Mystic Christianity
“… the mustard seed,” the “one pearl,” the “single eye,” and the “star” in the heart are all metaphors that can be used to represent the Center Point of the soul. Each one reveals a different attribute of this wondrous point.” (John Francis)
I note here that wherever one searches for Void, there arises material on the ”Point” – the Zero Point, the Circumpunct (God, Gold, Sun), the Bindu, for example – almost as if the Void – the Shoonyata – is embarrassed to exist on its own without any potential within it. It seems it must at least pretend to contain this possibility of the arising of the singularity from which all else arises. Why is this? Why is the Void not left alone? I suppose possibly because it could never be experienced without the Point as ”reference”? It would be utterly beyond duality and not needing to be explained or even experienced. There could be no Seer.
Anyway, I don’t know… 🙂
I merely question this influx of ”points” when the void is sought.
VOID is considered (by Hindus) to be one of 5 elements used to create the Universe – Shoonya, Air, Water, Fire and earth. They are said to represent different ”forces” within us all and are associated with different deities. Void- Indra, Air- Shakti, Fire – Brahma, Water – Vishnu, Earth – Shiva……
The Void is also associated symbolically with Dark Moon, and with the Goddess Dhumavati. She is the Grandmother Goddess, Shakti in the absence of Shiva, she who can stand alone.
”She is protector to the warrior; the Shower of the path towards eternity.
She is fierce and old; haunts those places which no one else ventures towards.
Places of dissolution where what is left is smoke (the intermittent between creation and destruction).
Dhumavati has no followers, only adepts.
She has no temples, only places of consciousness alterations.
She has no form, only ethereal smoke”.
She is represented as a haggard old woman whose chariot is a crow. She is usually feared but an elderly female Yogini friend of mine lauds Dhumavati and her beauty and her mercy and her purity. Maybe it is to do with the time of her life (my friends), though she does practise exclusively the meditations to the Ten Goddesses (The Mahavidyas) and it is from Dhumavati – representing the Void – that all else arises and into which all will dissolve. So, I believe her experience.
”Perceived as the void, as the dissolved form of consciousness, when all beings are dissolved in sleep in the supreme Brahman, having swallowed the entire universe, the seer-poets call her the most glorious and the eldest, Dhumavati. She exists in the forms of sleep, lack of memory, illusion, and dullness in the creatures immersed in the illusion of the world, but among the yogis she becomes the power that destroys all thoughts, indeed Samadhi (death and liberation) itself. ”
(Ganapathi Muni – wiki)
Guru Nanak also spoke of the VOID when questioned.
”Q: Where did the mind reside when there was neither the body nor the heart ?
A: When the heart and the body did not exist, O hermit, Then the mind resided in Shunya the Absolute Reality.
Before the creation of universe, Absolute Reality existed in its Shunya phase. … When the creation starts, both space and time are also created…. the process of creation is explained in a scientific way and the primordial state or existence ….is identical with shunya phase:
Billions of years ago,
there was nothing but utter darkness,
There was neither earth nor sky,
and the Will of God prevailed,
There was neither day nor night, nor moon nor sun;
God sat in primal, profound Samaadhi.
When Absolute Reality is in its primal state or profound Samaadhi, it is shunya phase of existence. In mathematical terms , shunya is equated with the zero, or nothingness. In physics, shunya is equivalent to vacuum or prefect absence of matter.”
For Guru Nanak Dev, Shunya, in fact, represents the abode of God before creation..
”( This)has no parallelism (he says) with Shunyata philosophy of Buddhism. The concept of Shabad, Naam, Mind and Reality are relevant and related to the concept of Shunya.
There, the unstuck sound current of the absolute Lord vibrates and resounds in Shunya.”
So here, in this philosphy of Guru Nanak, I see what I consider to be a pure Void, where there is No – Thing, no point from which a singularity might arise.
Enso – Zen symbol of Absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the Universe, and the void; additionally it also represents the Japanese aesthetic itself. As an “expression of the moment” it is often considered a form of minimalist expressionist art.
And how, very briefly!, are scientists getting along with understanding this possible Void, if it ever existed, if matter is not in fact eternally existing, in some state or other. Well, there is much debate.
According to just one opinion, that of Alexander Vilenkin,
”Quantum theory has a solution because it permits something to pop out of nothing – with that something being a small universe that starts to inflate, cycle or hang for an extremely long time before inflating. For the first time in history, we have the tools to address the origin question scientifically. So I have a feeling we are getting near to the truth.”
From this interview in the New York times, Lawrence Krauss – who wrote ‘A Universe from Nothing’ argues
” God is not part of the equation”.
The point of the book, Dr. Krauss, a self-described nonbeliever, writes at the outset, is not to try to make people lose their faith, but to illuminate how modern science has changed the meaning of nothingness from a vague philosophical concept to something we can almost put under a lab microscope.
Dr. Krauss delineates three different kinds of nothingness.
First… empty space. But we now know that even empty space is filled with energy…..Second is nothing, without even space and time…..(And then)..There is a deeper nothing in which even the laws of physics are absent. Where do the laws come from? Are they born with the universe, or is the universe born in accordance with them? Here Dr. Krauss, unhappily in my view, resorts to the newest and most controversial toy in the cosmologist’s toolbox: the multiverse, a nearly infinite assemblage of universes, each with its own randomly determined rules, particles and forces, that represent solutions to the basic equations of string theory — the alleged theory of everything, or perhaps, as wags say, anything.
Within this landscape of possibilities, almost anything goes.
If nothing is our past, it could also be our future. As the universe, driven by dark energy — that is to say, the negative pressure of nothing — expands faster and faster, the galaxies will become invisible, and all the energy and information will be sucked out of the cosmos. The universe will revert to nothingness.
Nothing to nothing.
One day it’s all going to seem like a dream.
But who is or was the dreamer?”
Astronomers have found an enormous void in space that measures nearly a billion light-years across.
It is empty of both normal matter – such as galaxies and stars – and the mysterious “dark matter” that cannot be seen directly with telescopes.
The “hole” is located in the direction of the Eridanus constellation and has been identified in data from a survey of the sky made at radio wavelengths.
“It’s hard even for astronomers to picture how big these things are,” conceded Minnesota’s Professor Lawrence Rudnick.
“If you were to travel at the speed of light, it would take you several years to get to the nearest stars in our own Milky Way galaxy; but if you were to go to this hole and enter one side, you’d have to travel for a billion years before you would get to the other side,” he told BBC News. This void is roughly 6-10 billion light-years away and takes a sizeable chunk out of the visible Universe in its direction. The explanation for this may lie in the enigmatic “dark energy” that scientists know so little about but which is said to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe. The reason the void exists is not known. “That’s going to be a challenge for people that work on the development of structure in the Universe. It’s a very hot topic in the cosmology right now,” said Professor Rudnick.
Anyways, there’s some preliminary thoughts on the Void, barely scratching the surface.
“The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end. The extent to which this generation of circles, wheel without wheel, will go, depends on the force or truth of the individual soul.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson / Photo: Meridel Rubenstein, Gala cloud (2010-11) / aSoulMan