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TOPIC: Offensive Content - Waddaya Think?

Offensive Content - Waddaya Think? 10 Mar 2019 11:12 #110783

From Kenneth Folk's Twitter feed:

(Offensive content warning; y'all Buddhists gonna hate this)
To protect ourselves from the unbearable cognitive dissonance of considering our own non-existence, we typically turn to a nonsense concept like "form is emptiness, emptiness is form." (thread)

"Form is emptiness, emptiness is form" is simultaneously non-threatening and superficially clever. Generations of Buddhists have found comfort here. If you find your mind turning toward this idea whenever the topic of non-existence is raised, be suspicious.

Nothing wrong with the mind protecting itself from cognitive dissonance, but understand that this is what's happening. To insist that "form is emptiness and emptiness is form" is to negate emptiness entirely in favor of a mushy place where nothing ever dies.

And you might want to be curious about whether there is another way to approach the question of non-existence.

As it happens, there is another way! You can learn to access a meta-lens that contextualizes ideas of existence and non-existence without squirming away from either, or blurring them into a pink-grey mush by convincing yourself they are the same.

Here's an exercise designed to help you tease out the new meta-lens if you dare: Imagine a blank piece of paper with two columns. Label one column "experience" and the other "non-experience."

What are some things you could list in the experience column? It would be a long list, since everything that happens while you are awake is experience, including everything you feel, taste, see, smell, and hear. And all your emotions, thoughts, mental impressions, and ideas.

The non-experience list would be shorter. I suppose you could include unconsciousness and death, but since we're really just thinking about this while we're awake, maybe those should be in the experience column instead. Maybe the non-experience column should be left blank.

Now notice that this exercise is itself happening within experience. We're just forming ideas about non-experience, rather than knowing non-experience in real-time. It couldn't be any other way, since non-experience by definition can't be known in real-time.

Maybe it's impossible to form an accurate concept of non-experience because you can't look at it and describe it at the same time; all you can do is try to imagine it after the fact.

If you feel fear or discomfort while pondering this, it may be because it's fucking terrifying.

Stay with the fear for a second. You've been wiggling away your whole life. What does it feel like in your bones, in your guts, as you consider the impossibility of ever understanding non-experience, and it dawns on you that everything you think you know about it is bullshit?

Over time, this discomfort transforms itself into a new meta-lens that doesn't rush to turn away from the unknowable. It occurs to you that oblivion, from the point of view of oblivion, isn't scary at all because by definition you won't be there to be afraid of it.

You won't have to defend experience against the evil merchants of non-experience, or craft sophisticated arguments about why you prefer experience. You won't need to take refuge in self-contradictory deepities allegedly uttered by sages of yore. You may even see the humor in it.

Finally, you might open to the realization that non-experience is the only real peace. And that this is what is meant by "the bliss of nibbana."

Thanks for listening.
Last Edit: 10 Mar 2019 11:12 by Chris Marti.
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