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Nonbeing

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Nonbeing

All Forms are a Coemergence of Two Things: Appearance and Nonbeing

From the perspective of the absolute, all manifest forms possess this insubstantiality and lightness, and all in the same degree. It is not as if rocks are insubstantial but more substantial than water. When it comes to the absolute perception they are all equal in their insubstantiality; this insubstantiality is simply our perception of their ontological ground, which is the same absolute everywhere. They are all totally insubstantial, for their ultimate status is nonbeing. More accurately, all forms are a coemergence of two things: appearance and nonbeing. Their appearance is their being, but their ground is nonbeing. Their appearance-presence is always accompanied with their nonbeing. They cannot be without nonbeing, for the nonbeing of the
absolute is the ground of their being. Such understanding is totally paradoxical for our thematizing ordinary mind; but it is actually how things are, and howwe will perceive them when we are free from all cognitive filters.

Darkness that is Not Only the Absence of Light and Consciousness but Also the Absence of Presence and Being

Such dissolving is usually gradual, feeling like a delicious melting, a wonderful and lovely embrace. However, this experience is quite informative, for it reveals further mysteries of the absolute. As the consciousness of the soul thins away, she recognizes the effect of the surrounding blackness and nothingness on her presence. She feels herself as a thin and dispersed mass, so delicate and so fine, as if she is composed of the most minute atoms. Each atom is conscious of itself and of the surrounding emptiness. Each experiences itself as presence, and the surrounding emptiness as the absence of presence. In other words, the surrounding darkness is not only the absence of light and consciousness, but also the absence of presence and being. It is total nonexistence, absolute nonbeing. As this nonbeing comes into contact with the presence of consciousness it annihilates it, turning it into itself. The consciousness of the soul thins out much more, where the experience becomes of a few particles of conscious presence within an infinite expanse of nothingness. There is simply nothing around, not even the sensation of space. Just the distinct sense of oneself as a conscious presence, right at the precipice of annihilation. All around there is absolutely nothing, only annihilating absence. As the conscious presence apprehends this annihilating absence it comes into contact with it, and it instantly dissolves and disappears; only annihilation is left.

Nonbeing Does Not Have Extension; it is Not a Medium

When it comes to nonbeingness, space is no longer a medium. This is a mysterious understanding that the mind cannot readily grasp. But when we experience it, this very precise understanding brings about total transparency and intimacy, and also allows the experience of the unity of Being to reveal its luminosity and radiance. As we know from our experience of the various boundless dimensions, we can experience the unity of Being before we experience the dimension of nonbeing. The understanding of nonbeing shows that that Being can only exist as the other side of nonbeing. There are further consequences to the understanding of emptiness as nonbeing, which takes the enlightened awareness to new mysteries. For instance, in the perception of the unity of reality, in which everything is at once Being and nonbeing, there can remain the perception of “here” and “there.” There are here and there, and the distance between here and there. When we penetrate the concept of space, there is a feeling of no here and no there. We recognize that emptiness is not a medium. Nonbeing does not have extension; it is not a medium. We sense that here and there are one single spot, that here is there and there is here. Space does not disappear in terms of perception; as long as there is a distance between here and there that can be measured, there is a concept of space and a perception of space. Even if space as extension is perceived, in the realization of nonbeing it disappears as a felt
sense. Manifestation always manifests in space; true nature is beyond space, and our realization can reflect that.

Space is the Reflection of Nonbeing in Manifestation

When we precisely understand the nature of the absolute, the paradoxical coemergence of emptiness and presence, we understand how emptiness appears in manifestation. Emptiness is simply the insubstantiality, the nonbeing, of manifest forms. This nonbeing is what makes the absolute so light, so empty, so spacious and open. We begin to see that this absence appears at more superficial ontological dimensions as the experience of inner space, with its various degrees of subtlety. Since it is nothing at all, it appears as the total openness for anything to arise and as the allowing necessary for anything to be. Such openness and allowingness are the properties of empty space, which we experience inwardly as inner spaciousness and openness, and outwardly as the space where all manifestation occurs. In other words, space is the reflection of nonbeing in manifestation. Because we do not understand the paradoxical nature of true nature, as a coemergence of being and nonbeing, we conceptualize nonbeing as space and being as manifesting forms. Just as our ignorance of the timeless flow and unfoldment of the logos leads to our conceptualizing time to account for the changes brought about by this unfoldment, our ignorance of the spaceless nonbeingness of true nature leads to our conceptualizing space to account for the accommodating openness made possible by the emptiness of the absolute.

The Fact that it is Nonbeing Makes the Absolute Totally Transparent

The inherent clarity of the absolute is prior to light. There is complete absence of obscurations. The fact that it is nonbeing makes it totally transparent, without this transparency appearing as clear light. But since, on the other hand, the absolute is not a vacant emptiness, but what truly is, this transparency becomes awareness. The awareness of its facticity is then inherent in the reality of its facticity. This inherent clarity of the absolute is its own intrinsic knowingness. Its facticity is inherently knowing. I experience this knowing as an implicit clear light, not differentiated as clear light, but which can plumb the depths of the absolute. It is a clear consciousness completely inseparable from the absolute.

There is No such Thing as Nonbeing on its Own, Without Being

And since in actuality there is always manifestation, there are always presence and emptiness. We can say that emptiness does not exist on its own; for it is always the emptiness of manifest forms, always associated with manifestation. There is no such thing as emptiness on its own, nonbeing on its own, without being. In other words, presence and emptiness together are in actuality the ultimate ground. And experiences of dissolution of presence in emptiness until there is total annihilation can only be an individual experience, for the world continues during one’s annihilation. Therefore, we call the synthesis of presence and emptiness the quintessence, the deepest core and nature of everything. This does not contradict the truth that emptiness is the ultimate essence because it is the inner aspect of the quintessence. It only points to the fact that the underlying ground and nature of manifestation is always presence coemergent with emptiness.

Things Appear but are Characterized by Nonbeing

In the true experience of emptiness, the subjective feeling and belief in the substantiality and solidity of things is exposed for what it is, a subjective feeling based on a belief. Emptiness reveals to us that things do not possess such substantiality or solidity. Their mode of being is not what we have called existence. More accurately, their ultimate nature is not existence, but nonexistence. They appear, but are characterized by nonbeing. Experientially, phenomena appear and we perceive them along with their usual qualities, but we do not feel that they exist. They are felt to be empty of the solidity and reality that we believed they possessed. In other words, the true nature of things is that they manifest, or appear, but that is all. In appearing they do not give us the feeling and belief that they are real or that they exist in the way we have assumed. We are accustomed to believing that things exist in the way we normally experience matter, solid and opaque. In reality, things are insubstantial, transparent, and light, similar to thoughts or mental images. But they are also luminous, so they are more like light. However, even light as we ordinarily know it does not express the absolute lightness and emptiness of things. Things are actually diaphanous forms, holograms floating in nothing, glimmerings of this nothing.

When Space and Presence are so Indistinguishable that Experience Becomes Paradoxical

It is possible to see that space is present all the time, and that it underlies and inheres in any object that we perceive. So space becomes the inherent emptiness, the inherent openness in experience. That is why in some of the traditions, as that of Dzogchen, Being is described as having emptiness as its essence. Experientially, as we penetrate the representations through which we perceive, we discover that Being is presence whose essence is spaciousness. Our perception and understanding of spaciousness can go through degrees of refinement, which are experienced as the levels of space, until we recognize it with complete objectivity, which is possible when there are no obscurations in our experience of reality. At this subtlety of perception space and presence are so indistinguishable that experience becomes paradoxical. It is both being and nonbeing, both presence and absence, but not exactly, because even being and nonbeing are categories not free from representations. This is the dimension of the mystery of our Being.

The Void, pg. 156

When the Soul Moves to the Nonconceptual Even Being is Gone

At the stage of recognizing true nature, the soul realizes that it is the ultimate meaning of existence and of life. She understands that when she is not in touch with her true nature her mind thinks of it as absence of meaning, which she then tries to find, pursuing a particular style of life, philosophy, activity, or interest. As she realizes her essence she finds that the need for conceptual meaning disappears. She finds that meaning is being, the fact of her existence. But at the stage when the soul moves to the nonconceptual, even being is gone, for being and nonbeing are both conceptual. She may first see this as meaninglessness, as the sense that life has no meaning.

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