Saturday, May 24, 2014

Absolute Nothingness

For my latest book project, I decided to write about a topic that is very close to my personal experience--Nothingness.  The book is entitled God is Nothingness: Awakening to Absolute Non-being

Nothingness is the most commonly misunderstood thing in life, so much so that if you dare introduce the word into a "spiritual" conversation, you run the risk of being branded a heretic or worse, a nihilist. The word sends shivers down people's spines; it assaults everything people hold dear, in particular, 'being.'

If there is one thing that most religions have in common, they reject nothingness.  

The reason that people fear and loathe the idea of Nothingness--for that is what they fear, the idea that they have about Nothingness--is because they believe that it is the opposite of 'being.' 

It's not; Nothingness is not the antithesis of 'being', but its very basis. 

'Being' is so intuitive that it is hard to identify. Quite simply, it refers to everything that exists. Cars, trees, our bodies--all of these represent presence, existence, or at the risk of defining a term by itself, they possess or embody 'beingness.'

Every experience, event, situation, moment in time--in fact, anything conceivable--exists in the realm of 'being.'

'Being', however, cannot account for the ultimate or final reality. There is a deeper, more fundamental reality upon, and from which, 'being' arises and abides.

This is Nothingness or Non-being--to use apophatic term, it is totally incomprehensible, the markless, signless, timeless, conditionless, unborn, unchanging, undying Absolute.

Nothingness is the complete absence of anything and everything that exists, and therefore it transcends all of the limitations of 'being.' For instance, 'being' is bounded and circumscribed by form and space, and even though it may be one nondual whole, 'being' does not contain or include Non-being; yet Nothingness is boundless, limitless, filled with the creative potential to be anything. Nothingness includes 'being', not the other way around.

Nothingness makes 'being' possible. For this reason, I call it God. Admittedly, "God" is a loaded term, so let me clarify what it means here. When I say "God," I am not using it to refer to what 99.99% of people think of when they hear the word. The "God" I am speaking of is not the anthropomorphic Creator of Abrahamic religions, but the dark, silent, creative womb of all existence found in Taoism. 
God is not a Supreme Being, but the very opposite--Absolute Non-being.
In case you are wondering, this understanding is not without historical precedent. Some of the most eminent contemplatives call God "Nothing" or "Nothingness." This includes, but is not limited to, Meister Eckhart, Moses Maimonides, John Scotus Erigena, Jacob Boehme, Lao Tzu, and Nisargadatta Maharaj.

Based upon my personal meditation experience, "Nothingness" is the best word to describe the Absolute, the fundamental principle underlying all events, forms, situations--in other words, beneath 'being' itself.

Is Nothingness the same as the Buddhist sunyata? As a Zen teacher, I wrestled with this question the whole time I was writing the book. The best answer I can offer is, I suppose it all depends upon how one understands sunyata. 

If one views emptiness as the lack of selfhood or inherent existence, then I would say "no." That emptiness is confined to the world of 'being'. Nothingness, on the other hand, transcends but includes 'being' and its attendant emptiness. This includes nonduality, interconnectedness, and interpenetration. Admittedly, in many respects, Nothingness resembles Sankara's markless Brahman more than it does sunyata. 

If, on the other hand, one understand sunyata to be the Absolute Nothingness at the heart of all existence, the creative Void of Non-being that allows 'being' to exist, then "yes."

Nothingness is simultaneously transcendent and immanent--it is the fundamental basis of 'being', yet, paradoxically, is embodied through that very same 'being.'

'Being' is manifest Nothingness; Nothingness is the unmanifest, hence we call it Non-being.

To borrow from the Heart Sutra, Form is Nothingness; Nothingness is form.

Either way, words cannot capture it. What is important is to experience Nothingness for oneself. In the book, I provide several pointers, but all attempts to communicate it occur inside of the realm of 'being', which are inherently futile. In order to know Nothingness, one must pierce through the veil of 'being', so to speak, to the underlying Nothingness beyond. Go past words and ideas to the experience of Non-being.

In order to know Nothingness, one must become Nothingness--a redundant statement since one's true nature always is Nothingness.

God is Nothingness is currently available as a Kindle ebook and in hard copy. Print books will be available on Amazon by 5/30/14.

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