Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ººforking¬ ¬pathsºº

Lucio Fontana, Spatial Concept, (1960).

In emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind-consciousness element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and non-attainment.-- Paramita Hridaya Sutra

Alfredo Triff

 In Buddhist philosophy there are no wholes: only parts. Similarly, there is no progression to an actuality. The Buddhist moment does not progress toward realization.

Tom Friedman, Big Bang, (Glitter and mixed media on paper, 2008).

It harks back to Nagarjuna's doctrine of Sunyata, a crucial concept in Buddhist philosophy. Imagine a universe of correlations, whereby everything is connected. Whatever is at any moment of space-time, consists of conditions or relationships, and these, too, are dependently co-originated:  

"The 'originating dependently' we call 'emptiness.' " "Emptiness is dependent co-origination."

Sunyata does not mean absolute lack, but rather a positive meaning of being, the ultimate source of all reality. Lama Govinda interprets the principle:
"śūnyatā is not a negative property, but a state of freedom from impediments and limitations, a state of spontaneous receptivity, in which we open ourselves to the all-inclusive reality of a higher dimension. Far from being the expression of a nihilistic philosophy which denies all reality, it is the logical consequence of the anātman doctrine of non-substantiality. Śūnyatā is the emptiness of all conceptual designations and at the same time the recognition of a higher, incommensurable and indefinable reality, which can be experienced only in the state of perfect enlightenment."*
What does it mean to say that reality is ultimately and intimately relational? Sunyata is the reverse of Pratitya Samutpada, the Buddhist law of dependent co-origination. There is no self-subsisting, isolated phenomena. Reality is relation(ship), always in flux, always becoming.

Ghada Amer, Anne, (Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 2004).

Reality is always digested, interpreted, quantified, apprehended. The common sense, everyday perception of things is one amongst many other constructions or versions of the world. What happens is that we "normally" understand the world as made up of distinct, self-subsisting substances, and hence we are able to put things in rational order according to various rules or laws. So, while Sunyata -negatively- means that nothing has a sufficient basis of its being in itself, Pratitya Samutpada means -positively- that one event is dependent on others.

One concept is implied in the statement of the other. Substance, for example would be dependent only on itself, thus excluding both Sunyata as well as Pratitya Samutpada. Therefore, Buddhism doesn't recognize recognizes substance.

The distinction comes from a passage in the catuṣkoṭi of the Mādhyamikas:
a- It is not the case that x is ϕ.
b- It is not the case that x is not-ϕ.
c- It is not the case that x is both ϕ and not-ϕ.
d- It is not the case that x is neither ϕ nor not-ϕ

It seems very complicated, but one can see it as twotruths: Are you warp-yarn or weft- yarn?

 Kaisa Puhakka charts the stylized reification process as such:

"We are typically not aware of ourselves as taking something (P) as real. Rather, its reality 'takes us,' or already has us in its spell as soon as we become aware of its identity (P). Furthermore, it's impossible to take something (P) to be real without, at least momentarily, ignoring or denying that which it is not (not-P). Thus the act of taking something as 'real' necessarily involves some degree of unconsciousness or lack of awareness. This is true even in the simple act of perception when we see a figure that we become aware of as 'something.' In Gestalt psychology, for each figure perceived, there is a background of which we remain relatively unaware. Now, extend this dynamic to text-analysis or speech acts. In hermeneutics, for every text we understand there is a context we miss. With every figure noticed or reality affirmed, there is, inevitably, unawareness. Is this how a spell works?"**

French philosopher Alain Badiou presents his ontology surprisingly close to Buddhism. For Badiou, 1- Being has no latent structure of its own. 2- Being's multiplicity is irreducible to any totality. 3- Ontology is a theory of the void, which is why "the infinite" is a void. It cannot be reduced to a unity. To think of Being means to posit oneself as as "warp" or "waft" (or both?).

Between uncontrolled chaos and absolute disorder:  

Julie Mehretu, Dispersion (Ink and acrylic on canvas, 2002).

What drives this "thirst" for being? Let's see it this way: An entity is reproduced through a replication of its states. Each moment comprising a state of the entity. A complete entity can only be the result of an imaginative reconstruction over a series of states. Sculptor Schramm presents it as in-between of place and no/place: 

Felix Schramm, Misfit (2005-06) @ SFMoMA

The sequence of the replications is linked together in the mind through the rapid succession of similar moments. This gives the continuity of experience and the appearance of persistence. In Martin Oppel's Untitled, the gravity-defying totem-like sculpture becomes a cipher for legion (one in the many).  

Martin Oppel, Untitled (Strata Fiction C, 2008).

Satkari Mookerjee writes that the arrow in its flight "is not one but many arrows successively appearing in the horizon, which give rise to the illusion of a persistent entity owing to continuity of similar entities." 

At this point, Jorge Luis Borges can lend us a hand:
"The Garden of Forking Paths is an enormous riddle, or parable, whose theme is time; this recondite cause prohibits its mention. To omit a word always, to resort to inept metaphors and obvious periphrases, is perhaps the most emphatic way of stressing it. That is the tortuous method preferred, in each of the meanderings of his indefatigable novel, by the oblique Ts'ui Pên. I have compared hundreds of manuscripts, I have corrected the errors that the negligence of the copyists has introduced, I have guessed the plan of this chaos, I have re-established -I believe I have re-established- the primordial organization, I have translated the entire work: it is clear to me that not once does he employ the word 'time.' The explanation is obvious: The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts'ui Pên conceived it. In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us. In the present one, which a favorable fate has granted me, you have arrived at my house; in another, while crossing the garden, you found me dead; in still another, I utter these same words, but I am a mistake, a ghost."
*Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multi-Dimensional Consciousness, pp. 10-11.** Kaisa Puhakka, Puhakka, Kaisa (2003). "Awakening from the Spell of Reality: Lessons from Nāgārjuna' within," in Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings (State University of New York Press, 2003), p. 134, 145.


Anonymous said...

Last time I checked, life is a riddle; where up is down and down is up. where, everything we know about and we assume is true or correct has more to it, the meaning is never said in simple "this is" but it's "figure this out, I dare you. I bet you can't come up with the answer". Reality, or life, is never simple or never hard but if it was either at once, then who would ever understand it? If I told you "Life is nothing but blues and greys." What would you have thought I meant by it? That the sky can turn either blue or grey, or that I could have been refering to emotions! Nothing is ever obvious, and when it is, there is defeat because there is always a hidden meaning or many meanings to it. I guess I'm trying to get it, get the point of the "riddle" situation. To understand either the riddle is a joke on us as individuals because the only person that could truly understand the riddle is the creature of the riddle. Or that the riddle isn't to pose as a trick but to show how some of us aren't critical thinkers but logical ones. It's just interesting, reality. Even if there's a definition, we don't know what the hell it is! "Is it the real?" I may be going off topic or running around in circles but I think that the point is to think deeper even if it doesn't even make sense to you, especially to you. That's where the greatest theories come from, all the confusion and the assumption you can't seem to place, all the guesses that you make that you're certain other people would call you out on and say is stupid and "gibberish" because it's not how "normal" people think. I'm under the assumption that "we" are the riddle and life hasn't figured that out yet.

Dulangg Absolu

Gerald said...

I can’t help but to think of determinism. If every moment leads up to the next, then the self is nothing more than the accumulation of past experience. This would eliminate any notion of free will. While I do think some aspects of this seam sound, the lack of free will rings hollow to me. At the same time however, there is a freeing truth contained in a moment to moment reality. If all choices previously made creates the present mind set, than one need never to have any regrets. No matter what the past is, it is essential for the person’s personality. That is not to say that one should not have moral objections to questionable choices, or that the past shouldn’t be examined. It should just be seen for what it is, an unchangeable mental building block. I think this is also part of the path to self realization/inner peace/acceptance, for in this context, regret would indicate that the person feeling it would in some way not be happy with the person they currently are. Then again, the self may just be Maya, in that case forget what I wrote.

Alex said...

I believe that everything is connected in some way or form. As are things that are consciously, subconscious, and unconsciously available to us in our reality. Just because it's not visible to us doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. It is very true that we create our own reality, but we normalise these thoughts as a society so we can function as a whole. How do we know if my perception of the grass being green is the exact same perception as yours? What if my perception of green is actually blue to you? Sometimes we need to put ourselves in the "shoes" of others--or see the situation through their eyes-- to really grasp their view of reality and everyone else's.

niggi stardust said...

I am one being,I am not a whole, i am part of a family, a race, a world, and my my world is not whole either it is one thing made up of billions of other things and it is one of nine planets and one very small being in a gigantic universe. Everything in life in connected some how,everything that is happening now is a result of all the things that ever happened before it. Reality is merely an illusion to describe what is happening at any given moment, there will always be a new now, it is always changing based upon what happened moments before it. And our "reality" can never surely be "real" one's realness is not anothers and nothing is really real..not for sure.

zabdi Zee said...

Since the moment everyone of us is created we belong to the universe. We might not be seen then or even know because compared to everything else we are so small. Just how are thoughts come about so does our fragile existence. We are in a world within another world. From atoms to a tiny life growing I side of you to giant stars and endless galaxies we ate all apart of it.

Lava Arms said...

Absence is not negative, same as zero is neither positive nor negative. From zero ( sunyata) come all numbers, be they positive infinity or negative infinity, and it is in within this magical space (the void) that relations thwarp and turn, twist and mend, dance and interact, collide and combine, disperse and diverge, bounce and stick. Absence is the beginning of understanding; with no fixed notion, and a quiet mind, one can finally begin to hear the absolute truth (paramattha sacca) unstained by predilections or by pretense ideology.

I stand by a personal theory of mine; all that is, is madness; what frays of sanity we may catch and weave together shall be our veils of reality. The truly insane will never admit that they are wrong, nor will they ever admit that they are insane. They will live as if they have the very golden key of existence imbedded in their hearts, unaware of the absolute truth, that no man is an island. You are no more the king of the land as much as the peasant is the slave of the oligarchy. These are false absolute truths bred by the insane in order to cast spells amongst the fodder, to maintain control. A king is not a king alone; were he to not have land, or a people to rule, he is nothing. Slaves are not slaves alone; had they no king, nor a land that has been conquered, they are free.

Anonymous said...

It's funny... This whole idea of interconnectedness relates to the idea of Brahman and that we are all connected and apart of something. I like the idea of life not being a series of set moments but more of a stream... flowing and interconnecting. One big moment that is never-ending but constantly beginning.
I also enjoy the idea of "nothingness" not having a negative connotation. It can just be a higher state. Even higher than heaven or the afterlife. It can be a state of just... pure enlightenment and peace. Just a world of "nothing" suddenly doesn't seem so scary anymore.

Adrienne Jackson

Tim said...

upon reading the comments that have come before mine, i am reminded of one of my favorite quotes."there are no events in the universe which are not tied to every other event in the universe". i can't remember who said it but i know it was one of those theoretical physicists that are on the discovery channel. that quote really makes me think that even though there is an infinite amount of expanding space in the universe, and although it may seem as if events may be separated by great lengths of nothingness, there are still atoms, electrons, particles and so on that are all connected. this fact is one that i believe is very closely related to the religions/philosophies that we have studied this semester, whereas many western schools of thought make a clear distinction between science and religion. there are many strong parallels between physics and eastern philosophy besides the one i have just tried to demonstrate, for instance, a concept which is a big part of both science and religion is that the only thing which is constant is change, the natural trend of order to disorder. this all makes sense in my head, but it comes across very cryptically when i see it written down. anyways, i did my best.

Lava Arms said...

A great movie on the lack of free will, the age of the psycho-paths, and the interconnectivity of our current model of human social networks.

Anonymous said...

I felt that Confuciuss response when asked about the spirit world is one of the best ideas and responses I have ever heard. We spend so much of our time, some people their entire lives worshipping and trying to find answers to what happens after our lives here on Earth. But if we just spend all our time just thinking about what will be and maybe this will happen or maybe this. What would you have accomplished in this life? What have you contributed to the men who will continue to live on after you. Will we leave them with answers so they can progress or will we leave them with more impossible questions to answer. Im in no way saying that we shouldn't have beliefs or have a religion but what i am saying is that it shouldn't be the center of our lives and rather a part of a whole.