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
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?
"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.