Francis Answers - 28

Francis Lucille

Thank you so much for all that you offer and say to me. In your video clip on “The Peace that passeth understanding,” you talk of that deep peace/stillness as something that is beyond the mind. And I understand this as being “beyond form.” But if all is one, then isn’t this just a metaphor and perhaps in part misleading, because does not the peace you refer to also undergird, embrace, encompass (these, too, of course, being metaphors) form/mind. If all is one (emptiness is form, form emptiness) then that peace is not separate from our everyday experiences and the story of our life. Is this accurate, or would you say it differently or with another emphasis?

Dear Stephen,

You are right when you say " that peace is not separate from our everyday experiences and the story of our life" and that " the peace you refer to does also undergird, embrace, encompass (these, too, of course, being metaphors) form/mind“. The mind appears in it and is made of it. For that reason it is correct to say that it is beyond the mind, for all minds appear in it and everything, including the universe, is made of it. It is beyond the mind just as the mirror is beyond the reflected images that appear in it. The reality of the images is the mirror, but the reality of the mirror is not an image. The mirror exists independently from any of the reflected images. In other words, this Presence is both immanent in the perceptions and transcendent in their absence. The belief that it is only immanent is ignorance, the experience that it transcends the mind is enlightenment, and the actual continuous experience of both its transcendence and its immanence is self-realization.

The denial of the transcendence of Atman was a major heresy of Buddhism. Also known as nihilism or as the Anatman doctrine, it was a subject of controversy between buddhists and advaitins in Shankara’s days. However this denial is not found in the original teachings of the Buddha or in those of the Chan and Zen masters. Atman is what they refer to as “our Buddha nature”, “our true nature”, “our original face”. This heresy is still fairly common in contemporary Buddhism. It originates from a misunderstanding of the saying “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form”. To understand this saying correctly, let us take the metaphor of a white page with a red apple painted on it. The red apple is the form, the remaining white portion of the page is the emptiness. But we can look at it differently, the white portion of the page being the form, the red portion being the emptiness (= absence of white). It follows that “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form”. The transcendence, the Atman, The Brahman, “our Buddha nature”, “our true nature”, “our original face”, is the piece of paper, the support of the red and of its absence. The saying “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form” is used as a warning about a state of mind reached by practitioners during meditation in which an absence of thoughts, an emptiness is experienced. The disciple is simply reminded that this absence of form is still a form, and that enlightenment has not been experienced at that stage, because the transcendence, our Buddha nature has not been revealed yet.

Paradoxically, a form of ignorance similar to nihilism is often found in contemporary Advaita teachings. These paths in both cases lead to a “second class” type of enlightenment which is no enlightenment at all. The teacher has ended his/her quest too early, based on a purely intellectual understanding that “form is emptiness and emptiness is form”. Since he had no revelation of Transcendence, his teachings lack the poetry, the love, the supreme intelligence and the sense of awe that we find in Rumi, Buddha, Jesus, Ramana Maharshi, Jean Klein, Krishna Menon and other truly enlightened beings. Because he is not awakened to his own Presence, his presence doesn’t awake the Presence in the student. The final truth there seems to be “there is nothing to do, your current condition is already that of a realized being”. It is only normal for an ignorant who believes to be realized to tell his students that they are already realized, for he knows no better. This instant form of enlightenment is trendy in our culture of instant gratification. However it doesn’t correspond to the sudden enlightenment the Chan masters spoke of. To them “sudden” didn’t mean “right away”.The only problem with this “enlightenment on sale” is that it falls short from bringing about the peace and the happiness we seek. In some cases it may create in the student a form of resignation, the belief that there is nothing to find. Most disciples will remain stuck with their pseudo enlightenment; others, disenchanted with the whole “truth business”, will revert for a while to their previous life style; the most eager ones will continue the search and find a true teacher whose silence, words, demeanor and actions will take them to the apperception of their true nature and who will guide them on the path until they are established in unshakable peace.

This leads me to a final remark. That which matters is not what is said about the Truth, but where that which is said comes from. If it comes from ignorance, no matter how advaitically correct it seems to be, it will never have the incendiary power of a single line of a Rumi poem. And that which is said is marginal compared to the silent transmission that takes place in the guru’s presence, the highest form of teaching according to Buddha (remember the episode of the flower and of the Buddha’s smile), Ramana Maharshi, Atmananda, Jean Klein, etc… And yet this silent teaching is carefully ignored by many contemporary teachers, both buddhists and advaitins, because they cannot speak of an experience which is not theirs, even so they claim to teach the same non dual realization as these illustrious teachers. Ultimately, the truth has to be heard “from the lips of the guru” according to Atmananda’s formula, for it’s apperception to occur. Mere conversations over the internet won’t get the job done. They can at best convey a “sample” of the causeless joy of our true nature, which will resonate in the heart of those who have “eyes to see and ears to hear” the Truth that cannot be uttered.