Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Why is there anything at all?
Leo Hartong

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The following is an extract from Leo's book 'From Self to Self: Notes and Quotes in response to Awakening to the Dream'.

Question: First, let me say that I have no idea what is going on with reality, the world, or the minds in the world – including mine. I have been a ‘seeker’ for longer than I care to remember; I have gotten nowhere. I have a vague intellectual understanding of some of the concepts of Advaita, and I do mean vague! I ‘know’ (?) (vaguely, intellectually) that objects are concepts only, including myself. (Why can’t I really know that?)

A couple of questions that have always bothered me are ‘Why is there anything at all?’ and, noting that there is something, ‘Why isn’t there everything?’ How is it that the illusory things that we all seem to see, are the same for everyone? Why is there not an infinity of objects, including objects that no one actually sees in our consensus reality, e.g., green rabbits, soft rocks, a third sex, a different kind of water, more than 92 natural elements, etc.? How did we arrive at the world that we ‘create’ – and its agreedupon objects – by perceiving it? If the Self that we all ‘are’ is what sees, thereby creating what’we’ see, why does It see what It does in fact see? It seems so limited, when I want It to be infinite.

It seems that the Self/world has somehow pulled itself up by Its bootstraps! If I am somehow a/the creator of my little world, who created me? And why? Is my anguish at not knowing just the way it is (tough!) because ‘everyone’ perceives it that way?

No doubt this seems like gibberish to you; it does to me, too. I hope you can shed some light on my ignorance. Although I sense that this is not so as nothing happens. Awareness as Marianne plays at having a problem with this nothing happens.... what does Awareness as Leo say? Nothing?

Answer: As a long-time seeker you most likely have heard this before; ‘The seeker is the sought.’ You are looking from a finite seeker’s perspective for an infinite experience. What if it turns out to be the exact opposite? What if the character is the Infinite having a finite experience? What if your true identity is the Infinite Identity expressing AS the ‘finite I’ having experiences?

When we look for what all experiences have in common, we will find that they all are finite; every single one has a beginning and an ending. Without such limits there would be no experience at all. It is the limitation of a cup or teapot that makes the experience of drinking tea possible. Or try to picture limitless organisms living forever. You will find it impossible to imagine. The limits of a body are necessary for there to be an organism, as well as birth and dying, which are the necessary borders wherein the experience of a living body appears. In other words, limitation is an essential ingredient in the game of existence.

Let’s say that there were soft rocks, green rabbits and telepathic goldfish. Would they somehow be more amazing than what is right now? If such phenomena were part of our daily experience, we could again dismiss them as commonplace, limited expressions and ask for yet more variations on the theme of creation.

This reminds me of Alan Watts quoting G. K. Chesterton in his ‘Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.’

‘It is one thing to be amazed at a gorgon or a griffin, creatures which do not exist; but it is quite another and much higher thing to be amazed at a rhinoceros or a giraffe, creatures which do exist and look as if they don’t.’

The knowing you long for is itself the Knowing Mystery that cannot be known. It is what you ARE and that’s why ‘you’ can’t really know that. It is THAT which does the experiencing; more accurately (but still inadequately) it IS the inexperience-able experiencing.

Since this manifest universe is the expression of the One, it is not surprising that ‘we’ all more or less see the same reality. I say more or less, because from each perspective the view is mysteriously both unique and universal. When you think you are created and that you are the body/mind, then this limitation on True Identity is an illusion. Seen from the other side, the body/mind and the appearance of personhood is but a playful expression of the Uncreated One.

And yes, this One Presence seems to have pulled itself up by its own bootstraps from the abyss of absolute nothingness. It is the First Uncaused Cause. When the obvious wonder of this is recognized, the not knowing is no longer painful but an exquisite amazement. Count yourself lucky to recognize your ‘not knowing’ and see the mystery of this.

Now, does it really matter whether IT appears as soft or hard rocks, as green or white rabbits or a consensus reality? It does not, for the forms it takes are irrelevant compared to the Presence of this Self-Existing Uncreated Mystery of Being.

The flower invites the butterfly with no-mind;
The butterfly visits the flower with no-mind.
The flower opens, the butterfly comes;
The butterfly comes, the flower opens.
I don’t know others,
Others don’t know me.
By not-knowing we follow nature’s course.

Zen Poetry by Zen Master Ryokan from ‘Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf ’, translated by John Stevens

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012