world as thought-construct

Chiang Mai: 06.00hrs. Sitting on the cushion before the day actually begins and there’s that colourless light of dawn filling the room, a greyish-green glow. After what seems to be quite a long time, the day gets it’s total act together and the sun rises; things take shape in my vision and colour enters the visual world. The show has started. Sky is blue, sun is yellow, plants and trees are green. That’s how it is here at, 18°47’N, 098°59’E. I notice it because of having only recently returned to this place from the Northern Hemisphere where there are these same colourless dawns; but they’re followed by colourless days – often and unforeseen; the changeability of everything. For the local people there’s no experience of continuity.

I do find it curious here that every day is pretty much the same, some small seasonal differences but not much. For the people in this location it’s always been like this, of course. It’s how it was when they were born; it’s how it was when all known persons in their lineage were born and future generations will go on like this. There’s never any experience of anything being different from this. And for me too; all my sunny days in Asia in the last 30 years could be said to be simply one very long day – the period of night time is a blink of the eye; one huge flow of days, like moments moving along in their sameness, never ending.

In this context it’s easier to get a handle on the teachings of Ādi Śaṅkarācārya, in South India, in the 8th Century (the days were exactly the same then as they are today) and the Advaita truth of timelessness where the endless day, that I am experiencing now, stretches all the way back into the past and out into the future, in one continuous ‘now’ time happening everywhere. There’s no end to it and no beginning. Time and space phenomena are delusions, add-ons. There are, therefore, no causal relationships; cause-leading-to-effect is a temporal process – thought-constructed, and not what I take it to be because the entire objective world is a thought-construct, created by desire-motivated ways of thinking and acting. ‘…Time is generated by the mind’s restlessness, its stretching out to the future, its projects, and its negation of ‘the present state.'[6]’

Knowing this, from the Advaitist perspective, is the whole Truth. Nothing needs to be attained or done; one simply wakes up to the truth of Ātman/Brahman, and anything other than this is māyā, delusion. Where does māyā fit in? No explanation; it cannot be inside or outside Brahman; one doesn’t know where that could be (māyā truly is a delusion). Buddhist practice or any spiritual practice is not a solution to the problem, just another version of the problem itself. Any practice leading to an enlightenment experience maintains the dualism that it strives to escape; projecting a thought-constructed goal like this into the future loses the ‘now’, the place of liberation.

‘… there is absolutely nothing to attain, which is not to deny that that is something to be realized clearly. The difference between attainment and such realization is that only now can I realize I am that which I seek. Since it is always now, the possibility is always there, but that possibility becomes realized only when causal, time-bound, goal-directed ways of thinking and acting evaporate, to expose what I have always been: a formless, qualityless mind which is immutable because it is “nothing,” which is free because it is not going anywhere, and which does not need to go anywhere because it does not lack anything.’ [David Loy]

The colourless dawns, followed by colourless days in the N. Hemisphere did not bring me to this experience of continuity. I stumbled upon it in Asia and found traces of it in this location: ‘Everything – subject, object and the perceiving thereof – is inseparable from this experience-ing-aware-ing-ness … and who can escape this immanence?’ The Buddhist experience tells me there has to be a middle way in here somewhere. I’m looking for some route that allows Sankara’s truth of Ātman/Brahman to be combined with the Buddha’s no-self truth in nibbana. The Buddhists will say I’ll not find anything, the Advaitists will say there’s only One thing to be found: “all of the above”. But there has to be a middle way in here somewhere. The investigating process itself is the Path: ‘the nature of the self and causes and conditions.’ Beyond that is speculation.…


This post created with excerpts from: ‘The Path of No-path: Śaṅkara and Dogen on the Paradox of Practice’ by David Loy

Quote from: miriam louisa

Quote from: undividedexperience

– g  r  a  t  i  t  u  d  e – 

Photo image: Ch’mai TukTuk

One thought on “world as thought-construct

  1. Pingback: now here & nowhere | dhamma footsteps

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