Contemplation Exercise: Form and Formlessness

contemplation exercise- form and formlessness

Focus on any object in your visual field, say a chair. Tuning in into just your sense of vision, what appears? If you were to have no notion of language, or the memory of past objects, no contrast were being offered by other similar things in your visual field and you just went by your sense of vision, what would seem to appear? Would there be a specific ‘chair’ or just the appearance of colours? Reorienting to this state and again going simply by the sense of vision, are there appearing before you anything other than colours? Do you see that the supposed boundaries between different objects are just one colour transitioning to another? Now, say you could tune in solely to the sense of touch. Would there be separate objects or just textures, coolness, warmness and such? Similarly if you were to tune into only hearing or tasting or smelling, would there appear different definite objects or just the sound , flavour or smell? Do you see that in bare, direct experience, you do not actually register different, separate, definite objects? Try and see that there is no intrinsic, inherent or find-able nature to any sort of form in direct experience. That in many ways, any ‘form’ is conferred.

According to an ancient school of thought originating in Tibet called Dzogchen, the ground of all things is established as nothing whatsoever, but appearing as anything whatsoever! If this seems too extreme, perhaps you might agree to see that a state of potential, of possibility is without any particular characteristics. Were that not the case, it would not be potential. The state of potential lies before manifestation and thus a field of potential has no form or structure or definition. In that way, everything without exception lies within this field as all things are either arising or ceasing. Everything we can observe and identify, everything we are, are perhaps an element of this immeasurable field of potential, which according to Dzogchen is established as nothing whatsoever. Being this way allows for the differentiation and genesis of an infinite array of ‘objects’. The Buddha said “Form is voidness, voidness-form”. This actually means that what we define as form cannot exist in impossible ways and that any form arises in dependence on causes, conditions, parts and labels. And anything that has dependently arisen is devoid of establishing itself, hence voidness. Thus, it is not so difficult to see that the chair that you can see and touch like anything else is dependently arisen and that actually it is ‘established’ as nothing whatsoever. This applies to everything, physical and mental. Even, feelings and perception and mental activities arise dependent on causes and conditions and cannot actually establish themselves If things could establish themselves, or in other words a chair had say inherent chairness, it would be an everpresent, absolutely permanent phenomenon, and nothing whatsoever is!

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