The Key to Self-Transcendence

Emptiness does not cling to being and becoming. I know, the implications of this are close to “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form”. But that is not quite accurate, because the obverse relation—”being and becoming cling to emptiness”— is falsifiable by inspection. Being has only itself to cling to, and of course emptiness is incapable of clinging to anything, since its very nature is the absence of ‘things’. Only the second limb of the tetralemma of emptiness/clinging/being is valid.

As we discussed in a recent post and video, the Buddha’s teaching has the unique property of self-transcendence. The key to this astonishing property is its apophatic periphraxis, already discussed, and the ontological triple of Causality, Emptiness and Non-Clinging.

Causality: The principle of paṭicca-samuppāda (Dependent Origination): “When this is, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises; when this is not, that does not come to be, with the stopping of this, that is stopped.” — Vera Sutta (AN 10.92)

Emptiness:…any form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: ‘This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am’.” — Pañcavaggi Sutta (SN 22.59)

Non-Clinging: “…the Tathāgata understands. And he understands: ‘These standpoints, thus assumed and thus misapprehended, lead to such a future destination, to such a state in the world beyond.’ He understands as well what transcends this (nibbāna), yet even that understanding he does not misapprehend. And because he is free from misapprehension, he has realized within himself the state of perfect peace. Having understood as they really are the origin and the passing away of feelings, their satisfaction, their unsatisfactoriness, and the escape from them, the Tathāgata, bhikkhus, is emancipated through non-clinging.” — Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1)

The Buddha’s teaching is, at its core, a teaching of emptiness: “Now, as well as before, I remain fully in a dwelling of emptiness.” — Cūḷa-suññata Sutta (MN 121) Because the relation of Emptiness to Causality is Non-Clinging, the Buddha’s teaching is capable of self-transcendence. That means:

  • No matter what happens, the Buddha’s teaching can adjust and adapt to it.
  • The Buddha’s teaching automatically and willingly seeks its own end.

The property of unconditioned adaptation enables the extraordinary antifragility of the Buddha’s teaching. Like a Möbius strip or Klein bottle, its inside and outside transform into one another just by changing one’s point of view. Its property of end-seeking means that it automatically disappears upon its completion. Just as one abandons a raft, having landed on the farther shore, the Buddha-dhamma is meant to be let go upon attainment of Nibbāna.

Whoever has carefully gone through our previous posts and videos as per our instructions will be able to understand and realize this for himself. Others will not.



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Dev Jacobsen

Musician, author and yogi, developer of Palingenics.

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