Much to the chagrin of many Roman/Greko philosophers the idea of zero as a number was born in India. To quote Russel Peters, a Canadian comedian the concept was first used in the well-known technique of bargaining by an individual who wanted something but did not want to pay. There are stories and proof of zero concepts in several cultures, not just in Europe and Asia. Even the ancient South Americans seem to have some idea what zero is. There is, however, a Buddhist link expressed by my favorite philosopher Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna is famous for his groundbreaking treatises on sunyata Sanskrit for emptiness. What could be more empty than zero? Even in the cardinal script, the shape of the zero says “hey man there is nothing here look into the circle it’s empty.” One thing for certain even if the zero was not first conceptualized in India, Indians were with certainty the first people to take the concept out of the mathematical arena and into a philosophical debate. Philosophy and mathematics have always had an interesting coexistence. It is said that above the entrance to Plato’s Academy “let no one ignorant of Geometry enter” was inscribed.
The idea of emptiness is not an easy concept to understand in fact it is more often misunderstood that any other buddhist teaching. This is in part due to many translations of buddhist texts compiled by Christian scholars who had the intention of belittling and demonizing the Buddha Dharma therefore calling it Buddhism.
Nagarjuna’s premise is that things or objects in our world have no independent existence in and of themselves, this is emptiness.
The idea is that we as individuals project our own meaning, concepts, and ideas onto everything that we perceive. We label everything good or bad and so begins the constant samsaric battle of attachment and aversion. This step of labeling is a mistake of our egos as we see ourselves as separate from that object of perception. This separation or act of creating a border between that which we truly are and that which we perceive is the original mistake. Mind or our consciousness is compared to an eye. An eye cannot see itself it only sees outwards. This is why we must turn our mind’s eye inwards in the practice of meditation. Only then do we truly see that Ego = 0
Superposition may be defined as The quantum mechanical property of a particle to occupy all of its possible states simultaneously. This property of multiple coexisting states of existence persists until the superposition is measured, observed, or interacted with. Superposition is classically explained by Schrödinger’s Cat. A cat is imagined as being enclosed in a box with a radioactive source and a poison that will be released when the source (unpredictably) emits radiation, the cat being considered (according to quantum mechanics) to be simultaneously both dead and alive until the box is opened and the cat observed. Its kind of a funny thing to think about, but it begs a few important questions.
- What role does the observer play not only in science but in perception in general?
- What roles do subject, object, and action, the three subparts of observation, really play in our awareness in meditation?
- What are Buddhists attempting to observe in meditation, is this all the same thing?
The Buddhist perspective might be that everything in the universe is constantly in superposition until mind perceives it or consciousness collapses the wavefront and all the possibilities condense into one. One might even say that to a Buddhist all possibilities exist in every situation we experience.
We can say that all possibilities exist within mind, and mind being no thing, is beyond our normal observation but not beyond meditation. When subject, object, and action come together within the meditation we witness the inseparability of ourselves and others. We attempt or practice to do this in the meditation and to then bring it forth in our daily lives. This is commonly called being in the moment or mindfulness. We use these phrases daily almost flippantly while ignoring their much deeper meaning.
The Sanskrit word Mahamudra is a state reached by meditation. Mahamudra could be defined in two parts; as Maha or super and mudra or position. If there are any Sanskrit experts out there, I am curious as to your thoughts on this. Please understand that my Sanskrit is often coloured by my understanding of Tibetan and a very good Indian friend. Mahamudra has been the subject of many beautiful and cryptic songs or prose in Tibet since 1000 ad. The realization of Mahamudra is enlightenment. Our goal in Buddhism is to discover our true potential. This true potential is Enlightenment.
Do you agree, or feel otherwise? Or perhaps you have something to add?