I am going to post the last chapter of the book here, to help you guys on the way. I will relate parts of the chapter to the matching Arupa Jhana's. The Jhana's are states of concentration reached through meditation/contemplation, whereas what I have written is the fruition of that meditation/contemplation. One progresses through the Jhana's by letting go, gaining fruition is achieved by reflecting on that progress.
This is a post for the more advanced people on this forum, who already transcended form, with which I mean that you have understood the emptiness of form because of dependent arising. The advanced people can help explain it to the more novice ones. A detailed explanation on how to get to the emptiness of form can be found in the book.
Chapter 14 Nirvana
After gaining insight into dependent arising and the emptiness of essence, we are just consciousness; we perceive something. We now know that if something is formed, for instance a flower, we can’t distinguish or define it by merely observing its physical appearance. The flower also needs everything around the physical appearance of the flower to be the flower. This means that without the air, the soil, the sun, et cetera, the flower would not exist. Because of this, the flower can’t be truly distinguished or defined, therefore, its essence is empty.
Every thing that is distinguished through our six senses has been formed. So form does not limit itself to thoughts; when a flower is seen, it is formed, even without thoughts. However, because we can’t really distinguish or define a thing, nothing is truly formed. Though, we still experience something, so this 'something' is without form.
The following is an example to clarify the above. A young woman and an old woman are both present in the image below. For the young or the old woman to form, our mind has to interpret the lines in the picture. If one forms, the other stays 'formless', but is still there.
Through insight in the above, one enters the Sphere of Boundless Space, as Space is not bound by form anymore.
The following example clarifies the scope of the formless. We know that a flower grows out of a seed. We can observe this when we plant a seed and wait for the flower to grow. This means that the flower is already present in the seed, but the conditions for the flower to manifest (form) have not met yet; the flower needs to grow first. We can say that the presence of the flower in the seed is formless. Before the flower has manifested we cannot say that the flower isn’t there. If the flower has grown and someone asks you where the flower came from, you will say; the flower came out of the seed.
Just like the seed comes from a flower, we could say that this flower is still formlessly present in the seed. Everything before the moment the seed was formed, made the seed into what it is. So the seed was never not there; it was just formless and had not manifested itself yet. Also, the flower and the seed will never go, as the remains of the flower and the seed will fertilize the soil.
Below is an example of how we identify the formless, from which we subsequently identify ourselves. Imagine standing next to a busy street in a big city, where you hear a mixture of moving vehicles. Suddenly you distinguish a different sound between these sounds. In the moment before you distinguish the other sound, you identify the formless; although you have not yet been able to distinguish the other sound from the sound of the vehicles, it is present. If you then shift your attention to the direction where you seemed to hear something else, you distinguish this other sound from the rest. In the same way that you shift your attention on the lines in the image of the two women above, to see the other woman. Before you see the other woman, the woman is already present in the lines of the image, we just have not been able to distinguish her.
If we focus our attention on the other sound, this appears to be the chirping of a bird. Because you notice the chirp, you identify with this sound; you are conscious of it. However, now we know that the essence of the chirping is empty, because the chirping needs everything outside the sound to exist, we cannot identify with the sound, because there is nothing to identify with.
Before you distinguished the chirp, you already identified yourself with the sound that you did not consciously perceive. Although you did hear something, you were not yet aware of what this was. The same happens when you are identifying the two women. Before you see the other woman in its entirety, you see a part of this woman, and although you have not yet been able to distinguish the woman, you notice that there is something. You identify with this something, because you are conscious of it.
So, there is a formless something, without us distinguishing, defining, or interpreting it via our six senses. Also through our intuition and instinct we experience the formless. Once you have let go of the identification with form, you are left with the identification of the formless. Although you no longer distinguish or define a form, you recognize that you experience something. The only difference between form and the formless is if we distinguish it or not. Both are from the same nature. The formless is also empty of an essence, because something is dependent upon being; something has to exist in order to be experienced. We cannot distinguish something from our experience. If we realize the previous, we do not identify with the formless anymore, as there is nothing to identify with. The only identification which exists is our mental fabrication, an attempt to identify with something.
Through insight in the above, one enters the Sphere of Boundless Consciousness, as you realize that everything you perceive and will perceive was never not there.
There is really no coming (birth), as the manifestation of form already existed in the formless. Just as there is no going (death), as form will continue to exist in the formless when the form dissolves. If we do not identify with something anymore, we attain Nirvana and liberate ourselves from Samsara. Samsara is the endless cycle of rebirth, which is described in Buddhist texts. This rebirth occurs whenever someone tries to define an experience in form and every time when someone tries to identify with an experience which we do not distinguish.
We are merely a mental fabrication, from the attempt to identify and define ourselves out of ignorance. The ignorance that there truly is nothing to identify with permanently. We attain Nirvana when we also have let go of the identification with the formless. We are conscious that nothing is truly formed, as the essence of form is empty. This emptiness means that something is without form. However, also the essence of the formless is empty, and is therefore nothing. So nothing is formed, and nothing is without form. Nothing does not come, and nothing does not go. Nothing is permanent; everything is impermanent. We are dissolved into nothingness, as we were nothing to begin with.
Insight in the above, obviously lets one enter the The Sphere of Nothingness
When you come to the above realization, you become aware that nothing is really perceived, but this doesn’t mean that there is no perception. Through the realization that no form is really perceived, your attention shifts towards the formless; that which is non-perceived.
If the formless is seen as something that exists independent from our perception, like God, it is non-perceived. Which means that you are aware of it, without actually perceiving it. Apart from the fact that God’s existence or non-existence is not verifiable and rests on faith, clinging to the formless is not full liberation, as you still identify with something. This creates a spiritual entity that is separate from our perception. You cannot comprehend what this something is or what its intention is, through which you still experience a subtle state of unsatisfactoriness. Its intention is then a source of doubt and subjective interpretation, which can then lead to differences between people with regard to their views on this. In addition, this formless something would be the basis for the manifestation of form. Where every thing, experience, event or phenomenon can be seen as a manifestation of this entity. This can then be used as an excuse to label that what we are capable of doing to be its intention. This entity also stirs up a desire for meaning in what is being experienced, thereby creating a spiritual self. This spiritual self may be even more difficult to see through than a physical or mental self, because it is anchored in the formless. In addition, people with a spiritual self have walked through life to get there, which may give them the feeling that they have achieved something.
We know that the formless is dependent upon existence; something has to be, if nothing is, then something is not. Thus, the formless is also empty, and because of this, your awareness is thrown back and forth between neither perception and nor non-perception. Until you realize that this going back and forth is also perceived from some point. That point is the state of neither perception nor non-perception, where there is stillness of the mind, this state is also Nirvana.
Also quite obvious; insight in the above lets one enter The Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non-perception
So, Nirvana can be attained in two ways; one way is the realization of nothingness, by fully realizing the nature of being; dependent arising. Through this realization, you realize that there is no coming and no going. This way is called liberation through the intellect, or 'paññāvimutti' in the Pali language. 'Paññā' is the base and refers to the intellect, or cognitive side of consciousness; the faculty of thinking. Ignorance is the cause of misunderstanding or confusion in the intellect. Through realizing the true nature of being, ignorance is dissolved, because one realizes form and the formless are of dependent arising and therefore empty.
The other way is through liberation of the mind, or 'cetovimutti', by becoming aware of the state which is neither perception nor non-perception. 'Citta' is the base and refers to the (emotional) mind, the affective side of consciousness; or faculty of feeling. Grasping is the form of dissatisfaction in the mind, through the desire to grasp. By getting to the state of neither perception nor non-perception, this desire is abandoned, because there is no perception to grasp.
Through reading this chapter, one is able to progress through the Jhana's, by letting go, as one becomes aware of their nature.
Through fruition of the Jhana's, one has penetrated the nature of reality and himself, after which one dissolves, and the desire to grasp anything is blown out.
Peter Cordes Copyright 2019