Words Won’t Help Here

Then Mahamati said: Again, Blessed One, are words themselves the highest reality? or is what is expressed in words the highest reality?

The Blessed One replied: Mahamati, words are not the highest reality, nor is what is expressed in words the highest reality. Why? Because the highest reality is an exalted state of bliss, and as it cannot be entered into by mere statements regarding it, words are not the highest reality.

The Lanka Sutra

Here is a fun fact: there is no such thing as a word that wasn’t created by a person’s body.

Everything you’ve ever heard or read (or felt, if you’re blind) is the product of a person moving through reality, not the reality itself.

The letters on this screen? Someone typed those. The lyrics in your headphones? Someone sang those (or, perhaps, used their fingers to program a computer to sing those). Even when you think a word in your head, subtle muscles in your larynx move, reciting that word internally.

What does this fun fact mean?

It means that there is not a word in existence that exists from its own side. Not “nothing,” not “God,” not “science,” not “me,” not “Om,” or any other word, in any language, whatsoever, ever.

It means that if you ever want to find the real answer to any of the following questions:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Who am I?
  • What is this?
  • What is my true nature?
  • What is the nature of the universe?

You need to stop looking for the answers in words and concepts, and start exploring nonconceptually, like you look through your pockets when you thought you had your keys and can’t find them.

Chances are, you’ll like what you find.

Everything Points at the Moon

“All words and speech, mountains, riv­ers, and the great earth, each come back to oneself.”

– Pai Chang

Here is a secret: there is a reality beyond words and concepts.

Well, reality is just another word, but there is something completely unthinkable out there.

This is not really debatable. A rock doesn’t exist because you think it is a rock. Similarly, you don’t exist because you think you do. Descartes was wrong, because he only worked within language.

Here is another secret: this reality – suchness might be a better choice of syllables – is all around us, all the time. It is everything: the wind in the trees, the hum of an engine, the laughter of your lover. It is also nothing, because, well, ‘thing’ is just another word, and this is beyond words.

A third hidden truth: this suchness is accessible to everyone, all the time, and wonderful to behold. Chemically speaking, it corresponds to a certain brain state, one of bliss and maximal awareness. It is a state almost everyone has experienced, when the mind goes blank gazing at an awesome vista or staring at a moving work of art.

However, it is obvious that not everyone is there all the time. People are on their phones, at their jobs, in their heads, with no time for suchness. This is a shame, because a state of suchness is a most excellent state to be in.

So, how to get there?

It’s really not too complicated; just view everything you see as helping you reach this suchness.

Suchness is the moon, and everything you see is a finger pointing at it.

It’s a little like there is an extra layer of meaning on top of all phenomena in your life, and all you have to do is become aware of it. It’s as simple as that.

For example, an open door can be more than just a portal to another room. It can be a portal to an open mind. An empty cup is not simply lacking a beverage; it is a vessel ready to be filled with the perfection of the moment.

One key point: you are not looking for an intellectual conclusion. You are looking to obliterate all intellectual conclusions. At first, you may need to conceptual thoughts about this hidden layer of meaning, but eventually you must push beyond them, into the realm of pure sensation and intuition. You will have to merely look, and you will know.

If you find yourself stuck in words and concepts, maybe try just looking around and asking yourself ‘what is this?‘ It is important to understand the answer is beyond words and concepts – this cannot be stated enough.

Do you see, right now, as you read this?

If you understand the meaning of this, you are no different from the Buddhas and the thousand sages. If not, you may keep staring at everything my fingers have typed here – but do not confuse it for the moon.

Rolling in the Weeds

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing.”

– Mother Theresa

One of the greatest confusions you see in people these days is regarding their relationship to words. This modern world of ours is filled with words, symbols, numbers, sentences, data, and so on, all cascading around in a giant flood that snuffs out every moment. Under such an onslaught, it is unsurprising that most people find themselves confused and agitated by words and language, supposedly humanity’s greatest gift.

It is as if they have forgotten what words are.

What is a word, anyway? It’s a vibration, information, meaning – but all of these are just more words. On your screen they’re pixels, on paper they’re ink. Useful tools, if you need them – but do you need them? All the time? For what?

At the ultimate level, a word is merely a reduction, an attempt to capture the uncapturable. As Mother Theresa says, God speaks in silence. The religions of humanity debate over the right word for ultimate truth: God, Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha, nirvana, moksha, and so on – but none of these are accurate, none of them are more than a shadow.

Coming back to the confusion: this flood of words has made us believe that words are the ultimate, can express the ultimate, and that that’s that. This, of course, cannot be the case.

After all, if words are the ultimate, if ‘I think, therefore I am,’ is the highest holy truth, what exists when the mind goes blank?

Words Are Wind

When you arrive at the edge of language, the place where the gods live, your ability to accurately state the fundamental nature of anything dissolves into itself. Paragraphs become sentences become single words, a koan breaking through to its original face. Of course, it broke through (to) nothing. If you understand, the thousand sages are as one with you. 

‘Nothing.’ What is nothing? If it is nothing, why speak about it? It is the same with the state between thoughts – if you could tell what it is, it wouldn’t be whatever you said anymore. Schrodinger’s Cat has never died once, but you’ve run his death through your mind a thousand thousand times. 

The more you speak about it, the sillier you sound. ‘In the space between thoughts, there is a stillness that is active and moving, there is no distinction between yourself and others.’ If there is stillness, how does it move? If there is no you, how can you speak of others? 

Yet when you see sparks flash and lightening strike, you have seen it. How do I describe the edge of language to you? I stop talking.