CHAPTER EIGHT: ZEROES
5. TAKING ACCOUNT
WORLD OF THE HEART
5. TAKING ACCOUNT
In our analysis of With Hidden Noise, we have proceded inwardly, from the exterior, most superficial aspects of the physical piece of sculpture to the aspect that is literally invisible: the space inside the ball of twine and the brass plaques that cover its ends. To this space we attribute the value of emptiness, and associate it with "zero." The whole point of the title for this piece of sculpture is that the space--at least that space in the one surviving exemplar out of the three pieces that Duchamp "mass-produced"--was not empty for long. When Walter Arensberg inserted the little object that generates the "hidden noise," the heretofore empty space was animated by the mysterious entity in its dynamic and aleatory process, articulating that special degree of spatial freedom: one of the real qualities of the formally enclosed--and thereby hidden--volume within.
We have faithfully essayed to describe Marcel Duchamp's With Hidden Noise according to the standard principles and following the conventional rules of formal analysis, in objective language, using the ordinary words of American English, with attention to defining problematical usages, and providing the courtesy of explaining most of the new, unusual or foreign words and concepts. Moreover, we have sought to provide many examples and illustrations of concepts that seem to relate to the piece of sculpture in a direct and vital way, wherever possible indicating connections, relationships, and analogies with the various disciplines of science and mathematics as well as with the world of common experience: like stew in a Celtic cauldron.
All the while, too, we have sought to keep count, reminding ourselves and our readers more or less where we were and what it was we thought we might be doing. This sinuous path has led us, like the wandering way within the Labyrinth, to confrontations with monstrosities both real and imaginary, or historical and mythological. At times we have discovered the bitter-sweet favors of love's labors lost, as in the rose bower of Rosamund at Woodstock--since in any garden of roses, as in the Ghulistan of the Persian Sufi poet Saadi in Shiraz, we may find both soft fragrances and sharp thorns. Still, we seem to have come upon sources from whence flow pure waters: like the well of Samaria, Zam-Zam the sacred well at Mecca, or the well at Beersheba that refreshed Hagar and Ishmael after their wilderness wandering.
Now we intend to follow a path akin to that of another Ishmael: the figment of Herman Melville's imagination who wandered upon the great ocean like the biblical prophet Jonah, and whose journey also led to an intimate encounter with Leviathan, the Spirit of the Deep. Although the Book of Jonah comprises only four short chapters in the Old Testament, Michelangelo Buonarroti knowingly placed his portrait in the Sistine Chapel directly over the original position of the high altar. For Jonah's journey, so reminiscent of the dives taken both by Icarus and the Sumerian Gilgamesh, may also be likened to the Existentialist dialectic implied by the title of Jean Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, or to the state of consciousness George Orwell described in his essay, "Inside the Whale," or to a walk down Tennessee Williams's Camino Real to wander in what he called Terra Incognita.
In the space of the simplest order of being, the name of which we may call "the Void," when the first distinction is drawn, as indicated by the first mark--and it may be any mark at all, of whatever shape or "Form"--of course there can be neither "inside" nor "outside," since a mark is all there be. Even in the spatial and temporal complexity of our conventional real world, the only way we can tell which is which (inside or outside) depends upon where we--as observers never totally apart from that which is being observed--happen to be standing. From our point of view, necessarily outside the sculpture, we can only imagine what might be moving around inside: so we may represent its identity by a imaginary value. Here, we use the term "imaginary," or the phrase "imaginary value," which may be understood in a colloquial way. Only if, in his inspired act, the gentleman poet and scholar, the dedicated amateur cryptanalyst, Walter Arensberg, put inside something that recapitulated the piece of sculpture as a whole--only then could we also consider that object as a token of the imaginary value in a more technical, mathematical sense, in a self- referential sense, most cleverly ciphered and most poetic. Just so, could the mystery be seen.
Thus we cannot escape the fact that the world we know is constructed in order (and thus in such a way as to be able) to see itself.
This is indeed amazing.
Not so much in view of what it sees, although this may appear fantastic enough, but in respect of the fact that it can see at all.
But in order to do so, evidently it must first cut itself up into at least one state which sees, and at least one other state which is seen. In this severed and mutilated condition, whatever it sees is only partially itself. We may take it that the world is undoubtedly itself (i.e. is indistinct from itself), but, in any attempt to see itself as an object, it must, equally undoubtedly, act* so as to make itself distinct from, and therefore false to, itself. In this condition it will always partially elude itself.
It seems hard to find an acceptable answer to the question of how or why the world conceives a desire, and discovers an ability, to see itself, and appears to suffer in the process. That it does so is sometimes called the original mystery. Perhaps, in view of the form in which we presently take ourselves to exist, the mystery arises from our insistence on framing a question where there is, in reality, nothing to question. However it may appear, if such desire, ability, and sufferance be granted, the state or condition that arises as an outcome is, according to the laws here formulated, absolutely unavoidable. In this respect, at least, there is no mystery. We, as universal representatives, can record universal law far enough to say
and so on, and so on you will eventually construct the universe,** in every detail and potentiality, as you know it now; but then, again, what you will construct will not be all, for by the time you will have reached what now is, the universe will have expanded into a new order to contain what will then be. In this sense, in respect of its own information, the universe must expand to escape the telescopes through which we, who are it, are trying to capture it, which is us. The snake eats itself, the dog chases its tail.
* Cf Greek agonistes = actor, antagonist. We may note the identity of action with agony.
** Latin unus = one, vertere = turn. Any given (or captivated) universe is what is seen as the result of making one turn, and thus is the appearance of any first distinction, and only a minor aspect of all being, apparent and non-apparent. Its particularity is the price we pay for its visibility.
[Spencer Brown, Laws of Form, p. 105 f.]
The former Prince of Kapila, Gautama, the historical Buddha, in summing up the entire set of teachings from the many years he spent wandering around Northern India after his Enlightenment underneath the Bo tree, presented in the customary oral form two particular lessons subsequently preserved (along with many teachings) as sutras, or sacred texts. One of these is the Diamond Sutra, in 3000 lines, offering a view of the Whole of Being concentrated into the symbolism of nine images; the other teaching event produced a text that could be written on a single page, the Prajaparamita-hridaya Sutra, known as the Heart Sutra. The term "heart" (Sanskrit hridaya, Chinese hsin), in the East is regarded as the seat of what the West thinks of as "mind."
In his essay and text translation, "Concerning the Heart Sutra," Wei Wu Wei cites three main sources, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan. There are about twenty Sanskrit texts, and the Tibetan version varies with some, though not in essentials. Of five Chinese translations, the third was by Kumarajiva, and the fifth by "the great and famous Hsan Tsang (596-664), who brought it himself from India." Some see a deep irony in the Heart Sutra, for although it may be the very epitome of the immense body of teaching represented by the Prajaparamita, and its text repeated daily in monasteries, it may also be seen as
an original and dynamic reaction to all scriptures, to all the doctrines, methods, practices, dogmas, in fact all the ecclesiasticism of religious Buddhism. In a few dozen words, within a conventional setting, all the basic Buddhist teachings are summarily dismissed, not iconoclastically but as gently as could be, by quietly enumerating the subjective elements of individual personality, then their objects, and finally the "holy doctrines" themselves, and demonstrating, for all those able to see, that all, absolutely all, are appearance only (purely phenomenal), and could not in any wise exist in their own right. The answer is left naked and obvious, and that is the "truth of Ch'an" (as of every other doctrine or non-doctrine which seeks to reveal it).
[Wei Wu Wei, "Cconcerning the `Heart Sutra,'" Open Secret, Hong Kong University Press (1970), p. 73 f. Ch'an Buddhism in Japan is Zen.]
The sutra presents the best known of the Buddha's teachings on shunyata: "nothingness, emptiness, voidness, the absence of duality and conceptualization." Despite certain differences in translation from the surviving Sanskrit texts, all versions essentially agree that Avalokiteshvara was compelled by the overwhelming power of praja to awaken to shunyata, the Void. The late incarnate Lama, Chögyam Trungpa, Rimpoche-- crystal clear intellect, inspired artist, and much else besides--as one of the great modern Tibetan teachers, observed:
interestingly in this sutra the Buddha hardly speaks a word at all. At the end of the discourse he merely says "Well said, well said," and smiles. He created a situation in which the teaching of shunyata was set forth by others, rather than himself being the actual spokesman. He did not impose his communication but created the situation in which teaching could occur, in which his disciples were inspired to discover and experience shunyata. There are twelve styles of presenting the dharma, and this is one of them.
[Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, p. 187.]
When we care to contemplate eternity, coming to it from the outside, from our conventionally real world, we must first learn to set aside our habitual notions of time, like peeling off layers of an onion. The Heart Sutra refers to the "Buddhas of the three times," and--although the Trinitarian mystical sense may best be mapped to an injunctive discipline like mathematics if it is to be made clear--we may also imagine the "three times" superficially as the past, present and future, in the temporal sense of the traditional Latin invocation:
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.
(As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end).
We may see temporal aspects of "threeness" in With Hidden Noise by the alternate viewing of the piece from the side. We note three horizontal planes: the ball of twine, with the two brass plaques above and below. In this "elevation," we imagine the organic and flexible twine as "the present tense," and the inorganic, rigid brass plaques as "past" and "future." As PRESENTLY displayed, standing on the four "legs" formed by the extended ends of the bolts, the three levels of elevation prompt interpretation as "the past, upon which the present stands," or some such. Upturned, the piece allows removal of the nuts.
To the degree that we live in the past with our memories, and continually act so as to accumulate yet more of them (Sanskrit: karma) our lives typically become absorbed in compounding with these complexities all the other aspects of material experience, in order to build what appears to be a very solid and durable world, although our visions of solidity do tend to waver IF we experience the occasional--or WHEN we experience the inevitable--specter of our own death. At such moments, freed from our sentimental beliefs in permanence and the would-be paramount importance of the merely material world, we are superb candidates for awakening to the reality of things as they are, to the world and ourselves in all the illusory manifestations of suchness. Since, however, nothing of this sort can be accomplished without awareness, an appeal is made to the idea of transpersonal consciousness, or the Divine Mind (Sanskrit, Teyata, or Tadyatha). It is often prefaced to the recitation of mantra, the heart of the sutra.
Getting the count straight at the very beginning is important in order to maintain parity between odd and even. This is tricky, because we have to remember that, even though giving "It" a name (shunyata, Zero, the Primordial Void, the Nameless Tao, or whatever), we do so merely to communicate in conventional language. But we cannot attribute to It any of the limitations of language, no matter how poetic or musical -- not even applying to It the qualities of pure sound -- It having none of these qualities, nor indeed qualities whatsoever. Mr. Spencer Brown's doppelgänger, the more convivial person and discursive writer, James Keys, comments on the formal structure of Eternity in East and West, of which the calculus of indications Laws of Form, as a mathematical construct, is only one--although, like the Heart Sutra, both a rigorous and a particularly elegant--illustration. In the East:
They either get it right or they don't get it at all.
Space is a construct. In reality there is no space. Time is also a construct. In reality there is no time.
In eternity there is space but no time.
In the deepest order of eternity there is no space. It is devoid of any quality whatever.
This is the reality of which the Buddhas speak. Buddhists call it Nirvana. Its order of being is zero. Its mode is completeness. Its sex-emblem is female.
It is known to western doctrine, sometimes as the Godhead, sometimes as IHVH, or that which was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. This way of describing it, like any other, is misleading, suggesting that it has qualities like being, priority, temporality. Having no quality at all, not even (except in the most degenerate sense [here used mathematically, as if "not yet generated"]) the quality of being, it can have none of these suggested properties, although it is what gives rise to them all. It is what the Chinese call the unnameable Tao, the Mother of all existence. It is also called the Void [shunyata].
In a qualityless order, to make any distinction at all is at once to construct all things in embryo. Thus the First Thing, and with it the First Space and the First Existence and the First Being, are all created explosively together....
This First Creation, or First Presence, is the order of which the Christs speak. Christians call it God. Its order of being is unity. Its mode is perfection. Its sex-emblem is male.
It is known to eastern doctrine, as it is to western, as the Triune God or Trinity. In western books of magic it is called The One Thing. In China it is called the nameable Tao.
[Keys, Only Two, p. 124 f.]
Considering the very special nature of the Buddhist text as representing the concentrated, distilled, essence of the teachings, it seems singularly appropriate to offer at least one translation of the sutra in its entirety. Although the historical Buddha probably spoke a North Indian dialect of Pali (ancient Nepalese), the following version retains several technical terms in their Sanskrit form, since this language--with its great notational efficiency and precision--has served as the primary written vehicle for transmitting Buddhist (as well as other religious, philosophical and scientific) teachings for over two and a half millennia. As might be expected, each of these terms has received extensive analysis and subtle interpretation. Then too, the Buddha's words "Well said, well said," are rendered below as "Good, good"; elsewhere these words appear as "Well done, well done," but the sense should be clear. In a later section, we provide some commentary meant to elucidate the meaning of the words of the mantra. Here, the reader who simply seeks to understand what has been written, and who is not necessarily a dedicated linguist nor a professional Buddhist, might derive some help from the following brief glossary:
Prajaparamita-hridaya Sutra, the Heart of the teachings of Transcendent Knowledge, or of the Wisdom that goes Beyond.
Paramita: Literally, "arrived at the other shore, the other side of the river." The six paramitas are the spontaneous, transcendental activities of the bodhisattva path: generosity or delight, discipline or morality, patience expecting nothing, joyous energy, meditation or awareness, and the super-knowledge of discriminating intelligence that sees everything.
"The Blessed One" is a translation of Bhaghavan
Rajagra: A royal palace, probably in what is now Nepal.
Sangha: The spiritual community.
Bodhisattva: One who works spontaneously for the enlightenment of all beings, "he who is brave enough to walk the path of the bodhi" (that is, in "the awakened state"), practicing the six paramitas.
Samadhi: Enlightenment as complete involvement.
Dharma: Teaching, the Truth, the Way, the Law of existence.
Avaslokitesvara: "The Far-Seeing One," also called Chenrezig in Tibetan, and known in China by the female form of Kuan Yin.
Mahasattva: A great being, a great bodhisattva.
Sariputra: Known as an Arhat, or one who contemplates impermanence while conceptualizing between "this and that" (also, Shariputra).
Skandhas: aspects of the ego viewed as "heaps" of experience.Dhatu: Element, manifestation.
Mantra: Spell, invocation, words and sound.
Tathagatas: Those who have experienced being "as it is."
Asuras: Jealous gods; and Gandharvas: Heavenly beings.
Nirvana and Samadhi are related to Shunyata: the absence of, or beyond duality and conceptualization, emptiness, nothingness, the Void.
Lotsava bhiksu Rinchen De translated this text into Tibetan with the Indian pandita Vimalamitra. It was edited by the great editor-lotsawas Gelo, Namkha, and others. This Tibetan text was copied from the fresco in Gegve Chemaling at the glorious Samye vihara. It has been translated into English (with some variant transliteration) by the Nalanda Translation Committee, with reference to several Sanskrit editions:
THE SUTRA OF THE HEART OF TRANSCENDENT KNOWLEDGE
Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagrha at Vulture Peak mountain, together with a great gathering of the Sangha of bodhisattvas. At that time the Blessed One entered the samadhi that expresses the dharma called "profound illumination," and at the same time noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, while practicing the profound prajnaparamita, saw in this way: he saw the five skandhas to be empty of nature.
Then, through the power of the Buddha, venerable Sariputra said to noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, "How should a son or daughter of noble family train, who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita?"
Addressed in this way, noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, said to venerable Sariputra, "A son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita should see in this way: seeing the five skandhas to be empty of nature. Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Sariputra, all dharmas are emptiness. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. Therefore, Sariputra, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no dharmas; no eye dhatu up to no mind dhatu, no dhatu of dharmas, no mind consciousness dhatu, no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no nonattainment. Therefore, Sariputra, since the bodhisattvas have no attainment, they abide by means of prajnaparamita. Since there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear. They transcend falsity and attain complete nirvana. All the Buddhas of the three times, by means of prajnaparamita, fully awaken to unsurpassable, true, complete enlightenment. Therefore, the great mantra of prajnaparamita, the mantra of great insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the unequalled mantra, the mantra that calms all suffering should be known as truth, since there is no deception. The prajnaparamita mantra is said this way:
OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA
Thus, Sariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound prajnaparamita."
Then the Blessed One arose from that samadhi and praised noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, saying, "Good, good, O son of noble family; thus it is O son of noble family, thus it is. One should practice the profound prajnaparamita just as you have taught and all the tathagatas will rejoice."
When the Blessed One had said this, venerable Sariputra and noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, that whole assembly and the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One.
* * *
This sutra tells of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva who represents compassion and skillful means, and Shariputra, the great arhat who represents prajna, knowledge....Avalokitesvara was compelled to awaken to shunyata by the overwhelming force of prajna. Then Avalokitesvara spoke with Shariputra, who represents the scientific-minded person or precise knowledge. The teachings of the Buddha were put under Shariputra's microscope, which is to say that these teachings were not accepted on blind faith but were examined, practiced, tried and proved.
[Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, p. 187 f.]
One specific way in which the teachings may be proved (and hence the means by which one may approach the idea of the Void with clarity) systematically demolishes the "five skandhas" by which our ego has the propensity to reassure itself about the so-called reality of its purely illusory schisms. According to Buddhist teaching these are:
1. Ignorance-Form, separation of the "self" from the "other."
2. Feeling, intuitive intelligence in defense of the ego.
3. Perception-Impulse, producing desire, hatred, stupidity.
4. Concepts, intellectualization through category and name.
5. Consciousness, the ego producing uncontrollable emotions and illogical patterns of discursive thoughts.
The polymath and former Oxford philosophy don and chess half-blue, G. Spencer Brown has set down a mathematically powerful map of these eternal regions in Laws of Form--one which proves to be precisely congruent with the structure alluded to by the Heart Sutra. Recalling the paradigm of "five crosings from the Void" discussed earlier, we can test its fit with the analogous sequence of skandhas. The primordial "first crossing from the Void" (to the Form), for example, would seem to relate meaningfully to the Sanskrit term avijaptirupa "the form which is not perceptible," even though it be sometimes interpreted by Buddhist scholars in more down-to-earth ways. In order to teach with skillful means (upaya) those who earnestly seek to know the nature of ultimate truth (dharma), the Eternal formalities may be likened to acts of will (karma) not necessarily manifested in material forms, but for which one still must assume responsibility.
[See, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama, The Opening of the Wisdom Eye: and the Advancement of the Buddhadharma in Tibet, The Social Science Association Press of Thailand, Bangkok (1968), p. 28. See also, note 25 on page 110, where is cited an example by E. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, Allen and Unwin, London, p. 181.]
The succession of skandhas, however, from "Ignorance-Form" through feeling, perception, concept, and consciousness, also may be counted (perhaps most easily) by starting from the other direction.
It is, I am afraid, the intellectual block which most of us come up against at the points where, to experience the world clearly, we must abandon existence to truth, truth to indication, indication to form, and form to void, that has so held up the development of logic and its mathematics.
[Spencer Brown, Laws of Form, p. 101 .]
The directionality in this illustration is one of Consciousness, beginning from the "point time" of meditation or contemplation, enters the eternal realms, "from the forms of interpretation...towards the form of indication from which they arise." From an Algebra with second-degree equations (feedback, the first order of "future" time) Consciousness transcends the temporal world altogether (all notions of Time), becoming at one with undifferentiated Existence, recrossing the bridge of the "fifth crossing from the Void," back into Eternity. In this outermost order of Eternity, space has the complexity of an Algebra: that is, an ordinary Boolean Algebra such as applies "to cases where doors can be open or shut, where switches can be on or off, or where lines can be clear or blocked"--NOT as in the paradox of Duchamp's Door, 11 Rue Larrey (1927). Here we can see the way the calculus was constructed in Laws of Form: "in a series of forms and departures," reflecting the order first seen in the list of skandhas.
[See, Spencer Brown, Laws of Form, p. 112.]
To see how this Algebra was constructed, we must examine the "fourth crossing from the Void," in which Truth (the dichotomy of True /False) was derived from the Arithmetic. This peculiar, pre-numerical Arithmetic underlies a Boolean Algebra, and thus receives its name as a "calculus of indications." Then, recrossing the bridge of the "third crossing from the Void," we see how Indication was derived from the Axioms (the "values indicated" by "The law of calling" and "The law of crossing.") And, going back over the "second crossing from the Void," we see how the Axioms were derived from the Form, the "marked state," which in Laws of Form was the hypothesis of taking "the form of distinction for the form." The "first crossing from the Void," of course, is the intention of drawing a distinction, or what we--and the first skandha--imagine to have been the original cleaving of the Void.
[See, Spencer Brown, Laws of Form, pp. 1 ff.]
What status, then, does logic bear to mathematics?...A theorem is no more proved by logic and computation that a sonnet is written by grammar and rhetoric, or than a sonata is composed by harmony and counterpoint, or a picture painted by balance and perspective. Logic and computation, grammar and rhetoric, balance and perspective can be seen in the work after it is created, but these forms are, in the final analysis, parasitic on, they have no existence apart from, the creativity of the work itself. Thus the relation of logic to mathematics is seen to be that of an applied science to its pure ground, and all applied science is seen as drawing sustenance from a process of creation with which it can combine to give structure, but which it cannot appropriate.
[Brown, Laws of Form, p. 101 f.]
Within the Sutra, the secret key to awareness of the Void is transmitted through the agency of mantra, not only epitomizing primordial sound but also providing a step-by-step functional chart of the approach to it, perfectly analogous to the most fundamental formal structures of Western mathematics. The orders of Eternity are generated outward from the Void at the Heart of all being in ever-compounded complexity. It is this process-- represented in language as a verb or function, rather than as a noun, thing, state or entity--that we may phrase as "seeing being"; so, the structure of eternity may be represented as successive layers of "being seeing being." This structure is analogous to the pearl clutched by the five-clawed dragon embroidered on Chinese imperial robes of state. In Egypt, it would have been recognized in the structure of the sacred vegetable, the onion. Our word ONION may well be cognate with UNION (Sanskrit yoga, Indo-European yeugh); alternatively, it may derive from the Indo-European oino ONE, through the Latin unus, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, "possibly refering to the perfect concentric unity of the layers of an onion in contrast to the polymerism of, e.g., garlic." In the lore of Persian Sufis, the structure of an onion is contrasted with that of a walnut in order to illustrate the difference between men: some are simply layer after layer, while others have inside their shell some real, rich substance. Both botanical species would do for the Heart Sutra perhaps, because its real substance is the mantra, as a "non-material" manifestation only of oscillations (though in the atmosphere, hence) producing sound.
The Heart Sutra ends with "the great spell" or mantra....The potency of this mantra comes not from some imagined mystical or magical power of the words but from their meaning. It is interesting that after discussing shunyata--form is empty, emptiness is form, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is identical with form and so on--the sutra goes on to discuss mantra. At the beginning it speaks in terms of the meditative state, and finally it speaks of mantra or words. This is because in the beginning we must develop a confidence in our understanding, clearing out all preconceptions; nihilism, eternalism, all beliefs have to be cut through, transcended....Therefore this is a great mantra. One would have thought that instead of saying, Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha, this mantra would say something about shunyata--Om shunyata mahashunyata--or something of the sort. Instead it says, Gate gate--"gone, gone, gone beyond, completely gone." This is much stronger than saying "shunyata," because the word "shunyata" might imply a philosophical interpretation. Instead of formulating something philosophical, this mantra exposes that which lies beyond philosophy. Therefore it is gate gate--"gone, given up, got rid of, opened." The first gate is "rid of the veil of conflicting emotions." The second gate represents the veil of primitive beliefs about reality. That is, the first gate represents the idea that "form is empty," and the second gate refers to "emptiness is form." Then the next word of the mantra is paragate--"gone beyond, completely exposed."
Now form is form--paragate--and it is not only that form is form but emptiness is emptiness. Parasamgate-- "completely gone beyond." Bodhi. Bodhi here means "completely awake." The meaning is "given up, completely unmasked, naked, completely open." Svaha is a traditional ending for mantras which means, "Sobeit." "Gone, gone, gone beyond, completely exposed, awake, sobeit."
[Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, p. 198 f.]
WORLD OF THE HEART
TEYATA (TADYATHA): The traditional invocation to the Divine Mind is to turn away from the material world and involvement with our past, so we may leave our memories behind to journey inward toward the Void, beginning from the here and now, the present, et nunc. This initial step (in the direction of the true evolution of consciousness toward the "future time" of Maitrea and the Void from whence creation eternally springs) is indicated by the mantramic prefix TEYATA or TADYATHA --that may or may not be recited as a part of the mantra. By this we are continually creating (or recreating) the World of the Heart.
OM: Penetrating a subtle veil of consciousness, we arrive in a realm of being that can be described as "no time." Happy people, and people in love, playing, or doing real work they really love, all experience this state of consciousness, and the disciplines of meditation are, in the beginning anyway, simply ways to assist us in arriving there at will. This is "point time," the order of time we conventionally call "the future." It may seem odd that the future is imagined inside of the present, which in turn is inside the past--but some reflection is usually sufficient to prove this true. The time of our past can be counted; a clock counts time as a rule measures space. The time of our present is pure duration--the moment--which, the moment we think of counting it, we find it has passed. To be of the moment we must be in it; it has the formal properties of a stream, a riverrun, a ball of twine. Future time has no duration, yet.
There can be no matter without time. Time and matter come simultaneously. But this is the first matter in which the orders are counted [outside eternity], and it's called the "crystalline heaven," but it is not, really. Technically speaking, it is not really a heaven.
[Keys, AUM Conference Transcript, p. 104.]
GATE: This mantra, as verbal action, can be equated with crossing veils or peeling layers of the onion. Here we come to the "fifth crossing from the Void." Blossoming outward from the Void, recall that we created the first order of time when we performed a feedback operation, generating algebraic equations of the second degree. In a self-referential equation, it is the peculiar arrangement producing the oscillating states (an OM not heard by the ears?) by which, perceived while emerging into the "outside," we reckoned the first order of time. But we are now going the other way, toward the Void--and we have entered eternity proper, having left behind the complexities of time altogether. The formalities here may be described in terms of space; however, we are counting inward by the words of the mantra, which are taken to indicate NOT noun- states, but verb-actions, hence "crossings." As Wei Wu Wei has written, "In short: the burden of the Heart Sutra is not the nature of objects as such, but the seeing of them--which is what they are, and the only nature they have."
GATE: This is the "second" gate in the mantra, and the "fourth crossing from the Void." From the outside, it corresponds to three-dimensional space. Having penetrated the veil (peeling the onion), we have arrived at this, the next deeper level, of the primary (Boolean) Algebra. With first degree algebraic equations, we can understand all of the more complex feedback functions of second degree equations. In a literal sense, what we did was to go into another level and "stand under" distinctions which had been made in the outer, more complex and relatively more superficial order of being. Although the image in space was different, the Greeks meant the same thing by using episteme (literally "to stand over," and congnate with EPISTEMOLOGY.) It can be argued that gnosis was closer to what we mean by "understanding," and that by episteme they meant KNOWLEDGE which derives etymologically from gnosis. Strictly speaking, what we are "over-standing" is the underlying level, the nextmost interior layer of pearl onion--for the getting-to--which we must penetrate the veil. In the Algebra, we "over-stand" the generalities of the being and doing of the Arithmetic.
PARAGATE: The "third crossing from the Void." The Arithmetic, from the outside corresponding to plane space, is the level of process by which we may fully "understand" any variable functions of the primary Algebra; we do this with reference to the formal relationship of constants in the Arithmetic that underlie the algebra. We might call this a "Boolean" arithmetic, exccept that George Boole, although he may have had some intuition of it, did not describe it. One worked example--as an illustration of the formal relationships at this level of complexity--has been published as Laws of Form, a calculus of indications that is both complete and consistent. Here we are seeing what becomes of the axioms that, in turn, underlie the Arithmetic.
PARASAMGATE: The "second crossing from the Void." The Axioms, from the outside corresponding to linear-space, provided the foundations upon which the Arithmetic could be constructed. Here we might find also Avalokitesvara, the great bodhisattva of Wisdom and Compassion. From the level of the Axioms, one is able to see the Form.
BODHI: The "first crossing from the Void." The Form, from the outside corresponding to point space, is the level from which one may see the Void. This is the point of singular, dazzling, bright light, as seen by mystics both Christian and Sufi, the GLEAM which was described by Dante who saw it from a distance, The Indo-European root for the word FORM is mer-bh which means, precisely, "to sparkle, to gleam," although evolving through the Greek morphe, this has come to focus on distinguishing the aspect of "change." The word GLEAM derives from a different Indo-European root ghel(2), that has given birth to a large word group, including GOLD, GUILDER, YELLOW, GLEE and ZIRCON, CHLORO(phyl), CHLORINE, GALL, and CHOLERA, GLANCE, GLASS, GLIMPSE, GLISTEN, GLITTER, GLIDE, GLISSADE and GLOAMING.
In Tibetan Buddhism it is called the densely-packed region. This last name is most vividly expressive, it being the region of the creating or seeding-out of all qualities from no quality: it is, in other words, the place where every blade of grass and every grain of sand is numbered, the place where nothing is forgotten....The quality of being in nascent existence, and as yet without any size [as we imagine point space] is what makes the densely-packed region the region of omniscience....Human beings who have entered this region, and then found their way back from it to the region of their ordinary humanity, report that in it one is indeed omniscient, but the knowledge one knows there cannot all be carried in a human frame.
A Buddha, of course, has to go through this region to reach the void.
[Keys, Only Two, p. 125.]
SVAHA: Sobeit. Amen.
If these maps are correct, and if we have read them aright, it would seem that the demanding standards of Shariputra with his precise knowledge characteristic of the true scientific mind--whether of the East or West, or indeed of the North or South or from in between--might be satisfied by Laws of Form as well as by the Heart Sutra.
The purposeful suggestion here is that the Kiplingesque sentiment "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet," no matter how sincerely felt, might nevertheless be mistaken, at least in some deep, formal sense. They may meet--they must meet--precisely in the overlay of systems that map the structure of eternity, provided that one keeps accurate count. This, in turn, depends upon agreement about beginning the count from zero, reckoned as the Void, rather than starting the count from the One--anybody's One, since any given One is just as good as any other One. In words that have been inscribed on the interior walls of the Capitol building itself in Washington, D.C.--albeit over the doorway to the scandalous and defunct, erstwhile members-only "bank" of the U.S. House of Representatives:
We have built no Temple
but the CAPITOL
We consult no common oracle
but the Constitution.
A case could be made for considering the Supreme Court as a temple for justice; however, it is well that the White House, despite the pretense of some incumbents, is not believed to house a deity. We have, indeed, cause to express great respect and gratitude to our Forbearers who resisted temptations to specify the One, and instead explicitly indicated those areas which, in the United States of America--as a nation of Law, and as enjoined by the Constitution--must be treated as void: the free, "zero space" in which any citizen may act in the freedom treasured as inviolate within her or his own being, respecting which no law shall be enacted, as guaranteed by the Ninth and Tenth, and particularly by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: the freedom to practice any religion, whatsoever--or none.