“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” – Bruce Lee
Someone recently asked me what Nirvana was like…
Now be clear for those of you grunge rock specialists, I’m not referring to the Kurt Cobain grunge band of the 1990’s.
No, I’m referring to what The Buddha realized as his natural state when he became “The illuminated one.”
Illuminated means “Lit with bright lights.”
And really The Buddha just realized the intense beaming bright light that was within him, and rather that was him.
So it got me contemplating just what is Nirvana and what would be the closest word that I could use to describe such a stateless state as your true self….
Now to be clear…
“The Tao that can be spoken of, is not the eternal Tao.” – Tao Te Ching
But there are ways to use such words with precision that can point people with almost interest in spirituality to their natural state, or that of Nirvana.
Before we dive into what Formlessness or Formless awareness is, let’s discuss form.
Form consciousness, is every single last thing that you can think about.
You know the shape of a star because you can think about what the shape of a square is.
You can know the shape of a circle because you can think about the shape of a rectangle.
They have very distinct, and unique qualities to them.
Every form that you can think about, is contrasted by other forms that you think about.
It’s how we are able to compare, contrast the difference between everything we perceive, understand, grasp and comprehend.
It’s the exact reason why I’m explaining the idea of what form consciousness is, so that you have a reference point to understand formlessness.
And when you understand the entire world just as the way you perceive it, really it’s just YOUR world the way that you perceive it.
Your world is just a collection of all of your past and current thoughts.
THE world is just a collection of the entire human race’s thoughts, in which not a single one is exactly and precisely right, or wrong.
In fact, when you think about the world right now, if you were to think about the world as a whole in one single instant, a certain set of thoughts come to mind which are all born from your past.
The reason why you know this is without memory, you would not be able to form a single judgement.
And memory is of the past.
The mind takes form in this moment, because those set of thoughts about what the world is, or isn’t crystalizing into a set of patterns, components, sequences, shapes and ultimately forms.
What’s important to note is that, although these thoughts seem ephemeral or constantly changing, they are having a direct effect on your nervous system, brain, cells and every particle of your being.
And when you look at the nature of what a thought is, it’s just an electrical impulse created from the brain.
So these thoughts have no choice to affect you biologically because their source is coming from inside of the body.
Object or Form consciousness is where The Buddha had been fixated but he knew that was more…
How did he know that was more?
Buddha grew up in a wealthy family, that would not let him see the gross nature of all forms/objects via the external world.
They wanted him fixated on the rich and abundant life. That was until he slipped out to the world and found rotting corpses and suddenly his life changed forever.
No longer was it so apparent to him that everything was always perfect, that the world was this perfectly stable thing.
This realization showed him that there was more to be discovered, which is when he went out on the search for enlightenment, and rather the search for finding that formless dimension.
He was like, everyone prior to finding that dimension was unaware of what truly he was looking for…
I mean how can you want something that you’re unsure that it exists in the first place?
But he intuitively knew that there was something deep in the innermost depths of him waiting to be discovered…
Insert Formless Dimension
The way that the mind normally speaks is in terms of opposites.
Black is the opposite white.
Down is the opposite of up.
Left is the opposite of right
So and and so fourth.
Formlessness is not the opposite of form, because it is free from opposites.
This is why the Formless nature that The Buddha realized was not personal to only him.
Formless Awareness is impersonal awareness, and yet this impersonal awareness can be known on the level of the individual.
This is why you cannot possess and make the Formless awareness ‘mine’ or about ‘me’, myself and I.
That would be like saying that the space within which you exist is yours, when you know that clearly not to be the case.
Speaking of space…
Formlessness has absolutely no qualities, and no reference points, no concepts, no ideas and absolutely no-thing.
Well one could ask, how can you know it, if it is no-thing?
Just the same exact way that you can know that you’re in space, even though you cannot see it, taste it, touch/feel it, smell it or listen to it.
And you know WITHOUT QUESTION that space exists, and rather than exists, that space is.
Being that no word, sentence or phrase can truly explain the formlessness dimension, the best we can do is explain what it is not.
– Is not ANYTHING you can think about.
(You can think about it, but not one of those thoughts will be it.)Is not ANYTHING you can perceive. (not intellectually perceive)
– Is not ANYTHING you can grasp.
– Is not ANYTHING you can comprehend.
– Is not anything you can know from the past.
– Is not anything you can know from the future.
– Is an experience, but not a fleeting one, and or conceptual one.
Saying that you can experience your natural self, would be like saying that you can experience your breathing.
Nobody has ever said that you experience breathing, it is just said that you breathe.
Paradoxically speaking…(Infinite complexity)
It has no choice but to be experienced because that non fleeting experience is already here, you just don’t realize it and that experience is not born and thus cannot die.
And when you look at the nature of what an experience actually is, you will see it’s anything that you can know and anything you can know biologically.
Knowing is the key phrase.
What are some things you know without ABSOLUTE CERTAINLY.
I’m not talking about things you believe with absolute certainty, I’m talking about things you ‘know’ with absolute certainty.
Example: How many people do you know that believe that they know that the sky is blue.
According to them this is an unquestionable fact, but when you go into the sky you cannot find any specific location with the color blue.
Things that you know with absolute certainty is that…
You’re breathing right now.
You don’t believe you’re breathing, you know it with absolute certainty and that’s all there is to it, full stop, the end.
There is no possibility of you being wrong in your knowing of breathing.
Everything from this point of breath is up for questioning…
Your sensory perception or physical see, taste, touch, smell and hearing are limited in time and location.
What you see is not the full spectra.
Your taste buds can only taste so much…
Everything you touch and feel is only limited to the way that your brain has adapted to the physical world…
When your nose is clogged up, you won’t be able to smell everything in the room let alone states and country wide…
And your hearing is limited in it’s distance…
NONE of this is a problem, and in no way is something someone needs to overcome.
It is important to know that our senses are limited, and at the same time to know what we know without question.
Which is that of our breathing. This very breath.
What shape does the breath take?
This is of course a trick question, because in order for the breath to take a shape or form it would have to be a solid object.
It would also have the same thing as thought, and we know that it isn’t because breath attention is verifiably distinct than thinking is on a biological level.
The reason that knowing that this breath is something that we know for absolute certainty, paying attention to it is the closest, most direct, most immediate path into the pathless formless dimension.
Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh has called this…
The Perfect Dimension.
The Absolute Dimension.
It’s important not to get fixed on words such as dimension, because words like that can make it feel otherworldly, or abstract.
Dimension is just a word used to describe the immeasurable.
And so is formlessness.
You cannot really describe the breath, aside from the basic inhale and exhale.
You can speak about how it gives us life, and about how paying attention to it can calm you down, release you from stress, anxiety and tension…
Help you fall asleep at night.
Release stress chemicals aka Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.
You can speak about these things, but that speaking is not doing you justice, the attention must rise from the thoughts and directly into the breath.
Prince EA has also referred to this as…
“The thoughtless dimension.”
Remember that a form is anything that you can think about. And I mean ABSOLUTELY anything everything that you think about is a form and takes shape.
So when you stop thinking, the shapes go away, the forms go away and the mental constructions dissolve.
Breath attention is synonymous with losing thought. This is why Bruce Lee said…
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water.”
When you look at a cup and you see substance in it like liquid. That cup is no longer empty. That emptiness of the cup is being taken up by the liquid.
Imagine that your mind is like that cup. When there are thoughts running in and out of your mind, the cup or the mind is no longer empty.
In certain Zen traditions they say that the nature of the mind is that it’s naturally already empty, just like the cup is already empty before it is used.
So what does emptiness have to do with formlessness?
When something is empty, what form does that emptiness take?
Trick question…because that emptiness is not an object to take a shape or a form.
That’s why emptiness is itself formlessness.
And that’s why formlessness is itself emptiness.
Both words are synonymous and yet NOT it.
The moral here is that, if your mind is clouded with a bunch of thoughts (forms), the obvious formless empty nature of the mind will not be directly obvious to you right now.
But remember, because formlessness cannot be comprehended, grasped or interpreted the mind cannot think itself into formlessness.
“Water? What is water? That’s what a fish would say if it had a human mind.” – Eckhart Tolle
A fish can only survive in water, it has to have water, and yet it does not intellectualize, conceptualize, grasp or concern itself with what water actually is.
Looking from formless awareness is more of allowing yourself to quiet the mind, empty the mind long enough for the formlessness to be known, to an EVEN MORE obvious degree than this breath.
Yes, you heard that right.
You’re formless nature is closer to you than your five physical senses, and this very breath.
Go through the breath with breath attention like a portal and move directly into the unknown.
Empty out of the mind, feel the entire inner body, and focus on breathing all at precisely the same time without an ounce of effort.
Don’t look for absolutely anything.
Don’t want anything, desire anything, drop all looking, all searching, all needing and all desiring.
Rather than knowing yourself as…
– Your name.
– Your past experiences
– Your job, beliefs, perspectives, outlooks
– Anything that your mind associates with who you are…
– And don’t associate with the mind itself…
Know yourself as the unquestionable knowing in which all phenomena, thoughts, experience arises in and out of…
This formless awareness rather than being a linear, coming & going experience, or somewhere to get to, is actually who you are…
There is a Paradox however…
The more that you let go of a coming & going experience, the greater the allowing, the greater the surrendering from thought, desire, need and craving the more you’re allowing yourself to realize Nirvana.
This is when your entire perceived universe collapses, and the only thing you have ever known, know or will ever know is Formless awareness.
This is when the unquestionable knowing goes from what you think you know, to what is looking directly through your eyes as everything.
Your past is somewhat distorted versus everything that actually happened which at the time was not perceivable due to the limitations of the senses.
Your current present moment as the way that you’re interpreting it is distorted due to the limitations of the senses.
Where the present moment that just simply is, the suchness, the isness IS the formlessness dimension.
Which is why you will never be able to find the formless dimension by thinking about the past, the future and not even thinking about the present moment.
When thinking moves away there is just present moment awareness and that’s all.
Once distortion moves entirely away, thoughts move entirely away Hindus refer to this stateless state as “Without wind.”
And consider the nature of wind. It’s chaotic, it’s everywhere, it’s unstable just like the nature of form and object consciousness.
And observing the mind, and it will empty out on it’s own.
No need to put in intense desire. Just sit and continuously watch the mind, watch the thoughts move in and out of empty space that they are contained in.
At the most spontaneous moment, a sudden rapture will pierce through.
An overwhelming vividness like no other.
A sense of being alive beyond your wildest imagination.
“Perfect brilliant stillness.” – David Carse
You will no longer know Buddha as the Illuminated one anymore, but you know the ONE as illuminated.
A sense of being alive that feels closer than eternity. A sense of being still, alert, grounded, abiding that is closer than infinity, and yet timeless, omnipresent and all knowing.
Every single object in existence will be doused with a dazzling, sparkling, glittering and glowing brightness brighter than the sun.
“It will be a very shocking thing because it’s going to blast every nerve, every cell, even the cells in the marrow of your bones.” – UG Krishnamurti
And yes, every cell, every single particle is going to burst ALIVE like coming fresh out of your mothers womb for the first time.
A boundless, infinite, timeless, eternal and UNSHAKEABLE knowing.
Speaking of the Newborn baby.
What reference points does a newborn baby fresh out of his mothers womb have?
Absolutely none. No memory, no reference point.
No past, no reference points.
No knowledge, no reference points.
Not a single one.
Just only knowing.
Nothing but knowing.
Only aliveness, nothing but aliveness.
The natural state of every human being, and it’s already here.