UPDATE April 2011 >> my little spybot shows a bunch of people are reading this old post now. What's the interest? I'd love to know. Drop me a email or a comment.
Once upon a time there was [ ]. And now I must destroy [ ] a bit by saying that it was formless and yet lacking all formlessness. I will degrade [ ] a bit more, add bit more delusion to it, by saying it was an existence. So out of the formed, formlessness it all arises.
Though there was actually no heaven and earth in this existence, it was all a void of non-differentiation, we could say there was uppy stuff that was way away, and downy stuff that was near by.
And to more complety sickle o'er the perfection of this void with the pale cast of thought we can say there were vast expanses of water and land. And we can carve out blobs of this nothing, this [ ] and call the bits that don't run away from us plants, and the bits that do animals.
Though there was actually no brilliant sun, or calming moon, or splashing streams, or rumbling thunder, we can only say there was sun, moon, streams and thunder because there is no other way to do this.
And this void, this formlessness, did not, but did, have a thousand million eyes, and paws, and noses, and brains, and beating hearts. They arose and fell, like foam tipped waves on the ocean. Here and gone. Sometimes falling into each other, with bits being shat out, and sometimes just falling and blending back into the ground like melting ice cream.
There were in fact no buffalo or tigers or rhinoceroses or giant sloths or tyrannosaurus rexes, but that is how we name those bits of void these days. The names kill what they really were. Confine them to cages that don't express their full truth.
One pair of eyes with brain with limbs started being more populous, and being more populous, more reliably, because it happened to associate a high grunt with getting the hell out of there (what we now would call "danger") and a low grunt with staying put (i.e., "safety"), a yelp with "these berries are good" and a chatter with "tiger over there." This ugly bag of mostly water we can call hu-man took the void, took the formlessness, took the unlimited all, and started carving it up into concepts and names, and this took hold like wildfire amongst the hu-mans. The ones that could trade in this bastardization of the [ ] lived longer, and better, and had more offspring that could pick up on the "benefits" of this carving and hacking the nothingness into chunks of stuff.
Skipping several hundred thousands of not-really-existant years brings us to today. We have a way of life that is crowed with ideas and concepts and language and thoughts that allow us to manipulate very effectively this great void, this nothingness, this [ ], we are in, but we have much trouble seeing it for what it is.
Seung Sahn Soen-sa says "stop making bad and good", Shakespeare says "There is no bad nor good but thinking makes it so." These thoughts, these words this "intellect" is not it, not the [ ]. They are a limited description of parts of it. They lead to the illusion that [ ] is a composition of a bunch of individual things. I do not think that is what [ ] is.
[ ] is a continuous whole of undescribable reality. Our concepts are never adequate. With practice (zazen) we can learn to open our "old" eyes that were part of [ ], and let [ ] flood into our awareness without naming any bit of it, or put thoughts and concepts to it. We can learn to just flow with it again as [ ] is.
[ ] is like the horns of a snail. If we try to touch it with concepts and judgement and language, it shys away.
Of course the discourse above kills [ ] by striving to conceptualize its existance. My thesis requires that even my thesis must miss the mark. The following quoted sentence is a better description,
but not even the concept of empty quotes on a computer screen is close to [ ]. Perhaps you can find some of [ ] on your zafu?