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The four formlessness – Part Three

We are going to move on to the next formlessness before the year 2020 ends. Yeah!

Formlessness of Other people

The four formlessness in the Diamond Sutra is uniquely Mahayana. It relates to the topic of emptiness. However, that doesn’t mean a practitioner in the Theravada tradition is robbed of the opportunity for such realization. Personally, I think this verse is an expansion from the base realization of non-I. Therefore, it is important for a practitioner to get the 1st Formlessness of “I” right before “expanding”

If our understanding of non- I is wrong, then subsequent understanding relating to Non-other people, non-sentient being and non-life(existences) will be incorrect too. Please allow me to be a nag here.

Non-I is not nothingness. The word “Emptiness” (空) used in Mahayana sutra doesn’t mean nothingness. This first conceptual hurdle can be difficult for many practitioner because; When we explain that our concept of self or soul, is an illusion created by our deluded mind, people tend to conclude WRONGLY, that we are saying “nothingness” Buddha did not teach nihilism.

Our middle path is hard to comprehend and it requires realization from constant mind training.

Using modern language; Perhaps we can try to understand that our sense of self or our experience of an “I”, is nothing more than various psychological functions, looping back unto itself and giving feedback to the mind. That constant looping creates an impression that there is a being residing in our body.

Humanity cling to this sense of being or existence.(aka. identity) We wrongly conclude that each one of us is an unique unit, a precious soul., an individuality, Yet, our experience in life tells us a different perspective. Our self-functioning body seems to be a unique organism on its own. Our ever evolving thought process and personality seems to be a constant flux. The persona of people can change so much that we hardly recognize that person anymore. To cling on to an identity, people invented layers upon layers of man-made persona.

We create family and surnames, tribes and languages, regional cultures, social codes of conduct, systems of thoughts and beliefs, countries, religions, and etc. When different groups meet, all these man-made persona/self-preserving techniques clashed and challenged each other. We are right and you are wrong. I am white and you are black/ yellow.

In another word, when we meet someone different from us, our man-made identity is shaken. We become alarmed and fear is generated. To preserve our identity we either convert the other party or we annihilate them.


When we understand non-I, or emptiness of self and “expand” outwardly; We realize that people around us is also devoid of a permanent identity. They are who they are because of delusion too. Like us, they are fooled by a deluded mind into thinking there is a ‘soul’ or unique being residing in their body.

Their life circumstances or situations or education further conditioned their identity. If he is from Thailand, he would speak Thai. If his family believes in monarchy, he would be taught to respect the King. On the other hand, another human born to an atheist family in USA might be brought up and conditioned to be another “unique” individual.

Everyone is the cause and also its result, generation after generation of social conditioning and education that is constantly evolving. You see, the looping and feedback is also happening as a society! although we try to establish a grand identity, it is also just a grand delusion.

We project our experience outwardly and shape our beliefs around them. Some religion is based on social structures that man created. For example, in China, we have the Jade Emperor with his court officials responsible for all inconceivable natural phenomenon like the wind, rain, thunder and etc. Basically, a model of the Chinese human society. And when a great person with desirable qualities passed away, we cope with that loss by thinking that he/she joined the ranks of god/goddesses to continue their benefits to the society. Prior to that belief, the Chinese believes that humans were created by a Goddess (Nuwa). But unlike a normal woman birthing children, Nuwa created humans from clay. Then Laotzu came along at a later part of Chinese civilization to teach the Tao philosophy. Therefore, we have one group of civilization in the East who believe their creator is female. On the other hand, another civilization believe that the creator is male, some philosopher came along and taught another pattern of thinking. After that, the “I am right and you are wrong….” creates conflict.

Upon ‘seeing’ the folly of a deluded identity, great compassion arises because one is touched by the senselessness of all those man-mad conflict and suffering. Sufferings that is created for ourselves and others.

May all be well and happy.

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