In formlessness of “I”, we learn that our body is not “I”. Then we are taught that there is no “I” or soul residing in our body. Our sense of being (mistaken as a soul) is nothing but an illusion caused by interacting psychological factors. This is already bitter medicine for most of us. But if we are open to this idea, our practice takes on new depth.
Ultimately, the realization of non I is a direct experience. It cannot be imagined nor conceptualized.
We also understand that our sense of identity (aka. Persona) is nothing but “programming” or conditioning we received from our surrounding (Aka. Karma) Thus, we adopt man-made rules to strengthen our social identity. We become define by our nationality, religion, cultural heritage, caste, race, family traditions and etc.
In formlessness of people, 无人相。 we let go our social identity and those man made restriction. We understand them as empty. Such realisation in Buddhism, do not make us crazy and we do not start stealing things from others. Monks do not break precepts after enlightenment. Nor do we break social norms and start being a nuisance in society.
When we let go of our social identity, our practice deepens too. Put simply, imagine meditating without the identity of being a stressed worker or a stressed husband or a worried father…. imagine that freedom during our practice. Upon realisation, that freedom is in our daily life too. Thus, a freedom from social stress too. Along with that freedom, our social interactions with people who are still stuck with their social identity deepens. For a Buddhist we know these social identity are empty. Thus our equanimity also deepens. That is how an enlightened person can treat a king and a beggar with equal respect, consideration and kindness.
In Formlessness of sentient being 无众生相, we let go of our clinging to being human or being any other sentient beings. From our realisation of non I, we know that our physical and mental state of being are empty. Instead of clinging to a state of being or existence, we let go of that attachment. Thus there is ease. In short we let go of recoming or samsara.
Letting go of attachment to state of being human doesn’t mean we act like animal or act like an imaginary deity. If we conceptualize this and that, we fall into a psychological trap. If we mistakenly think that our knowledge or conceptualisation is enlightenment we will start to act crazy. Like some mistaken ‘holy’ men who demonstrate their enlightenment by going naked, eating dung and drinking urine. BUDDHA DID NOT DO THAT.
But if we let go of our clinging to sentient forms, then our practice deepen. Or psychic senses are no longer limited by one head facing in one direction. Our perception is not limited by 2 eyes facing in front. We can be facing all directions and be omni aware? Metta meditation radiating outwards in all direction… We can be a ball of light or an alphabet during our meditation. But all these are also not absolute. Just don’t be self defining… for those deep astral travellers, psychic or dream practitioners, you probably can relate with what I am sharing..
In Buddhist practice, we have to be careful when we experience anything during practice. Such psychic or spiritual experience doesn’t mean we are enlightened. Enlightenment starts with the realisation of non-I.
Next we let go of existence. No one was being born and no one is going to die. Enlightenment is the attainment of deathlessness. Thus the realisation of non existential self. 无寿者相 again this based on realisation of Non I. Conceptualizing this phrase only creates confusion.
As can be seen the four formlessness, although based on the same realisation of non I, but they varies in terms of profound-ness. At the finest level, one is freed from samsaric existence.
In this final post I am drawing parallel between the Theravada realisation and what is stayed in the Mahayana Diamond sutra. I hope I got it correct and is on the right path as I continue this journey of formlessness.
May all be well and happy.