Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

The formless realm

DaivaDaiva Veteran
edited July 2013 in Philosophy
Currently I have been focusing my meditation on the Brahamaviharas and trying to gain a good grasp of the Heart Sutras.
And I keep getting a little stuck on wraping my mind around the concept of the formless realm (if form = desire, and the formless is negation of desire, then isn't that a form in itself?) which I understand boils down to an understanding of dependant origination, right?
The quote below (which seems representative of most Buddhist thought), to me, creates a sort of duality.
When I read these things, I think for a second "Oh I get it" and then a second later, I'm like "What?!"
If all is pure consciousness, then how can form not be a part of it?
I guess I am still trying to reconcile my own understanding/beliefs in a universal consciousness which has a flavor of advaita vedanta - in the nonduality sense. I am not sure anymore if I am coming from a Mahayana, Therevada or Hindu perspective. All kind of seem to make sense to me - amd not at all at the same time.
I am sure this question has been brought up a million times - so perhaps you know of a dharma talk or such that can help explain this to my sun-bleached Californian brain?
i am sure I am making this more complicated than it needs to be - the issues with duality/nonduality has always been a tough one for me.


"Attachment in the formless realm: When wrong view with its concomitant grasping no longer contaminates the realm of desire and the realm of form, rebirth in the formless realm follows. That sphere is free from form (body); there is only the knowing consciousness and, therefore, we speak of clinging to the formless realm. Denizens of that realm are no longer preoccupied with matter or material. The Dhyanas and the Dharma are their repast and their bliss.
The formless realm is divided into attainment in meditation on the void; attainment in meditation on consciousness; attainment in meditation on nothingness; and attainment leading to a state of neither perception nor non-perception. Consider for a moment the difference between Dharma talk offered by an Arhat, as compared with that given by someone of lower attainment. The attachment to formless realm still manifests."
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/heartl04.htm

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Moved to 'Advanced Ideas'.
  • newtechnewtech Veteran
    edited July 2013
    Hi:

    In buddhism there is a teaching called "the 5 aggregates" (Skandhas).
    ( This 5 are: Form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness).

    The buddha explained that human beings are made of this 5 things, and this 5 are affected by craving/"desire" or clinging.

    So, form is one thing and "desire" is another, they are not the same.

    About "pure consciousness", i dont know if thats a belief in the Mahayana tradition, but
    surely isnt "representative of most Buddhist thought", since it isnt part of the Theravada view.

    In many suttas consciousness is explained dependently coarisen (consciouness arises and ceases due to conditions, it isnt permanent, it isnt our self, its just a process).

    Daiva
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    There are actually three realms (or could be categorized as such). Desire realm. Form realm, and formless.

    Also, in Tibetan Buddhism (dzogchen) there is a concept of 'primordial ground'.

    Regarding the three realms (as I have categorized) Thich Nhat Hanh has some good insight into this. I think he has a book, the Heart of Buddhist Teachings (IIRC!) that has some input into your question.

    Also @taiyaki might be able to give a helpful explanation.
    Daiva
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited July 2013
    Desire realm as Jeffrey mentioned is what everyone is familiar with. The form and formless can be related to states of meditation.

    In terms of meditation, they are related to samadhi (tranquillity) states.

    Rupa (form) jhanas are the 1st four jhanas and beyond that the arupa (formless) jhanas ie.

    Dimension of Infinite Space - In this dimension the following qualities are "ferreted out":[2] "the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention".[2]
    Dimension of Infinite Consciousness - In this dimension the following quailities are "ferreted out":[2] "the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention".[2]
    Dimension of Nothingness - In this dimension the following qualities are "ferreted out":[2] "the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"
    Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception - No qualities to be "ferreted out" are being mentioned for this dimension.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhyāna_in_Buddhism#Description_of_the_Four_Rupa_Jhanas

    One is supposed to not cling to these states of consciousness ("existence") as Ven Sariputta so eloquently describes in Anupada Sutta.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.111.than.html
    Daivaseeker242
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    Heart Sutras are too advanced for me as I have difficulty opening a tin of tomatoes with a dodgy tin opener.

    However once that tin is open, all kinds of dishes can be made . . .

    :coffee:
  • DaivaDaiva Veteran
    You guys are giving me some deep stuff to dig into and think about...but it looks like I should I try to keep it simple and start with making tomato sauce...
    lobster
  • +,
    _,
    + & -,
    + & - = :o)
    ...%^)(*)*2452*&^86%$#67*&^
    Daiva
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    in time, with practice and moderate but useful study, you will know the perfect source of sauce . . .
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Daiva said:

    Currently I have been focusing my meditation on the Brahamaviharas and trying to gain a good grasp of the Heart Sutras.
    And I keep getting a little stuck on wraping my mind around the concept of the formless realm (if form = desire, and the formless is negation of desire, then isn't that a form in itself?)

    Doesn't the Heart Sutra say "form = emptiness" and not "form = desire"? Where does it say form = desire?

    :om:
  • DaivaDaiva Veteran
    I guess I am interpreting that form arises from the formless through action, causes/conditions - and as we perceive them through the Skandas - and I am seeing this "either there is, or there isn't" argument - there is form, or there isn't form. I think I am just getting stuck in a Kierkegaardian Either/Or loop in my head - when I need to focus on the Both/And argument as @wrathfuldeity so eloquently put it:
    + & - = :0)

    But when I read commentaries, such as the one below - it makes intellectual sense on some level, however, the negation part, "form is void, void is form" to create nothingness/formless starts to bother me. It would mean that form and formless would have to carry equal weight to negate itself, but then it negates itself to be "formless" - so one wins out over the other in my brain. Which starts to indicate a duality - as I am not seeing the equality of yinyang to create this perfect harmonious formlessness of pure consciousness.
    I don't know if I am making sense. I am far from Buddha-level understanding.
    I am seeing that
    + &- = something, not :0)
    :/

    "What is the true Void? True Void is the luminous wisdom of the enlightened mind; without wisdom, how could the Emptiness of the skandhas be disclosed? And, for that matter, how could anyone overcome all ills and suffering? In reality, to break off the eleven form Dharmas is far from easy. Nonduality of form has the inconceivable, brilliant form of supramundane Void - the True Existence. Such is the meaning of "form does not differ from the Void, and the Void does not differ from form." The Buddha was aware that some of his disciples continued approaching form and Void as two, as left and right for instance, and therefore he elaborated further, in depth: "Form is Void, and Void is form.""
    http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/heartv05.htm
  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran
    The formless realms are quite simply aspects of reality that we can orientate our minds towards.

    So let me give you a "concrete" example.

    If we focus on the space between thought we will come to recognize presence/awareness.

    This at first is the witness or the sensations of an awareness behind the eyes and this becomes the vantage point of objectivity. Everything, thoughts and sensations seem to arise and fall yet from this point of view nothing can effect the witness.

    This is really good mindfulness, yet still dualistic in view and grasping.

    This is also what infinite consciousness in the formless jhanas point to, but it is about depth and focus.

    None the less this witness can merge with the space thus becoming more of container of experience rather than just the witness position. So awareness becomes boundless, yet things still arises and fall within awareness. This is a bit less dualistic, but still the basic dualism of THIS (awareness) verse THAT (other stuff) is still there.

    With time and practice one can even penetrate the THAT (other stuff) as part of awareness as well. Hence we have just ONENESS, which is essentially putting everything into presence/awareness.

    This is the formless realms or God realms. The depth of this is where we get the Hindu teachings of Atman merging with Brahman. And one comes to Self-Realization, which is essentially a gigantic reference point of formless awareness as everything.

    Most people get here and stop here and there is a sense of fundamentalism and this is it, i've finally arrive at something spiritual and my life is getting better, freer, etc.

    So these aren't abstract things but rather experiences that meditators cultivate and go through. We have various schools even in Buddhism coming from these experiences such as mind-only school, etc.

    The Buddha pretty much dismisses these as perception attainments rather than a place of abidance.

    What is happening and sorry about my vocabulary, I understand that I talk from a certain context and this may not even make sense.

    We grasp and clarity and luminosity because it is intriguing. I mean its like looking at a beauty girl or boy and just falling in love. These states have that same quality and they are beneficial for they open the heart and really you have a sense of freedom. But in Buddhism they are not what liberate and free us from the six realms.

    What liberates is the nature of luminosity or awareness. We must recognize emptiness of awareness. This brings about dispassion and cessation. Cessation is what we are after. Not only cessation but the insight in how awareness(es) are the building block of perception. With this insight we can deconstruct everything and know both intellectually and intuitively what release is.

    What we find is that impermanence is awareness and moment by moment is release, and fundamentally no thing is occurring. This appearance is unborn, yet appears to continue. This can only be arrive at by realizing the nature of awareness.

    Here is a great link for more info on what I just talked about, probably said better and more clearer. Rob gives a good map on what on can experience on the meditative journey.

    http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2009/07/realizing-nature-of-mind.html

    http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/6349/

    Hope this is clear, if not I'll try my best to clarify.
    DaivapersonlobsterFlorian
  • DaivaDaiva Veteran
    @taiyaki - you are very clear. You make a lot of sense and thx for recognizing the dualistic tendency - and your comments about impermanence does make it a little clearer. For me when i think of the void/formlessness I am thinking about that stagnant nothingness, but even that is "not that."
    Thank you for the talks, as I am reading them slowly so that they sink in
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    The universe is not an amorphous blob (of nothingness or emptiness). Everything is finely structured systems just as in natural sciences such as chemistry and biology.
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Yes, but this is about what lies beyond the universe of which you speak, about Reality and not just the world of Appearance. By reduction the universe is not a system. A true void is not extended and is partless, just as in mathematics a true continuum is not extended and is partless.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Daiva said:


    And I keep getting a little stuck on wraping my mind around the concept of the formless realm (if form = desire, and the formless is negation of desire, then isn't that a form in itself?) which I understand boils down to an understanding of dependant origination, right?

    Yes, according to dependent origination clinging leads to becoming in all the realms, including the formless realm. This is illustrated by the brief extract below from MN9, the Sutta on Right View:

    "There are these three becomings: sensual becoming, form becoming, & formless becoming. This is called becoming.
    "From the origination of clinging comes the origination of becoming. From the cessation of clinging comes the cessation of becoming."
    Jeffrey
  • DaivaDaiva Veteran
    I've meditating on this and checking out some of the things everyone has suggested - (and not getting too deep which is what drives me crazy sometimes). This quote is interesting because it's one those where I see some duality, but I also see how the process of becoming creates a unifying cycle, therefore eliminating the idea of duality in my mind.
    Ok, i guess i need to look a little more at Right View suttas. Thank you.
  • Allow and accept your capacity to not know.
    You can not know by perceptive understanding and comprehension.
    You can know comprehension is very acceptable just as is 'I really don't know'. So relax. So simple to be ignorant. So happy to have the wisdom to just let it be 'nameless' . . .

    To put it another way.
    Bow to your ignorance. It will teach you to accept it. From this wisdom, you will become ignorant . . . which is the wise thing to do . . .

    :bowdown:
  • DaivaDaiva Veteran
    Thx @lobster - from the logical and philosophical perspective, I totally understand the concepts, however, from the personal, emotional level - attempting to comprehend from within - I struggle with it.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Daiva said:

    Thx @lobster - from the logical and philosophical perspective, I totally understand the concepts, however, from the personal, emotional level - attempting to comprehend from within - I struggle with it.

    Maybe you can be mindful of desire and aversion arising in a practical way?
    Daiva
  • Daiva said:

    Thx @lobster - from the logical and philosophical perspective, I totally understand the concepts, however, from the personal, emotional level - attempting to comprehend from within - I struggle with it.

    Understood. :thumbsup:
    It is difficult to induce a relaxed 'gestalt' all encompassing modality. Indeed it may not even be possible totally for the free roaming dharma dragons of the mindless realms . . .
    All I can really suggest is getting used to relaxation into ignorance of what is not yet fathomable. For example I am toying again with the Mahayana dictum, 'Emptiness is forum and no one is on the forum' . . . wait a minute that is not quite right . . . well anyways . . . I am trying to reconcile the rather strange but true potential that the transcendent is formed out of nothing, not even non existence . . . hence here we are.
    As you can imagine trying to fathom the mind of the Great Cod (creator of all us little fishes and mermaids) is beyond the 100 OOO neurons of the average cructacean. The only hope is to use 'quantum thinking' for which I have to sit very still and watch the bubbles that I laughingly refer to as 'my mind'.
    I have a terrible feeling that my little head will explode and I will start gibbering nonsense eg.

    Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world: A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; A flash of lightning in a summer cloud; A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
    Diamond Sutra :wave:
    Daiva
  • Thanks for the helpful post above @Taiyaki.

Sign In or Register to comment.