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The Dream of Vishnu (Part 2) Nothingness?

By Prashant Saxena
The Buddhist conception of nothingness today is grossly misunderstood. Many people ask that if the ultimate reality consists of nothingness or emptiness, then why even do anything? People prescribing to such point of view also state that it is all maya, then why should we even do any dharmic actions? Such people see futility in doing their righteous duties for the welfare of the society or dharma. It is similar to the situation of a shattered Arjun who found it useless to fight his enemies on the battlefield consisting of relatives and friends. The war of mahabharat should not be judged as a good war or a bad war but a dharmic war. Is non-doing of one's own duties really futile? Is inaction same as renunciation of actions? Inactions connote ceasing of all the actions whether it be for the welfare of the society or protecting a loved one, whereas renunciation of actions refer to the detachment from the fruits of actions. Attachment to the fruits of actions leads to misery, stress, anger and loss of intellect (BG, chapter 2 and 5). It is evident that a student who is attached to the results of an exam will spend more time thinking about the negative results, i.e pessimism, unable to work perfectly or without stress. An optimist might not study efficiently attached to the optimism. Whereas a realist, would ignore both i.e pessimism and optimism, and devote his time to perfectly execute his dharmic actions i.e to study without a faltering mind and without attachment to the result. Similarly, if an innocent woman is being harassed, then inaction would only prove the ignorance of a person in general, attachment to his beliefs and apathy to adharma. Actions based on fruitive results may sow seeds of mental weakness and thoughts of pain i.e if a person fights the oppressor. But it is only the action based on detachment i.e renunciation of action, which will allow the person to execute dharmic actions perfectly for the preservation of dharma. Is inaction better for the soldiers at border or actions based on fruitive results and what kind of fruitive results as ultimately it is only destruction that happens when nations go to war. If it is inaction by the soldiers, then terrorists will keep exploiting their nation. Therefore, the soldiers have to prescribe to the dharmic kshatriya activities without any attachment to the fruits. This renunciation of action can be seen even in the highest orders of the cosmos. One who realizes the renunciation of action in activities and action in the renunciation of activities, he is spiritually intelligent among mankind, transcendentally situated a perfect performer of all actions. One whose every undertaking is devoid of motivation for fruitive desires and sense gratification and who has incinerated all activities in the fire of pure knowledge; the spiritually intelligent describe him as educated. After giving up attachment for fruitive results, always satisfied, indifferent to external phenomena; he in spite of being engaged in activities does not do anything at all.(BG 4.18-20)

The nature of the life giving Sun is to illuminate the skies and sacrifice its heat. The nature of trees is to purify the atmosphere, control the under ground water table and keep the soil healthy. Similarly, can it be said that the nature of the ultimate reality is to manifest from the high waters of the unmanifest? Can it be said that the manifestation, preservation and destruction of material play is also the nature of the ultimate reality? Will there be any manifestation or destruction if the ultimate reality renounces its nature or dharma, will there be any life left on earth if Sun stops its dharmic actions and will there be any purified air left if trees leave their own actions? O Arjuna, in the spiritual worlds, the heavenly worlds and the material worlds there is no prescribed duty for Me; neither anything to be obtained or unobtained; yet still I am engaged in prescribed activities. O Arjuna if ever I would not engage in prescribed activities certainly all men would follow My path in all respects. If I cease to perform prescribed actions the inhabitants of all the worlds would be put into ruin and I would be the cause of unvirtuous population and would destroy all these living entities. O Arjuna, just as the ignorant act attached to activities; even so the wise being unattached should act desiring to benefit the welfare of the world. (BG 3.22-25) Even if a person prescribes to the ordinary definition of "nothingness or emptiness", the concept of maya based on it concluding the world to be unreal and assume that all actions are futile and generalizes "inactions" to be better, then also he is ignorant of the fact that he is breathing and exhaling, his inner organs, like kidney, liver etc, working according to their own dharma and the various bacteria working for the utilization of food and preservation of the body. Thus, by ceasing activites even the bodily maintenance is not possible. One cannot remain without engaging in activity at any time, even for a moment; certainly all living entities are helplessly compelled to action by the qualities endowed by material nature. Anyone who having controlled the five working sense organs remains thinking within the mind about sense objects, that foolish being is known as a hypocrite. But anyone who regulates the senses by the mind O Arjuna, begins the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness by the actions of the working sense organs without desire for results; he is superior. You should perform your prescribed Vedic activities since actions are better than renouncing actions; by ceasing activity even your bodily maintenance will not possible. O Arjuna this whole world is bound by actions except for actions sacrificed unto the SupremeLord; being free from attachment perfectly engage in actions for the purpose of sacrifice. (BG 3.5-9) Therefore, Maya does not infer that the world is nothingness" or unreal, but an effect stemming out from the attachment and the three modes of nature. Today, the youngsters are attached to much name, fame and lust because of which they get upset and angry easily if their desires are not satisfied. Further, to get their desires fulfilled they often pretend to be someone that they are not which is contrary to self-realization. It further leads to illusion and ignorance. Young girls can be found putting a lot of make up to beautify themselves and they are often attached to their beauty. They then find it depressing during the transition to old age. Physically, we are growing every minute. The change is slow and unobservable. We are not the

very same person who existed fifteen years ago. The image of our face, shape, weight, height etc all have changed. Chemically, we are losing millions of molecules per second in the form of breath (exhale), perspiration, excreta, urination, farts and intaking other molecules in the form of breath (inhale), drinking, eating etc. In brief, a person does not have the same set of molecules or atoms that he had a second ago. Mentally, our thoughts are changing too. What we were thinking a second ago is not the same. Mentally, we evolve and our knowledge increases every passing second. So how can we be the same even in a seconds differentiation? Are our eyes deceiving us when we look into the mirror? If we get attached to our looks, then we are bound to suffer when we change or grow old. This suffering due to attachment and ignorance is the constant effect of Maya which is all around us and forever trying to control our mind. It is only because of Maya that we are not able to understand the ultimate reality or the truth. We see the sun and we think it is the same. But the truth is that the sun is also fading out. It has spent 4 million years and only has another 4 million years to live after which it will convert into a nova or a supernova. It is releasing huge amount of hydrogen in the form of fusion reactions into helium. Therefore, chemically it is not the same any second. Physically it releases long chains of fires or the solar winds, its magnetic field keeps on changing. So again, is our perception deceiving us about the shape and size of the sun? Do we think we will be the same person after 20 years with the same strength, healing rate of the cells, quickness of the mind and the body? Do we think that change is sudden that we would grow fragile with white hair and brittle bones overnight? Thus self realization and knowledge of ultimate reality can only be found through the weapon of detachment. (BG 7.3, 7.25, 3.37-39, 15.3-4) Within this world the inverted form of this tree cannot be perceived, nor its beginning, nor its foundation; severing this strongly rooted in attachment banyan tree with the sharp weapon of detachment; thereafter go to the place where there is no return again by approaching the exclusive shelter, surrendering at the feet of the Supreme Lord; verily to the original, Ultimate Personality from whom the perpetual process emanates. Devoid of false ego and illusion, free from degraded association, perceptive of the eternal and the transitory, dissassociated from lust, completely liberated from the dualities identified as happiness and distress; the wise reach the imperishable shelter of the Supreme Lord. (BG 15.3-5) References :