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Let see how we can proceed
First look at the view in front of you, any view is good, the less hindered the better. For example , the view in front of you when you’re sitting leisurely having tea or coffee in your backyard, with blue sky, white clouds, a willow tree with rustling leaves dancing, moving with the wind, and sunset is coming etc.
Let’s look at it with concentration, for 1, 2 minutes or 10 minutes, if you will.
Then close your eyes.
After closing your eyes, observe these things :
1. What do you see retained in your mind, your “consciousness”, your brain, as an after-effect created and modified by the electrical signals from the retina to the brain via the optic nerve. Some of these could be as follow
(a) blackness or a grey haze,
(b) nothing at all (not even blackness),
(c) afterimages on a background field of black or gray,
(d) visual imagery of objects, maybe like a dream or a faint perception
My experience : I usually see after-images, the brighter the images before closing eyes, the longer the images retain, for example, from 10 seconds to about a minute the most. And that also depends on how long you’re determined to keep that image for a longer period, say 3 minutes most, before other things interfere. This is experience before bedtime.
2. How strong is the intensity of the retained image ? How long can this very poor “impression”, imprint in the mind, the brain through electrical signals and work of optic nerves can normally sustain before it fades away?
3. How well can the retained image cover the main details [ let’s say 30%] , and keep the vividness, color, shade of that view in front [ let say around 15-20% intensity, vividness] before they go away?
These observations in this seemingly very simple observation can have a profound effect in understanding the true nature of things (the dharmas), when we meditate, study, contemplate long enough.
These observations can lead to inferences, rationalizations about the true nature of things on three aspects, or levels :
1) On the naïve realism level :
At this level, even though it is naïve/vulgar : Buddhists believe they reflect a degree of “truth” as can be determined, confined as this :
If you say you can see such and such, for example, the view in front of you, you are supposed to be able to describe it exactly as it has appeared. Now, when you close your eyes, does anybody have that ability at all ? And this is what is told in the Hearst Sutra : Form is not different from Non-form ( or the Void). Not to reason very far, just this experience can show, at this level/aspect of “philosophical” realism, or natural intelligence, one can assert this “truth” : Close your eyes and everything disappear. Form has become Non-form, just by closing your eyes [ Conditions change in an instant less than a second, or kṣaṇa ( a very small unit of time in Buddhism, just a very, very small fraction of a second, therefore, what perceive in the next second of the front view has changed too]. To confirm this, just observe how the sky and the surrounding features in that front view in the minutes sunset comes, in a few minutes of time, when you close you eyes, then open them, the sky, the clouds, the willow tree has been blended, “consumed” by the opaque, subdued tone of the evening. If we include several other changing parameters, or relational details, we have to say, Heraclitus is quite correct and intelligent, when he says : You can never step in the same river twice.
2) What do you “see”, when you are asked to describe it and its details, or features if you close your eyes, or are away from the scene, i.e. that front view ? What you can describe then is just the very minimum, mostly faint, distorted, forgetful, poor, miserable “skeleton” of the real view, except perhaps for one or two details which has capture your attention the most. In all other examples, similar to this, what you can recall, remember to describe are also just skeletons of the living experiences, acts, behaviors, feelings, activities etc. Can we ever see exactly how the leaves of willow tree swing, dance at any moment and describe it when we do not have it in front of us ?
3) On the level of philosophical significance, or epistemology; in physics, or biology etc. from the ideas about form, essence of Plato, beings of Aristotle, down to intuited, conceptualized eidos of E. Husserl, the nature of things refute all these systems as they try to capture, structure, construct the Ultimate Truth of (all) things, or even only their “essence”. Physics is the best means, sometimes, to understand what are related, what are the important information to see the changing nature of things. Idea, conception, rationalization, logic in their inter-relationship to build such “system”, or foundation, or knowledge maybe compared as having only strings, glue and pins to build their system to “discuss” that ever-elusive , splendid, indescribable Truth, while even no massive ropes, incredible strong glue, or giant nails can pin It down. That’s the reason Buddha and the Masters can only utter : evam evam = as such , as such, to say anything about the True Nature of things ( dharmas). Then remain silent.
Key : What appears, forms in our Consciousness as idea, concept after we do not see the Real thing anymore, has a different identity and nature from what the actual experience was in the first contact.
Additional note: No wonder, in their sub-consciousness, the question of Being, the most abstract and at the same time the most empty Concept in Western philosophy as well as beings, have always kicked now and then, together with beings ontically and ontologically, from Parmenides, Aristotle down to Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Sartre etc. And in some curious, essential way, it can have some significance in the meaning of existence— for every one of us, one time or another.