Non- is an interesting prefix in modern Buddhism. It tends to get used in a non-dualistic way. In other words, the opposite of attachment is detachment, but if we want to talk about neither attachment nor detachment, we would use the word non-attachment. Non-duality is kind of like that too. This points to the idea that what we are talking about is beyond dualistic thinking, or the pairs of opposites as it used to be called in occult literature.
Thich Nhat Hanh pointed out that in every piece of paper is a cloud. I told this to my five year old niece the other day. And then explained to her that without clouds there would be no rain, and without the rain there would be no trees, and without the trees there would be no paper. She got it. “It still sounds strange though,” she replied. This is a revolution of thinking, of course it does.
Thich Nhat Hanh calls this Interbeing, some buddhists think this is an aspect of dependent co-arising, and I agree. In one sense we are who we are dependent on our parents, on the society we live in, on the people we mix with in our daily lives to be who we are. Moreover we participate in creating society around us, and the people around us who they are. In one breath we can say that we are responsible for everything being the way it is and also say “I am not my fault.” Neither and both.
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said that you can’t step in the same river twice because by the time you step in it again the river will have changed. It will be different water, different fish, different shapes on the river banks. Just as importantly it won’t even be the same you. You will have changed. The you which has co-dependently arisen will have been changed by your experiences. All that you can really say, and you can’t even say that, is that there is this massive flux. There is certainly no separate permanent you, at all, not even for a second. So don’t delude yourself.
Delusion is exactly what we do. Rather than seeing this massive flux, we particularise. We see discrete fixed objects, and we give them names. And to make things worse we make them good and bad. We cling to our objectifications like a limpet. We define ourselves in terms of our experiences, of our objectified senses, of our objectifying thoughts. As a result, we suffer. When we create good, we create bad.
Yet all the time there is this miraculous awareness. Aware of the passing thoughts, experiences, and just aware in itself. Why define ourselves at all? This awareness doesn’t need definition. Try it. Whatever you define it as, it’s not that. Some would argue that the gateway to this understanding is concentration, but held within a context of not identifying with the thoughts and experiences as they arise. Try it, but don’t become attached to it.
What can we say about it? Or in saying anything have we just objectified and created a new delusion?