Nothingness and You in Buddhism and Daoism

Uploaded 12/17/2020, approx. 41 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love and Narcissism Revisited, and a professor of psychology. There has been some interest in my philosophical system of life, which I call nothingness, the antidote to narcissism. It is by no means new. It is founded on thousands of years of cumulative wisdom in both West and East.

Of course, I have added a new twist because the times are new. Things have changed and evolved. And as things change and evolve, we change and transform what we have inherited from the past.

But it would behoove us to, from time to time, go back to the roots, which is what I would like to do in this forthcoming series of videos. I have established a new channel. It is called Nothingness, Antidote to Narcissism.

In each and every one of my channels, if you go to the bottom of the page, you see featured channels. And one of the featured channels is actually the channel on Nothingness. So you're welcome to subscribe, to watch, and even shockingly to comment.

So today I would like to discuss mostly Eastern influences, influences from the East. There are well over 15 videos that I've made about Nothingness, and I'm going to upload them gradually to this channel so as not to overwhelm you and to establish some kind of rational progression.

And today's video is one of these, one of these cascades.

And today I would like to discuss Buddha and his successors. And I would like to like to discuss Chinese influences.

But before we go there, first of all, I recommend that you watch previous videos on this channel and on my other channels, videos that deal with Nothingness. There's Nothingness playlist on my main channel. There are Nothingness videos on my Vaknin Musing channel so you can get a grasp and a handle on what I'm saying.

I believe that there are three toxic threats to one's individual freedoms and authentic being. And they are hope, love, and success.

Mind you, hope and success are relatively modern narratives. You don't find much of them, for example, in the Bible. Love is a different story, but even love in its current incarnation, in its current incarnation and perception, is a new thing.

Romantic idealized love is essentially a creature of, I would say, the 19th century, like childhood, like motherhood. They all seem eternal, some paternal, timeless, but they're not. They're actually social constructs.

Hope is a counterfactual and delusional reaction to despair and to meaninglessness. The universe is meaningless and this induces in some people, for a reason which I find mysterious, induces in some people a sense of desperation.

It's like, I call them the existential desperadoes.

It's like if the universe has no meaning and no sense and no direction and no purpose and no goal, all is lost. We might as well commit suicide.

I'm not quite sure why meaning has such a force. Viktor Frankl, of course, had written extensively about it and even established a treatment modality called logotherapy, which evolves and revolves and pivots around meaning and introduction of meaning.

Existentialism is preoccupied with the question of meaning and meaninglessness, being and nothingness, of course. It seems to be a kind of obsession.

The human race ruminates on the issue of meaning and hope is our way to self-medicate, to self-soothe, to comfort ourselves by telling ourselves, well, there is some meaning, there is some sense it's going somewhere, it's going to be better.

We have this concept of progress from bad to good, from worse to better. So we have this linear time arrow, which kind of informs us that everything that comes after is better than everything that came before, which is, of course, totally, total nonsense, totally counterfactual.

Hope fosters expectations that are invariably thwarted.

The companions and successes of hope are frustration, aggression, depression. Nothing in my mind is more pernicious, more insidious than hope.

The opposite of hope is not hopelessness. The opposite of hope is reality testing. The opposite of being hopeful is not being nihilistic or cynical. The opposite of being hopeful is being realistic.

Hope is also not the opposite of planning. Hope-motivated planning is hopeless. It's bound to fail. It's setting yourself up for failure.

You should not base your planning on hope. You should base your planning on data, on facts, on interconnectivity, on patterns, on science. Hope should be the foundation of absolutely nothing, because it's a very, very rotten foundation. It can't stand scrutiny, it can't stand analysis, and it doesn't stand to reason.

Love. The second member of the triplet, love is the pathological attempt.

Yes, I'm using the word pathology judiciously.

Most mental health experts, if they are not politically correct, will tell you that love has all the biochemical and psychological aspects and dimensions of mental illness. Love is the pathological attempt to counter existential and profound loneliness.

Loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness when you don't have who to drink with or who to go to bed with. That's not the kind of loneliness I'm talking about. I'm talking about really abysmal, foundational, existential, all pervasive, ubiquitous, cellular loneliness.

The kind of loneliness where, for a split second, you become convinced that you're the only thing in the universe, not only the only person, but the only thing. It's a kind of solipsistic loneliness.

And love is the attempt to counter it via an idealized, largely narcissistic narrative projected onto one's partner.

We don't love. We rarely love other people. We love how other people love us. We rarely love our intimate partners. We love the idea of love. We love being in love. We love relationships. We love many things.

It is easy to prove rigorously, philosophically, that it's impossible to love another person. Love crucially depends on cognition and it's impossible to know another person. We don't have access to anyone's mind. We don't have access to anyone's mind, privilege or otherwise.

Intersubjectivity is an agreement. It's totally arbitrary.

Empathy is a very dubious proposition, as I've analyzed in other videos.

So we tell ourselves stories and narratives because we're a storytelling species. So we tell ourselves, yeah, we can connect with other people. They can love us. We can love them.

It invariably ends in heartbreak and devastation, or in the best case, in dependency. Dependency. We become dependent or heartbroken, or usually both.


Because love is inherently contrived. It involves numerous practices which run counter to the pursuit of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's a compromise and a bad one.

I'm going to deal with all these issues one by one in future videos. I'm going to give you an overview.

Finally, there is the issue of success.

Success is the most shoddy and derelict of these three because success has nothing to do with the individual. It is society's way of harnessing individual energies, individual gifts, talents, skills, harnessing these, mobilizing these in the service of the collective.

It's a social control narrative. The elites encourage it.

Remember the American dream? Unattainable? Asymptotic? Always, almost within reach but never is. Remember this nonsense? That's success.

Remember all these coaches online who tell you that you are giants, need to be awakened and can make millions and have beautiful girls driving Mercedes cars or Porsche or whatever it takes your fancy? They're lying to you. They think you're brain dead and they're taking your money and laughing all the way to the bank and you know what? They're right. You are brain dead.

Success is slavery. Slavery in all but name and these coaches and these managers and these entrepreneurs, the ones who benefit from your collective toil, from your labor, from the means of production. We are the slave masters. It's a giant plantation. We're entering a new feudal age.

Income inequality has never been worse in recorded history, at least in recorded modern history to be precise. Aspicati.

So the rational sane person avoids this venomous identity eradicating trio, avoids hope, avoids love and avoids success. The rational sane person leaves free in the fullest sense of the word. He is free of the future and its intimations. Hope. He is free of all other people. Love. He is self-sufficient but not self-sufficient in the stupid, hubristic, narcissistic grandiose sense.

I don't need anyone at all. I'm everything and everyone to myself. That's stupid. He is self-sufficient in the sense that the absence of others and the absence of material objects, dead inanimate objects, doesn't detract from his happiness. His happiness is never important. It's generated. His happiness does not rely on the outside. It is an internal process, self-perpetuating internal process.

So he is free of all others. He's capable of attaching to others, bonding with others, collaborating with others, even colluding with others. But he is free to do so.

Finally, he is free of any organizing principle such as the nonsensical, inane concept of success. He is free of all this. He is out of the rat race because he is not a rat. He doesn't seek to be the top lobster because shockingly he had discovered that he is not a lobster. He is a human being. And to be a human being in the true and full sense of the word, you first need to be distinct. You need to be distinct. You need to have agency. You need to have self-efficacy. And you need to be embedded firmly in the narrative of reality. Not in any imagined future. Not in another person. Not in any principle of organization or explanatory principle, but in yourself.

You come from yourself and you end in yourself. It's a circle. It's a loop. It's not an accident that the circle was the most dominant and meaningful symbol of all mystical traditions. Whenever this Nietzschean superman is threatened by hope, by love, by success, he rebels. He doesn't rebel stupidly. He doesn't rebel defiantly. He doesn't rebel psychopathically and definitely doesn't become a criminal. But he rebels. He rebels. He recoils.

And he is gone. He is gone from the sin of the crime about to be perpetrated against him. He has left everything behind. He has left everyone behind.

So many discarded shackles. He had abolished slavery and emancipated himself.

In previous generations, people had a different language or different succession of languages. Language elements.

People didn't say, let's say mental illness. They used the word demons.

When someone was mentally ill, they said he was possessed. If the mental illness was conducive to social functioning, they said that he was possessed by God. And he became a prophet. If it was against nonconformist and against social mores and ethics and etiquette and so on, they said that he was possessed by Satan, by the devil.

Position was a language element. And today we use the word mentally ill to describe the very same set of phenomena.

Similarly, there was the word God. God is a found of meaning. God is something that explicates the universe, makes sense of it, introduces order into chaos.

And so human life without God was considered to be wretched. Human condition implied restlessness and we, anxiety. Everyone was saying this for like hundreds of years, maybe 2000 years. And everyone was saying this, every Western philosopher, starting with Augustine and ending with Blaise Pascal, they were all saying this.

Without God, you are all over the place. You're falling apart. You are anxious. You're depressed. You are wretched without God.

God therefore was not only an organizing principle, not only the principle of order, but God was a guarantee for your happiness, the guarantee for your peace of mind and calmness and ultimately ability to function.

And there was a recurrent image of a kind of gulf or abyss.

Augustine said that the human soul is a deep abyss, Tohu, like in the Hebrew Bible. It's not only abyss, but it's like the abode of chaos.

He said that the human soul is like the nothingness that preceded creation.

I refer you to Genesis chapter one, verse two. Before there was creation, there was nothingness, Tohu vavohu.

But Tohu vavohu in Hebrew means not only nothingness, not only vacuity, not only a receptacle, a conceptual receptacle within which things can fit so it's empty, but it also implies chaos, the inability to order things. And without order, there's no meaning. And without meaning, there's no sense. And without sense, there's no happiness. Without happiness, there's no functioning.

And the human soul by itself is insufficient to accomplish this condition of completeness.

You need the light of God, said Augustine. You need the light of God because we, without the light of God, we are dark emptiness.

And there was many years ago, many centuries ago, but we still come across the same sentiments in someone like Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian.

Kierkegaard said that human freedom is a constant state of anxiety. He said that the condition of humanity is a person, someone standing on the edge of a dark precipice, not knowing that it's a precipice.

And he too said that the only solution, the only light is God.

He too said that you need to make this leap of faith. You need to suspend judgment, ratio, reason, and simply to believe, simply to have faith.

And we have a Jewish philosopher by the name of Leibovic. And he said the same.

He said, you need to obey the commandments without understanding why, without inquiring even why. You just need to obey this act of unthinking obeisance, obedience.

This is the leap of faith that Kierkegaard mentions.

And Pascal himself, who was more scientifically inclined, Pascal dreaded what he had discovered as a scientist.

He said this infinite space is so silent. He wrote a book of thoughts, this organized chaotic mess called Pense, I mean, thoughts.

And he writes there that he dreads the silence of infinite space.

He has these images of void and darkness and echo and echoes.

And I mean, today he would probably be on medication.

And the imagery of Pense, the imagery of these thoughts is that it's all about to, it's all on the edge of not being. It's like we are on the seam, we're on the cutting edge, the bleeding edge between being and not being.

Indeed, we all end up not being. And our being is simply a path to not being if you don't believe in the afterlife. And of course, the afterlife is a childish invention, trying to fend off this image of not being.

We can't even conceive what it is to not be, because who is it that will not be?

When we think about our non being, we still are there. It is we who think about it.

We cannot conceive of not being because the only state we are acquainted with is being.

And so nothingness in my work, and of course, in countless previous, much wiser men than me, nothingness is a very threatening concept.

Because whatever else you want to be, you want to be because you know, know better and you know, know different and you do not know how to be.

It's like someone demands for you to do something, a task.

You know, some people are technophobes, they're afraid of computers, like someone insists that if you don't accomplish something very complicated on a computer, you're going to be executed and say, I don't know. I don't know how to work with computers. I'm afraid of computers, please. I don't know how to not be. I'm afraid of nothingness and emptiness. Please let me go.

And I want to read to you a section from a book about Buddha by Karen Armstrong. Karen Armstrong.

And this is the second.

Guatama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Guatama, was an aesthetic who lived in India, sometimes between the sixth and fourth centuries before Christ, and on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.

The point when Buddha was sick and dying and about to attain the final nirvana, nibinana, or nirvana after death, called pārinibana.

So when he was in this state, he struggled to describe this death. He too was at a loss.

How to explain to people what it means to not be. And emptiness and not being are crucial elements of Eastern philosophies.

Philosophies, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, in the East, in Asia, especially.

But also I would say in Judaism, some strands of Judaism, mystical Judaism and so on, not being, was pretty crucial.

And in some schools, the foundation of being. While in the West, we focused on being. We focused on being in the West because we were materialistic from the get-go. We had to survive. The West was a very hostile environment. Europe in the 10th century was one of the most hostile environments in the world, if not the most hostile.

So we had to survive. We didn't have time for nonsense. We needed to know how to make hammers. We needed to know how to make weapons. We needed to kill animals. We didn't have time to speculate. We didn't have leisure time. And so we were very busy just staying alive, staying afloat.

And so we became very focused on material goods and on being, on everything that exists, everything we can touch and so on.

We became also very sensual, sensor-oriented civilization.

But this didn't happen in Asia, and to a large extent in Africa.

And so he was dying, Buddha, and he was trying to explain to his disciples what the heck was going on. What was he going through?

And he said, what was this Paginnibana, this nirvana after death? What was this Paginnibana? Was it simply an extinction? And if so, why was this nothingness regarded as such a glorious achievement? How would this final nirvana differ from the peace that the Buddha had attained under the Bodhi tree?

The word nirvana, it would be recalled, means cooling off or going out like a flame. The term for the attainment of nirvana in his life in the text is saupadi-sasa.

And Arant, Arant is a perfect person who had attained nirvana, and Arant had extinguished the fires of craving, extinguished the fires of hatred and ignorance, but he still had a residue, sasa, of fuel, upadi, as long as he lived in the Bodhi, used his senses, used his mind, and experienced emotions.

I once gave a lecture, and I compared the process of attaining nirvana or attaining the state of nothingness to peeling an onion. I said, you are like an onion. You peel the first layer, the second layer, the third layer, and finally you peel all the layers and you discard them. And that's nirvana. That's the state of not being.

And then I said, but the smell of the onion always remains. Even after you had discarded the onion, the smell remains.

So this is the saupadi-sasa, the smell of the onion. Even when you had attained nirvana, you're still using your mind. You're still using your body. You have senses. You still experience emotions which you cannot control. This is the smell ofof the onion.

There was a potential for further conflagration. The fire could be rekindled suddenly. The fire that you had worked many decades to put out could be suddenly rekindled out of your control.

But when the same person, the island, dies, this khanda could never be ignited again. This fire, embers, embers of fire could never be ignited again. They could not fit the flame of a new existence.

The island was therefore free from samsara, from rebirth, from reincarnation. It could be absorbed wholly into the peace and immunity of nirvana.

This is the difference. Death is a stop to the fire. Period. Final. No appeal. No rekindling. No re-emergence.

So the book continues.

But what did it mean? What does it mean?

We have seen that the Buddha always refused to define nirvana because we have no terms that are adequate for this experience that transcends the reach of the senses and the mind.

Like those monotheists who prefer to speak of God in negative terms, Buddha sometimes preferred to explain what nirvana was not.

It was, he told his disciples, a state where there is neither earth, nor water, nor light, nor air, neither infinity, nor space. It is not infinity of reason, but nor is it an absolute void. It is neither this world nor another world. It is both sun and moon.

In other words, he mapped all the territory of what it is not, what nirvana is not, this state of nothingness. And very little was left.

Indeed, there was the aim to exclude everything. You could say that nothingness, my principle, is a state of exclusion, but we'll come to it in some other video.

The book continues.

That did not mean that it was really nothing. We have seen that it became a Buddhist heresy to claim that an arahant ceased to exist in nirvana, but it was an existence beyond the self and blissful because there was no selfishness.

Those of us who are unenlightened and whose horizons are still constricted by egotism cannot imagine this state.

But those who had achieved the death of the ego knew that selflessness was not a void.

When the Buddha tried to give his disciples a hint of what this peaceful Eden in the heart of the psyche was like, he mixed negative and positive terms.

Nirvana was the extinction of greed, hatred and delusion. It was the third noble truth. It was stainless, unweakening, un-disintegrating, inviolable, non-distress, non-affliction and un-hostility. All these epithets emphasize that nirvana canceled out everything that we find intolerable in life.

It was not a state of annihilation, not annihilation. It was deathless.

But there were positive things that could be said of nirvana too. It was the truth, the subtle, the other shore, the everlasting, peace, the superior goal, safety, purity, freedom, independence, the island, the shelter, the harbor, the refuge, the beyond. It was the supreme good of humans and gods alike, an incomprehensible peace, and an utterly self-refuge.

Many of these images are reminiscent of words that monotheists have used to describe God.

I recommend the book, Cairin Armstrong, Penguin Books, published in 2001, and it's simply titled Buddha.

My principle of nothingness is not ego-death. It's not selflessness.

In this sense, I differ radically from the likes of Tolle, Eckhart Tolle, and of course, the Buddha himself.

So my principle of nothingness is not a Buddhist principle. It's not one of the big four truths. It's not the third truth, and it's not nirvana.

I'm describing to you, I'm introducing you to these concepts in Buddhism, and in a minute in Taoism, because they are precursors. They preceded my concept.

And of course, as we go, as we continue, we'll discuss existentialism and many other schools of thought that also a God-awful confusion between ego-death and selflessness. Ego-death, selflessness, nothingness, emptiness, extinction, death. Huge confusion.

And I will try to make sense of it. But for me to make sense of it, to help you to make sense of it, I first need to introduce you to all these sages who long preceded me and long exceeded me, of course, in their wisdom.

Nagarjuna is often referred to as the second Buddha, especially in Tibetan and East Asian Marianatraditions of Buddhism. Marianna means great vehicle, great juggernaut. It's a school of Buddhism. It's more Tibetan and East Asian.

Nagarjuna was very critical, indirectly very critical of Buddha himself. He criticized Brahminical and Buddhist substantialist philosophy. Not so much the epistemology and so on, but he mostly criticized the substantialist philosophy. He did have criticism of the theory of knowledge, but he was very focused on the practice. So he was a pretty pragmatic fit on the ground.

And maybe because of that, because he dragged everyone down from the Bodhi tree, he dragged everyone down from Dibana and everything, brought them back to Earth and said, okay, guys, where's my rice bowl? It's been fun discussing nothingness, but I'm hungry.

So maybe because of that, he became a very critical figure. And that's why he's called the second Buddha.

He questioned, I think he would today have been called the skeptic. He questioned, he said that we too easily default to assumptions. For example, he said, how do we know that there are substances and that if they are, that they're stable, that it's the same substance. I mean, we see it on Wednesday and then on Thursday, how do we know it's the same substance? When do we derive the stability of the substance from causation? Is it one directional and linear, or is it more complex?

Individuality of people, he said, what is an individual in divided, undivided? I mean, what is it an atom? Like an atom? Does it have elementary particles, like constructs or introjects?

He was, in many respects, the father of modern personality psychology. And he challenged the idea that there is a fixed identity or fixed selfhood. He would have strongly disagreed with both Freud and Jung. He would have been an antagonist of psychoanalysis. Jung talks about constellation of the self. And Freud talked about the ego. And they are like very critical parts of the emerging personality and so on.

And he, I mean, our guy, Nagarjuna, was not too happy with his ideas. And he also challenged the ethics of his time. He said, how do we know that some conduct is good? How do we know it's bad? What's a blessed life with a mania, like in Greece? What's the fettered life?

Okay, so what I'm trying to tell you, he was a very deep thinker. And he branched out to every field of philosophy at the time. And to this very day, in many, many places, psychology is a branch of philosophy, not a science. So he branched also into psychology and his foundational insight, the basis, the cornerstone of all his philosophy is what he called the Sunyata.

Sunyata is emptiness. Again, in the East, when all these guys were talking about emptiness, they didn't mean non-existence. That's where Peterson, Jordan Peterson, makes a serious fundamental, I dare say, ignorant mistake.

There is a huge difference between nihilism, which is the mother of nihilism, or non-existence, or the wish to eradicate existence, to destroy existence, rejection of life, as Harvey Blackley called it.

And as Peterson described in his book, people who reject life, this is nihilism or nihility, that is nothing to do with emptiness.

Actually, there are two words. Emptiness is Sunyata. And nihility, the foundation of nihilism, is Abhava, Sunyata and Abhava.

So Sunyata is like having an existence, but not having an autonomy. It's called the Nisvabhava.

Nisvabhava is like you exist, but not in the Western way of thinking. You are not an individual.

The autonomy, the agency, self-efficacy, these are all goal-oriented, somewhat psychopathic, Western perceptions.

And so autonomy is, all the Eastern sages, all the Eastern wise men, they are attacking, not existence, because they are not idiots, they are attacking autonomy.

Nagarjuna denied the autonomy, denied that we have autonomy. And he said you shouldn't feel bad about it. He said you shouldn't feel existentially threatened somehow, or metaphysically menaced. You shouldn't lose some hope for independence and freedom. You shouldn't conflate this.

He said on the contrary, and there my work, my work in philosophy agrees with Nagarjuna, because Nagarjuna said to deny your autonomy is to give you liberation. To give you liberation because if you are not autonomous, the only other alternative is that you are interconnected with all other things, including all other human beings.

Human life unfolds in the natural and social worlds via networks, not via atoms, not via events.

And this is, of course, the crucial difference in insight between classical physics and quantum mechanics, or quantum physics.

So Nagarjuna preceded physics, modern physics, modern quantum physics at least, by a thousand years, 2000.

The central concept of Nagarjuna, the sunyata, is emptiness, but not emptiness divorced from things, from entities. It is the emptiness of entities, dharma. The dharma has sunyata, the dharmas have sunyata.

It's so, all phenomena, because things move, change, grow, die, are born, you know, because it's dynamics. If there are things, there's dynamics, there's motion, there's evolution, not necessarily progress. Progress is a value judgment from worse to better. That's a Western imposition.

Not progress. Evolution, change. Evolution is also a bad word. Change. Because change is motion.

So the phenomena are incessantly changed. They're never fixed. There's not something like fixed nature.

It's, there is a contrast here between Buddhist and Vedic systems. The Vedic systems had, had crux. The Vedic systems had like a pillar, a pillar that was immutable, unchangeable. And around this pillar, there was the storm.

It's like the high eye of the hurricane, you know, it was so the Vedic system of thought had something fixed and the changes were maya, they were illusory, because it is the fixed thing that was real.

And in this sense, the Vedic systems are very platonic. It's like the platonic ideals. Yes.

The Buddhist philosophical thing is much closer to reality, actually. It says everything changes. Everything is in flux. It's like Heraclitus. The river, the river is flowing. Pantave, Pantave. Everything is flowing. Everything is changing. There's nothing. There's no fixed nature. There's only phenomena and phenomena are kaleidoscopic. They're ephemeral.

And so all the perception of causation, substance, ontology, epistemology, language, ethics, salvation, everything changed dramatically once this had been adopted.

This divorce from the Vedic tradition had been adopted.

When we gave up on Archimedes, the Archimedian fixed point from which we can leverage the world, when we accepted that it's all interchangeable, interconnected, intrasnate, you pick up one, one bead, all the beads come up, all of them change position and character and interrelatedness.

So Nagarjuna's concept of emptiness is, I think had become, that's why he's called the second Buddha, had become the real Buddhism.

The Buddhism of today is not the primitive version that the Buddha has preferred. It is Nagarjuna's work. And so they deserve to be considered as co-founders of the tradition.

Move a little to the right. And we're in China. Chung Hui. Chung Hui lived in the third century before Christ, after Christ. And he was a major philosophical figure during the medieval, early medieval period of China. He dedicated his life to interpreting the Laozi and the Yijing, which are the foundational texts of what is known today as Taoism. His connection to emptiness is a bit, is a lot more complex because the Indian sages, the Indian gurus, the guru was not aware of the use of the tongue, the Indian sages, they focus directly on the issue of emptiness. They studied emptiness the way we study, I don't know, atoms.

In other words, in some counterintuitive way, they considered emptiness to be the basic entity, the building block of existence. All of emptiness was founded on existence.

Now, all of existence, I'm sorry, was founded on emptiness. Now, Chung Hui came to the very same conclusion. He's the father of what is known as the cosmic Tao. In a minute we'll talk about it. And he came to the same conclusion essentially. He came to the conclusion that the atom of creation, the indivisible unit, the thing that the basic, most basic Lego building block of existence is emptiness, non-being.

Now, that sounds to Western ears, it sounds like so much philosophizing and scholastic nonsense. And you know me, I'm the first one who calls everyone on nonsense, but it's not nonsense. Especially anyone who is trained in modern physics, which I am, knows how much, how much, how prescient, how far in advance these people were, these sages of 2000 years ago, because this is exactly the conclusion that modern physics had reached. That if the foundational order, the fabric of the universe is emptiness, vacuum. And these people knew it 2000 years ago.

So when he interpreted the Laozi and the aging, Chung Hui developed something called, well, contributed, let's say, contributed massively, something called the Chuan Chui. Chuan Chui means learning the mystery or learning the mystery of the way.

Now Dao means the way, the way, but actually what it really means is knowledge. So you could have the Dao of your teacher. The universe has the Dao of the universe. It's the knowledge which dictates the unfolding and unfurling and evolution of the universe.

In this sense, the DNA, our genetic material, the DNA would be the Dao of our bodies. I hope it's clear now.

And Chung Hui suggested that we should learn the mystery of the Dao. And in doing so, he actually established a new school known as Neo Daoism.

When we talk about in one of the future lectures, we talk about Zen Buddhism, we will make a few connections. But before we get there, we need to be introduced to a concept called Wu. Wu is the mystery of the cosmic Dao. Wu is the mystery of the way of the universe. It's at the base, it's the word that unlocks the learning, the dark learning of the mystery of the knowledge that dictates the way of the universe. Wu is nameless. It's formless. It's beyond language, beyond sensory perception. So it defines communication.

Chung Hui said that the Dao is shadowy, I'm quoting, by the way, shadowy, dark, dim and obscure. It is therefore described as Quan. That is his commentary to the Laozi.

The Dao, we said, is silent and void.

Actually, that's in the Laozi itself. They themselves say that the Dao is silent and void.

So Chung says that in effect, Wu is empty and without substance. It's formless, it's nameless, it's dark, it's mysterious.

And yet, the Dao in itself is the beginning and the mother of all things.

In other words, what Chung is suggesting is that emptiness gave rise to beginning. Beginning gave rise to creation. So emptiness gave rise to creation via process of beginning.

Now, of course, this is Genesis. This is the book of Genesis. If you read chapter one, that's how the formation, that's how creation is described. That's the formation of the universe.

According to the Laozi, all things on the heaven are born of Yu. Yu is born of Wu.

Simple, simple, not really.

Here's what they say. Life is vital energy, Qi. Vital energy. All Chinese schools use the word Qi. The French call it elam vital. It's the energy that is life. It's not energy in the physical sense.

I hate to misuse or abuse words from other disciplines. So energy in physics has a very well-defined meaning and involves the exchange of particles, real things. So that's wrong.

But I don't have a bad word. This vital force, also a physical term, this vital thing, flux, flow, Qi permeates every school of thought in China.

And in the Laozi, the Tao should be understood as the source of the essential Qi. It is the Qi that generates the yin and yang energies at the beginning.

You see, the beginning was dichotomous. The beginning was conflict. It was a conflictual process between yin and yang. That conflict led to differentiation. Order came into being because of conflict and conflict came into being. Conflict came into being because of the force of life that came into being from emptiness, from nothingness.

So nothingness, emptiness, energy, force of life, conflict, different things. The multiplicity of things is the outcome of the conflict inherent in the force of life.

But where did the force of life get this conflict from? From emptiness.

Empathy is conflict. It's a very important insight which imbues my philosophy.

And again, I'll dedicate to it another video.

As the origin of this vital energy, this what the Greeks called pneuma. P-N-E-U-M-A. The cosmic pneuma. This is the origin of this energy. And this energy is what makes life possible.

So the Tao is formless and it's nameless and it's nothing. It doesn't have characteristics. It doesn't have things.

And so how does it give rise to anything whatsoever, let alone something as complex as life?

First of all, it's important to understand that the wu is not a metaphysical non-being. It's not extinction. It's not negativity. It's not absence.

Shumui makes it very clear. There's another guy, one bee, and he also sort of commented on the Lao Tsai and he said that multiplicity of beings demands a prior ontological unity.

So he kind of conflicted with Shumui. But where they agree without realizing that they agree is that this ontological unity is the emptiness. This emptiness is exactly the ontological unity.

Why couldn't they see this? Why couldn't they reach this insight?

Because in our mind ontology means something that exists. Ontos exists.

And so how can emptiness exist? How can nothingness exist? This is the big glitch. This is the bug in Western philosophy. The inability to treat nothingness and emptiness as something. The inability to treat a lack of as something.

We are very good at dealing with infinity, but zero, even the number, the figure zero was introduced to Western mathematics only recently as an Arab Indian figure. So we didn't have, we didn't have even a mathematical representation of zero.

And to this very day the concept of zero is mind-boggling. And if you have a zero in computing, the computers break down. You have the black screen or the blue screen of death because you divided by zero or something.

We in the West we don't know how to deal with zero with not being. And so this ontological unity is emptiness and nothingness.

In my philosophy the greatest entity, the entity which has maximum ontos, maximum being, is nothingness. We'll come to it in one of the future videos.

Tao does not refer to a primordial undifferentiated substance, formless, and of which nothing can be said. It simply signifies the necessary ground of being. Grund in German, the ground of being.

According to Lao Tzu, heaven models after the Tao, the universe follows the Tao. The Tao models after what is naturally so.

Zu'an. So the Tao is described as Zu'an. Zu'an means something that you don't know where it came from.

The Lao Tzu observes the great image does not have any form.

The context of this sentence is that the great image is a metaphor for the Tao.

And Chung Hui understood it also the same way. He writes, there is no image that does not respond to it. This is what is called the great image.

Since it does not have any bodily shape, how can it have any form or any appearance?

In other words, this kind of image is like an idea.

Imagine we could have an idea without a brain. It's an idea without a brain.

Let me ask you a question. If you ever come across an idea without a brain, would you deny the existence of this idea?

Of course not. The presence of the hardware is not a precondition, definitely not an ontological precondition for anything epistemological and for non-entities in the ontological sense.

You could have an idea without a brain, which is essentially this.

That's the Wu. That's the Wu that gives rise to the Tao. That gives rise to conflict and differentiation of the multiplicity of things we see.

And so in these instances, the mystery of the Tao is not about non-being as an abstract concept. It's the ever-existent and formless nature of the generative force that gave rise to heaven and earth and myriad beings.

The Tao is called the one.

Chung Hui, when he interprets the Lao Tzu, he doesn't use Tao. He rarely uses Tao. He says the one.

He says it is ceaseless indeed, yet it does not have any ties. Overflowing, yet it does not become diminished. Subtle and wondrous, it is difficult to name it.

In the end, it returns to a state of not being anything with discernible characteristics. So it's limitless, unfathomable.

We refuse to acknowledge that our brain is a finite piece of hardware and that therefore we can have no access to infinite things or to non-entities, to not being, to nothingness.

These are the two classes that we can have no access to because our brain is something. It cannot access nothing.

And because our brain is finite, it cannot access the infinite. We can never know the mind of God. It's blasphemy to say that you know what God is thinking, what God is thinking, what God wants.

And so all these so-called religious people, evangelicals, preachers, priests, and so on, they're the greatest blasphemers in the world. They're sacrilegious because they pretend to know the mind of God with their puny, pusillanimous, limited minds, those who have it.

So it's limitless, unfathomable, it's subtle, it's wondrous, says Chunghui. And it's difficult to name, but it's real presence.

He insists on it.

The Lao Tzu states that the Lao stands on its own and does not change. Chunghui says it's solitary, without a mate.

It is therefore said to be standing on its own.

And this thing of standing on its own not connected to anything.

Even the definition of nothingness does not depend on anything. It's totally self-contained, self-sufficient. It's its own organizing and hermeneutic system.

From antiquity to the presence, it never changed.

So there's no change there, but it induces and produces change in others.

In some indirect way, this variant of Buddhism, this variant of Lao Tzu, and this variant of Taoism actually, Neo-Daoism, is closer to Vedic traditions than to Buddhism.

The Lao Tzu says that the Tao operates everywhere and is free from danger.

Chunghui says there is no place that the Tao is not present.

It is thus described as operating everywhere, where it is present, it penetrates everything.

Thus, it is without danger.

So Chunghui's concept of Tao is a cosmological perspective of the genesis of being and the order of the cosmos, how it emerged, how it came about.

And all this rests on the privileged concept of wu, the wu which is nothing, an entity of nothingness, crucial distinction, an entity of nothingness, the existence of nothingness.

Because its contradictory existence of nothingness, it could bring about conflict. And conflict brought about differentiation, and differentiation brought about myriad multiplicity of forms and beings.

The conflict is inherent in the language that we are using to try to describe nothingness.

It is a nothingness, wu, brings about the indefinable fullness of the Tao.

There's wu and there's the Tao.

And so over the concept of wu, the wu subsumes everything in the world of things.

But the two, I mean, there's wu and there's zu. You are the principle of existence. You are existence. You're being.

Existentialists will discuss them separately in another video. You're being.

And wu is nothingness. But you're both entities. And it is your collaboration that brings about the world.

You don't collaborate directly because the wu, nothingness, does not collaborate with anything. It does not interact with anything. It definitely does not depend on anything.

But the wu manifests, expresses itself through you.

You serve as a filter. You serve as an interface. You serve as a user interface, so to speak.

And so it is through you that the Tao unfolds in its beauty and fullness and becomes the world of things.

It's an open question. Why does the Tao need to become a world of things?

And some scholars and some thinkers say that the whole universe was created for us. That's the anthropic principle.

And of course, religion, that God created the universe for us. So the Tao has to become a multiplicity of things for us.

The wu, nothingness, emptiness, manifests through us and provokes the Tao that then creates a universe which is habitable. A universe that feeds us and where we can exist.

And Lao Tzu announces that 30 spokes join into a hub, you know, in a will.

But the use and function of the will and the carriage or the cart is not so much dependent on the solid spokes as on the empty space within the hub.

It's not the spokes, or not only the spokes that are critical, it's the space between the spokes in the will and the place of the will in the wagon or the cart or the coach.

And so clay can be shaped and treated to make vessels and doors to make vessels.

But what is the vessel? The vessel is the emptiness inside the vessel.

When we pour water into a glass, what is more important? The glass or the emptiness in the glass?

The shape of the glass defines the emptiness, but it is the emptiness that is functional.

We need the emptiness to drink water from the glass. We can make doors and windows to make a room, but it is the emptiness of the vessel and the emptiness of the room that give the vessel, give the room the function.

Function is outcome of emptiness. Function is outcome of emptiness.

If you arrange sticks, the distance between the sticks can define knowledge, can bring about knowledge. For example, if I have one stick and then distance and then two sticks and then distance and then three sticks, immediately it's one plus two is three. It makes sense.

But if I have six sticks with equal or no distance, there's no knowledge there. It says nothing. Knowledge emerges from the emptiness between the sticks.

Therefore, the Lao Tzu concludes, having something yu is what produces benefit, but having nothing wu is what produces yu's.

Chung Hui said that the Lao Tzu makes use of these metaphors to bring to light that yu and wu gain from each other and neither can be neglected.

Wu depends on yu to become of benefit. Yu rely on wu to be of use.

The relationship between wu and yu is like between interior and exterior, inside and outside, like the inside of the glass and the outside of the glass.

Concrete objects are able to function. They generate value because the inner capacity that the Tao had given them, they remember the Tao shapes glasses, the Tao shaped yu, the Tao is everything.

Tao is the knowledge, like the DNA. The DNA is responsible for every cell in your body. And many, many people say that it's responsible for your life, for the way your life proceeds and develops.

We now have epigenetics where the DNA is actually affected in life and changes in life and then heritable.

So we created a mixture between Darwinism and Lamarckism. Inheritance is an unfolding life process.

Tao is like DNA. And the Tao is in everything, in every object, but the Tao is the conflict, the conflict between external and internal. It's the internal that matters.

What is internal in a glass? The emptiness. What's internal in a room? The space. What's the internal in a mathematical equation? The distance between the elements, between one stick, two sticks, three sticks, one plus two equals three.

Concrete objects are able to function. They generate value because of the inner capacity, because of their Tao. This is their Tao. This is their energy, the absence, not the absence, the emptiness, the nothingness.

The interdependence of wu and yu, it's a law in the Tao-centered universe and it has important ethical and other implications.

It is not a part of my philosophy.

As in my philosophy, the wu, if you wish, nothingness is yu. There's no nothingness in yu. I eliminate these distinctions.

And my philosophy, consequently, although heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy is Western philosophy.

My philosophy is a synthesis between the Western approach to the world, which is a taxonomical, classificatory approach, list-making, material goods, death.

Western civilization is a death cult, the cult of the inanimate.

Between this, so I take this and I cross-pollinate it with Eastern thinking. And it yields some interesting results, as you will see once you subscribe and follow this, the videos on this channel.

But I just wanted you to have a foretaste of some of the things my long-forgotten predecessors in China and India have said.

Thank you for persevering and listening.

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