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Nothing for Nothing

Emptying the pool table of your soul.

by
Charlie Martin

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August 4, 2013 - 11:00 am

My favorite analogy of this is a game of pool. You start with a nicely orderly set up, the balls racked in a neat triangle at one end and a pool player and cue ball at the other. Hit the cue ball, the rack is “broken”, with balls scattering apparently randomly over the table. When a person chooses to hit the cue ball, that’s karma. The action of the pool balls is vipaka.

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Humans, with their innate need to make patterns, can see things in those arrangements of the balls — three red balls together make a triangle, say — and of course some of those relationships are used by a good pool player to predict parts of what will happen and plan their shots, but the arrangements of the balls at any one time is essentially meaningless, a transient happenstance. On the other hand, if you run that video in reverse, you can see how each ball’s position at any time is in fact a consequence of some action in the past.

Buddhism sees the universe and everything in it as a configuration of the cosmic pool table, one that happens through cause and effect back through time. Some of those configurations have an apparent meaning — we give them names and we look at them as “things”.

My cat Ali’i is asleep under the desk, waiting for me to go to bed. I can look down through the glass and see him, and he certainly looks like something that has an independent existence, volition, a personality (wow, does he!) but if I think back over the ten or so years I’ve had him, he’s eaten a helluva lot of cat food, and excreted it, he’s shed hair and coughed up hairballs and accepted delicious cat treats diffidently but enthusiastically. He’s very different from the kitten I brought home ten years ago, and he probably doesn’t even share many atoms with that kitten now. And, he will go on exchanging atoms, and someday will die, like my Radar did in March, and those atoms will be scattered back to the universe where they will becomes part of something else forever and ever amen.

If we could watch the whole universe, all at once, we could see everything in the universe doing the same thing — arranging and re-arranging, making stars and galaxies and unmaking them, forming planets and then planets dissolving as their star changes. But none of those things has any independent existence: no matter what, we could follow every atom back through history from wherever they happen to be now.

What’s more, if we look more and more closely at those temporary arrangements, we can see they are made up of smaller temporary arrangements: cat, to tissues, to cells, to molecules, to atoms, to protons and neutrons, to quarks, and if we really looked, at the tiniest scale for the shortest time, we would see quanta appearing, existing, and disappearing, apparently out of nowhere.

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All Comments   (3)
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I heartily recommend, "Lord of Light" by Zelazny,for a different take on the Buddha
Corwin
PS. Opening office next week
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Fair enough, I think it's cool, too.

But watch out: If you enjoy the infinite coolness -- if you even passively experience it as "coolness" -- rather than encountering it with passive indifference, then you do so only by satisfying a desire of which you should already have purged yourself by traveling the appropriate paths.

One must desire nothing; in the Buddha's system carried to its fullness suffering is ended not by fulfillment but by absence of striving. To experience the coolness of meaning is to have had a need for meaning and to have found it satisfied, however temporarily and inadequately. And there is a value-judgment implied: meaning is better than non-meaning. Gotta watch that!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Because, after all, it's impossible to enjoy something without striving to have that and avoid all those times when you're not noticing it.

Go back and think again, young padawan.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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