Transcending Essence and Abandoning Being;
or, Impermanence Means Buddha Nature
The title shows clearly the strong influence and presence
of Dogen while I wrote this diary investigation into the
nature of ultimacy and change. The line impermanence
means buddha nature comes from Dogens essay
Buddha Nature in his collection the Shobogenzo,
probably my favorite essay of Dogen. This pointed out clearly
to me the possibility of integrating process and ultimacy.
But in order to completely accomplish that integration, one
must transcend essence and abandon being; hence the full
Impermanence means the awakened condition.
When the Awakened One lay dying he spoke his last words
to his disciples. He said, Remember the impermanence of
all things and work out your salvation with diligence.
Clearly the Awakened Ones last words speak to the heart
of awakening. Why else would he have spent his last breath
reminding his disciples of the impermanence of all things?
The spiritual quest begins with some kind of
confrontation with eternity. With different people the
specifics of the experience takes different forms. For some
this confrontation manifests in a growing awareness of death.
For some this growing awareness of death may manifest in
middle age, when one can no longer take the body for granted;
or perhaps the death of a parent or loved one marks the
occasion of the growing awareness of the fluidity of things.
For others this confrontation may appear when ones
goals or plans have gone awry and one realizes that they have
become remote beyond manifestation.
Though the details vary, the clear appearance of
impermanence marks a great change in a persons life.
Valuations change. And something peculiar happens; in
reaction to the awareness of impermanence fear arises. Fear
of the loss of self, fear of the loss of value, fear itself
manifesting fear. This fear propels the spiritual seeker to
search for that which does not change. Though I may die,
though everything may pass away, surely there exists
something, somewhere, somewhen, which does not pass away. And
often enough the spiritual seeker believes they find such a
place. Some find permanence in ideas, some find permanence in
an ethical stance, some find permanence in numbers, some find
permanence in a deity, some find permanence in beauty, etc..
And some find permanence in being. Being represents the last,
and best, hope for something that does not change.
However, there exists another way of resolving the
dilemma of impermanence, of crossing the chasm of
disappearing. That other way emerges when we perceive change
itself as the transcendent condition. That other way emerges
when we no longer try to run from the fluid nature of
appearances. That other way emerges when the fluidity of all
things becomes our refuge. When this happens we perceive the
awareness of impermanence as the great awakening itself. This
awakening functions as the solvent of suffering, dissolving
the twin demons of being and nothingness.
Great Master Dogen expressed this insight more clearly
than any other that I know of. This insight into the
transcendent nature of change, of impermanence as the gate of
awakening, appears so rarely that Dogen had to invent a new
word to designate his meaning; Dogen invented the word
uji which translators render as
being-time. The point of this word
uji lies in conflating the notions of
transcendent being with the notion of change as embodied in
time. Normally we designate being as that which does not
change; in fact the search for being emerges as a reaction to
the awareness of change as impermanence. When Dogen creates
the word uji, in that one word he subverts the
idea that the transcendent and change differ. Change means
the transcendent and time reveals ultimate nature. As Dogen
wrote in his essay Being-Time:
An ancient Buddha once said: Being-time stands
on the highest peak and leans on the bottom of the
deepest ocean, being-time is the shape of demons and
Buddhas, being-time is a monks staff,
being-time is a hossu, being-time is a round pillar,
being-time is a stone lantern, being-time is Taro,
being-time is Jiro, being-time is earth, being-time is
Being-time means that time is being;
I.e., Time is existence, existence is time.
... Every thing, every being in this entire world is
time. No object obstructs or opposes any other object,
nor can time ever obstruct any other time. Therefore, if
we have the resolve to attain supreme enlightenment the
entire world will also be seen to possess that resolve at
the same time. Here there is no difference between your
mind and time; you are related through the resolve for
Chapter 16 of Shobogenzo Kosen Nishiyama and
John Stevens translation.
If you understand this passage you will go far in
understanding all of Dogens writings. My respect for
Dogen feels boundless. My gratitude for Dogen manifests
endlessly. And yet, I must, with all hesitancy and humility,
suggest that Dogens presentation lacks completeness.
Why? Because there do exist such things as timeless things;
things that one can not reduce to the world of time.
Mathematical truths transcend time, relationship truths
transcend time and and or transcend
time. Many things transcend time. An attempt to conflate the
notions of being and time into a single category leaves
itself in the position of not accounting for the continuities
that we use every day, those continuities deriving from their
transcendence of time.
However, though these objects transcend time, they do not
transcend change because change itself transcends time. This
explains why the insight into impermanence opens the heart to
the eternal; because change means the eternal. Objects which
transcend time nevertheless appear in the world and their
appearance in the world constitutes change even though they
do not participate in time. To take the powerful example of
mathematical truths; when humans discover a mathematical
truth, it appears in the world, meaning that which formerly
did not exist in the world now exists in the world. So a time
exists when transcendent truth makes its appearance, which
means change. Change names the timeless condition.
So I suggest that we not consider it a matter of
being-time but rather of abandoning being
altogether and entering the timeless realm of change. When
the Awakened One spoke to his students and cautioned them to
remember the impermanence of all things, he pointed directly
to the transcendent and timeless condition of change itself.
The impermanence of things means change and change manifests
clearly and always the timeless nature of all things.
Change names the absolute.
The word change is a synonym for the word
becoming and an antonym for the word
Mortimer Adler, Adler's Philosophical Dictionary
The central problems for a philosophy of change are
the relationship of change to time, and the relationship
of both of them to us. Although change is a fundamental
element of the perceived world, a permanent theme in both
Eastern and Western philosophies (and religions) is an
otherworldliness according to which the restless everyday
world of changing things and events must be regarded as
unreal in comparison with the more fundamental immutable
reality ... the Absolute is changeless. A way of
sympathizing a little with this idea is to reflect that
any scientific explanation of change will proceed by
finding an unchanging law operating, or an unchanging
quantity conserved in the change, so that explanation of
change always proceeds by finding that which is
Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy
The word change designates one of the
most conspicuous and most pervasive features of our
sensory and introspective experience -- only the related
feature of plurality or diversity is equally so. Change,
indeed, is so pervasive that only after the antithetical
concept of changelessness or immutability was developed
in the earliest period of Greek philosophy did change
become a problem for philosophical thought. ...
The subsequent development of Greek, medieval, and,
to a considerable extent, modern philosophy was dominated
by the antinomy of Being and Becoming. in most, though
not in all, philosophical systems Being was given
prominence while Becoming was placed in an inferior and
subordinate role. This is clearly true of Platos
thought ... A systematic exploration of various aspects
of the problem of change has only begun.
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, article on change.
As the above quotes make clear, the idea of change as the
absolute represents a radical departure from the
philosophical tradition as it has come down to us in the
west. The primary means for ejecting change from the realm of
the absolute has relied on the rejection of the infinite
regress which such a view generates. As the above quote
indicates, when describing change, we do so by referring to
laws of change which have the appearance of stability.
Because these laws of change have stability, in some sense
change does not effect these laws themselves. However, if
change means the absolute, then that would imply that the
laws describing change also change. in the history of science
we have ample material on the changing nature of scientific
laws. We even have books written on the history of such
changes. Perhaps we can discover stability in a description
of how the laws of change change. But these laws of how
change changes will also change; quickly leading to an
infinite regress. The western philosophical tradition bears
near unanimity in rejecting the idea of an infinite regress
as absurd. Aristotle specifically rejects the idea of an
infinite regress in his Metaphysics and insists that there
must exist a beginning to motion, his famous unmoved mover,
which Aristotle considers God. in the western philosophical
tradition, if a critique can demonstrate that a view leads to
an infinite regress, then the critique considers that a
sufficient reason to abandon the argument.
This view first appears in the context of Platos
forms, specifically in his dialogue Parmenides.
Plato held the view that we recognize the commonality of a
collection of objects and call them by the same name (such as
tables, chairs, humans) because the particular objects
participate, in some way, in a form which exists eternally
and unchanging. Particulars represent shadows, or distorted
copies of the form. The criticism of this metaphysical scheme
showed that if you have a collection of, say men, and they
participate in the form Man, the participation of the
particulars in the form must occur due to some resemblance.
This resemblance between the form and the particulars also
constitutes a form, a third form (hence the name given to
this analysis, the third man argument), in which
particular men and the form Man participate. But if you now
have a collection of three types of things, particular men,
the form Man, and the meta-form Man-3, then the connection
between these three must happen due to participation in yet
another form, Man-4. This process will continue indefinitely,
infinitely, generating an infinite regress.
Parmenides uses this analysis to undermine the theory of
forms and Plato, as Socrates, does not know how to respond.
The analysis stumps Plato. This feeling that the appearance
of an infinite regress refutes a particular metaphysical
position derives from the assumption of being (hence Plato
places the argument in the character of Parmenides as the
archetypal representative of being). The assumption of being
means that there exists some final kind of existence which
analysis should reveal, and stopping place. For this reason
philosophers often use the expression ground of
being, meaning that being constitutes the final and
ultimate nature which analysis reveals, a nature beyond which
we can not go.
The relevance of this discussion to change lies in the
infinite regress which change as the absolute, or change as
the ultimate, generates. if change names the absolute, then
change must also apply to change, so that change changes. if
we take a change and call it change-1, then this change-1
must also change. The changing of change-1 we can call
change-2. But since change names the absolute change-2 must
also change. This changing nature of change-2 we can call
change-3. We can quickly comprehend the infinite regress
which emerges from the assumption of change as the absolute.
I want to point out in this context that there does not
exist any logical reason for rejecting an infinite regress.
The assumption of change, in fact, has the property of
functioning in a self-referentially consistent manner. The
self-referential consistency appears as follows: Begin with
All things change. (1) The sentence all things
change changes. Or (1) changes. (2) The sentence
the sentence all things change
changes changes. Or (2) changes. (3) (3) changes.
(4) (4) changes. Etcetera ...
This demonstrates self-referential consistency. Note that
we do not need to bring in any outside premises to validate
the sentence; simply by turning the sentence on itself, the
view self-referentially validates itself. This contrasts with
the assumption of being because the sentences which refer to
being do not themselves consist of being. They refer to some
other kind of existence beyond the sentences themselves. They
exhibit self-referential inconsistency. For example; take the
Being does not change.
The statement/sentence being does not change
changes and so does not exhibit the nature to which the
sentence refers. The sentence being does not
change came into existence and will one day pass away,
and for that reason, among many others, changes. But if being
does not change, then the relationship between the
sentences/statements which attempt to demonstrate the nature
of being do not themselves exhibit the nature to which they
refer. Therefore there exists a gap between the absolute
nature of existence, when comprehended in a being-based
manner, and the statements which attempt to demonstrate and
explain that absolute nature when comprehended as
being-based. Realizing this gap exists, philosophers who
begin with the assumption of being have sought to explain the
relationship between the unchanging absolute and the world of
change. From a being-based perspective this constitutes a
critical task. The nature of this task from a being-based
perspective becomes critical because this analysis seeks to
reveal the nature of the absolute, or the final nature of
things. To clarify, take the sentence
The beagle barks.
This sentence does not exhibit the nature of a beagle or
of barking. However, a barking beagle does not constitute the
absolute. Here the sentence simply functions as a signifier.
However, the sentence Being does not change
refers to the nature of the absolute, the transcendental,
which claims that all existing things have as their ultimate
nature, or their ultimate source, some unchanging nature. But
if all things possess this unchanging nature, the sentence
exists as one of those things, and should, therefore, upon
analysis, reveal that unchanging nature. But it does not do
so. Hence the gap between the sentence and the nature to
which the sentence refers takes on a completely different
character from the gap which exists between a sentence like
The beagle barks and the nature of a barking
Once again, the infinite regress generated by the
assumption of change as the absolute does not constitute a
logical inconsistency, it does not generate a contradiction.
Only if one starts with the assumption of being, axiomaticaly
insists upon starting with being, does the infinite regress
appear as contradictory. if, however, one questions the
assumption of being, if one holds that assumption of being as
questionable, if one raises the issue of whether or not being
constitutes the final nature of things and of existence, then
no contradiction appears by assuming change as the absolute.
Furthermore, the metaphysical assumption of change as the
absolute, in its self-referential consistency, does not
create any gap between statement and ultimate nature, the
absolute. The statements themselves completely embody the
absolute to which they refer. The statements simultaneously
point to, speak of, and embody the ultimate nature, the final
nature, of all phenomena, including the sentences which speak
of the absolute as change, and of the absolute as such.
Being-based metaphysics seeks to find a final ground
beyond which no one can go. Change-based metaphysics reveals
existence as ultimately groundless, bottomless,
foundationless. This groundless nature has no limits. I
believe that Anaximander had this groundless nature in mind
when he coined the term apeiron, the infinite or
unlimited for the ultimate nature of existence. Being-based
metaphysics comprehends this feature of groundlessness as a
sign of something amiss, but, once again, there does not
exist any logical reason for rejecting the groundless nature
of existence which the infinite regress of change reveals.
Only if one works from the assumption of a changeless being
does this groundlessness appear as something amiss. But
precisely that assumption of changeless being constitutes the
assumption called into question. There does not exist any
logical reason to favor the assumption of changeless being
over the assumption of change as the absolute. Furthermore,
to repeat the point, the analysis of existence as change
generates a self-referentially consistent argument, something
which being-based metaphysics does not do.
The statement change names the absolute means
that upon analysis all things exhibit the property of change.
I will have more to say about the term all things
below. in general, however, the absolute means that which all
things, ultimately, have as their nature. The absolute also
means that nature without which things could not exist.
Change therefore names that nature which generates all
existing things. Without change existence would not exist,
and no particular thing in existence would exist.
Because all existing things, upon analysis, reveal change
as their nature, and because change forms a necessary
condition for the appearance of any existing thing and
existence as such, change names the absolute.
There exists something which outshines and transcends any
particular situation, condition or appearance. That thing which
outshines and transcends all things one can name change. Change
as such, the quality of changing, the manifestation of
impermanence, the realm of the eternal.
When I say that there exists that which outshines and
transcends any particular situation, condition or appearance
I mean that the transcendental we seek does not exist as a
particular visionary, sonic, sensory or ideational
experience. At the same time, there does not exist any
experience which does not fully embody and fully demonstrate
the presence of the transcendental, the presence of eternity.
Let me illustrate this by using change, the subject of
this writing. if we consider a sonic object, say the sound of
a bell, the sonic object changes. One could put it that
change qualifies the sonic object in the same way that loud
or long-lasting qualify a sonic object. However, the quality
of change itself, change as such, does not constitute a sonic
event. if change as such constituted a sonic event, then
change could not qualify visual objects. But if I consider a
visual object, such as a candle, the quality of change
applies to the candle, just as the qualities bright and green
might apply to a candle. But this quality of change does not
constitute a visual object of perception. The quality of
change as applied to the sound of a bell and the burning of a
candle constitute the same quality. Similarly when I consider
an object of taste, an object of smell, an object of touch,
ideational object, and feeling objects. All of these objects
change, but the quality of change itself does not reside in
any particular sensory domain, including the sensory domains
of ideas and feelings. For this reason I consider change as a
transcendental object or event, meaning that change
transcends any particular experience, though at the same time
resides in all events.
The transcendental exists as a quality, or qualities, of
existing things. All things bear the mark of the
transcendental. But perceiving the transcendental quality of
change requires a shift in our attention from the display of
sensory particulars. But sensory particulars I mean the
display of experience which confines itself to particular
sensory realms. The display of colors and shapes, the display
of sounds, the display of smells, the stream of ideas, all
occupy our attention. When we shift our attention from the
circumstantial display of each separate sensory realm, to the
display of sensory experience that all the realms share, then
we open the gate to the transcendental and to the eternal.
Comprehending this fully requires investigating the
meaning of the term eternal. I think a core
meaning for the term eternal would mean something
like the always existing. By eternal we mean that
which always exist, that which does not ever not exist. if
something exists only briefly, we dont consider that
something eternal. if something exists for only 100 years, we
still dont consider that something eternal. if
something exists for 10,000 years, we still dont
consider that something eternal. Only if something always
exists do we consider that something eternal. I refer to this
understanding of eternity as the everywhen.
The everywhen nature of the eternal contrasts with our
normal experience of everyday things. This house I live in
does not exist everywhen. in the past it did not exist, and
in the future it will cease to exist. The plants outside my
window do not exist everywhen. Like the house, in the past
they did not exist and in the future they will cease to
exist. The stars I see at night will also one day pass away
and do not exist everywhen.
Using this kind of reasoning, I think one can understand
that many philosophical and religious understandings place
the everywhen outside of and apart from the realm of sensory
experience. in a way, it almost seems obvious; the things of
existence, the realm of the senses and the realm of ideas and
feelings simply do not endure, do not have the nature of
everywhen. So if everywhen exists, it must exist apart from
all these things. Apart from usually means before. From this
perspective one can follow the steps to an emanationist or
creationist comprehension of the nature of the eternal; the
eternal understood as God and/or being. in this understanding
God and/or being, or god as being, exists apart from
existence in that being, or the eternal, has a completely
different manner of existing than the things of this world.
The things of this world, in their mutability and
transitoriness, lack the capacity for eternity. Being and
God, therefore, differ not just in quality or degree from the
things of this world, but the very nature of being, and of
God as being, differs from the all existing things.
I refer to this kind of reasoning as separating everywhen
from everywhere. For I would suggest that the second aspect
of eternity manifests as the everywhere. The comprehension of
the eternal as everywhen, and therefore of the eternal as
separate from existence, rests on the understanding that time
functions as a kind of neutral container in which things and
events, and things as events happen. But thought things
happen, time itself remains constant. The same applies here
to space as a neutral container in which things and events
However, if we comprehend time as not the container in
which things happen and manifest, but rather the unfolding
and blossoming of things, then the everywhen of eternity
leads us to the everywhere of existence. I believe Dogen had
this central point in mind in his essay
Being-Time. Basically, if things did not exist at
all, time would not exist. The unfolding and blossoming of
events means the time of existence. No existing things, no
time. A sun rising means time, a flower blossoming means
time, going for a walk means time.
The when of existence means the where of things. The
everywhen of eternity means the everywhere of all things.
From this perspective, eternity means everywhen and
I refer the uniting of everywhen and everywhere under the
term eternity as pansacralism. (Lawrence Jarach,
a good friend of mine, first suggested this term. Lawrence
does not agree with pansacralism, and I do not mean to impute
this position to him. However, in our ongoing conversations
as to the nature of the eternal, he has understood clearly my
own view and suggested this term to designate it. I
immediately found it efficacious.) The view of pansacralism
comprehends the eternal as both the everywhere and the
everywhen. in addition pansacralism comprehends the eternal
as a quality, or qualities, of all existing things. in this
way, pansacralism differs from pantheism in that pantheism
posits a substance which underlies appearances, whereas
pansacralism denies the existence of such a substance,
instead comprehending the eternal as that which qualifies all
existing things, but does not exist apart from existing things.
The nature of the eternal forms the core and heart of
philosophy. it also forms the core and the heart of
spirituality, religion, science, and mathematics. On the
question of eternity all of these disciplines find a common
arena. I comprehend the question of eternity as a cluster of
question which take the form; What exists eternally?, What
does eternity mean?, Does anything exist eternally?
I consider the question of eternity the heart of
philosophy in the sense that philosophy began and begins with
this question. The nature of the philosophical quest lies in
inquiring into the nature of eternity. This inquiry takes
place as a ruthless examination of all claims for eternity,
and precisely this sense of ruthlessness has sourced the
conflict between philosophers and the culture at large. in
ancient greece the conflict between philosophy and the
culture at large arose because philosophy denied that the
eternal manifested as the pantheon of deities central to
greek religious worship. Not that ancient philosophers, for
the most part, denied the existence of the gods, but that the
philosophers denied that the eternal resided as, or
manifested as, a particular god or group of gods. This
conflict threads its way throughout the history of
philosophy. For example, when John Scottus Eriugena followed
out his line of inquiry into the nature of the eternal, the
nature of god, orthodox christianity eventually condemned his
work because the implications of his investigations did not
fit in with orthodox givens. Centuries later, Spinoza would
face the same situation. During his lifetime he did not
publish his great work Ethics because he knew that
the pantheism of his investigations would provoke great
hostility among the orthodox.
Religion in the west posits the existence of the eternal
but regards the eternal as something revealed, not something
one should investigate. For this reason philosophy and
religion have had a very tense relationship to each other.
From the religious perspective, the job of philosophy does
not constitute an investigation into the nature of the
eternal. Rather, the job of philosophy lies in drawing out
the implications of the eternal which has revealed itself in
certain forms and texts. These forms and texts remain, to the
religious consciousness, above analysis and investigation. A
philosopher who investigates these givens commits heresy.
The scientist investigates the eternal through a
methodology that reveals the patterns of things and their
behaviors. The belief, often unstated, supporting this kind
of investigation comprehends the pattern as more real than
the phenomena. I think of science as kind of a modern day
version of pythagoreanism.
The mathematician often finds solace in the relationships
between numbers and the forms of geometry and other
mathematical endeavors. The great attraction mathematics has
held for many down through the centuries lies in the belief
in the immutability of mathematical relationship; which means
that one has contact with the eternal in the guise of
mathematical relationships and forms.
The question of eternity arises when people come face to
face with the mutability and brevity of all things. Out of
this confrontation with mutability arises a question in the
heart of many; Can I count on anything?, Does anything have
value?, Does anything have meaning when everything in
existence will one day pass away?
And so the quest begins. Different groups of people
respond to this question in different ways, but share the
nature of that quest. Philosophy, when centered in the
question of eternity, provides a great service to humanity in
two ways. First, through its examinations and investigations
philosophy displaces false notions and claims to eternal
validity. Second, through its examinations and
investigations, philosophy points the way to the eternal and
eternity itself. The way of philosophy, then, has a spiritual
aspect to it -- no, more than an aspect. The way of
philosophy at its heart and at its core, promises a kind of
liberation. This liberation comes when philosophy
uncovers/recovers/discovers the domain of the eternal, the
presence of eternity. This liberation means nothing else than
the freedom from suffering. For suffering arises when we fail
to comprehend and reside in the domain of eternity.
Comprehending things from the perspective of eternity, and
suffering vanishes, fear dissipates, and life unfolds in its
meaningfilledness. As John Scottus Eriugena put it, No
one enters the kingdom of heaven except through philosophy.
In this waking world all things undergo transformation and
change; constantly, non-stop, relentlessly. Similarly, when we
enter the dream realm all things we encounter change, flux.
Again, entering an astral realm we once again encounter
process as reality. Everywhere we turn the truth of change, the
truth of process, the truth of impermanence, manifests to us
clearly, not hidden, not disguised.
In this passage I wanted to point out the universality of
change, that change applies to all things. To comprehend this
we must investigate the meaning of all things.
The word things used in ordinary conversation refers to
physical things, most often to visual manifestations. The
word things usually contrasts with events. We dont
ordinarily refer to running as a thing, or to multiplying as
a thing. Grammatically we tend to consider things as nouns,
while we consider events as verbs. For this reason some
process philosophers have adopted the terminology event when
referring to the things of existence, in order to bring out
and emphasize the event nature, the primal process core, of
existence. I have decided to retain the term thing because I
want to emphasize the ordinariness of change, transformation,
and process. But, as used in this essay, I expand the meaning
of the term thing to include all that can and does perform a
function. Things exist in what I refer to as different modes.
For example some things exist in a visual mode while other
things exist in a sonic mode, but both visual things and
sonic things can and do perform functions. When I say
perform a function I mean that the thing in
question has an influence or impact upon some other existing
thing, either actually or potentially. When I indicate in the
above observation that change manifests everywhere, and in
everything, I mean that change exists in all possible things
in all possible modes, as follows:
Change exists as a quality of all visual things.
Change exists as a quality of all sonic things. Change
exists as a quality of all olfactory things. Change
exists as a quality of all taste things. Change exists as
a quality of all touch things. Change exists as a quality
of all thoughts, all mental things. Change exists as a
quality of all feelings, all emotional things. Change
exists as a quality of all imaginal things. Change exists
as a quality of all dream things. Change exists as a
quality of all relational things. Change exists as a
quality of all even things, usually indicated by verbs.
Change exists as a quality of all non-presentational
things. Change exists as a quality of all unknown things.
Change exists as a quality of all unknowable things.
Change exists as a quality of all non-sensory things,
meaning things that humans can not perceive, such as
From the perspective of change, all things, as indicated
above, have equal status, or equal ontological validity. From
this perspective there does not exist any difference between
a dream thing and a waking thing. I do not mean to imply that
the waking realm and the dream realm designate the same
realm. I mean that from the perspective of change, a dream
thing changes. I mean that from the perspective of change, a
waking thing changes. So from this transcendental
perspective, change unites all things, designates what all
existing things have in common.
This leads to a difference in method between being-based
approaches to ultimacy and pansacralism. Being-based
approaches work with and rely upon a method of division. The
metaphysical treatises that have being as their foundation
refer to mutually exclusive categories, such as
Aristotle's Categories, or John Scottus Eriugena's The Divisions Of Nature, or Duns Scotus work on God as first principle, which begins with a first division of things into the created and that which
Pansacralism approaches the transcendental differently,
using a different method. Pansacralism asks what exists
everywhere and everywhen. To exist in this everywhere and
everywhen manner means that that which exists everywhere and
everywhen will manifest in all existing things, using things
in its broadest possible designation. To comprehend what
manifests in all existing things, we must ask what all things
have in common. Because being exists separately from
existence, it makes sense to use a method of division to
access being. Accessing being resembles whittling away at
existing until only that hidden nature of being remains.
Because the pansacral view comprehends the transcendent as
that which qualifies all existing things, the method that
emerges from that position seeks to find what all things have
in common. This method resembles weaving a fabric,
integrating all things into the fabric, embracing all things
through the quality or qualities that all existing things
In order to enter the truly transcendental, however, we
must take seriously the term all existing things.
We must leave out absolutely nothing. if even one thing
exists which remains unqualified by the transcendental
quality, then that quality does not name the truly
transcendental. For this reason, examining dream things, and
imaginary things, and logical objects, and objects that
appear in meditational consciousnesses, such as astral
objects; we must consider all of these as things of the
world. Once again, this does not mean confusing or conflating
the experiences or realms. An imaginary character, such as a
hobbit, can not have the function of serving you a waking
realm cup of tea. Nevertheless, the imaginary character, the
hobbit, has performed functions in this world, and therefore
constitutes a thing in this world, influences this world and
has a presence in this world.
Approaching the world, all of existence, in this way,
means always keeping ones metaphysical position
tentative and open to possible revision. Since no one has
direct experience with all existing things, the possibility
arises that one has made a mistake. This particularly applies
here because the test of complete transcendence, as a quality
of all existing things, says that if someone can find even
one thing which exists not qualified by the transcendental
qualifier, then that quality does not function as a
transcendental. Given this stringent test, one should always
offer ones view speculatively.
In the last sentence of the entry above I state,
the truth of change, the truth of process, the truth of
impermanence ... This points to what I refer to as the
three aspects of change, which if I kept a diary today on the
subject, I would bring to the foreground. I refer to these
three aspects of change as impermanence, transformation, and
Impermanence means that all things at some point will
cease to exist. impermanence and change differ in that change
can happen in a cyclical manner in which, though the thing
constantly changes, the cycle in itself endures. Many
scientists view change in this manner. Change can mean that
the moon waxes and wanes. Impermanence means that the moon
will one day cease to exist.
Transformation means that when things cease to exist,
they do not become nothing. They become something else.
impermanence does not mean, therefore, blasted into
non-existence. Rather, impermanence means a loss of function.
If, for example, a table leg breaks, the table can no longer
perform its function as a table. But what existed as a table
has not ceased to exist; rather it has become something else.
Wombness means that creative aspect of existence through
which the becoming something else of things constantly
occurs. Existence constantly presents us with new and
unexpected things, new and unexpected configurations,
appearances that we and no one else had ever imagined. This
happens through transformation, has its basis as change, but
when seen from this perspective, existence manifests as a
cornucopia or womb of emerging transformations.
When I use the word change, I mean to embrace all three;
impermanence, transformation, and wombness. Thus the word
change has very broad implications.
The above entry ends with the idea that change
manifests to us clearly, not hidden, not
disguised. Yet below I state that people have
difficulty accessing change. I would argue the truth of both
positions. In this entry I mean to bring out that, in a
sense, change constitutes an obvious feature of our
existence, but that we tend to ignore its transcendental
implications. The mutability of things presents itself over
and over to us. Precisely this mutability drove such
philosophers as Plato and Augustine, to name just two, away
from existence, in an attempt to find eternity in the
immutable. The irony here arises as the truth that precisely
this mutability constitutes the eternal itself because change
manifests in all things, everywhere and everywhen. In other
words, the transcendental as change has no specific location
in its everywhereness, and has no specific origin or end in
its everywhenness. To discover the eternal, one only has to
awaken to the presence of change.
That which does not change does not exist. That which does
not change does not non-exist. That which does not change does
not reside in being or non-being. That which does not change
means delusion and sorrow. Only change exists as the eternal and
That which does not change does not exist.
This statement sums up the view of pansacralism towards the
idea of the transcendent as that which does not change.
Simply that the unchanging does not exist. For this reason,
metaphysical systems founded on the idea that something
exists in an unchanging manner generate a discordance between
the system of thought and actual experience.
That which does not change does not
non-exist. In some of the more mystically inclined
being-based systems they posit that because being lies
beyond, or before, any appearances, that to say that being
exists does not apply. Also to say that being does not exist
does not apply. interestingly, though these systems assert
that being and ultimacy lie beyond both existing and not
existing, they uniformly refer to being as unchanging. For
this reason, I added this statement, just to cover all the
bases. Not only does change not exist, in a simple way, but
also change does not non-exist.
Change lacks existence in the same way that when one
asserts the existence of the first son of a sterile man. Such
a child simply does not exist. One does not assert that
something else exists in place of the first child of a
sterile man. One simply states that such a child does not
exist. Similarly, the unchanging does not exist, it simply
does not exist, neither here in the world of phenomena, nor
in the world which transcends phenomena.
That which does not change does not reside in being
or non-being. The unchanging does not reside in being
because being functions as simply another name for the
unchanging. The unchanging does not reside in non-being
because the negation of a non-existent does not exist either.
That which does not change means delusion and
sorrow. Here I bring into the foreground the buddhist
context out of which these comments arise. The first noble
truth of the Buddha states that suffering exists. The second
noble truth states that suffering has a cause. The primary
cause of suffering lies in clinging and craving. I would
argue that craving constitutes a form of clinging and so
would reduce the two categories to the single one of
clinging. Clinging arises because at some level we believe
that some thing (once again consider the word
thing in its widest possible usage) does not
change. As long as that gesture of clinging arises, suffering
follows because to attempt to cling to something, to stop or
curtail the flow of change, means to attempt the impossible,
the impossible because the unchanging does not exist in any
way. One may as well try to stop the wind by embracing it.
However, if one embraces the wind of change, then suffering
This kind of reasoning links philosophical inquiry to
liberation. The ancient philosophers all regarded liberation
as the central task of philosophy. Only in modern times has
philosophy became a truncated and incomplete discipline,
shorn of its central purpose. By comprehending the connection
between the unchanging and sorrow, the connection between the
unchanging and delusion, the connection between the
unchanging and suffering, one comprehends the liberative
possibilities of philosophy and of inquiring into the eternal
as change itself.
Only change exists as the eternal and the
transcendent. Impressed by the liberative possibilities
of transcendental and eternal change, I wrote this statement.
I now consider this statement as too extreme. Logically, one
could construct a world system in which isolated monads
changed, but did not interact with each other. This points
out that change by itself insufficients to explain
everything. in making this statement I fell into a kind of
I now consider the transcendental qualities, those
qualities present in all existing things, as much more
extensive than just change. Change names one qualifier of a
transcendental kind, but not the only qualifier. In my essay
The Presence Of Eternity"
I have more to say on this subject.
Being constitutes an illusion. But not simply an illusion.
Rather, being constitutes the primary illusion/delusion, the root
of clinging, the first gesture of the is of separation, the asana
The word being contains two distinct meaning
in the philosophical context under consideration. First,
being means the core nature of existence; that nature which
reveals itself under analysis as, in some sense, final, or,
in a pansacral context, that nature which upon analysis
reveals itself as participating in the everywhere and
everywhen nature of existence. The second meaning of being,
in this context, means that which does not change, the
changeless, the immutable. The western philosophical
tradition has conflated these two meanings. in the context of
a being-based metaphysical comprehension, that conflation of
these two terms makes sense. Coming from this kind of
metaphysical point of view, one would find it difficult not
to conflate these two meanings. However, the two meanings
need distinguishing because the question of eternity does not
necessarily imply the changeless. The question of eternity
reveals the core nature of existence, or sends us on an
exploration to comprehend that core nature. The question of
being responds to the question of the nature of the
changeless. The questions differ and do not encompass the
same philosophical regions.
This divine reality, the text argues, must never be
appropriated through our conceptual thinking or through
the process of defining and naming it. Thus the doctrinal
structure of Buddhism is not only questioned but
deconstructed, and eventually rejected. The natural
corollary is then that there is no spiritual goal to
achieve (i.e. nirvana), no religious practice to perform
(i.e. path to enlightenment), and neither disciple nor
Buddha. in other words the entirety of the Buddhist
doctrinal and practical system is brushed aside by a
Buddhist text! These seemingly extreme positions are
maintained on the ground that all that exists does so due
to pristine awareness as the dynamic of
being. Thus, one has to conclude, all that exists is
already in the process of consummation. Being as such
(understood as a dynamic spinning, and not as
an essence) is buddhahood.
I want to particularly focus on the last quoted sentence,
in particular the part in parentheses, Being as such
(understood as a dynamic spinning, and not as an
essence). But hardly anyone would understand being, or even
being as such, as a dynamic spinning. Dynamic spinning
radically differs from what the philosophical and theological
tradition means when they use the word being. What the
western philosophical tradition does mean by being that
tradition labels with words like the unchanging, the
The importance of this has to do with how one can expect
someone to read the translation. Lets suppose that a
reader does not read the introduction from which I took the
above quote. I dont consider that an unusual habit,
that people skip the introduction and go right to the text.
How can we expect this reader to comprehend the use of the
word being in the translation? I would expect the reader to
come across the word being and assume that the translator
means the unchanging, the essential, the immutable. Or, let
us suppose that the reader just skims the introduction.
Still, unless the reader has paid particular attention to
this parenthetical remark about the very eccentric rendering
of the word being, the reader will very likely fall into
reading stasis into every appearance of the word being and
not comprehend that the translator refers to dynamic
Even when one has read the introduction carefully and
noted the parenthetical remark, and furthermore integrated
the importance of this way of using the word being, even so,
I can attest from personal experience, it requires
considerable effort for a reader not to think of being as
stasis, as unchangingness, as essence. I believe that the
translator has made something of the following equation:
being means the core nature of existence, in the text the
core nature of existence mean dynamic spinning, therefore the
way to translate this term from the tibetan into english is
by using the word being. Here the conflation of the two
meanings of the word being, the meaning of core nature, and
the second meaning of changeless essence, distorts in a core
way the meaning that the translator wishes to convey. By
distinguishing between the two meanings, the translator could
have used a more efficacious and more accurate term, such as
change, process, or simply dynamic spinning. This would have
shown to the reader that the tibetan text views the core
nature of existence in a way quite different, and profoundly
at variance, with the western philosophical and theological
tradition. By using the term being as a stand in for dynamic
spinning, the translation suggests to the reader that the
Tibetan Buddhist text and the western philosophical tradition
grounded in being as essence, converge. This does a great
disservice to both traditions.
The second example for consideration appears as the
character chang2, which appears in the opening
lines of the Tao Te Ching and usually translators
render as eternal. So far so good. However, often
translators also translate chang2, later in the Tao Te
Ching, as the unchanging. This kind of shift
from the eternal to the unchanging
forces one to interpret the Tao Te Ching as a
proto-being-based text, seduces the reader into comprehending
the Tao Te Ching as an overview of the nature of
being. To at one point translate chang2 as the
eternal and at another point to translate the same
character as the unchanging brings to the
translation a whole raft of metaphysical assumptions,
assumptions that, I would suggest, Lao Tzu may not have had,
or, I would further suggest, that at his time and place,
could not have had.
There exist strong reasons within the Tao Te Ching
to reject the idea that Lao Tzu equated the eternal with the
unchanging. In Ellen Chen's commentary and translation
of the Tao Te Ching she translates the first two
lines of Section 4 as follows, Tao is a whirling
emptiness, Yet in use is inexhaustible. interestingly,
Chen understands and elucidates the issue of a being-based,
and therefore static, interpretation of the Tao Te Ching,
versus an interpretation which does not make the assumption
that the eternal and the unchanging mean the same thing. in
her commentary on the first two lines of Section 4 she
This chapter describes Tao throughout as the dynamic
self-diffusive creativity as pouring out all beings and
as receiving back all beings. Tao as a dynamic emptiness
is not a thing determined: it is the whirling vortex
whose motion is ceaseless. This same dynamic character of
Tao as ever pouring out is also portrayed in the next two
chapters, 5.2 and 6.3. Our translation of the first two
lines adopt Kao Hengs emendation of chung
The Sung scholar Wang An-shih (1021-1086) said that chung
indeed means the chung-chI, the
empty whirling vortex revolving between heaven and earth.
A dynamic whirling vortex, however, could no longer be
the ultimate principle of the world to a Neo-Confucian
who elevates immobility above change. Typical of the
Neo-Confucian exaltation of the unchanging, Wang An-shih
thought that movement has to issue from the unmoved.
(The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation With Commentary,
by Ellen Chen, page 62, Paragon House, 1989, New York)
I found it fascinating to observe the clash of world
views, that between a being-based view which regards the
unchanging as ultimate, versus the world view which regards
change and process as ultimate, played out in the history of
the commentarial tradition on the Tao Te Ching.
Chens awareness of the core metaphysical issue I have
found very unusual. Much more typically, I have found the
unstated assumption equating the eternal with the unchanging.
An unexamined assumption which, in my opinion, seriously
distorts the meaning of the Tao Te Ching.
Principally this happens when translators unthinkingly impose
two distinct meanings on chang2; the meaning of the
eternal and the meaning of the unchanging.
Once again one observes the conflation of the question of
eternity with the question of being, an inability to
comprehend that the two questions differ. This unquestioned
assumption of the equality of the two, of conflating the
meaning of the eternal with the meaning of being and the
unchanging, makes it almost impossible to read most
translations of the Tao Te Ching into english with
exercising a great deal of caution. One has to become
conscious of this assumption and then read through these
assumptions to access the Tao Te Ching.
The Tao Te Ching represents a notoriously
ambiguous text; very brief and cryptic it has remained open
to many different, and conflicting interpretations. Some have
interpreted the Tao Te Ching as a proto-ontological
text, meaning a work dedicated to elucidating the meaning of
being. But that constitutes only one possibility. Other
possibilities exist, such as the one that Chen so eloquently
illuminates. When a translator equates chang2 with both the
eternal and the unchanging, the translator imposes a single
interpretation upon the text, and, as previously mentioned,
brings to the translation an entire metaphysical system. I
would suggest that this imposition has no basis in the work
itself. The solution, I suggest, lies in always translating
chang2 as the eternal and then allowing the
reader to interpret what the eternal means,
allowing the reader to decide for themselves if Lao Tzu had
in mind the unchanging and being, or if Lao Tzu had in mind a
But this option requires that the translator clearly
distinguish within their own minds that the question of
eternity and the question of being do not name the same
question. The question of eternity asks What exists
eternally?, What does eternity mean?, while the
question of being asks What exists that does not
change? The second question, the question of being,
arises as a response to the question of eternity. The second
question, the question of being, arises by dividing the
everywhere from the everywhen. However, the question of being
constitutes only one possible response to the question of
eternity. Another response does not divide the everywhere
from the everywhen. When the everywhere and the everywhen do
not separate, the question of being falls away and eternity
as change, dynamic spinning, and whirling emptiness emerges.
A third example I would like to example appears in the
philosophy of Mary Daly, the radical feminist. More than any
other post-world war ii philosophy that I know of, Daly takes
ontology seriously, in the sense that she comprehends that an
ontological position has implications that impress themselves
upon many different fields of knowledge, including politics
and science. Daly, as I understand her, wants to re-assert
the primacy of a dynamic world view, a world view which
comprehends existence as primal process, which she regards as
more congenial to a female-based and female-centered
understanding of existence. (Oddly, she does not seem to have
any familiarity with philosophers like Bergson who could
provide a great deal of help in this endeavor.) Daly
comprehends this ontological project as overthrowing the
static view of existence which has dominated western
philosophy and theology for millennia. In order to accomplish
this she always spells being as be-ing (Daly uses a dot after
be, but I cant find a dot in my word
processor, so a dash will have to do.) By this spelling Daly
seeks to emphasize and bring out the verb like nature of the
core of existence. Daly has a fascination with words, and
this respelling (or, as she might put it re-spell (as in
casting a spell) - ing (as a dynamic reformulation))
dis-spells the fascination with the fabricating of a static
being. In short, Daly wants to contrast being with be-ing.
I have a great admiration for Dalys project. I
would suggest, however, that in this arena at least, it does
not go far enough. Words have a fluid nature and change.
Since I regard change as a core nature of existence, I could
hardly view words otherwise. But words also have a history
and exist in web-roads of meaning. This respelling of be-ing
as an attempt to recast its meaning, in my opinion, runs into
the same problem that we have observed in the above two
examples; it has to confront the conflation of the question
of eternity with the question of being. For nearly all of
western history, and for nearly all writers, both
philosophical and theological, being means that which does
not change. So why not let those who believe in stasis have
the term? Why reformulate being? Just abandon it, just walk
out on it. Leave being behind.
If one distinguishes between the question of eternity and
the question of being, then one can proceed to an
investigation of eternity without burdening oneself with
being at all. Daly accepts the idea that being constitutes
the core nature of existence, but disagrees with the meaning
of that core nature. Instead I would suggest refocusing from
the question of being to the question of eternity. When one
does this then the question of being simply falls away. in
this way, I believe Dalys philosophy could move
dramatically forward and enter into yet unimagined and
All of this relates to the diary entry above, because
when I say that being constitutes an illusion, I
mean that being as the unchanging constitutes illusion. if
one has not clearly distinguished the eternal from the
unchanging, one might read this entry to mean that the
eternal constitutes an illusion. But I do not mean
that. I mean precisely to distinguish the eternal from the
unchanging in this entry.
Being constitutes an illusion because change exists as
the core nature of all existing things, and of existence as
such. But this only becomes clear when one clearly
distinguishes the question of eternity from the question of
In this entry I connect being with suffering. As
mentioned in the previous entry, suffering has its origin in
clinging. But not only in clinging. The central insight of
the Buddha arose as a comprehension of, and perception of,
the interconnectedness of all things, that all things exist
together, that nothing exists separately. Suffering arises
when we separate off from ourselves some aspect of existence,
as if that aspect did not have connections with us. This
gesture of separation resembles a kind of self-amputation.
Being arises from a gesture of separation, having its
origin in the separation of the everywhen from the
everywhere. This constitutes its first division. Being only
makes sense in a context which excludes the everywhere and
keeps the everything at bay. This gesture of separation forms
the first gesture of separation, the first example of
self-amputation, the first subtle movement to an existence
filled with suffering.
From this gesture of separation which sources being,
arises the clinging mind. After separating the everywhen from
the everywhere, the believer in being clings to the everywhen
as stasis, while simultaneously pushing away the everywhere
and everything. Thus the single gesture of being functions as
the foundation, the source and fountainhead for the arising
Therefore, to overcome suffering, abandon being.
Change transcends any given situation/condition. But that
does not mean that one should consider change an essence. The
word essence implies that which does not change in opposition to
that which does change. Change as such changes. Change means the
unchanging and nothing other than change.
When one speaks of the transcendental the tendency exists
to think of the nature of the transcendental as existing as
some kind of reality other than appearances. When considering
being as transcendent, being differs from appearance in that
being does not change. Essence and being have an intimate
relationship. Essence means that aspect of an existing thing
which connects it to being. Essence therefore means that
aspect of an existing thing which does not change. Tables may
manifest as wood, plastic, or stone, but the essence of a
table remains the same in all three manifestations. The idea
of essence means that aspect of, for example, a table which
makes the table a table, and this essence has a different
nature from the accidental characteristics of particular
In contrast, when speaking of change as the
transcendental I mean that change manifests as a quality of
all existing things. For example, one can say the green
table, and similarly one can say the changing table. But
whereas green can only qualify visual objects, the quality of
change qualifies all existing things. including change
itself. The quality of change also qualifies change. This
leads directly the boundless, groundless, and infinite nature
of existence and all existing things. Whereas essence
declares that existing things have a final and definitive
nature, change as transcendence means that things exist in a
boundless, open, and always unfinished manner. Change as the
transcendental negates essence, just as change as the
transcendental negates being.
The delusion of essence emerges from the delusion of being.
Essence names the second gesture of the asana of
suffering and the stem of clinging.
The idea of essence states that there exists some aspect
of existing things which does not change; that connects the
idea of essence with the idea of being. Because the idea of
essence means that aspect of a thing which does not change,
the idea of essence fosters clinging by philosophically
justifying the gesture, or the asana, of clinging. But
clinging constitutes the source of suffering in this world.
When we attempt to cling to physical things, we suffer
because inevitably they change. When we attempt to cling to
ideas, to fix them, to make them static, we suffer because
inevitably the ideas change; they become obsolete, someone
modifies them, someone uses them in a context we did not
intend, someone synthesizes them and thereby transforms them.
Existence manifests as an open process, a whirling emptiness,
a dynamic spinning, a forever unfinished symphony.
When we awaken to the open process nature, and release
all clinging by abandoning being and essence, we put an end
to suffering. This names the path to liberation.
Essence subverts the understanding of the transcendent and
sabotages all movement toward realization.
Realization and liberation mean comprehending and
actualizing and manifesting the manner in which all things
exist. it means entering into that eternal presence, and
manifesting that eternal presence in our lives. This means
completely releasing the blossoming of this moment into the
next moment. This means completely abandoning clinging at all
levels of our existence. Since essence means that aspect of a
thing which does not change, if one wishes to put an end to
sorrow, to enter the peace of liberation, release all essence
into the rivering world.
Essence brings about the sleep of ignorance.
The metaphor of sleep to describe those who do not
comprehend the transcendental appears in many different
spiritual traditions. One finds it in diverse sources from
Heraclitus to Gurdjief. Here sleep means a condition which
does not recognize our real situation. When someone sleeps,
they do not realize that they lie in a bed, in a room, in a
house, in a town. Similarly, when people do not realize the
true nature of existence, they resemble someone asleep to the
If one comprehends eternity as that which qualifies all
existing things everywhere and everywhen, then the eternal,
and the transcendental, does not exist as something which
lies beneath, or before, or from a source prior to,
appearances. Rather, the eternal manifests as appearances,
but only when perceived and comprehended as the eternal
qualities. The doctrine of essence claims that the real
nature of things lies somewhere other than in their
appearances and thus pulls one away from the eternal and
transcendental as qualities of all existing things. From this
perspective essence functions as a kind of spiritual
The idea of essence claims that there exists something
about things beyond their qualities. Think of it this way:
Given a thing, one can describe that thing in many ways,
these descriptors I refer to as the qualities of the thing.
One can symbolize this as follows:
A = (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ...)
A stands for the thing. The set stands for the
qualities/descriptors applicable to the thing. The numbers
stand for the particular qualities of the existing thing. For
example, if A = chair, a particular chair, then the
numbers of the set stand for things like green,
oak, on the porch, large,
my favorite, etc.
The idea of essence states that if you take away every
member of the set of descriptors/qualifiers, you have
something left, the essence of the thing:
A = ( ? )
The question mark stands for the essence of the chair,
which has no qualities, but nevertheless exists as the core
of the chair.
The pansacral understanding says that if you remove every
single quality from the set, then A ceases to exist.
if A = (0), then no A.
I refer to this as the axiom of emptiness. it means that
existing things have no other reality than their qualities. A
thing means the intersection of the numberless qualities in
the set of descriptors. No members of the set, then no thing.
The idea of essence states that when you remove all the
members of the set, there exists something left over. But
that claim has no basis. One does not need it in order to
comprehend the world. in actuality, such a claim drugs us,
leads to ignorance, and sets up a barrier to the realization
of the ultimate nature of all existing things, which
manifests as qualities/descriptors which appear in the sets
of all existing things. And one of those qualities I refer to
as change itself.
Breaking through the nightmare of essence, releasing all
desire for the stability of being, we then enter the realm of the
eternal, the realm of change.
The gesture of release, in and of itself, means entering
into the transcendental arena through the gate of change. The
paradox of the human situation, and the source of humanities
immense suffering, arises from the capacity for humanity to
delude itself that something does not change. Believing, at
some level, that something does not change, we then cling to
that something in the belief that it will function for us as
the changeless. But it does change, and therefore suffering
follows. The last bastion, and also the first gesture, of
this clinging, which gives rise to suffering, lies in being
and essence. This clinging to being and essence shields us
from eternity because change and eternity do not differ.
Change and eternity do not differ because change exists
everywhere and everywhen and manifests as a transcendental
quality of everything, of all existing things.
Everywhere; no place exists that change does not
manifest. Everywhen; no time exists that change does not
manifest. Everything; all existing things arise due to
change, become due to change, begone due to change.
Therefore, enter the realm of the eternal by ceasing to
cling, transcending essence and abandoning being.
Everything which exists exists as process and nothing other
than process. Therefore all things completely display the
eternally transcendent precisely because they display change
fully and clearly.
Also, we exist as nothing other than eternal change, moment
to moment without cease. The eternal exists as nothing other than
us. But we have nothing to do with it.
I now consider this entry too extreme. I think of it as a
kind of fall into monism. As mentioned previously, change does
not explain everything, yet in entries such as the above I tried
to push change into a role that it could not assume.
From a pansacral perspective, eternity exists as
transcendental qualities modifying all existing things,
everywhere and everywhen. But change names only one of those
qualities. Other qualities such as dependence, interdependence,
uniqueness, etc., also exist as facets of eternity. I suspect
that the categories of transcendental qualities has no limits,
precisely because limitlessness and groundlessness also name
The importance of change as a quality of eternity lies in the
ability of this quality to negate essence, substance and being.
This quality also shows us the gate to liberation, by showing us
the source of suffering which lies in clinging; but since change
exists everywhere and everywhen and as a quality of everything,
attempts to cling only bring about frustration, suffering, sorrow
All things display this transcendental nature of change. The
constancy of change lies in this; that one can never go anywhere
and not find change. One can not find an interior realm which
does not change. Our thoughts change, our emotions change, our
deepest interior reality also changes. The nature of our selves
and the nature of all existing things as change does not differ.
Recognizing this, we become one with the transcendental nature of
all things, one with the eternal which displays itself always and
The eternal manifests in its immediacy and presence as change
and does not in any sense differ from change. The eternal does
Eternity does not differ from change; however eternity means
more than change. in terms of the transcendental qualifiers of
the everywhere, the everywhen, and the everything, there exist
many such eternal qualities.
The not hiding means that one does not have to go
anywhere else to discover/recover/enter into the eternal. The
eternal does not hide because the eternal exists as a quality,
not an essence. The eternal does not exist in some place, but
exist spread out over all of existence, both time, place and
things. Finding the eternal does not mean going to some realm, or
region. it means awakening to our actual situation. in the
context of this diary, awakening to the eternal means awakening
to change as the transcendental nature of all existing things.
Change does not constitute a substratum, it does not hide
somewhere. Because change means the eternal, realization and
awakening possible in this world.
When I write that change does not hide, I mean that change
does not exist behind or before
phenomena. This contrasts with being which both logically and
ontologically, and in some cases also temporally, philosophers
have argued precedes the existence of phenomena.
I also mean when I write that change does not hide that one
can speak coherently about eternity and the eternal. In some,
though not all, being-based metaphysical systems philosophers
have argued that ultimate existence lies utterly beyond
conception, and that therefore conceptuality can not gain access
to the eternal. This has led to the idea that ultimate nature
remains beyond possible articulation.
The idea of the ineffability of the ultimate and the eternal
arises because being has its origins in a sense of separation;
that ultimate nature and the eternal differ in kind from existing
things. While existing things may depend for their existence upon
being, the creator, that from which all things come, existing
things differ from that which gives rise to existing things. That
which gives rise to existing things differing traditions name
differently; some call it being, some call it the one, some call
it god, etc. But given this primal sense of separation, it
follows with some logic that the source, being, god, lies beyond
all possible conceptualization.
If, however, one comprehends the eternal as the everywhere
and everywhen qualities of everything, then those qualities must
also manifest in words, because words constitute existing things.
From this perspective, there does not exist any separation
between the eternal, the source of all existing things, and
existing things. in this sense, the eternal becomes accessible
and articulateable, not ineffable. Not ineffable because words
themselves possess the qualities of eternity which mark all
existing things. Not ineffable because giving voice to eternity
simultaneously exhibits that eternal nature. Not that words alone
have this nature, but that words also have this nature. And the
great virtue of words lies in the ability of words to name
eternity and exhibit that very nature that the words name. From a
pansacral perspective, the self-referential consistency of the
qualities of eternity means that one can give voice to eternity,
that one can name the eternal, discover the eternal, recover the
eternal, because the eternal presents itself in openness and
clarity to all who will take the effort to perceive and
comprehend this eternal presence.
The last sentence articulates the connection between change
and liberation. if change did not exist, liberation could not
happen because in order to attain and/or realize liberation, one
must change. This applies weather one comprehends liberation as a
purification or a sudden awakening; both models infer that a
change must take place. No change, no liberation. if the primal
nature of existence consisted of non-change, no one could ever
attain liberation or realize this primal nature, this eternal
presence. Because change and eternity do not differ, liberation
exists as a possibility. Because change and eternity do not
differ, flowers blossom, clouds drift across the sky, and the
heart of compassion can blossom to embrace all of existence.
If it does not change it does not manifest the truth.
Therefore everything manifests the truth. Release all notions of
stability, repetition, being, essence, etc., and the eternal
emerges precisely in that gesture of release.
Being-based metaphysics operates by systematically excluding
anything which changes in order to arrive at that which does not
change. The impulse for doing this arises from the belief that
truth means that which does not change. Plato contrasts truth
with opinion. Truth does not change, only opinion changes.
if I recall correctly, part of the impulse for this entry
came from conversations I had with a vedanta teacher, a good
friend of mine. The vedanta teacher told me that he taught a form
of meditation in which the student step by step excluded anything
which changed. This meditative process would lead the student to
the arena of pure consciousness, unchanging, immutable awareness.
Both the platonic and vedanta strategies have the consequence
of not only negating the world, but degrading the world. The
world of appearances does not constitute the divine domain
because the world of appearances changes and the changing can not
manifest as the truth. If, however, we shift our awareness to the
constancy of change, to the everpresentness of change, than
change becomes the truth, the transcendental truth, an aspect of
ultimacy. When we shift our awareness in this manner, then
everything everywhere and everywhen manifests the ultimate
precisely because of this changing nature. One does not have to
divide existence into the delusionary realm of appearances and
the static realm of truth. Rather the ongoing transformational
matrix of appearing things and the realm of ultimate truth merge;
no separation exists between the two.
This shift from the eternal as unchanging to the eternal as
change itself happens we learn to cease to cling. Being forms the
foundation for clinging and therefore for suffering as such. When
we cease to cling, the world of appearances manifests as the
realm of the eternal.
One could also call change time.
In this diary I struggled with the relationship between
change and time. Time exists because change exists. Time has a
dependent relationship to change. But, I would argue, change
itself has a timeless aspect to it, that change precedes time.
The question arises because of the existence of certain
things/forms which seem to exhibit a timeless quality to them.
This applies particularly to such things as mathematical and
logical forms. Particularly in western culture, the existence of
mathematical forms has formed a foundation for the idea that
there exists a changeless reality which supersedes, in many
respects, the realm of appearances.
The existence of such forms, and the status of their
existence, forms an issue of debate in the history of philosophy,
a debate which has not reached a conclusion. However, I
dont consider it necessary to solve the issue of the
ontological status of mathematical forms in order to assert that
change also applies to such timeless things. Let us assume that
mathematical forms do exist in a timeless manner and/or
dimension. Even so, I would argue that such forms change.
My reason for this follows: at some point in the history of
this planet there appeared a kind of consciousness that can
understand these mathematical forms. Previous to the existence of
this kind of consciousness, no living thing on earth understood
these forms. in the future, other forms of consciousness will
appear that either do not understand these mathematical forms or
do not consider them interesting. This means that the
mathematical forms have changed from forms that nothing
understands to forms that something understands
to whatever the future may hold. This means that the forms have
changed. Just as a chair changes when we say the chair was
green and now the chair is not green, so also
the mathematical forms have changed as reflected by the
descriptors of conscious comprehension.
The standard rebuttal to this kind of assertion states that
the forms have not changed, only a conscious relationship to them
has changed. But, there must exist some connection between the
mathematical forms and the consciousness realizing their
existence. if no connection existed, that consciousness could not
realize the existence of such mathematical forms. Only because
there exists a connection between the two, the mathematical forms
and the consciousness comprehending the forms, does comprehension
of these forms become possible.
For this reason, because a connection must exist in order for
comprehension to emerge, I assert that the mathematical forms
change in their relationship to the world. For this reason, I
assert that if timeless forms exist, then change also exists as a
timeless condition; that change precedes time and applies equally
to the timeless and that which exists in time.
I begun to comprehend time as a particular kind of change. I
think the tendency exists, certainly in me it exists, to regard
change and time as nearly synonymous. But I now think of time as
a sub-class of change. Time means cyclical change. Time means
change comprehended with in a context of recognizable returning.
Thus we measure time by certain motions of a wave-like and
repetitive nature. The return of the sun to the same point in the
sky marks a year. The motion of the moon constitutes a repetitive
cycle that controls the calendars of many cultures.
Not all change happens in this manner of cyclical returning.
Some things happen irregularly. For example, the performance of a
piece of music happens irregularly and we would find it difficult
to construct a calendar based on the appearance of a piece of
music. Some comets and meteors do not have a regular pattern, and
for this reason we could not use them to establish a sense of
time. There also exist many unique events in the world that
happen only once and therefore do not establish a pattern from
which to establish a sense of time. in addition, as stated above,
there may exist timeless forms, Platos great discovery.
For all of these reasons, I have started to comprehend time
as dependent upon change, but not as synonymous to change. Given
the reality of change, time appears. But change can exist without
time. Though time can not exist without change.
The eternal manifests as time but only if one understands
time as process. Because people have a tendency to reify time and
turn it into an essence, I prefer the word change.
The strong tendency has appeared to turn time into an
unchanging essence. Thus time in some systems appears as a
uniform container in which appearances happen. From this
perspective time happens to things. One gets the impression from
this perspective that if time did not happen to exist, things
would exist but would not change. Modern developments in physics,
I understand, have subverted this notion of an independently
existing and uniform time. Nevertheless there still exists this
tendency to view time in this essentialistic way.
In contrast to this view of time as a container in which time
happens to things, Dogen writes of time as the unfolding of
events. Time doesnt happen to events; rather time means the
unfolding, blossoming, and vanishing of things. Things and time
do not exist separately because things mean things in process.
I would construe time more narrowly now than when I wrote
this entry under the strong influence of Dogen. As stated
immediately above, I now think of time as a particular type of
change, a subcategory of change. Time means cyclic change. The
relationship between time and change shows that change
encompasses time, but one could have change without time. The end
of time does not imply the end of change, but only the end of a
particular kind of change.
For this reason, I still prefer the word change when
describing this aspect of the eternal, to the term time.
One could also call change great.
Great because without change, nothing would exist. Great
because without change existence as such would not exist. All
things depend for their existence upon change. Existence as such
depends upon change for existence as such. No change, no things.
No change, no existence. For this reason, one can truly call
Though one could call it great, change nevertheless manifests
in the microscopically small. Therefore from the point of view of
the eternal, which means from the point of view of change, the
small means the large, the great means the microscopic, the dark
means the light, the profound means the obvious. Change
transcends all dualities because dualities emerge from the
delusion of being and change dissolves being into the eternal
realm of time.
I must have felt inspired this day as there exist many
different observations embedded in this entry. But the main focus
of this entry has to do with the transcending of opposites. Given
any pair of opposites, we can unite them in the comprehension of
change. For example, both the small and the large change; so from
the perspective of change, the large and the small do not differ.
Or take light and dark. Both light and dark change; so from the
perspective of change, light and dark do not differ. Or take good
and evil. Both good and evil change; so from the perspective of
change, good and evil do not differ. Or take true and false. Both
true and false change and lack any absolute nature. So from the
perspective of change, true and false do not differ.
Change means entering the realm of both/and while
simultaneously abandoning the realm of either/or. Change means
that nothing exists with a separate or distinct nature, a nature
unlike other things. Change makes all things equal.
I find this most clearly symbolized in the famous yin-yang
mandala from the taoist tradition. Within the circle of the
mandala one finds a field of light and a field of dark. The light
has a touch of dark, the dark has a touch of light. The circle
embraces both the light and the dark. The circle symbolizes the
everpresent nature of change. The embracing of both light and
dark symbolizes the nature which transcends all opposites because
the both/and nature of the transcendental manifests equally in
both opposites. Contemplating this mandala has helped me to
understand the transcendental nature of change and how change
transcends all opposites; not by taking us to a realm before
opposites arise, but by showing us a nature which embraces both
opposites, while at the same time not rejecting either opposite.
Today I would change the last line to read, ... change
dissolves being into the eternal realm of change itself.
The use of the word time in this sentence shows that
I still tended to think of time and change as synonymous. As
stated above, I have since taken a different view on the
relationship between change and time.
You can not escape the eternal no matter how hard you try to
hide within the confines of being or retreat behind the walls of
essence. You can not escape the eternal because you yourself
The transcendental nature of change applies to, and arises as
a quality of all existing things. All existing things includes
ourselves as an existing thing. We also change and precisely that
changing nature of ourselves means the eternal within and without
us. Paradoxically, when we move away from change in our quest for
the eternal, we move away from the eternal itself. We do not have
to go anywhere to discover/uncover/recover the eternal because
change permeates our own existence. Without change we would not
exist. Because of change, we exist as a manifestation of the
eternal. Because of change the possibility of liberation by
releasing all clinging into the river of change, arises.
The glissandi of the multiverse.
A musical metaphor. Imagine 100 string instruments; violins,
violas, cellos, bases. Imagine all of them continuously playing
slides, or glissandi, on their strings; some ascending, some
descending, some slow, some rapid. The effect would form a sonic
cloud of continuously changing in pitch.
Or imagine 100 string instruments; violins, violas, cellos,
bases. imagine all of them playing on a single note, all
performing on the same pitch. imagine all of them continuously
varying the loudness of their pitch, gradually changing from as
soft as possible to as loud as possible, and every nuance
in-between. The effect would form a sonic cloud continuously
changing in volume.
Or imagine 100 string instruments; violins, violas, cellos,
bases. imagine all of them playing on a single note, yet all of
them on a different pitch. imagine all of them continuously
varying the loudness of their pitch, gradually changing from as
soft as possible to as loud as possible, and every nuance
in-between. The effect would form a sonic cloud continuously
changing in volume, but this cloud would have a different density
then the one immediately above.
Or imagine 100 sources of light, such as spotlights, all of
different colors. imagine all of the lights have reostats which
can gradually change the brightness of the lighting from barely
perceptible to almost blindingly bright. Now imagine all of these
sources of light gradually altering their brightness in a random
way. The effect would form a cloud of light continuously changing
in brightness and color.
Or imagine 100 sources of light, such as spotlights, all of
the same color. imagine all of the lights have reostats which can
gradually change the brightness of the lighting from barely
perceptible to almost blindingly bright. Now imagine all of these
sources of light gradually altering their brightness in a random
way. The effect would form a cloud of light continuously changing
in brightness, but focused in color.
Or imagine 100 sources of light, such as spotlights, all set
on the same color, all set at the same brightness. imagine all of
them mounted so that they can sweep the auditorium in a
continuous arc. Now imagine all of the lights moving at different
and varying rates, some fast, some slow, some growing faster,
some slowing down. The effect would form a swirling cloud of
light continuously changing in form.
Or imagine 100 sources of light, such as spotlights, all set
on different colors, all set at the same brightness. Imagine all
of them mounted so they can sweep the auditorium in a continuous
arc. Now imagine all of the lights moving at different and
varying rates, some fast, some slow, some growing faster, some
slowing down. The effect would form a swirling cloud of light
continuously changing in form and color.
Now combine all of these images into a single experience
using hundreds of string instruments and hundreds of lights.
imagine this and use this image as a metaphor or template for
change as the ultimate nature of existence, as the glissandi of
Do not say that change is the eternal for that
little word is betrays the truth by reifying change
into an essence, a substance, a doorway into the house of
delusion called being.
At the time of engaging in this diary I fell under the
influence of a writing practice called e-prime. This version of
english does away with all forms of the verb to be.
At the time it seemed to me an efficacious way of beginning a
grammar of primal process. I had the idea that because of the
strong noun orientation of our language, that creating a form of
language that would bring out more strongly a verb context would
prove more congenial to the idea of change as eternity.
I have since modified that view. After many years of
practicing e-prime I concluded that it has very little effect,
perhaps no effect, on ones metaphysical understanding.
Doing away with the verb to be does not necessarily
lead one away from a being based view of existence. Nor does such
a procedure have the capacity to diminish the grip of the idea of
the unchanging as real.
Having said this, I did find the use of e-prime helpful in my
own writing. Using e-prime helped me to reconfigure sentence
structure, enabling me to express myself with greater precision.
Basically, I think writers could use the verb to be
much less than they tend to; I think of it as a lazy way out.
One insight from the use of e-prime that has stayed with me,
however, is the use of certain words in verb forms that most
people would not use in that way. For example, to
impossible, or to truth. interestingly, the use
of nouns as verb does not appear as part of the e-prime program,
but arose out of my use of e-prime. The capacity to use any word
in english as a verb or a noun, I believe serves the purposes of
elucidating primal process more clearly than simply eliminating
the use of the verb to be. if I were to develop a
grammar of primal process, or eternal change, today I would start
at this point: that any word can function as a verb.
Process emerges from change but change transcends process.
Process implies a beginning and an end, creation, sustaining and
destruction. But change exists equally at any point/moment of
process. Change manifests completely at creation, at sustaining,
and at destruction. The quality of change as such displays itself
totally at all moments. Change as such has no greater or lesser,
on degrees. Things do not more or less change. They always and in
all ways engage fully as change.
In this entry I attempted to make a distinction between
process and change. I dont consider the attempt fully
successful. I think my main point lies in pointing out the
transcendental nature of change as transformation. Becoming and
begoning, as opposites, have a shared nature as change and
transformation. The sustained existence of a thing appears in
this context as a form of change and transformation, not as a
contradiction to change. in a sense, I comprehend process as a
word designating an analysis of change into parts. Change implies
process in the same sense that change implies time. Process
distinguishes types of change, but change embraces all types of
The quest for being emerges from a desire to escape change
which means a revulsion with the transcendental. This disgust
with change results in the gesture of clinging which forms the
basis from which the idea of being emerges, and from which
suffering inevitably follows.
In this entry I return to buddhist roots, placing the topic
of eternal change in the context of liberation from suffering. I
began to comprehend the task of liberation through the context of
eternal change. This lead to an understanding of the quest for
the changeless as rooted in a revulsion towards and a disgust
The Buddhas quest arose in part because of his
comprehension of the passing away of all things and that
therefore the pursuit of worldly goals such as wealth, fame,
status, etc., ultimately have no point. This sense of disgust
towards the mutable permeates the platonic tradition as well.
This sense of disgust arises because the mutable becomes linked
with the pointless in terms of the pursuit of worldly goals and
Paradoxically, this sense of disgust and revulsion pull one
away from that eternal presence which they seek, for the eternal
manifests as that very mutability and change that people seem to
want to pull away from. This has lead me to the conclusion that
disgust and revulsion do not form a good foundation for
awakening. I realize that in the buddhist tradition some schools
of buddhism consider disgust with existence, or samsara, as a
necessary condition for realization. In this interpretation of
the dharma the logic of disgust requires that the practitioner
comprehend all of existence as unreliable, and therefore of
little or no value. This interpretation can, at times, become
quite meticulous about this insight.
Nevertheless, I consider the insight flawed. I dont
consider existence unreliable. One only draws the conclusion of
unreliability if one starts with the idea that things should have
a stable nature. If, however, one lets go and releases the desire
for stability, then the reliability of existence blossoms forth.
All existing things will change and transform; I consider this a
completely reliable statement. The desire for changelessness
blocks the understanding of the reliableness of existence. Having
blocked the perception of the completely reliable nature of
existence, a revulsion towards existence arises because existence
does not live up to the standards we seek to impose upon: that of
stability and changelessness. The solution, however, does not lie
in cultivating revulsion, which led to the problem in the first
place. Rather, the solution lies in comprehending all of
existence in its actuality as change, transformation, process. in
comprehending all of existence as blossoming forth in an ongoing
and endlessly creative display. This does not happen by turning
away from existing things. Rather this entry into the eternal
happens when we pay closer attention to existence, when we
cultivate clarity and understanding, so that the actuality of our
situation can present itself. When we accomplish this, all things
become an enlightening presence, clearly displaying for us the
everywhenness of eternity. And then we can understand that
samsara and nirvana do not differ, not even in the slightest.
Being, essence, law, repetition, stability, sameness, etc.,
the eternal dissolves all of these notions, all of these
delusions. When one enters change, the eternal realm, being
vanishes, essence disappears, one becomes lawless, each moment
emerges in its uniqueness, and one finds reassurance in the
blossoming forth of all things.
The eternal dissolves being: because the eternal means change
and therefore being does not exist.
The eternal dissolves essence: because essence implies an
unchanging aspect of something, but the eternal means change
itself. Change does not manifest as an essence, but rather as a
transcendental quality qualifying all existing things.
The eternal dissolves repetition: because change constantly
changes. Each full moon has a different brightness. Each
snowflake a different shape. Each time someone performs a song,
they bring out new nuances.
The eternal dissolves stability: true if one comprehends
stability as changelessness. However, the eternal brings into the
foreground the reliability of constant change.
The eternal dissolves sameness: because if everything changes
then nothing every stays the same. Moment to moment a new world
continuously emerges, the cornucopia of all existing things.
One becomes lawless: by lawless I mean that even
laws, such as logical laws, scientific laws, and mathematical
laws, have only a provisional, temporary nature. These laws also
change and mutate, and become something else. They have a
history, a trajectory to their existence. Lawless in this context
means not clinging to formulations as examples of a fixed
One finds reassurance in the blossoming forth of all
things. This insight emerges from discovering that
impermanence constitutes only half, or only part of, the truth.
An important truth, for sure, but only a partial truth. For
impermanence does not mean blasted into non-existence. Rather
impermanence means change as transformation, and change as
transformation means becoming something else. Every manifestation
of impermanence means the creation of something else.
impermanence and creation arise together, mutually generate each
other, and find their unity in change as such. The other half of
the truth, creation, the matrix of emergence, has just as much
validity as the truth of impermanence.
Nothing ever completely vanishes. Nothing ever completely
disintegrates. All existing things giving birth to all existing
Suffering does not appear from desire. Desire as such simply
appears in the vast spaciousness of existence. Suffering appears
from clinging. Being names the origin of clinging and therefore
forms the root of suffering. if one wishes to overcome suffering
one must transcend being. One accomplishes this by releasing all
being into the reality of change. When one releases all being
into the reality of change one then manifests eternity as the
constancy of change. Simultaneously one transcends the placement
of any particular appearance.
Once again I return to the central focus of buddhist
practice, the end of suffering. in the context of the Buddhist
four noble truths, this entry comments on the second noble truth,
that suffering has a cause. In Buddhist literature, this cause
has two aspects; craving and clinging. Craving and desire, in
this context, usually mean the same thing. Much Buddhist doctrine
has interpreted this relationship between desire and suffering as
meaning that in order to attain liberation, or freedom from
suffering, one must extinguish desire. This has led in some
buddhist traditions to programs aimed at extinguishing all desire
in the belief that this will result in liberation.
This entry offers a different interpretation. Rather than
suffering arising from desire, I comprehend suffering as arising
from clinging. Suffering arises from clinging because everything
changes, without exception. Because everything changes, clinging
results in frustration, anger, grief, despair, in a word, suffering.
In this context I understand craving as clinging to desire.
Desire, in and of itself does not give rise to suffering. Rather
clinging to desire gives rise to suffering. Craving means the
clinging to desire. But that means that ultimately the clinging
causes the suffering; craving becomes just one example of clinging.
This shift of understanding away from craving to clinging as
the cause of suffering means that the program that leads to
liberation differs, takes on a different emphasis. One does not
strive to eliminate desires. One might as well ask the sky to
eliminate clouds. Rather, one seeks to develop a mind that has
awakened to the flowing, changing, process, rivering nature of
all things. Awakening to this primal nature, this eternal change,
and liberation follows. in a sense, awakening to primal process
means liberation. One can accomplish this through meditation and
analysis. I would suggest both meditation and analysis play a
necessary role in treading the path to liberation.
The last line of this entry regarding transcending the
placement of any particular appearance refers to what happens
when one awakens to the eternal as the quality of change marking
all existing things. The quality of change transcends any
particular existing thing, even while manifesting as a quality of
all particular things. One begins to perceive the transcendental
everywhere. One begins to perceive all things as equal because
all things change, all things have this eternal nature, this
quality of eternity. Perceiving all things as equal in their
transcendental qualities, one discovers that one does not have to
go anywhere else to enter the divine domain. For the divine
domain exists spread out over all of existence, present in all
existing things, without exception.
The world consists only of change but change does not name
the essence of things and does not refer to being or substance.
Things do not have any essence for change dissolves all essence.
Once again I consider this entry too extreme. I find it
interesting that in this diary I exhibit a tendency to fall into
a kind of monism. I seem to want to find a single explanation, or
thing, that will explain everything. Looking back on these
entries from a distance of about 10 years, I tend to think of
this tendency in the diary as arising from two sources. First, a
feeling of the overwhelming power and presence of change as an
eternal reality. Awakening to this reality of eternal change, I
thought that it could explain, or account for, everything.
Second, I think of this monist tendency as a kind of last
holdover from a being-based view of existence. In a subtle way, I
think of entries like this as trying to have my metaphysical
essence and eat it too.
Having had time for further contemplations, I now regard
change as just one of the transcendental qualities which mark all
existing things. As mentioned above, other transcendental
qualities include dependence, interdependence, uniqueness, etc. I
dont think of this essay as a good place to go into the
nature of these other transcendental qualities, because this
diary retains a focus on the nature of change. I refer interested
readers to my essay The Presence Of Eternity.
However, though change names the ultimate status of all that
exists, we have difficulty discovering this truth. instead we
seem to instinctively cling to existence at some level, in some
way. This happens because our sensory apparatus does not display
for us the truth of change. Meaning that we do not directly
perceive the dynamic and changing quality of all things. instead
we seem to observe discrete, and static, and isolated entities.
However, we can say that the appearance of things in this world
has something deceptive about it. Not that things do not exist,
but that they do not exist as static and isolated entities. Only
when we seriously contemplate the condition of this world do we
realize the fundamentally changing character of everything that
we perceive. This requires effort to realize precisely because
ordinary perception does not support this insight.
in earlier entries I stated that the eternal nature of change
does not hide. in this entry I say that we have difficulty
discovering the truth of the eternal presence of change. I regard
both statements as true, but not as absolutely true. When I say
that eternal change does not hide, I mean that change does not
exist as a substance, substratum, or essence, that somehow
functions behind or prior to the display of appearances.
Comprehending eternity as a quality of existing things means that
one does not have to uncover eternity, one just has to discover
When I say that we have difficulty accessing the truth of
eternal change, I mean that the ordinary display of appearances
does not clearly show us, at all times, this changing nature. The
desk I write upon seems to me unchanged from the desk I wrote
upon yesterday. For this reason, our ordinary perception does not
clearly display to us the truth of the constant and all
permeating presence of change.
In order to illustrate this point I suggest the following
Take a small bell. Ring the bell a few times, somewhere
between 3 and 108 times. Listed to the sound of the bell. Our
minds easily encompass the entire process of the sound of a bell.
The arising, changing and ceasing of the sound of the bell, the
entire arc of the existence of this sound presents no
difficulties for our perception.
Next, take some birthday candles, the kind that people put on
birthday cakes.. Light the birthday candles, from 2 to 5 candles.
Now simply watch the candles burn down completely. This will take
about 5 to 10 minutes. in this case, also, we seem to have the
capacity to clearly perceive the entire process of the changing
burning candles. if we watch our minds clearly, we will notice a
certain tendency to wander from the candles, but by and large
observing the candles does not present any serious difficulties.
Once again we seem capable of encompassing the entire arc of the
process of change.
Now take a stick of incense. Light the incense and place it
in an incense holder. Simply observe the burning incense
vanishing into smoke. This will take somewhere between 20 and 40
minutes, depending upon the incense. in this case, for most
people, our minds seem to wander and we miss out on some of the
arc of change. Even so, we seem to grasp the complete arc of the
smoking incense without a great deal of difficulty, even if we do
find this more difficult than the sound of a bell or the burning
of birthday candles.
Now take some flowers and put them in a vase. Use the flowers
as an object of contemplation. if your mind wanders, simply bring
the mind back to observing the flowers. Do this for somewhere
between 20 and 40 minutes. For the most part, we can not perceive
the unfolding change taking place. Sometimes during a
contemplation on flowers, a bud will open slightly or a leaf will
fall. So it seems that flowers hover right over the edge of our
capacity to perceive change. We do not feel shocked when flowers
wilt. in fact we expect them to do so. But we rarely actually
observe flowers wilting, or buds opening, in the way that we
perceive the sound of a bell, or the burning of birthday candles.
Somewhere between the burning of the incense and the
blossoming of a flower, our human apparatus looses its ability to
directly perceive change.
Now, take a rock. Place the rock on a table. Observe the rock
for 20 to 40 minutes. It does not seem to change. It just seems
to sit there. We do not see the rock grow. We do not see the rock
disintegrate. We do not see the rock transforms. The rock appears
This series of contemplations helps us to understand the
necessary role of investigation and inference when approaching
the nature of the eternal. Though we do not perceive the rock as
changing, we can infer that the rock changes. Though we do not
perceive the changing nature of many things, we can infer that
they change. This inference of change arises out of our
experience with things such as the sound of a bell and the
blossoming of flowers. We infer from those experiences that other
things, such as rocks and chairs, also have the same nature.
This mean that the eternal quality of change, the view that
all things without exception change, has both an experiential and
an inferential aspect to it. Both have important parts to play in
the investigation into the ultimate nature of all things.
Clinging means operating from the belief that something
When I say endures I mean does not change. When I
say operating I mean functioning in the world as if a
view had truth. For example, if I operate from the view that the
world is flat and I might fall off, this will effect my behavior.
Similarly, if I operate from the view that something in the world
does not change, it will effect how I function in the world.
Basically, the view that something does not change devalues the
world of changing things, as the purpose of such a belief in the
unchanging also states that the unchanging has greater value than
the changing. This has consequences in our spiritual lives, as it
implies that the purpose of spirituality has to do with removing
ourselves from the world of changing things.
However, when we cease to cling, under the understanding that
change itself means the eternal, then the world of things becomes
transvalued into the presence of eternity itself. The world of
existing things no longer functions as an obstacle to realization
and liberation. The world itself of changing and mutable things
means the realm of realization and liberation.
Suffering means the feeling that appears when we realize the
futility of clinging, but cling nevertheless.
I believe this entry refers to the force of habit. We all
have had the experience of wanting to change a habit, but not
having the ability to follow through on that. The habit of
clinging has something tremendously tenacious about it. Buddhists
would say that this habit of clinging has its roots in endless
past lives. Because of the tenaciousness of the habit of
clinging, spiritual practice necessaries. We need to practice
non-clinging. This may seem paradoxical because if the primal
nature of existence means change itself, then why do we need to
practice something that everything already does? But I consider
the paradox only apparent. Clinging refers to a habit of mind, an
attitude that wants things not to change, not to transform. The
practice of non-clinging refers to gradually diminishing the
force of that habit of mind so that change and transformation
happen without resistance or resentment.
In the Zen tradition, the practice of zazen functions as the
core means for practicing non-clinging. Other means also exist.
Because of the force of habit, it takes some time, energy, and
commitment to enter into this domain of eternal change. But when
we do so, suffering ceases and the world in its rivering clarity
Compassion means awakening others to the basic nature of
existence, which means awakening others to change and
impermanence. Awakening others to change means releasing them
from clinging. Releasing others from clinging means bringing an
end to their suffering.
This entry seeks to integrate the comprehension of ultimate
nature as change with the great vow of compassion central to
mahayana buddhism. When we awaken others to ultimacy as change,
we create the conditions which can, if the person applies
themselves, result in release from suffering. This follows
because clinging means suffering, forms the basis for suffering.
For this reason I regard the activity of investigating the
ultimate nature of existence as an act of compassion.
Philosophical investigation, far from residing in some remote
isolated realm, directly impacts the task of awakening,
realization, and the manifestation of compassion.
The great vow of compassion means the vow to bring all others
to the understanding of change as the primal reality, change as
With my expanded understanding of the nature of ultimacy,
meaning that I no longer regard change as the sole or only
transcendental quality, I would now regard the above as a first
step in awakening to transcendental reality. Awakening to other
aspects of eternity also fulfills the great vow of compassion. I
think of eternity now as a realm or a region, with many features
and many aspects, a vast territory to explore. The comprehension
of change as eternity opens the door to that realm, but does not
constitute the totality of that realm.
No reality, certainly no ultimate reality, exists other than
change. Search though you may, change remains as the ultimate
Once again, I find this entry too extreme. Other facets or
aspects of eternity, of ultimate reality, also exists.
However, I still regard the second sentence as useful. Search
though one may, no matter what one encounter, change manifests.
Everywhere, everywhen, and everything means change.
Moving, swirling, mysterious and eternal and everlasting.
Moving: always in motion, never standing still, always
active, blossoming, becoming and begoning, the rivering world.
Swirling: like the galaxies at night, like the clouds in the
sky, like trees in the wind. Eternity displays its beauty all
Mysterious: in the sense of unfathomably vast and complex.
Eternal: change as the nature of the eternal itself.
Everlasting: the constancy of change, the always present
nature of change, the pervasiveness of change, the everywhenness
Change itself means the unoriginated and the unborn.
Unoriginated: in the sense of without beginning and without
ending. This existence always existing as the blossoming forth of
things, without any beginning or point of creation.
Unborn: in the sense that change never started, that there
never existed, never has existed, never will exist, the
unchanging. For this reason one can not trace back to a point at
which change begins, to a point at which change emerges in the
world. Change as the unborn means the everywhenness of change.
One must abandon the search for the eternal because the
eternal manifests simply as you. Simply as you
because you change all the time, non-stop, relentlessly, without
a moments ceasing. Therefore you do not differ from the eternal
not because something in you does not change; but rather because
the nature of change and your original nature and the eternal,
all of these name the same name.
Today I would rewrite the opening to read something like,
Discover the eternal within you, because the eternal
manifests simply as you. I would no longer put it to
abandon the search for the eternal. The search for the eternal
constitutes that part of human existence which has the capacity
to attain liberation, freedom from suffering, and manifesting
compassion. Today I would encourage people to press on in their
search for the eternal, but I would point out that the eternal
exists everywhere, and therefore also exist within, as well as
Because of the everywhere nature of the eternal, the
transcendental nature of ourselves means that nature which
reveals eternity and exists as the eternal. Because of the
everywhen nature of the eternal, we do not need to wait for some
revelation or some time or some appearance in order to comprehend
the nature of eternity. Rather, we simply, though I do not
underestimate the difficulty of the task, need to apply ourselves
to comprehending eternity, and we then discover the presence of
eternity in all existing things, in existence itself, within,
without, everywhere and everywhen.
The river of the eternal.
The presence of Heraclitus becomes prominent beginning here.
The metaphor of the river as a representation of the ultimate
nature of existence has appeared in many different philosophers.
Heraclitus wrote that one can not enter the same stream twice.
Heraclitus used the river as a metaphor for the flowing nature of
all things. Abstractly, Heraclitus wrote panta rhei;
everything flows, nothing abides. Heraclitus then illustrated
this central insight with the example of the river. I understand
Heraclitus to say that everything resembles a river, that
everything in existence has this flowing quality to it.
In the famous essay by Kamo-no-Chomei entitled The Ten Foot Square Hut, the author begins the essay,
Ceaselessly the river flows, and yet the water is never the same,
while in the still pools the shifting foam gathers and is gone,
never staying for a moment. Even so is all of humanity and their
habitations. (Sadler translation) These opening lines
permeate and set the tone for the entire essay, reminding the
reader that all things have this nature of change, of flowing, of
The Analects of Confucius contains the following,
Standing beside a river, the Master said: Everything
passes away like this, day and night, never resting.
(The Analects, iX.17, David Hinton translation)
Lao Tzu links the flowing nature of water with his
understanding of the good when he writes in Section 8:
A person with superior goodness resembles water,
Water benefits all beings,
Without contending with any.
Situated in places shunned by many others,
There it is near the Tao.
I suspect that many people have glimpses of eternity while
observing water. I think this helps us to understand why
observing a flowing stream feels so restful, or watching waves at
the ocean shore has a very similar, profoundly restful character
about it. Pausing, simply observing the flowing water, we
intuitively realize that all things have this nature, and this
intuition functions as a gate to the presence of eternity.
However, most people do not consciously realize the nature of
their experience, and therefore, unfortunately, let it pass
without building upon this realization. However, the river of
eternity remains forever present, kindly guiding us to
realization and liberation.
Not oneness, not being, not essence. Only change constantly
All of a sudden the idea of oneness appears in this entry. I
think that the sudden appearance of oneness in this context
happened because I intuited that change can not, by itself alone,
sufficiently explain all things. As I progressed through this
diary, I at first had the strong inclination towards a monism of
change. This appears when I make statements like things
exist as nothing but change. Gradually, and at first only
vaguely, I began to understand the nature of eternity as more
complex, finally letting go of my attempt to reduce eternity to
a single category.
When I say not oneness, this brief clause serves
to change the direction of my inquiry because it implies that I
can not reduce eternity to just change, to only change; and that,
therefore, other aspects of eternity must also exist.
The above entry has a built in tension around this issue,
though, because I immediately follow, in the second sentence,
with a kind of monistic statement, Only change constantly
changing. But if, ultimately, only change constantly
changing exists, that implies a oneness, that eternity has only a
single function, aspect, or nature.
So this entry displays a movement in my own thought, a kind
of tension that existed at that time, between two different ways
of coming to terms with the eternal. One way, that of monism,
attempts to reduce the eternal to a single all -encompassing
category. This approach serves well in the context of being and
essence. The other approach, I think of as open-ended, not closed
off. When I say open-ended I mean that although I still maintain
that change exists as a mode, or aspect, of eternity, there also
exist other aspects, or modes of eternity.
The first approach, that of monist reductionism, seeks to
offer a complete and final system. The other approach, the
open-ended approach, offers insight but does not close off the
investigation and actually in its open-endedness invites others
to the investigation into the nature of eternity.
When I said not oneness I think I intuited that,
from the perspective of comprehending eternity as transcendental
qualities, uniqueness functions as a quality of all existing
things, everywhere and everywhen. Though at first this may seem
paradoxical, one of the things which all things have in common
lies in their uniqueness. The idea of oneness seeks to obliterate
that which differentiates things, and in some sense regards the
differences between things as less real than that which things
have in common. However, if we investigate the matter further, we
find that uniqueness names a quality which all things possess. I
like to put it this way; every drop of rain has a different size,
every leaf a different shape, every photocopy a different shade.
Using the language of the perfection of wisdom, Uniqueness
does not differ from oneness. Oneness does not differ from
uniqueness. Uniqueness means oneness. Oneness means uniqueness.
I do not go on in this dairy to explore the other
transcendental qualities, the facets or modes of eternity, that I
have since opened to. I therefore shall save discussion of them
for another essay (see The Presence Of Eternity). But
I sense in this diary entry, my first intuition into a larger
perspective on the nature of eternity than I had previously
You can not step into the same stream twice, but you can step
into the stream of the eternal, and you can embrace the wind of
the eternal, and you can sing the song of eternity, the song of
bliss, the melody which emerges when we transcend essence and
release being into the outshining presence of eternal change.
Hovering in the background of all my comments I find my
relationship to music as a pivotal experience. When I think of my
childhood, most of my early memories consist of music. Music has
always played a central role in my life. Considering music, I
find that pre-eminently music constitutes process. if music did
not change, it would not exist. in a very accessible sense, music
has no substance, but consists entirely of changes unfolding in time.
I recall when studying philosophy in a university context,
frequently I would test a metaphysical theory against the musical
domain of existence. More often than not, the metaphysical theory
would fail when put to that test. it seems to me that
philosophers by and large test their theories against material
phenomena, scientific theories, and to some extent psychological
introspection. I have rarely found the use of the sonic domain as
a proving ground for metaphysical speculation. I believe that
this favoring of visual experience has led to a favoring of
being-based metaphysical systems and the idea of the unchanging
as the really real. The sonic domain so obviously changes, so
obviously constitutes process, that if one takes the sonic domain
as the primary locus of metaphysical applicability, then one
would find it much more difficult to sustain the kind of
metaphysical theories that have predominated in western culture.
This entry sums up a lot of what has appeared before by
bringing together a number of metaphors. The entry begins with
the famous quote from Heraclitus, but goes on to expand upon that
metaphor of the river, pointing out that the river of Heraclitus
means the stream of the eternal. From the river, the entry moves
to the wind, as a stream or river of air. The metaphor then moves
to the realm of sound and specifically music. in a way, one can
view existence as a great and unimaginably complex piece of
music. Once again, this constitutes a metaphor because it
embraces even the non-sonic domains of experience. The visual
realm resembles a song, the idea realm resembles a song, etc. By
likening existence to a song, by pointing out that eternity means
a melody, one can get a feel for the meaning of a metaphysics
which takes change as primary and central.
Being-based metaphysical systems have had strong appeal in
part because of their assertion that in order for meaning to
exist, their must exist that which does not change. However, all
of us have the experience of finding music meaningful and, once
again, music consists completely of changes unfolding and
blossoming forth as a river of sound. Music provides all of us
with the experience of meaning and change as completely merged.
Music, therefore, shows us how existence can have meaning,
beauty, and in an expanded sense, even truth, in a context which
comprehends change as the core nature of existence. Far from
negating meaningfulness, a metaphysics which comprehends change
as the core nature of existence opens up existence to us as a
display of supreme and unexcelled meaning and beauty. A
metaphysics of change as the core nature of existence reveals
existence as the song of eternity.
Redefine ontology from the investigation into being to the
investigation into the eternal. Previously, those investigating
ontology have assumed that the eternal and being mean the same
name. I suggest, however, that the eternal negates being because
the eternal means change.
This entry turned into one of the most fruitful observations
I made while writing this diary. I have followed through on this
observation and it has opened up many vistas, many avenues of
investigation, many visions, of eternity.
Traditionally ontology means the study of being and arises
out of the question of being; meaning such questions as
What is the nature of being?, What does being
mean?, How does being function?, etc. The
fascination with being derives from the belief that being means
that which exists eternally. But the response to eternity as the
notion of being constitutes only one possible response. Before
the question of being arises, the question of eternity appears.
The question of eternity leads to the question of being. But, by
equating the question of being with the question of eternity, the
western philosophical and theological traditions have foreclosed
investigation into other possibilities for elucidating eternity.
Realizing that the question of being has its roots in the
question of eternity, realizing that without the question of
eternity, the question of being could not arise, shifted my
focus. Let me illustrate this shift with an analogy. Suppose I
wanted to explore the meaning of music. Suppose further that when
I investigated what others have to say about the meaning of music
I discovered that they used as examples only music using the
major scale. No examples using the minor scale or non-western
scales or modes appeared. This situation would strike me forcibly
as a conflation of the meaning of music in the major scale with
the meaning of music in general. in order to explore the meaning
of music in general I would have to take a step back, to music in
general, out of which the major scale arises. Similarly, when I
discovered that many philosophers in the west conflate the
meaning of being with the meaning of eternity, I took a step
back, into a wider context, a context out of which the question
of being arises. This wider context appears as the question of
eternity, as the question What does eternity mean?
I would argue that ontology means, therefore, that study
which focuses on the question of eternity. Ontology means that
field of study which seeks to elucidate the meaning of eternity.
Thus ontology, comprehended from this perspective, embraces the
discussion of being, but only as a small part of the larger field
of the elucidation of eternity. The question of eternity comes
first. Only after this question, does the meaning of being arise,
and the meaning of being arises only if one comprehends eternity
as being. If one does not comprehend eternity as being, then
ontology has other regions, other fields of meaning, that open
when we shift our focus away from being to the question of
This shift of focus has lead me to comprehend eternity as
having three core, and inter-related, meanings. First, that
eternity means the everywhen. Whatever eternity means, eternity
means that which always exists. This implies that at any
particular time, for any duration of time, whatever constitutes
the eternal, exists. Eternity means the always existent.
Second, that eternity means the everywhere. This differs from
being-based metaphysical systems. in being-based metaphysical
systems, observing that every particular thing which exists does
not exist everywhen, conclude that whatever eternity means, it
must exist somewhere other than this realm of mutable and forever
changing things. The view of eternity as everywhere comprehends
everywhen as implying, as inferring, everywhere. The when of
existence means the appearing of things and events in existence.
The exclusion of everywhere from the nature of eternity arises
out of a separation of time from existence and from existing
things, comprehending time as a uniform dimension/container in
which events happen. But if no things existed, no when would
exist. If no things existed, time would not happen. Time means
the blossoming forth of things in existence. Comprehending time
in this manner leads one to comprehending the everywhen of
existence as meaning the everywhere of existence because the
everywhere generates the everywhen. For this reason, I comprehend
eternity as meaning that which exists everywhere and everywhen
Third, that eternity means the in everything. The everything
aspect of eternity means that every thing which exists
participates in the eternal. This follows from the everywhere and
everywhen nature of eternity. Eternity, as existing everywhere,
means that all things participate in the eternal. Eternity, as
existing everywhen, means that all things participate in the
If we take a visual object, that visual object has a color.
However, colors do not exist everywhere. if we take a sonic
object, the sonic object has pitch. However, pitch does not exist
for olfactory object, and does not exist everywhere. How, then,
do we comprehend the everywhere aspect of existing things? How,
then, do we gain access to the everywhen nature of everything?
We gain access to the eternal by observing that which all
things have in common. We gain access to that which all things
have in common by observing those qualities which all things
share. For example, a visual object has certain qualities, such
as color and shape. But a visual object also has qualities which
it shares with non-visual objects. These qualities transcend the
visual experience, and though these qualities appear in visual
objects, they do not consist in and of themselves as an
exclusively visual experience. For the purposes of these comments
on this diary, the particular quality concerned with here arises
as the quality of change. I mean to say that the eternal
manifests as transcendental qualities which everything shares.
Those transcendental qualities which everything shares exist
everywhere and manifest everywhen. Once again returning to the
focus of this discussion, change exists as a quality which all
existing things (things meant in the broadest possible meaning)
have in common. For these reason I consider change as a facet of
the eternal. Because change qualifies everything, change exists
everywhere. One can not go anywhere where change does not exist.
Because change qualifies everything, change exists everywhen. One
can not find a region when change ceases.
From this perspective the eternal does not constitute being,
does not consist of an essence or substance. Rather eternity, and
change as eternity, means a presence which simultaneously
manifests in all things and transcends its manifestation in any
particular thing. Without things, eternity, and change as
eternity, could not manifest. Without change, things would not
appear and eternity would not exist. I refer to this view as
Comprehending the eternal as transcendental qualities of
everything which manifest everywhere and everywhen, leads one to
a way of testing, and checking on, ones own comprehension
of the eternal. Simply this: if there exists even one thing in
existence which does not bear the quality under consideration,
then that quality does not exist as the eternal. Everywhere,
everywhen, and everything, the eternal embraces all, marks all,
There also exists a second test, one that flows from the
first: that the transcendental quality under consideration should
have self-referential consistency. By self-referential
consistency I mean that the transcendental quality under
consideration should also qualify itself. Change changes. in
addition, transcendental qualities should qualify each other.
Under the meaning of the term thing, in the context of
pansacralism, transcendental qualities also exist as things, and
therefore the qualities which exist everywhere and everywhen and
mark everything, should also qualify the transcendental
qualities, including the quality itself under consideration.
These considerations lead to the conclusion that the
investigation into the eternal remains an open-ended
investigation. As an individual, I do not have direct experience
with all existing things. I infer from my experience and from my
observation, but I do not have direct experience of everything.
For this reason, there always remains the possibility of
modifying the nature of the eternal as the investigation proceeds
on the basis of that which qualifies everything everywhere
everywhen. This open-endedness means the question of the eternal
has no limits, no final and fixed response. This open-endedness
means sending out an invitation to all to investigate the nature
of the eternal on their own, to open their own hearts and minds
to the presence of eternity.
Ontology can not mean the study of being because, in a sense,
that would mean studying illusion. One can only break through
illusion. The principle means for dissolving illusion lies in the
investigation into the eternal. investigation into the eternal
means opening to wisdom. Opening to wisdom means transcending
being and abolishing essence. Then liberation emerges as the
truth of ones actual condition and simultaneously the truth
that permeates all realms and all times.
I would put this differently today. Being arises from the
view that the eternal means that which does not change. But the
idea that there exists something which does not change remains an
unproved assumption, an axiom, of being-based metaphysical
systems. The idea of the unchanging constitutes what Aristotle
would have called a first principle. A starting point
that being-based metaphysicians consider obvious, but upon
examination does not seem obvious.
The arising of the idea of the eternal as the unchanging
separates the everywhere from the everywhen. in being-based
metaphysical systems the eternal means the everywhen, but not the
everywhere and not the everything. Pansacralism reunites the
world by merging the everywhere and the everywhen, which leads to
finding the eternal in everything.
I still appreciate the observation, The principle means
for dissolving illusion lies in the investigation into the
eternal. Many philosophers down through the centuries have
recommended to view things from the perspective of eternity. This
kind of contemplation has the salutary effect of placing our
existence in perspective. Activities which had seemed important,
now become unimportant. When comprehended from the perspective of
eternity, there occurs a kind of foreground/ background shift in
what becomes important. This shift also effect our life in many
ways, including how we choose to earn a living, what friendships
we wish to cultivate, and how we wish to spend our time.
The illusion referred to in this line means that people
believe that certain things will endure, but they do not endure,
they do not last. People think that, for example, a nation will
last. But countries rise and fall like leaves in the wind. People
think that fame will last, but nothing proves more fleeting.
People think that youthfulness will last, but old age comes
swiftly. People pursue many different things in the belief that
those things will last, but in almost every instance, they do not
endure. This gives rise to tremendous suffering, anger,
resentment, bitterness. The antidote to this situation lies in
focusing on the eternal itself, to ask the question of the
eternal; namely, What does eternity mean?, What
does eternity consist of?, Does anything exist
eternally?, etc. Asking this question, one breaks through
the illusion that something will endure. Wisdom then arises and
suffering begins to loose its grip on our lives. I look at the
philosophical tradition as a resource for accessing the nature of
eternity. For this reason, the philosophers who interest me focus
on this question of eternity. They include Lao Tzu, Heraclitus,
the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Proclus,
Boethius, Pseudo-Dionysius, John Scottus Eriugena, Dogen,
Spinoza, Bergson, and many, many others. For all of these, the
nature of eternity formed the central focus of their lives. Their
great gift to humanity lies in their elucidation of that nature,
for the elucidation of that nature leads to the cessation of
suffering. For this reason, I consider philosophy the path to
liberation. For this reason, I agree with John Scottus Eriugena
when he wrote, No one enters the kingdom of heaven, except
Only that which changes manifests truth.
This entry repeats the earlier entry which begins, If
it does not change it does not manifest the truth. My need
to repeat this point arose, I think, because being-based
metaphysicians often equate the notion of truth with the notion
of the unchanging. Plato spoke eloquently from this point of
view; that if something changed we can not call it true, we can
only call it opinion. This assumes that truth means a state, or a
condition. But if instead truth means a way of moving through
existence, then truth changes, and truth implies a manner of
Notice that the idea that truth does not change bears the
burden of self-referential inconsistency. The statement itself
changes. The idea itself, that truth does not change, has a
history. After all, Plato considered this an important discovery,
which implies that people did not know this before Plato brought
it to their attention. The statement therefore does not exhibit
that nature of truth to which Plato, and others who agree with
this point of view, refer. This leads to the difficulty that all
such views have; namely how to reconcile the realm of the
unchanging truth with the realm of mutable appearances.
On the other hand, the idea that truth consists of a way of
moving through existence, that truth changes, has
self-referential consistency. The statement changes and therefore
exhibits this primal nature of change. Exhibiting this primal
nature of change, the statement itself names and speaks of the
primal nature under consideration. The statement has the virtue
and the transcendental qualifier that we search for. From this
perspective, there does not arise any need to reconcile two
domains of truth and appearances. For appearances, all things,
bear the mark of truth because truth and change do not differ.
Change has no color, no weight, no shape, no taste, no sonic
contours, no smell, no conceptual content. Yet, paradoxically it
does not exist independently of the realms of the six sense
This entry represents a breakthrough for me in comprehending
the specific nature of the transcendental qualities. This entry
also helped me to comprehend why people have such great
difficulty accessing the eternal even though, in a sense, the
eternal does not hide. in another sense, however, as Heraclitus
observed, Nature loves to hide. But this hiddeness of
the eternal does not mean that the eternal exists in a covered
over condition. Rather, the hiddeness has to do with its
everpresentness, a word which combines the meaning of everywhere
Using the quality of change as an example, we discover that
visual things change. We also discover that sonic things change.
Then we discover that olfactory objects change. When we observe
change itself, however, we do not observe a color, but rather
color changing. in the same way we do not observe a sound, but
rather than sound changing. The change of the sound, and the
change of the visual object, both represent the same quality;
they both have change in common. But change itself does not
consist of a color or a sound. The same logic applies to all the
sense fields and applies to all categories of things.
In order to comprehend the presence of eternity we need to
shift our attention away from the qualities of the particular
sensory realm to those transcendental qualities that exist in all
realms and qualify all existing thing. By shifting our attention
in this manner the everywhere and everywhen suddenly reveals
itself in its everpresentness.
This shifting of attention, however, requires some genuine
contemplative concentration. Normally, we find ourselves
concerned with the qualities of particular sensory realms, what I
refer to as circumstantial qualities. This makes sense because it
matter to us if a room has the color blue, white or pink. it
matters to us whether someone serves us hot or cold rice. Because
of these concerns, however, we miss the presence of eternity
manifesting as the transcendental qualities of everything. By
shifting our attention to these transcendental qualities, once
again, we become aware of a vast realm that lay before us all the
time, everpresent, never far.
When I say that change transcends any given appearance or
situation I do not mean to imply that one must go somewhere in
order to experience the eternal. Rather, I mean that the
transcendent eternally manifests in all things, and precisely
because of this eternally manifesting quality change transcends
any particular appearance.
I think I wrote this entry to clarify that when I use the
terms transcends or transcendental I do
not mean something, or a region, other than the region of things,
considering things in its broadest possible meaning. One could
look at ontological approaches (ontology understood as the
investigation into eternity, the question of eternity), as on a
continuum. At one end of the continuum one finds being-based
approaches. The distinguishing feature of being-based approaches
features the eternal as the unchanging. At the other end of the
continuum one finds nihilism, that nothing exists eternally, that
absolutely nothing endures. in a sense, these two extremes give
rise to each other because nothingness also does not change. in a
sense one can view nihilism as a variation on being-based
ontology because the core feature of changelessness remains. In
fairness to being-based ontologies, such being-based ontologies
also embrace the ideas of substance and essence, which nihilism
I think of pansacralism as cutting between the extremes of
being and nihilism. The means of cutting through these two
extremes one finds in embracing change as the transcendental and
eternal itself. One embraces change as the eternal when one
comprehends the eternal not as being, or as a substance, but
rather as that which qualifies all existing things everywhere and
everywhen. Pansacralism rejects being because it does not posit a
located source from which all things emerge. Pansacralism rejects
being because it does not comprehend the eternal aspect of things
as an essence or substance. Pansacralism also rejects the
monotheistic traditions conception of ultimacy as a
changeless being who bears moral responsibility for existence
because the eternal manifests as qualities that all things have
in common, rather than residing in a before existence domain.
Pansacralism also rejects nihilism because the view of
pansacralism does not comprehend things as ultimately
non-existing. The mutability of things means their eternal
nature. Things do not become nothing, they transform into other
things and this transformation points to the creative unfolding
which also qualifies all existing things as an aspect of eternal
Change constitutes the primordial condition, the becoming and
begoning of all things. Because change constitutes the primordial
condition, enlightenment constitutes our actual everpresent
condition, the condition that we must awaken to.
Once again, in this entry I draw a connection between the
buddhist goal of liberation and awakening to the primal, or
transcendental, nature of change. Liberation and enlightenment
arise as a possibility in this world because change exists as the
primal nature of things and of ourselves. if change could not
happen, we could not transform ourselves into compassionate
presences. But more than that, change itself constitutes a
quality of compassion. Clinging gives rise to suffering, not only
for ourselves but also for others. Simply awakening to the
transcendental and eternal nature of change, one awakens to the
realm of liberation, compassion can then blossom within our
hearts, and we can move through the world for the benefit of all
Change resides immanent within all phenomena. At the same
time change transcends any particular phenomenon. One can
consider change as immanently transcendent. But when one reads of
the change residing immanent within all phenomena
that does not mean that change hides. More accurately, one could
say that change constitutes the totality of all things and
precisely because of this change transcends any particular thing.
The pansacral understand of change as a quality which exists
everywhere and everywhen in everything (thing broadly
understood), merges the categories of the immanent and the
transcendent. As a quality of existing things, the eternal
resides immanently in all things. As that which all things have
in common, the eternal transcends its own appearance in any
particular thing. For this reason, from the perspective of
pansacralism, the immanent means the transcendent and the
transcendent means the immanent.
As before, I would now modify the penultimate line because I
no longer consider change as the totality of things. Other
transcendental qualifiers exist. As before, I became so fixated
on change that I could not at this time broaden my perspective to
include other facets of eternity, such as dependence,
interdependence, aggregation, etc., which I explore more fully in
the Presence of Eternity.
The reality of change as the eternal and the transcendent
does not imply an unchanging background against which one
perceives change. For example, we can understand the motion of
the planetary bodies around the sun by considering the sun as the
stable axis around which the planets move. But, in truth, the sun
also moves and changes. We need only shift our axis of
measurement to the galactic center and then the movement of the
sun clearly emerges.
Therefore we can consider that all feeling of nonchange
derives from a trick of the mind, resembling the conjuration of a
magician. Humanity creates an axis of stability from which it
then measures change. Being represents exactly that kind of
mental projection and trick/conjuration of the mind, a kind of
metaphysical solar center. However, being has no ontological
validity if by ontology we mean the eternal.
Earlier I pointed out that the idea that something
doesnt change partially derives from our senses and our
senses inability to perceive change. I listed a series of
practices/contemplation to bring this to our awareness. In this
entry I explore another means whereby the mind conjures
non-change. When the mind reifies a standard that the mind uses
to measure motion, that can, and often does, lead to the idea of
non-change. The mind forgets that the mind created this standard,
that it has no objective validity. The standard arises dependent
upon the mind.
Dogen illustrated this point in his essay
Genjokoan. Dogen writes,
if you are in a boat, and you only look at the riverbank, you
will think that the riverbank is moving; but if you look at the
boat, you will discover that the boat itself is actually moving.
Similarly, if you try to understand the nature of phenomena only
through your own confused perception you will mistakenly think
that your nature is eternal. Furthermore, if you have right
practice and return to your origin then you will clearly see that
all things have no permanent self.
(Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens, translators. Vol. 1, page
2, Shobogenzo, Japan Publications, Tokyo)
When Dogen writes, ... you will mistakenly think that
your nature is eternal. I understand Dogen to mean eternal
in the sense of unchanging. Ones nature as the eternal
emerges when one comprehends change and eternity as not-two, as
non-dual, as meaning the same meaning.
The philosopher Bergson makes the same point with another
illustration. Bergson writes that the unchanging resembles two
cars, driving in parallel, at the same speed, down a hill, in
adjacent lanes. The person in one of the passenger seats can talk
to the driver of the other car. The two can even hand each other
objects without much difficulty. If they pay no attention to
their vehicles, they can assume their own stability and that the
landscape moves, but not themselves.
This image resembles in many ways Dogens image of the
person in the boat who thinks the shore moves while the boat
stands still and does not change. Both of these illustrations
seek to illuminate the mechanism of the mind which projects
non-change onto existence based on a limited understanding and
But the boat does move and change. And the cars do move and
change. Just as all things move and change, everywhere and
The reality of change as the eternal and transcendent does
not imply an unmoving background against which one perceives
change. For example, we can see autumn leaves drop from trees.
The trees themselves also change. We can observe cars moving
along a road; the road itself undergoes change constantly.
Because of the nature of our sensory apparatuses, things
appear to change at different rates. Cars change place on a
stable road. The road changes (develops potholes, etc.) on the
stable ground. The ground changes over long periods of time
against the stable background of the earth itself. The earth
itself evolves and changes in relation to the sun. The sun moves
through the galaxy. The galaxy grows brighter and dimmer. Space
expands and contract, vanishes and emerges. The quivering of an
One can continue this indefinitely, infinitely, without ever
finishing. The fact of the infinite regress emerges from the
infinite and unbounded nature of change.
Only if one arbitrarily ceases this process of change upon
change does being emerge. But there does not exist any necessity
to post a stop sign in the changing nature of change. Unfolding
forever, an endless melody, with no beginning and no ending, the
ocean of eternal change, the eternal as ceaseless openness.
Change lacks all teleological implications and
considerations. Change dissolves teleology.
With this entry I began to explore some of the implications
of change as the eternal beyond the ontological. By teleology I
mean the idea that existence evolves towards a greater state of
perfection. A greater state of perfection means towards a more
static, being-based mode. in terms of the monotheistic heritage,
the idea that there exists a final goal towards which existence
heads means that God will make some kind of final judgment on
existence and specifically upon people. When we comprehend change
as the eternal itself, it follows that existence does not evolve
towards any particular goal, does not have a particular
direction. Existence simply changes and because change itself
means the eternal existence does not have to evolve to some
condition in order to arrive at the eternal. Existence already
exists permeated by the eternal.
From a secular perspective, teleology manifests as the idea
of progress, that the current time has superiority, both
materially and ethically, over previous times. I refer to this
conception as chronocentrism. A neutral reading of history, even
just human history, simply does not support this point of view.
As in the theologically based teleology, change as the eternal
and transcendentally present, dissolves this idea of progress
because the ultimate nature of existence already exists, full
blown; one does not have to achieve it or reach it.
Change negates perfection as a condition or state. Perfection
must then mean a way of moving.
I once participated in an online buddhist discussion forum.
At one point there appeared a discussion on whether or not the
Buddha could have said something wrong, made a mistake. One group
felt that the Buddha, as someone fully enlightened, could not
have made a mistake and could not have said anything wrong or
incorrect. Another group felt that the Buddha could have made
mistakes, based on his culture, his background and the ordinary
constraints that every human encounters.
At one point I raised the question of why people think that
perfection implies never saying anything wrong or incorrect? Many
people assume a connection between these two, but I have not seen
such a connection demonstrated. If one comprehends change itself
as the eternal, or more accurately, as an aspect of the eternal,
then the idea of reaching a fixed position on any given issue
falls away. Enlightenment, liberation, nirvana, then becomes a
way of moving, of becoming one with change, of releasing all
clinging, all resistance, to change.
In the context of the Buddha, this would mean that if someone
demonstrated to the Buddha that his view did not hold up, the
Buddha would effortlessly release his previous view, without the
slightest clinging, the Buddha, as someone fully enlightened,
would let go of the old, and now limited understanding. in this
context, enlightenment means having a spacious mind; into that
spaciousness one simply releases ideas, truths, opinions, which
no longer serve. This release happens without regret and without
any looking back. To get a feeling for this state of mind,
consider the sound of a bell. When the sound of a bell ceases, we
do not experience regret, nor do we normally experience a state
of clinging, a desire for the bell sound to continue in an
unchanging manner. This feeling that appears when the sound of
the bell ceases shows to us exactly that state of mind that we
can also achieve with our ideas. Like the sound of a bell, an
idea which no longer serves, simply comes to an end and becomes a
memory rather than an active presence.
Part of the discussion on this issue centered on the idea of
omniscience, for many of the discourses assert that the Buddha
possessed omniscience. I would like to suggest a different view
about the meaning of omniscience, which I believe can reconcile
the idea of omniscience with the idea that someone could hold a
wrong view, or believe something untrue. I take omniscience to
mean knowledge of the eternal. Because the eternal always exists,
and from a pansacral perspective exists everywhere, knowledge of
the eternal always functions, always has applicability. The
all knowing meaning of omniscience then means
knowledge of the eternal, but it does not have to therefore imply
knowledge of every specific thing and happening that has ever
manifested. Omniscience does not have to mean that someone having
omniscience knows what I ate on April 28, 1977.
From the perspective of pansacralism, omniscience means
becoming aware of those transcendental qualities which mark all
existing things, the word things understood in its widest
possible meaning. Omniscience in this context means that
knowledge which applies everywhere and everywhen and to
everything. Omniscience, therefore, has a specific meaning; it
means that knowledge that applies specifically to the eternal, to
From the above perspectives, I consider it entirely possible
that an enlightened personage can have incorrect opinions,
believe in the truth of certain ideas which in fact turn out
false. in actuality, there exist several buddhist sutras,
discourses of the Buddha, where disciples of the Buddha disagree
with the Buddha, and subsequent to the discussion, the Buddha
changes his mind and ends up agreeing with his disciples. This
demonstrates an openness, a willingness to unembarassedly change
his view when confronted with sound reasons to do so. it
demonstrates precisely that enlightened condition of mind, that
presence of spacious non-clinging which has released all notions
of being, all notions that there exists some final state from
which one will never in the future have to deviate. I find these
discourses very inspirational and they point to the mind and
heart which I take as the core of enlightenment.
When we identify with a thing, or with anything, we commit
ourselves to a stasis, to an entity, to being at some level. When
we awaken to the basic changing nature, or the nature of change,
then we become unattached to any thing and to all things. This
brings freedom and bliss. Furthermore, this allows us to
completely accept all appearances just as they manifest, without
the slightest need or desire to alter them; because all
appearances just as they appear completely manifest the
transcendent and the eternal, meaning they completely manifest
the reality of change.
This leads to the spontaneous emergence of gratitude for all
The development of a neutral attitude towards all existing
things (the word things taken in its broadest meaning) forms a
core practice in many spiritual traditions. From stoicism to
buddhism one finds this kind of practice. in order to understand
this practice one needs to comprehend the difference between
indifference and equanimity. in order to understand the
difference between indifference and equanimity, once again
consider the sound of a bell. When the sound of a bell ceases, we
do not normally experience regret or clinging to that sound. That
experience we have when the sound of a bell ceases means the
experience of equanimity, of having a neutral attitude towards
the sound of the bell and its cessation. However, notice that
this experience does not mean indifference. We may, we often do,
enjoy the sound of a bell, and in the future we may enjoy the
memory of that sound. The difference between the two states of
indifference and equanimity seems subtle becomes in terms of
affect one does not notice much, if any difference. However, in
terms of our minds, in terms of our mental asana, the difference
feels very clear.
Sharon Salzberg writes that indifference actually forms the
first subtle stage in the arising of aversion. if one follows out
the feeling of indifference one fairly quickly arrives at a
feeling of aversion. Neutrality, or what I like to call
equanimity, does not have the quality of aversion to it.
Equanimity has the feeling of acceptance, of non-clinging, and of
spaciousness. This experience of equanimity allows us to remain
open to existence, all of existence, including ourselves. Just as
we can appreciate the sound of a bell in the spaciousness of
equanimity, so also we can appreciate all things in that same
spaciousness. But that spaciousness only appears completely when
we release the last shreds of clinging, right down to the notion
of being itself, so that being itself, like the sound of an
ancient bell, becomes just a memory. When all clinging has
vanished, being disappears, and gratitude arises for all of
A wave at the oceans edge. The sound of a passing car.
A flickering candle flame. Incense smoke dissolving into space.
The drift of galaxies. The last note of a song. White noise from
a broken radio. The fading memory of a dream. The house I used to
live in. Photographs of dead friends. Steam rising from green
tea. Flower petals turning brown. An abandoned desire. The first
crescent after the new moon.
This sonnet functions to draw ones attention to the
presence of change in all existing things. Now matter where one
turns, no matter what the manifestation, change presents itself.
All of these examples, therefore, exhibit to us the presence of
long pine shadows disappearing into spreading night horizon
blurs to sky
wind rustles the leaves at the edge of a meadow a deer steps
lightly out of the woods
broken glass in the parking lot a sparrow searches for food
the memory of your voice sitting at the dining room table
slipping into the river of life dancing at the edge of death
This sonnet comprehends the eternal in the ordinary. in many
ways, I think, we want the eternal to come to us with a blast of
trumpets, through miraculous revelation, as a breakthrough beyond
the world in which we dwell. Comprehended from the perspective of
eternity as that which exists everywhere and everywhen in
everything, the eternal becomes amazingly ordinary. This does not
take away from its beauty, it simply grants everyone, without
exceptions, access to the divine, to the eternal.
The last two lines of the sonnet indicate a feeling which
arises when we comprehend change as the eternal. All of a sudden
we find ourselves in the river of life; ever moving, ever giving
birth, ever creating the new and unexpected. Simultaneously, we
find ourselves dancing at the edge of death, not just in the
future, but in every moment. And in the presence of eternal
change, both the river of life and the dance of death, occur
simultaneously, as each other, locked in ecstatic embrace.
From Tanikawa Shuntaro's Definitions:
Forming a shallow depression as it slowly rises extending
obliquely and twisting, bending at acute angles and folding
itself again and again -- Sometimes floating, constantly swelling
a bit (the whole body flowing), always rising, balancing for a
moment and then gently contorting itself, now softly undulating,
gliding -- opening unnoticed, closing up the next moment, the
surface now extending on to the underside, then gracefully
turning over, (explosively converging), growing soft again,
popping up, cramping, solidifying, melting, trembling, quietly
stagnating, twitching, (crinkling up) and yet in utter silence --
a force from beyond, a force producing a force here, force
struggling with force, wriggling as though caught in a forcenet,
expanding endlessly because of force, never severed, and creating
through its irregular movement a strange rhythm, and aimlessly --
(seeming to come full circle and not losing its direction) There
is no microscope, nor macroscope. A cradle of flesh inside a
cradle of a planet, we live in vertigo under the blessing of
(62 Sonnets & Definitions, by Tanikawa Shuntaro, translated by William I. Elliott and Kawamura Kazuo, Katydid Books, Santa Fe, page 97, 1992)
I discovered this beautiful and accurate description of the
eternal as change and thought to share it. it reminds me in many
ways of certain sections of Chuang Tzu. It has an overall taoist
Tanikawa titles this section of Definitions Conditions
of Being. The title suggests several considerations. First,
consider the paradoxical implication of the title; for being
usually refers to the unconditioned. Many texts specifically so
name being. So Tanikawa wishes to point to something besides what
one would normally designate as being. Second, note the fluid
nature of the passage, the repeated use of -ing
endings. Tanikawa designates/reveals/describes the basic changing
nature of existence and how change transcends any
I would prefer to call this section The Dissolution of
Being. This raises a question, however, which
Tanikawas passage brings into focus. The word
being can mean very different things to different
writers. Just because different writers use the same term does
not mean they designate the same thing.
So in some texts (in my opinion the great majority)
being means an unchanging substance standing behind
the world of changing appearances. But in some texts (in my
opinion very few) being means simply the eternal and
can therefore point to/designate/name change itself. One must
clearly distinguish between these two meanings in order to
understand what the author of the text intends/means. (A few
texts in which I believe the author intends the second meaning of
being (the eternal as change); Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, some
Dzog Chen texts, some Zen texts, Heraclitus, and the I Ching.) A key to determining which meaning of being the text wishes to display manifests by investigating whether or not the text seeks
to find the transcendental in some location other than
appearances themselves (first meaning; being as substance), or if
the text perceives appearances as the fully transcendent (the second meaning).
Personally, I have felt it simpler to cede the term
being to those who believe in an unchanging
metaphysical substance and/or essence of some kind since they
overwhelmingly dominate the discussion in any case. By ceding
being to those who believe in an unchanging reality I
can then make clear the understanding of change as the eternal
which clearly and totally manifests in and as all things without
exception. This allows for the clear dissolution of being and the
abandoning of all essence which Tanikawa so clearly
A final comment: the last line connects the dissolution of
being with the awakening realization of the vastness of our
situation. The last line then goes on to link that vastness with
the blessing of the infinite (which surely must consist of
infinite blessings) that constantly rain down upon us. Thus this
remarkable passage clearly links transcendent change, the web of
existence, and the ground of the arising of gratitude.
With this entry I return to a point made very early on; that
there exists a strong tendency to not distinguish between the two
meanings of being. The two meanings exist as 1) the eternal, and
2) the unchanging. Because Tanikawas passage so marvelously
depicts change itself, it seems odd to think of this passage as
referring to being, because being means, predominantly, the
By conflating the two meanings into one term, confusion
arises. Because the association of being with the unchanging has
very deep roots, there will appear a tendency to read into
Tanikawas passage a kind of disguise for the unchanging,
rather than comprehending Tanikawas passage as an ecstatic
description of the eternal, but not of being.
A brief comment about Taoism -- among the worlds
religions I find in Taoism an attitude towards change very
refreshing. Buddhism has a tendency to view change in a morose
kind of way, though there exist exceptions to this. But taoism
perceives the changing nature of all things and does not view
that as a source of frustration. One writer put it this way:
One important difference between Taoists and orthodox
Buddhists lies in the fact that many of the latter believe that
the origin of all suffering is to be found in the transience,
inconstancy, and eternal change found in all life, which
ultimately amounts to total insecurity. Taoism and Zen, on the
other hand, unconditionally acknowledge inconstancy and change
per se as given fundamental components of existence. for them
constancy is solely to be found in change itself. There is
nothing negative in the perishing and death of what exists since
dying signifies nothing but transformation which nobody can
escape. it is therefore the aim of Taoists and Zen Buddhists
alike to integrate themselves in the eternal cycle of change
without resistance or senseless attempts at escape. Undreamt-of
creativity is inherent in dying and inconstancy because they form
the basis of every new life, every new beginning.
(Kyudo: The Art of Zen Archery, by Hans Joachim Stein, Element Books, Longmead, 1988, page s 23, and 24)
I believe that the source of the negative valuation of change
among many buddhists lies in a misunderstanding as to the source
of suffering, the second noble truth of the Buddha. Buddhism has
declared that both clinging and craving give rise to suffering.
But, if one comprehends craving as a kind of clinging, then there
really only exists one source of suffering, namely clinging. From
the perspective of clinging, change does not cause suffering,
rather our attempts to evade change, to stop change, to seek that
which does not change, sources suffering.
For this reason, I regard Steins statement as somewhat
extreme, though I understand his point. The Zen interpretation of
suffering I would regard as completely consistent with the
insight of the Buddha, though, as Stein points out, probably
inconsistent with many other schools of buddhism.
I believe the taoist attitude towards change pointed out here
has deep roots in chinese culture. The earliest example I know of
that elucidates change as the eternal is the Book Of Changes, or
the I Ching. The oldest book in continuous use, the Book Of
Changes displays a view of existence that regards every
situation, and by implication every thing involved in a
situation, as dynamic, as in process, as changing into something
else. Yet this books of changes does not have anything negative
in it. To illustrate this, consider that among the 64 evolving
and transforming situations of the Book Of Changes, none of these
64 situations has the title death. in fact, death receives very
little mention in the Book Of Changes -- I cant even recall
a passage referring to death. in contrast, consider the tarot, a
much more restricted and hostile view of existence which seems to
view change as calamitous.
I believe this absence of death in the Book Of Changes arises
out of a sense of the ever flowing and transforming nature of
existence as life itself; not just that which makes life
possible, but as in some way life as such. The disappearance of
some things, therefore, means the transformation of that thing
and the appearance of something else. The seed vanishes, and the
Thus I regard the Book of Changes as the first, and in many ways, the most profound elucidation of the eternal as change and
transformation. I find it comforting to think that others, for
many thousands of years, have comprehended existence in this way of pansacralism.
The world contains no surprises for those who have released
all clinging to being and have seen through the error of essence.
Since the transcendent nature of all things precisely names the
reality of change, one moves through the world immersed in and
part of the everpresent truth. No thing, perception, thought,
feeling, person, idea, shall remain the same for even one moment.
One can count on this; one can rely on this truth.
The sense that the world feels somehow askew, wrong arises
because we measure the world against the standard of the
unchanging. We feel that at some level the world should not
change, so that when the world does change anyway, there arises
in us a sense of betrayal, like the world should not have done
On the other hand, once we comprehend change itself as the
eternal, as the everywhere and everywhen of everything, existence
becomes reliable. We can count on existence constantly changing,
we can count on existence constantly generating the new and
unexpected. The unexpected does not catch us off guard, or come
to us as a surprise.
Change means that nothing in this world remains constant.
Change means that all meetings end in parting. Change means that
all projects eventually dissolve. Change means that all things
die. Change means the passing away of all things. Change means
the emerging of all things into life. Change means the constant
presence of compassion as perpetual release.
I think of a passage like the above as unpacking the meaning
of change. Once one comprehends change as the eternal, the
implications of that comprehension continue to unfold, continue
to change. New ramifications emerge. New nuances of understanding
blossom. One does not reach a final statement on the nature of
the ultimate, precisely because change means the eternal.
Existence continues to unfold, without beginning, without ending,
Hmmmmm! Maybe in ten more years Ill write an
autocommentary on the autocommentary, as my comprehension of
change and the eternal continue to deepen, broaden, and lead me
to unexpected regions.
Simply cease from clinging and you will recover your true
nature and dwell in the eternal. All the multiverse will become
One ceases from clinging by becoming one with change. One
becomes one with change by transcending essence and abandoning
being at any and all levels. When one has done that, there does
not exist any separation between the world one lives in and the
world of the divine domain. One dwells continusouly in the
presence of eternity.