the dance of emptiness and form

Form here is only emptiness, emptiness only form.

Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form.

-the Heart Sutra

During a trip to Thailand, I bought ‘A Brief History of Time’, by Stephen Hawking. Like the best Dharma books, it was written with the intention of being understood by any common layperson but also must be read several times for it to really sink in. One of the many interesting things I learned is that matter is constantly appearing and disappearing in space, out of apparently nothing. Particles and their corresponding anti-particles, arise for a moment, then, nearly immediately, collide back together into nonbeing.

Although at the time that Stephen Hawking wrote the book, he was only 95% sure that black-holes existed, he supposed that as these particles and antiparticles arose just on the edge of black-holes, one of them would be hauled into the black-hole, allowing the other to continue its existence, becoming the seed of form.

What does this mean for my practice? Well, probably nothing… but it does interest me that an ancient Buddhist text, which reads almost like a dream, would be echoed well over a thousand years later in contemporary theoretical physics.

The appearance of all Buddhas and Patriarchs in this world can be liked to waves arising suddenly on a windless ocean.

-Zen Master So Sahn

Similarly, as the Buddha sat in meditation, he was able to focus his awareness so acutely that he actually experienced his form on a subatomic level. He saw that everything is pulsing, appearing and disappearing countless times each moment. I think this experience helped him realize the extent of our impermanence. Thousands of times a second we regenerate. Thousands of times a second we’re given the chance to start all over. Personally, I find this very encouraging!

Again, this time about twenty-five hundred years later, science and technology caught up to Prajna Wisdom and built a scanning electron microscope that could observe the inside of an atom. Each time they focussed in on a particle, it seemed to melt into pulsing waves of rhythm and revealed an even smaller particle, which in turn, did the same.

Of what is the body made? It is made of emptiness and rhythm. At the ultimate heart of the body, at the heart of the world, there is no solidity. Once again, there is only the dance. At the unimaginable heart of the atom, the compact nucleus, we have found no solid object, but rather a dynamic pattern of tightly confined energy vibrating perhaps 1022 times a second: a dance…

-George Leonard

3 thoughts on “the dance of emptiness and form”

  1. If you liked Stephen Hawking book, you probably would like David Bohm a lot.
    I read ‘A Brief History of Time’ when I was in university (long time ago), I liked it so much, I went to the library and took all the books on quantum mechanics. These books helped me with Heart Sutra.
    There is nice book by Dalai Lama “The universe in a single atom”.
    David Bohm is very interesting physicist, he explains totality and oneness of existance as an unbroken and seamless whole, also bringing mind and matter together as a whole; and says (in his fancy words) how we are creating the universe; and that change (in this world(political, economical, social) must begin with the individual.

    1. Hello Tanya,
      Thank you for such a nice reply.
      I’m familiar with the Universe in a Single Atom boook, and would like to read it. From what I’ve heard, His Holiness does a wonderful job of liking science and spirit, reminding us not to focus too much on either one without the other.

      Was David Bohm one of the scientists involved with the Dalai Lama’s work? I’ll be sure to look him up as well,
      Thank you!

  2. Hi, Joseph!
    First time I read about David Bohm was in book “The Tibetan book of living and dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche, (for me this book was very, very helpful, I also liked it so very much because many things are like KunSunim’s teachings),
    then I read some of his work, also found him on Youtube.
    I like different things for my practice (which for me is basically an effort to get out of suffering), although main teachings and practice that I follow is KunSunim’s, when I read other teachings, it can resonate kind of, like as if it amplifies it and it becomes more clear, and some science can be very useful too.
    It is not merely intellectual knowledge, the things you read can “click” at some point, whether it is in sitting meditation or in the middle of whatever you are doing, it can become experience.
    I like very much Dalai Lama’s work, his open honest approach to Abhidharma (saying to abandon stuff that does not fit scientific observation), his “teasing” of tibetan worship of spirits and gods. I like his book “Becoming enlightened”, it is so simple and very, very useful.

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