The Heart Sutra and the dreamlike quality of reality

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

This is one of the lines from the heart sutra.

INITIAL ONENESS SHIFT

When the initial oneness shift happened in my teens, all was revealed as the divine. Everything that is, without exception, is the divine. The divine takes the form of all that’s here and all that is, including this human self and the consciousness it all happens within and as. The divine is also what temporarily and locally takes itself to be this human self, or not.

Today, it would say that it’s all happening within and as the consciousness I am.

Waking life is dreamlike because it happens within and as the consciousness I am, just like a night dream.

FINDING OTHERS

When this shift happened, this human self was an atheist with an interest in research into parapsychology, quantum physics, and systems theories. (Fritjof Capra and others.)

This was before the World Wide Web, and I lived in a small town outside of Oslo in Norway, so it wasn’t easy to find anyone who could relate to this.

I loved Jung but he talked more about finding wholeness as a human being. I also found and loved the writings of Jes Bertelsen (Danish Jungian analyst and spiritual teacher) and Ken Wilber (No Boundaries).

In my late teens, I met a couple of people (BH and HB…!) who recognized the oneness shift in me from their own experience. Before even talking, there was a mutual recognition and joy in that recognition.1

I had hoped to find the same mutual recognition with teachers at the local Tibetan Buddhist center, but I didn’t find it there. (Although I did start the practice, which only brought me “up” and not “down” into the body and embodiment that I deeply felt I needed.)

In general, it was difficult to find anyone who expressed it clearly and directly. Even when there seemed to be a similar noticing, it was often veiled in cultural differences and the language of different traditions.

THE HEART SUTRA

I may have first encountered the Heart Sutra at the Zen Center in Salt Lake City. It was included in the daily chants there.

When I first heard it, it was clear that it was a direct pointer. It’s not philosophical. It’s not something to dissect. (Although we can do it.) It just describes a direct noticing2.

It seems to point to the dreamlike quality of reality that initially had revealed itself to itself in my mid-teens.

THE DREAMLIKE QUALITY OF REALITY

Waking life is like a dream. It happens within and as what I am, just like night dreams.

The consciousness I am forms itself into waking life as it appears here and now.

That is emptiness. It’s empty of substance. It’s like a dream in that way in that it’s made up of the consciouness I am. Even what appears as solid & substantial is not really. It’s the mind telling itself it’s solid that creates the appearance of solidity3.

At the same time, it’s form. What I am forms itself into his experience of waking life as it is here now. The consciousness I am forms itself into all the forms here and now – this computer, these hands, the sensations of the fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the wind, the table, the light, and so on.

DIRECT NOTICING PUT INTO WORDS

It’s simpler than simple. And it easily sounds complicated when I try to put words on it.

I am sure there are more philosophical ways to understand it as well, but mental gymnastics are not needed. Just a noticing of what’s already here.

Of course, this is just my experience of it. I am sure I am missing out on a lot.

NOTES

(1) There is a lot more to say about this period, and I have elaborated a bit in one or two other articles. I have included just a few highlights here.

(2) I think this must have been one of the first times I found something that so clearly and simply expressed what had been revealed when I was sixteen.

(3) The mind takes appearances in the sense fields, ties them together with mental representations, and adds mental representations saying this is solid, this is substantial, and so on.

Image by me and Midjourney


SECOND DRAFT

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

This is one of the lines from the heart sutra.

When I first heard it – which I think was in a daily chant at the Zen center a little less than a decade after the initial oneness shift – I seemed clear that it was a very direct pointer. It’s not philosophical. It’s not something to dissect. (Although we can do it.) It’s just a direct noticing1.

It seems to point to the dreamlike quality of reality.

Waking life is like a dream. It happens within and as what I am, just like night dreams.

The consciousness I am forms itself into waking life as it appears here and now.

That is emptiness. It’s empty of substance. It’s like a dream in that way in that it’s made up of the consciouness I am. Even what appears as solid & substantial is not really. It’s the mind telling itself it’s solid that creates the appearance of solidity2.

At the same time, it’s form. What I am forms itself into his experience of waking life as it is here now. The consciousness I am forms itself into all the forms here and now – this computer, these hands, the sensations of the fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the wind, the table, the light, and so on.

It’s simpler than simple. And it easily sounds complicated when I try to put words on it.

I am sure there are more philosophical ways to understand it as well, but mental gymnastics are not needed. Just a noticing of what’s already here.

Of course, this is just my experience of it. I am sure I am missing out on a lot.

NOTES

(1) I think this must have been one of the first times I found something that so clearly and simply expressed what had been revealed when I was sixteen.

(2) The mind takes appearances in the sense fields, ties them together with mental representations, and adds mental representations saying this is solid, this is substantial, and so on.

Image by me and Midjourney

INITIAL DRAFT

FORM IS EMPTINESS, EMPTINESS IS FORM

This is one of the lines from the heart sutra.

When I first heard it at the Zen center, a little less than a decade after the initial oneness shift, I recognized it as a very direct pointer. It’s not philosophical. It’s not something to dissect. (Although we can do it.) It’s just a direct noticing. It’s inevitable.

Waking life is like a dream. It happens within and as what I am, just like night dreams.

The consciousness I am forms itself into waking life as it appears here and now.

That is emptiness. It’s empty of substance. It’s like a dream in that way in that it’s made up of the consciouness I am. Even what appear as solid and substantial is not really, it’s just the mind associating appearances in the sense fields and tying it together with mental representations.

At the same time, it’s form. What I am forms itself into waking life as it is here now. The consciousness I am forms itself into all the forms here and now – this computer, these hands, the sensations of the fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the wind, the table, the light, and so on.

It’s simpler than simple, but it sounds complicated when we – or at least I – try to make it into words.

I am sure there are more philosophical ways to understand it as well, but mental gymnastics are not needed. Just a noticing of what’s already here.

FRAGMENTS

When this shift happened, this human self was an atheist with an interest in research into parapsychology, quantum physics, and systems theories. (Fritjof Capra and others.)

This was before the World Wide Web, and I lived in a small town outside of Oslo in Norway, so it wasn’t easy to find anyone who could relate to this. I did eventually find some books written by Christian mystics at the main library in Oslo and could see that some of them seemed to have realized something similar even if it was covered by a few veils of cultural differences and a Christian language. The first one I found and resonated with was Meister Eckhardt.

I loved Jung but he talked more about finding wholeness as a human being. I also found and loved the writings of Jes Bertelsen (Danish Jungian analyst and spiritual teacher) and Ken Wilber (No Boundaries).

In my late teens, I also met a couple of people (BH and HB…!) who recognized the oneness shift in me from their own experience. Before even talking, there was a mutual recognition and joy in that recognition.1

I got into Tibetan Buddhism, and again encountered the veils of culture and tradition. It wasn’t until I found Adyashanti, Byron Katie, and Douglas Harding in my thirties that I found someone who expressed a direct noticing clearly and without the veils of cultural differences.

Before then, I also found the Heart Sutra and some Zen teachers who also expressed it clearly and directly.

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