The empty vessel

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The empty vessel

Post by zoofence »

Here is part of an item which I entered at The Gazebo last winter. (To read the full piece, please click here.)

Reading in Nisargadatta this morning — "Like water is shaped by the container, so is everything determined by conditions. As water remains water regardless of the vessels, as light remains itself regardless of the colors it brings out, so does the real remain real, regardless of conditions in which it is reflected."

Like water is shaped by the container ...

... by the container. What container?

Here's what transpired in my mind as I wrestled with Nisargadatta's words first thing this morning.

There is no such thing as "Stefan". That's clear. Stefan is not a thing, meaning — despite appearances — it is not an entity with shape or form or measurements or substance.

An assortment of thoughts, memories, and expectations evolved, maybe one after another, maybe simultaneously, which, leaning against one another, merging into one another, reinforcing one another, enclose an area of space which has taken the shape of a "Stefan".

This empty vessel, or we might say, this vessel which contains within its apparent dimensions only empty space, is not a vessel in the sense of a jar or a bottle or even a bag. It is empty space only apparently enclosed by an assortment of thoughts, memories, and expectations. It is those thoughts, memories and expectations, not any solid vessel-making material, which form this apparent vessel.

This non-vessel vessel first began to appear at the appearance of "the idea of Stefan's mother and father". From there, evolved supporting ideas — Stefan's pediatrician, Stefan's baby carriage, Stefan's kindergarten, and so on through the so-called past, to the so-called present and into the so-called future, a continuous stream of supporting ideas — again, thoughts, memories, and expectations — which link together into a shape, a shape called "Stefan".

But the shape is empty. That is, it has taken the form of a vessel, of a "Stefan", and so it looks like "a thing", but there is nothing "in it". Thus, we might say that a sugar bowl contains sugar, a beer bottle contains beer; but the shape "Stefan" contains only the space that was already, priorly there when the initial ideas about it evolved and formed among themselves into a shape that seemed to be a vessel.

We are not talking about a thing here; we are talking about an idea of a thing.

As the Hindu, I think it is, metaphor has it, the vessel is a sieve put into the ocean. The sides of the sieve seem to contain something unique ("the contents of this sieve"), but in fact the sieve does not really "contain" anything, and certainly not anything different or unique from what is "outside" the sieve. The appearance of a container and of a thing contained is an illusion.

So, as I say elsewhere on TZF: "Silence your thoughts, discard your memories, release your expectations". Do that, and what happens? The vessel collapses. The sieve dissolves. The jar breaks, revealing the emptiness inside that was always not there.

The apparent vessel creates the appearance of something, of someone, inside it. Remove the vessel, and naught remains.

In the words of Ibn 'Arabi: "... thou never wast nor wilt be, whether by thyself or through Him or in Him or along with Him".