Chapter 3: Emptiness and the Monk’s Nose
Eddington, in 1930, said that we were in search of matter, but now all new insight into matter shows that there is no matter; it looks more and more like a thought and less and less like a thing. Suddenly the insight of Buddha became very, very significant again, because Buddha did the same with human matter, the human stuff. Physicists were trying to penetrate matter in an objective way to find out what was there inside it, and they found nothing. Total emptiness. And the same was discovered by Buddha in his inner journey. He was trying to find out who was there inside - the substance of human consciousness - but the more he penetrated, the more he became aware that it becomes more and more empty. And when he suddenly reached to the very core, there was nothing. All had disappeared. The house was empty. And around this emptiness everything exists. Emptiness is your soul, so Buddha had to coin a new word which had never existed before. With a new discovery you have to change your language. New words have to be coined, because you have revealed new truths and old words cannot contain them. Buddha has to create a new word. In India people had always believed in the reality of the soul, atma, but Buddha discovered that there was no soul, no atma. He had to coin a new word - anatta. Anatta means no-self. The deepest hidden in you is emptiness - a state of no-self. You are not; you only appear to be.
Let me explain to you in a different way because it is one of the most difficult things to understand. Even if you understand intellectually, it is almost impossible to trust it. You are not? Your being seems so taken for granted. And you can always ask foolish questions. Buddha was asked again and again: If you are not, then who is speaking? If you are not, then who becomes hungry? And who goes begging in the town? If you are not, then who is standing before me?
The emperor Wu, in China, asked Bodhidharma immediately: If you say that you are not and nothing is, and emptiness is the very substance of your inner being, then who is this fellow talking to me, standing before me? Bodhidharma shrugged his shoulders and said: I don’t know.
Nobody knows, and Buddha says that nobody can know, because it is not a substance that you can encounter as an object; it is no-substance, you cannot encounter it. This Buddha calls realization: when you come to understand that the innermost emptiness cannot be known, it is unknowable, then you have become a realized man.
It is difficult, so let me again explain it to you. You go to a movie. Something beautiful is happening there. The screen is empty. Then the projector starts working. The screen disappears because the projected pictures hide it completely. And what are these projected pictures? Nothing but a play of light and shade. You see somebody throwing a spear on the screen, the spear moves fast. But what is happening exactly? The movement is only an appearance, it is not happening. It cannot happen. In fact a movie is not a movie at all, because it has no movement; all the pictures are still. But an appearance is created through a trick. The trick is that many still pictures of the spear in different positions are flashed on the screen so fast that you cannot see the gap between two pictures - and you have the feeling that the spear is moving. I raise my hand. You take a hundred pictures of my hand in different positions and then flash them so fast that the eyes cannot catch the gap between two pictures. Then you will see the hand being raised. A hundred still pictures, or a million still pictures, are projected and the movement is created. And if the film is a three dimensional film and somebody is throwing a spear, you may be so much taken in by it, that you may lean to the right or to the left to avoid the spear. When three dimensional pictures came into existence for the first time, they scared people. With a horse running at you, you become afraid because the horse is soon going to enter the hall; and you may even lean to the right or left, as the case may be, to avoid the clash. The movement is false, it is not happening there, it is just fast-moving still pictures. And the falseness is not apparent unless you see the film moving very slowly, being projected very slowly.