Paradox: Moebius strip; How many sides are there?
In Flight of the Garuda Zhabkar uses images to depict the situation that something seemingly exists, but in reality there is nothing. In Tibetan the phrase of gzhi med pa is used, which means literally: groundless, or without ground. There also is a compound ghzi rtsa med pa, which means without ground and root. I have translated both phrases in some places with ‘paradox’. The Cambridge English Dictionary gives this descripition: a situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics.
This is exactly what is meant here. The word gzhi that principally means ground or base, has some further connotations. In that sense it can mean ‘cause’. gzhi med also has the connotation of causeless, or even irrational, which goes parallel with ‘paradox’.
But what is this paradox that Zhabkar describes? In Song 9 two lines stand out. Talking about the manifestations Zhabkar writes that they are the magical play of the mind, and then he states:
9.24: All magical displays are the paradoxes of emptiness.
They are non-existent clear delusions, Maya, (reflections) like the moon on water.
But then, what exactly does this mean? First of all, Zhabkar says that these displays are in your own mind. The paradox is the irreconcilable situation in your mind that there seems to be something, something that is labelled by you, and perceived in that way, but really there is no such thing. The manifestations are emptiness, i.e. they are not what you think they are. As long as you are convinced that the manifestations are really existing as you seemingly perceive them to be outside, there is this paradox.
This is what most people think to be reality. Their position is that you can see the suffering of people and the dire situation of society, and that this is real perception that constitutes real reality. This view is seductive because it is easy to give in to it. You don’t have to think about it then. But when you do think about it, then some uneasiness might come up, and the first question is: “Is wat I see and perceive, really there as I see it.” Here already some relativity may come in, because you know that two people can describe a situation completely different. Research has shown that with only a description of a painting, if the reader does not know beforehand which painting it is, he will not be able to recognise the painting, even when it is a very famous one. So your appraisal of what you see, is subjective from the start. If you think this through, it will not be difficult to assert that your assessment of whatever you see and hear and think, is the outcome the way that you have become you until this point in time. In autopoiesis theory of Maturana and Varela it is shown that you cannot think, perceive and act outside of your actual structure, which means, the way you have learned to perceive things. If something happens, your reaction is not determined by what has happened, but by your structure. Therefor living is learning to expand your arsenal of reactions in order to adapt to the environment in such a way that your coupling with that environment is maintained.
This digression is to show that with your current structure it is impossible to assess Zhabkar’s point. To be able to do so, your structure has to be expanded, which means you have to learn something. This exactly is Zhabkar’s training of the mind. Only when you are willing to learn something new, you will be able to see if Zhabkar is right.
Back to the paradox that Zhabkar is talking about. It is my view that Zhabkar shows that what we perceive can be assessed in different ways. Thinks are not only black or white, but they are black and white at the same time, or have any other colour you prefer as well. But this is always completely dependent of your structure, that is, the way you have become who you are. To change things, you have to change first, i.e. you have to train your mind to see differently.
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