Mu, Suchness, Understanding

On Tuesday I was struck with a strong moment of Déjà vu as I crossed the street from the memorial steps toward Anderson Hall, hearing the wind, cars, and seeing and smelling the rain on the grass and pavement reminded me of when I played football, both the things I perceived and felt.

Puddles rippling

Cars sighing

The smell of wet turf.

There were a lot of things that stood out to me in the week’s series of lectures and readings, most particularly the concept of mu in relation to understanding, and most strikingly, how compassion is intimately linked with contemplating the (imperfect) opposite of mu, suchness, and (in my opinion) anatman. On the lecture of the 11th we discussed how nothingness may refer to a positive quality, that of cleared slate, an open mind towards ideas or opportunity when false notions of desire (whether for material objects or false understanding) are demolished. I greatly identify with this idea and feel true understanding in many cases is greatly hampered by willful ignorance at the hands of those to gain, or (at least I interpreted it as), Avidya (Merton 82). The world is an innocent place, without bias towards what we define as good or evil, such is why evil exists; “…the sun rising on the good and on the evil, on your foes and friends” (Merton 106). What is good is eventually destroyed, what is bad may sometime rise up, but eventually the slate is cleared again, and the world will reset itself to a more neutral place. The world is nothing, we must embrace this through realizing nothingness. There is no larger pattern to the world; one must purge themselves of all false subjective relation to it, in order to achieve Nirvana through reaching a simpler, less falsely justified and biased state. I think this realization there is no pattern to the world (thus there is nothingness) must lead to a realization that regardless of why they happen, things happen, and that the universe is what it is for reasons beyond our ability to perceive. This is suchness, which Merton described in some detail. All action, thought, prejudice or love has a root cause somewhere, not necessarily a reason, but a cause. The sum of these causes is suchness and describes why things are, and, when this is realized will lead to compassionate understanding, for how can one be cruel when we identify with the person we would malign? Why harm when a twist of fate could throw us in their position? This is the nature of evanescence. This is why we cannot have a true sense of self, nor can there be valued a constant universe. The effect of this reasoning is seen in Atsumori, where the dialogue states Naozane and Atsumori “In truth may we be named…Friends in Buddha’s Law” (Waley 71), for they were enemies only as a cause of being born in the wrong families. And to think, ultimate boundless compassion and understanding is just the eventual result of eliminating false bias and desire! So much war, devastation and oppression would be avoided if more people shared these values. The world is inextricably linked to everything else, and thus we should be kind to everything in it. 

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One Response to Mu, Suchness, Understanding

  1. Avatar of Laura  Sabia Laura Sabia says:

    Your poem is absolutely lovely, but I’m wondering whether it may give a little too much description rather than allowing us to come to the sensation you are trying to describe to us on our own. You also use personification of the cars in the scene. I’m not sure whether poetic devices like that keep us grounded in the lyrical moment. They distract us from the concrete images you write around them- these are what’s important and what should stand out in the poem.

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