Misconceptions about existance

Author: Linmu

Does a table really exist

Often, people claim that a table is composed of table legs and a tabletop, suggesting that the table doesn't truly exist but is merely a concept. They delve further into the analysis, stating that the table legs and tabletop are made of wood, wood is composed of molecules, which in turn break down into atoms, protons, neutrons, quarks, and so on. This leads to the conclusion that not only is the table non-existent, but wood, molecules, and quarks are also abstract concepts, composed of smaller units.

Using this theory, people then proceed to analyze humans and various aspects of the world, concluding that both people and the world are concepts, not actual realities, and are composed of even smaller units.

Two factions

Building upon this theory, two factions emerge. Faction A believes that the smallest units are real, and everything in the world is composed of these continuously arising and ceasing smallest units. Faction B, on the other hand, thinks that Faction A's theory doesn't go far enough; it argues that even the smallest units are conceptual, fundamentally empty. To Faction B, tables are empty, people are empty, molecules, quarks, and everything in the world are empty, void of intrinsic existence. They hold that the four great elements and the five aggregates are equally empty.

These two distinct factions hold two different views of liberation. Faction A believes that since there are smallest units, one should see the world as being composed of these smallest units, which are characterized by impermanence, suffering, and a lack of self. Liberation, therefore, comes when one detaches from all arising and ceasing phenomena and experiences the absence of birth and death.

Faction B, however, argues that if everything is empty, why should there be the concept of smallest units? Why should there be birth and death, the world, and the opposition between it and liberation? According to this perspective, there is no birth and no cessation, as everything is originally pure. It's only delusions and divisive thinking that lead one astray. By realizing emptiness and the nature of self, one can awaken and attain Buddhahood.

If Faction A's theory is based on the notion of "existence," then Faction B's theory is founded on the idea of "emptiness." However, both these views stem from ignorance regarding the Five Aggregates. When people see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or remember, they often engage with these phenomena and their content without accurately observing and contemplating the Five Aggregates themselves. Consequently, they grasp, abide in, and rely on these appearances. Thoughts and concepts then arise, such as the concept of tables, people, or the world.

Moreover, people continue to grasp, abide in, and rely on these concepts, generating ideas of existence, non-existence, the presence or absence of tables, people, or the realness or unreality of the world. This leads to various views related to tables, people, and the world. These different views give rise to various factions. Those belonging to different factions also grasp, abide in, and rely on their respective views. They are bound and manipulated by their views, constantly rising and falling, oscillating, increasing, choosing, and deciding, making it impossible for them to truly attain liberation.

True nature of existence

If people can refrain from grasping, abiding, and relying on all phenomena and their contents, including the various views mentioned, and if they can disentangle themselves from these contents and remain focused on the mind, engaging in a precise examination and contemplation of the Five Aggregates' arising, ceasing, taste, suffering, and cessation, they will come to understand true nature: when the Five Aggregates arise, the world arises; when the Five Aggregates cease, the world ceases. Ignorance gives rise to formations, formations give rise to consciousness, and so on. This is what the World-Honored One described as right view.