Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ayin: Mystical Nothingness

Ayin, nothingness, is more existant than all the being of the world. But since it is simple, and every simple thing is complex compared with its simplicity, it is called Ayin.

The inner power is called Ayin because thought does not grasp it, nor reflection. Concerning this, Job said, "Wisdom comes into being out of ayin."

The depth of primordial being is called Boundless. Because of its concealment from all creatures above and below, it is called Nothingness. If one asks, "What is it?" the answer is, "Nothing", meaning: No one can understand anything about it. It is negated by every conception. No one can know anything about it -- except the belief that it exists. Its existence cannot be grasped by anyone other than it. Therefore its name is "I am becoming."

You may be asked: "How did God bring forth being from nothingness? Is there not an immense difference between being and nothingness?"

Answer as follows: "Being is in nothingness in the mode of nothingness, and nothingness is in being in the mode of being." Nothingness is being and being is nothingness. The node of being as it begins to emerge from nothingness into existence is called faith. For the term "faith" applies neither to visible, comprehensible being, nor to nothingness, invisible and incomprehensible, but rather to the nexus of nothingness and being. Being does not stem from nothingness alone but rather, from being and nothingness together. All is one in the simplicity of absolute indifferentiation. Our limited mind cannot grasp or fathom this, for it joins infinity.

Arouse yourself to contemplate, to focus thought, for God is the annihilation of all thoughts, uncontainable by any concept. Indeed, since no one can contain God at all, it is called Nothingness, Ayin. This is the secret of the verse, "Wisdom comes into being out of ayin."

The beginning of existence is the secret concealed point, primordial wisdom, the secret conceptual point. This is the beginning of all the hidden things, which spread out from there and emanate, according to their species. From a single point you can extend the dimensions of all things. Similarly, when the concealed arouses itself to exist, at first it brings into being something the size of the point of a needle; from there it generates everything.

Contemplate this: When the emanation was emanated out of Ayin, all things and all sephirot were dependent on thought. God's secret existence emerged from this single point. That which abides in thought yet cannot be grasped is called wisdom: Hokhmah.
What is the meaning of Hokhmah? Hakkehmah. Since you can never grasp it, hakkeh, "wait", for mah, "what" will come and what will be. This is the sublime, primordial wisdom emerging out of Ayin.

Think of yourself as Ayin and forget yourself totally. Then you can transcend time, rising to the world of thought, where all is equal: life and death, ocean and dry land. Such is not the case if you are attached to the material nature of the world. If you think of yourself as something, then God cannot clothe himself in you, for God is infinite. No vessel can contain God, unless you think of yourself as Ayin.

From: 'The Essential Kabbalah' - Daniel C. Matt

Jewish wisdom-story tells about an advanced student in Jewish mysticism who traveled to a secret institution which housed the most enlightened beings of the time. This student wanted desperately to gain admittance so that he could grow in his wisdom. But he had to pass a test to be accepted by these learned people, who were called the Masters of Concentration.

One of the elders said to the young man, "My son, you are on the right path and your goal is admirable. But to join our community you must have reached a level of equanimity (hishtavut). Can you say to us that you have achieved equanimity?"

The young man had not expected such a question. He asked the elder, "Master, please, explain what you mean by equanimity."

The old man said, "My son, if you know one person who honors and praises you, and another person who depises and insults you, are both of these people the same to you?"

The young man sat quietly for a while, carefully investigating his own feelings. Then he replied, "Master, clearly I derive pleasure and satisfaction from the person who honors me, and pain from the one who insults me. But I can say in all honesty that I do not feel any sense of wanting revenge, nor do I bear a grudge. So I believe that I have attained equanimity."

The elder shook his head. "No, my son, you have not attained equanimity by our measure. The fact that your soul experiences the pain of an insult means that you will not be able to attach your thoughts entirely to God. Our level of concentration requires that you cannot waver, even for a moment. Therefore, go in peace until you become truly equanimous so that you will be able to concentrate."

The entrance requirements for this this mystical academy seem quite rigorous. Is it not enough that we are able to overcome our disturbing thoughts? Can we actually reach a state of mind in which such thoughts never arise in the first place? The Jewish sages say yes, as do major teachers in most spiritual traditions.

The state of mind that we need to attain is called ayin, Nothingness. We have to be nothing in our own eyes, and therefore nonreactive. As we have just seen, we can achieve the level of ayin through the contemplative practice of bittul ha-yesh, the path of selflessness. Thus, selflessness is a precondition for equanimity.

In the state of ayin, we discover an entirely different relationship with questions such as: Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Am I a name? Am I a relationship with my family? Am I something distinguished by an address, driver's liscense, social-security card, library card, or telephone number? From the perspective of selflessness, we realize that although we may be indentified by and associated with objective symbols, our essential souls are something else, something that transcends names, numbers, measurements, or other common forms of identification.

Who am I? I am nobody. There is no I. There is only that which enables the question to be asked in the first place. Who is asking? God-ing is asking through this body, this mind. Who is thinking? Who is reading these words?

Herein is the mystical secret that holy sparks are raised when we fully realize that we are nothing but vessels for the Divine Will. Paradoxically the vehicle itself has its own free will. When the conductors (you and I) of this free will believe that we are separate identities, we limit and detach ourselves from the source of life, and the sparks thereby cannot be returned to their root. When we appreciate that we are empowered by a central force, then our free will is used for the benefit of this central force, and the holy sparks are returned to their root.

The merging of our free will with the will of the Divine causes a new "sustenance" to flow in the universe. That is, this combination raises sparks and brings about a new level of consciousness in all the universes of this creation. This is the product of attaching Thought, the mind, to Nothingness, the center of creation.

Thus, we practice the path of equanimity, which involves attaining the mind-state of selflessness, for much more than personal enlightenment. It is viewed as the path of true wisdom, and it is the process by which new consciousness is raised throughout the universes.

From: 'God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism' - Rabbi David A. Cooper

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