Nondual Zen Article:

Why, Why?

nondual title

Why, Why?
by Kathleen Sutherland

Spiritual seekers often wonder why we ever became separate from our true nature. Why Maya? Why this illusion that causes so much strife, struggle and suffering? Why must we make such an effort to reclaim what is inherently, naturally, effortlessly ours?

I gained some insight into this mystery from Swami Sarvapriananda recently. He explained that causation is part of Maya, part of duality, and so it does not make sense to ask why we have this experience of this world. The "why" is within the world. In fact, all questions arise within duality and can only refer to the relative world.

I have heard this concept before, but Swamiji explained that you have to ponder it for a good long while to really understand it. So this is what I'll attempt to do in sharing my thoughts here.

Asking why the universe exists is like asking what is outside of space, or what happened before time began. Clearly, nothing can be outside of space, and nothing could have happened before time began. Anything outside of space would be part of space. Anything happening before time began would actually be the true beginning of time. What about before that? Nothing happened before time began. Any event would require a point in time to manifest. When did time begin? It arose from timelessness, which sounds quite impossible. This gives me some glimmering as to is why there really is no time, only the illusion of such.

Asking why there is the experience of a universe, then, is like asking why there is causation. Why is there cause and effect? Why does one thing cause another? By what cause is there the causing of things? That's just how it works! That's the essence of causation. Why is there why? Why just is. It gave birth to itself.

I used to be annoyed by the assertion that the universe “just is.” It seemed a cop-out. But clearly causation can have no initial cause. Causation arises with the universe. It's part and parcel. And if time, space and causation - the building blocks of the universe - logically must arise from nothing, then the universe must likewise arise from nothing and for no "reason." Its nature may be love, but love is not its purpose or reason. As we know so well, love needs no reason.

Here I am the two-dimensional animal, trying my best to imagine my way into a box. Perhaps if I tilt my flat plane of a universe up 30 degrees, I'll be there. No, that doesn't quite do it. Let me try rotating my plane 50 degrees. That feels different...but no, not really.

Even if I have a great "ah-ha" insight, and successfully imagine the three dimensions of a box, then I've graduated to a box. My world has expanded in a mind-blowing manner. It’s a whole new paradigm! But I've still just thought my way into a box.

The next step, naturally, is to think myself out of the box. And if I’m really ambitious, or lucky or blessed, someday (or maybe now), I’ll even think myself out of the animal. Why bother? Why do I practice and strive to see what I already know, that I am not this mind or body? I cannot answer that. Freedom is beyond the questions.