There is really no way to express the sense of relief and of total relaxation that arises with the realization that all of life, all of existence is without cause. All anxiety and trepidation are based in the false perception that there is a primal cause to existence and to our life, your life, my life. It is a very deeply rooted taboo to express the view that all that we perceive and conceive of arises spontaneously out of nothing.
Of course it is mind-boggling to imagine that all of life, indeed the entire cosmos in its vastness, complexity and intrinsic order could be completely spontaneous. That nonetheless may be the case, as mysterious and miraculous as it sounds.
Many have contemplated the original and fundamental character of life and have come to their own realizations.
In the Zen version (Shunryu Suzuki) we find this:
“Before we understand the idea of emptiness, everything seems to exist substantially.
“But after we realize the emptiness of things, everything becomes real—not substantial. When we realize that everything we see is a part of emptiness, we can have no attachment to any existence; we realize that everything is just a tentative form and color. Thus we realize the true meaning of each tentative existence. When we first hear that everything is a tentative existence, most of us are disappointed; but this disappointment comes from a wrong view of man and nature.
“It is because our way of observing things is deeply rooted in our self-centered ideas that we are disappointed when we find everything has only a tentative existence. But when we actually realize this truth, we will have no suffering.
“To realize the truth is to live—to exist here and now.
“… misunderstanding will vanish if you really understand emptiness means everything is always here. One whole being is not an accumulation of everything. It is impossible to divide one whole existence into parts. It is always here and always working.
“The important thing in our understanding is to have a smooth, free-thinking way of observation. We have to think and to observe things without stagnation. We should accept things as they are without difficulty. Our mind should be soft and open enough to understand things as they are. When our thinking is soft, it is called imperturbable thinking.
“This kind of thinking is always stable. It is called mindfulness. Thinking which is divided in many ways is not true thinking. Concentration should be present in our thinking. This is mindfulness. Whether you have an object or not, your mind should be stable and your mind should not be divided. This is zazen. It is not necessary to make an effort to think in a particular way.
“Your thinking should not be one-sided. We just think with our whole mind, and see things as they are without any effort. Just to see, and to be ready to see things with our whole mind, is zazen practice. If we are prepared for thinking, there is no need to make an effort to think. This is called mindfulness.”
The key for me in this way of seeing is to sense how “everything becomes real—not substantial“. Our error in perception is that we grow up focusing our attention on the objects which we perceive around us. We also very strongly are conditioned to focus one object in particular: our own body. This habit of noticing primarily what is happening to all the objects (that which is substantial) in our world makes us blind to that which is real, which is the movement of that which we like to call energy. Actually, tuning in to the movement of energy (that we are and that is everything around us) and changing our habitual mode of perception in this way prepares us to perceive that which is real.
Here is another view of one who saw, according to his reports, what is real and lived in that continual perception for over 50 years (Ramana Maharshi):
“Objects perceived by the senses are spoken of as immediate knowledge (pratyaksha). Can anything be as direct as the Self – always experienced without the aid of the senses? Sense-perception can only be indirect knowledge, and not direct knowledge. Only one’s own awareness is direct knowledge, and that is the common experience of one and all. No aids are needed to know one’s own Self.”
In a nutshell, all teachings of the purpose of life, repeated lives of an individual soul stream that serve to advance the development of the soul and all self-improvement teachings, for me fall under the category of skillful means. Skillful means are like tools that I can use to smooth whatever rough edges in my body-mind-spirit complex may still be hooking into attachment to form of any kind. If I would mention a goal or purpose to life I would call it “connection with the Great One” and the lived realization that It is my own true nature. Anything that might be distracting me from that connection, that melding with my Self, needs my attention so that it can subside and I can once again devote my entire mind to worship of the Formless Reality by unthought thought.
Life without cause is life without cause for regret, with no cause for pain, no cause for anger, no cause for sadness, no cause for joy or happiness either. It is not that these qualities do not manifest in my life but rather that they are felt by me as something that just is, with no “deeper meaning”. They are like a rainstorm, a clap of thunder, or the bright sunshine on the mountain top. I do not question them or analyze them and put my attention on them in order to find their deeper significance. Sadness or frustration or anger and joy just come, I acknowledge them and allow the next quality of life to show itself. Life without cause is life lived in wonder at all of the strange and beautiful things that appear before my eyes.