18. The Verification of Adventitiousness

In this post, we continue the verification of Buddha’s teachings in Such is the Way of Dharma by confirming the adventitious relationship between the realm without mental fluctuations and the realm with fluctuations. 

As a refresher, adventitious has two components, each with its meaning: 

  1. Association by Chance: If two events are associated by chance, it necessarily means there can be no causal relationship between them. In other words, their independent existence is not conditionally dependent on the other. 
  2. Extrinsic: Being extrinsic, the non-fluctuating and fluctuating realms of mentality are not an integral part of the other. In other words, they exist separately in their own domains. 

In the last post, we discussed that “empty space is not empty” is always full of quantum field fluctuations. Even after scientists attempted to remove everything from it, quantum field fluctuations stubbornly remained. In other words, an empty space without quantum field fluctuations does not exist naturally in the universe, nor can it be created. Therefore, quantum physicists call “empty space not empty” “the simplest thing you could imagine in the universe.” 

In this video, “Empty Space is Not Empty,” quantum scientist Dr. Derek Leinweber talked about the results of an experiment when he tried to create a domain without fluctuations. But, as a premise for his experiment, he proposed a hypothetical space without quantum energy fluctuations he calls an “empty vacuum.”

To his disappointment, his experimental results led Dr. Leinweber to acknowledge that an “empty vacuum without fluctuations actually costs an enormous amount of energy to create.” “And if you were able to create it, you’d discover that it is actually unstable. Any sort of perturbation would push that empty vacuum into something where the vacuum is actually full of quantum fluctuations.” 

Of course, without a stable “empty vacuum,” it is impossible to establish any relationship between it and the realm with quantum fluctuations. 

However, while scientists cannot establish the adventitious relationship, humans can.

What Buddha teaches about the cosmos applies to humans. Human minds are like microcosms of Buddha’s two-realm setup in the universe. From the second a person is born, the person’s mind, like “empty space is not empty,” is already full of fluctuations. These fluctuations are fluctuations of mentality or consciousness. 

However, while scientific experiments cannot establish a non-fluctuating realm, all humans have the potential to do so by making their minds quiescent to get enlightened, as the three people testified when verifying Citta. 

Like Dr. Leinweber’s scientific experiment, creating a quiescent human mind also “costs an enormous amount of energy.” For exampleAdyashianti said it took him more than a decade to be enlightened enough to “put to rest all his questions and doubts.” And he is the lucky one. Many who tried for much longer never got enlightened.  

Getting enlightened is difficult because our minds move so fast that calming them to stillness is extremely challenging. 

In the quantum realm, when epiphenomena first emerged in the universe, quantum scientists call them quarks being annihilated at one million billion billion times per second. However, in Buddha’s universe, these fluctuations of mentality are consciousness. While human minds do not move at the incredible speed of “one million billion billion frames per second,” it is still very fast. 

In the Sutra of the Bodhisattva in the Embryo (菩薩處胎經), Buddha asked Bodhisattva Maitreya, “When thinking, how many thoughts, how many forms, and how much consciousness are there?” Bodhisattva Maitreya answers, “At the snap of fingers, there are three billion two hundred million and one hundred thousand thoughts; every thought takes a form, and all forms are conscious.” (Chinese=佛即問彌勒。心有所念幾念幾想幾識耶。彌勒言。拍手彈指之頃。三十二億百千念。念念成形。形皆有識.

While there are debates on how fast a person can snap his fingers, even if one just snaps one’s fingers once in a second, the number of thoughts in a second would be in the billions. Calming that speed to zero can be done, but it is indeed challenging. That is why many have tried, but only a few people have become enlightened. On the other hand, the reward is monumental. By eliminating the afflictive obstructions, one becomes enlightened and is forever freed from cycles of “determinative birth-and-death (Romanized Sanskrit=paricchedajaramarana; Chinese=分段生死),” where the physical bodies of unenlightened sentient beings “are restricted in their longevity, appearance, and size.”  

While scientific experiments cannot establish a stable domain without fluctuations, with effort, humans can establish a quiescent mind when enlightened. In that way, humans can prove the two conditions that adventitious defines:

  • Associated by Chance. The non-causal relationship is established when the enlightened person wakes up and realizes that his incessantly active mind returns instantly without any condition, thus proving their non-causal relationship.
  • Extrinsic: The non-integral relationship between the two realms with different statuses of fluctuating mentality is proven when the enlightened person realizes that the universe disappears upon his enlightenment. On the other hand, it returns immediately without condition when he wakes up from his enlightenment. The quiescent and the fluctuating mentality signify two different realities without being integral to each other.