The paradox about paradoxes is that they aren’t paradoxes until they are.
There are many paradoxes one encounters, or should I say can glimpse, along the spiritual path (the spiritual path meaning along the journey of looking to have a deeper understanding of life and lead a happier and more meaningful existence, by taking away that which obscures our true self). As you notice how your experience is formed and get clues it’s not just given by outside events, you start to detect that there’s something rather subtle and and amazing going on underneath: like getting a glimpse behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. Or the physicist trying to pin down a particle with his instruments, and the particle not behaving as a particle or a wave, but both, depending on how he looks at it. Unlike the Wizard of Oz situation though — instead of finding out it’s all just a show run by a particular showman — it’s a show run by… something rather hard to define. Some show-making source we could call “Consciousness”: that reality, whatever it is, that is reading these words right now. The perceiver of perceptions. The Perceiver-in-Chief as it were.
When Enlightened folks make pointers to the non-dual nature of what’s going on in that unknown realm called “reality”, we start to see many paradoxes: seeming contradictions that belie an underlying unity.
A paradox is understood to be two things that are seemingly contradictory, at another level actually being both true at the same time.
Why are there so many seeming paradoxes in spiritual truths?
The short answer is, Reality is One, but the mind deals in duality.
The long answer is, Reality, that absolute one-ness, in order play the game of life, that is, have an apparent universe, time and space, an apparent separate self, and therefore a non-self, and endless objects of consciousness. It has to have duality for there to appear to be anything, as distinct from the infinite truth, love and beauty of reality, which needs nothing and is both all and nothing at the same time (the greatest paradox of all I suppose: the universe both exists and doesn’t exist). So a point of view arises we call ourselves. It seems to have some kind of linear existence, and makes language to help put thoughts in forms for seeming others. So of course language is linear, but nonetheless can evoke the nonlinear. That’s why we have poets and artists: the perfume of the absolute, if you will.
Remember the very first stanza of the Tao Te Ching (one of the greatest, most timeless wisdom teachings in existence):
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
(Source: The Complete Tao Te Ching
Translated by Gia-Fu Feng (馮家福 Feng Jia-fu, 1919–1985) and Jane English (1942–)
Vintage Books, 1989)
Like subatomic particles springing forth as opposites from nothing (which has been observed by physicists: it’s called Quantum Vacuum Energy), the play of opposites is what at every moment is creating an apparent world. To go from nonlinear, unchanging reality to linear appearances, you need differences, measurements, change, up and down, light and dark, negative and positive, near and far. Movement.
Love has no opposite, but in world there appears love and hate. In the world there is flux and the rising and falling of all things.
A sage knows there are no-things and that he or she is no-thing.
At moments an ordinary mortal can get a glimpse that unifies the opposite: a sense of something insensible and invisible, that shows truths that transcend opposites. But since these glimpses are timeless, and the mind deals in time, it cannot hold on to them, except as images, sounds, or feelings in consciousness.
In any case, I thought it would be interesting to start listing (I like lists) some of the paradoxes my mind spit out along the “pathless path” (the direct path).
From the perspective of a self, or a person, a seeming psychological entity, one may notice these paradoxes of unfoldment into truth:
Change & The Timeless
Your evolution and change are grounded in the timeless and unchanging.
In Realizing Your Subjectivity You Become More Objective
It points to the most subjective thing – the self-created nature of our experience – yet allows you to be more objective.
It’s easier to grasp or learn if you don’t try too hard. When you relax, you can get an “Aha!” moment, and see a self-evident truth in an instant.
Change & Acceptance
To change something about yourself, you have to stop trying to change it. This is called acceptance.
The only way to change anyone around you is to realize it doesn’t matter if they change or not. This is called acceptance of others.
Results from Detachment
The less results matter to us, the more likely we are to live in the present and create them. This is called detachment.
The Unknown is Pointed to With The Known
Talking about the Unknown can only happen via the known. At the highest level, this is called mysticism.
To Give is to Receive
The more we give up the more we get. The more we give the more we receive. You are giving to your Self (there are no others).
The Vehicle is not the Journey
You are ultimately responsible for your thinking but not Thought itself. This is called the personal and the Impersonal.
Your self is and is not the Self
You find yourself when you no longer know who you are. This is called the True Self.
Suffering is Voluntary (if you only Knew It) – We Don’t Want What We Want
To try and end your suffering, don’t try and end suffering. Don’t give it a Second thought. This is called Letting Go.
Thought is not Reality. Yet it is the only reality most of us know. This is called the Great Illusion: everything is made of Conscisouness (or Mind if you like), so even illusion has reality. Our experience is a real illusion.
Free Will is Fate
An act of free will is fated. It is fate for you to have free will. Get over it.
Even in the seeming imperfection of life and ourselves, there is the grand play of the whole, which is perfect, infinite, and complete. This experience is called being human.
There are many, many more… these were just what I thought of when I wrote this.
The great Western philosopher Immanual Kant presented what be termed “Antinomies”: timeless opposites that can’t be avoided when trying to understand the absolute in terms of the relative, time in terms of the timeless, etc.
“Immanuel Kant’s Antinomies, from the Critique of Pure Reason, are contradictions which he believed follow necessarily from our attempts to conceive the nature of transcendent reality.” (Wikipedia)