By Joachim Ng
On May 29 the nation marks Wesak Day to celebrate the birth of Gautama Buddha 2,581 years ago. Other than founding a religion, what is the Buddha renowned for? He is acknowledged as having investigated the most important question of all time — what is real and what is unreal? His answer came in four (English translated) words: All forms are unreal.
Today, every research scientist delving into the nature of physical matter takes this truth for granted. The apparent solidity of matter conceals a hidden reality. To cut a long science story short, the physical universe is entirely hollow. The solidity that we experience is created by vibrating energy — just as a fan with high-speed rotating blades makes the space between them look solid. However, put your finger at the space between the blades and your blood will splash.
Buddha plunged into the depths of matter using his mind as the research instrument. Emerging from the depths, he declared: Look upon the world as void. The word void is a translation of sunna in the Pali language that Buddha used. Sunna is also rendered as empty in some translations. So what does it mean for you, them, and me?
The implications are dramatic: if all is void, you and me do not exist as two points of existence. Hence there is no distance between you and me, because distance is the gap between two points. There is no distance between Malays and non-Malays, Buddhists and non-Buddhists. So, how come there is severe religious conflict in Myanmar and Sri Lanka? Mass conflict is rooted in a deep sense of communal identity, a sense of “us” versus “them”. We stick labels to mark out the different ethno-religious communities, and each label becomes a sticky point binding you emotionally to your identity.
There are many islands in the Pacific Ocean a thousand miles apart, exhibiting vastly different flora and fauna. But if you penetrate the water, you will see that all islands are connected to the ocean bed. Your communal identity is like an exquisitely carved entrance door to a vast ballroom — one of many such skillfully worked entrances. But if you are glued to the closed door, you will never get to see the ballroom.
To be continued next issue