“Name has conquered everything,
There is nothing greater than name,
All have gone under the sway
Of this one thing called name.”
Translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda. Nibbāna – The Mind Stilled

Read a newspaper and you’ll note many articles about people doing cruel and insane things to others. All these people do their evil based on beliefs. And, the beliefs are based on ‘naming.’ Obviously, naming is useful. I’m naming now, aren’t I? Can I do so with the right lightness of touch? Can naming be helpful in nurturing healthy lives, and not become a problem? Of course, with understanding how it works.

Notice the saying, ‘gone under sway.’ If we are seduced by unskilful use of language – and by that I mean, language-use not in accord with the fundamental matrix of experiencing – then, we misuse our gift. Conceiving of things, in the way we do when influenced by craving, conceit and views, changes the objects of our conceiving.

Even more radically, however you think a thing, by that very thinking it becomes otherwise than it is. (Though to show how that is would take more time than I have available. However, this has been well-demonstrated by Eugene T. Gendlin in his A Process Model.)

The task as the Nikāya Buddha present it, is to disconnect our naming practices from a belief in the inherent existence of ‘things.’ It is neither the case that ‘things’ have a prior existence, and are there already to be named; nor that the naming creates them.

“Beings are conscious of what can be named,
They are established on the nameable,
By not comprehending the nameable things,
They come under the yoke of death.”
– Translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda, Nibbāna – The Mind Stilled.

So, I’m asking you to consider that the designation process might be a gestural ‘strategy’ – a gesture which is intended as a way for working with experience. When we take up this way of using language, then we find it is a gesture which increases the power of self-reflexive experiencing, but doesn’t establish things, and therefore doesn’t put us under the yoke of death. Language is an evolutionary gesture that needs its next step.

I think the aspect of ‘space’ might be important – especially the concept of experiential space. This is named, too, in the wrong way; and, hence, becomes solidified into ‘mine’ and ‘not-mine’; where ‘this’ and ‘here’ is distinguished from the experience of ‘that’ ‘there.’

“A currawong,” it is said. “A currawong.” How is this a currawong?”

This experiential space could increase our power of experiencing, but instead it becomes – via mistaking naming for existing – a ‘thinging’ of space. If you make ‘mind’ mean a personal space, it has to have limit, and a centre. We name that limit ‘contact,’ as though ‘contact’ ultimately exists independent of our perception and naming. And, the centre, we say, is the perceiver; and beyond the limit is the ‘something contacted.’

But, look for it! If you find or grant space in the limit itself, then see where the experience goes. This afternoon, I was sitting on the veranda of my home, in a reverie of appreciation for the textures of the forest – mostly of the eucalypts and the ti-tree. And, there was a currawong sitting on a branch. I wasn’t exactly watching the bird. I gazed, I suppose; which is a mode of vision that includes much more, by not naming.

This led to including in my ‘gaze’ (or awareness) my sensations, my thoughts, my felt presence. I included them in what I was aware of at that moment, without losing my relationship to the currawong. A holistic sense of space arose. It’s an irony that by including the observer in the observing, one dissolves the separation. And ‘self and world’ in that state was not a needed distinction.

The still, silent quality of knowing then doesn’t create any ‘thing.’ Now, when I say ‘currawong,’ I am pointing to the dynamic relationship, which far exceeds, in its implicit intricacy (Gendlin’s term), the dictionary meaning of the word ‘currawong.’ It far exceed perception and name. It’s certainly laughable in that moment to think that ‘currawong’ means a ‘something’ – an isolated, permanent, independent object in space-time.

Snow in withered field, nothing to touch.
Sparrow’s head clear as sky

– From the poem ‘Sparrow in Withered Field.‘ In Triumph of the Sparrow: Zen Poems of Shinkichi Takahashi. (Translated by Lucien Stryk).

Granted, this is not a perception readily accessible to some people, because of unfamiliarity with space and groundlessness. But, familiarity grows with practice. Here, it is possible to name a groundless ground; which the Nikāya Buddha called ‘unmanifest consciousness.’

The odd thing is that moments like this occur all day, but we don’t notice them.
Normally, if we notice such empty moment – empty of constructing – we are afraid, because there appears to be no inner ‘me’ behind the eyes doing the seeing. But, right there is the end of birth and death.

Until we train ourselves to stay for such moments of ’empty contact’ – for instance, through the contemplative discipline of haiku-writing – then, we don’t appreciate the luminous wonder of the world and other people. We are in a pure land with radiant beings, and don’t see it.

the night’s downpour;
in this alley,
a half-eaten peach.

“If, Ānanda, consciousness were not to find a footing, or get established in, name-and-form, would there be an arising or origin of birth, decay, death and suffering in the future?” “No indeed, Lord.”
-Translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda, Nibbāna – The Mind Stilled