Chapter 4 The Unanswerable Questions

25 Apr

The God is No-Thing An Apophatic Assertion: An Introduction for
Humankind’s Transpersonal Actualization– revised

Copyright Rodger Ricketts
Psy.D.,2023. All rights reserved. Protected by international copyright

Chapter 4
The Unanswerable Questions

The apophatic tradition emphasizes the unity, wholeness,
interdependence, and interconnectedness of all things. In distinction
from the dualism of the answerable questions, there are intuitions and
experiences about realities that transcend the cognitive systems of
categories expressed in our human thought and language. They are
matters which, in St Paul’s words, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived” (I Corinthians 2:9). Instead,
apophatic theology refers to the subject matter of these unanswerable
questions as mysteries, as real matters that are beyond human
comprehension and expression. Also, they recognize that the endless
pursuit of logical and rational thinking about these mysteries is
useless, creates suffering and makes it impossible to attain sublime
In the Majjhima-Nikāya Sutta no. 63, the monk Malunkyaputta
decided to ask the Buddha questions: “These theories have been left
unexplained by the Lord.” He asked them all dualistically. He
expressed them this way: “Is the world eternal, or not?” With the
questions almost binary in its dualism, the answers must be dualistic.
As they speak to relative reality, one reason often cited as to why the
Buddha would not answer these questions is that any answer,
regardless of what those answers were, would reinforce dualism: meyou, space-time, object, and subject. So, Buddha not only left his
answers “undeclared” (because, otherwise, they would be obstacles in
the monk’s path and practice) but also because they have no validity in
a non-dualistic perspective. Believing in the certainness and verity of
relative reality and duality is one of the dispositions that hinders the
ability to “awaken” (to understand the true nature of life and
While the sciences are left to do their own legitimate study of finding
out about the compositions of, and the workings of, the known
physical universe, the Buddha would not have endorsed any attempts
of physics or scientific cosmology as a new form of natural theology
leading “from science to God.” In his book Tao of Physics (1975), the
physicist Fritjof Capra says, “Both the physicist and the mystic want to
communicate their knowledge, and when they do so with words, their
statements are paradoxical and full of logical contradictions”
(Chapter 3, Beyond Language). Nor would the Buddha have supported
the endeavors of theologians over the centuries, who have developed
complex cataphatic systems of doctrine about many unequivocal
attributes of God. For the Buddha, all such dogmas come under the
heading of speculative views, the pursuit of which is unsuitable to a
final understanding of our immanent relationship with No-Thing.
It is remarkably difficult for human beings to overcome the fixation on
the illusion of dualism. Mostly because very little is promoted to
transcend the dualistic mindset, which is detrimental to interior,
mystical, and experiential faith. As Fritjof Capra explained,
In ordinary life, we are not aware of the unity of all things but divide
the world into separate objects and events. This division is useful and
necessary to cope with our everyday environment, but it is not a
fundamental feature of reality. It is an abstraction devised by our
discriminating and categorizing intellect. To believe that our abstract
concepts of separate ‘things’ and ‘events’ are realities of nature is an
Instead, the Transcendent is conceptually unknowable and beyond the
scope of the human cognitive apparatus. The non-dual state of
awareness or emptiness ceases to make artificial distinctions. And yet,
non-dualistic awareness subtly enhances feeling, experiencing, and
loving with unconditional kindness, truth, wisdom, and compassion.
Being, living, and experiencing without cognitive discrimination is
pure awareness. It is a transcendent awareness, an understanding, a
transformation of consciousness.
When we know transcendent reality deeply, all is a seamless unity,
despite the appearance or teachings to the contrary of the commonly
held assumptions and the mindset insisting that we live in a dualistic
creation. The challenge is to allow pure awareness in the present
moment, to allow the “simple” presence of the now, the only place
where we can be in the truth, immersed and infused with discovering
how to be fully embodied in life. Ancient Buddhist philosopher and
poet Ashvaghosha gave the name “sunyata” to “the void” or
“emptiness” when the futility of all conceptual thinking is recognized
and reality is experienced as pure “suchness.” As Bahá’u’lláh, the
founder of the Baháʼí Faith, explained in the Tablet to Hashim:
Immeasurably exalted is His Essence above the descriptions of His
creatures… Far be it from His glory that human pen or tongue should
hint at His mystery, or that human heart conceives His Essence.”
(GWB XCIV:192)


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