Chapter 1

“Basically, everything is one” (Barbara McClintock).

“Each moment is the universe” (Katagiri Roshi 2007).

"Delusion means we go astray from the purity of oneness and see beings in terms of separation" (Katagiri Roshi 2007: 109).

"The very process of civilization, education, culture, conditioning, starts with the division" (Osho 1974: 489).

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us…Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” (Albert Einstein 1954)

Contents: Introduction - Abstraction (Fragmentation) – A Joke - Hierarchy: Boxes within Boxes within Boxes - Unity Dissolving Hierarchical Structure – The Holographic Paradigm: the Whole in the Part - From Fragments toward Increasing Wholeness - No-Mind - Integral Structure of Consciousness and Beyond - Re-member - This-Worldly and Otherworldly - Sex - A Joke - Romantic Love - Enemies - Alienation and Loneliness - A Meditation: Include Everything – Radical Conclusions - Summary – References – Quotes


Our society is geared towards knowledge, more and more knowledge. Knowledge is communicated through language consisting of words that refer to concepts. These concepts fragment the world and us. For example, look at a landscape, an ecosystem. It constitutes an organic whole. Yet, as soon as we use words to describe it, we fragment it into a lake, a forest, soil, trees, air, animals, humans, etc.

Many people would refuse to accept that there is any fragmentation involved. They would insist that there are entities in nature such as a lake, a forest, trees, animals, etc. that exist independently of our mental activity. However, these people overlook the interconnectedness. They overlook that these “entities” are fragments that we have created through the process of abstraction.
Korzybski demonstrated the process of abstraction convincingly through his Structural Differential (see Stockdale, Healing Thinking through Non-Identity (Korzybski), and Healthy Language-Behavior and Spirituality).

Abstraction (Fragmentation)

Understanding abstraction is crucial for life and living. What do we do when we abstract? The verb “to abstract” is derived from the Latin “ab-trahere” which means “to draw away”. Thus, when we abstract, we draw away, we isolate something from a more inclusive whole. This something may be an “entity” like a person, a tree, or a feature such as good or evil. Whatever we isolate through the process of abstraction, we call a concept, which is a fragment of the whole from which it has been abstracted. The concept may be an individual (such as John) or a class of individuals (such as humans) or yet other kinds of abstractions (see, for example, Sattler 1986, Chapter 4).

Many people seem to lack an awareness of the process of abstraction. We can, however, create more awareness through a simple reflection such as the figure and ground relationship (see, for example, Hillig 2006). Any figure exists only with reference to its surrounding ground. If we take away the ground, the figure disappears, and if we take away the figure, the ground vanishes.
Hillig (2006) illustrated this through a black dot (figure) on a white ground:


If we remove the ground, everything becomes dark, that is, the dark square, the figure, disappears. And vice versa, if we remove the dark square, the figure, everything becomes blue, that is, we lose again the figure. This shows that figure and ground belong to together, they form a whole, and they can be separated only through the process of abstraction. Conclusion: “By itself nothing has existence” (Nisargadatta in Dikshit 1999: 166).

Now, the figure could represent any entity and the ground its environment. For example, the figure could represent a person, a dog, a tree, etc. They do not exist separately from their environment, which ultimately is the whole universe. They exist only through the process of abstraction, which means they are “drawn away” from their environment: they are fragments.

Now take two squares that represent two lovers or two enemies. Again, they exist only due to their environment. They are abstractions. Hillig (2006) takes us on a fascinating enlightening journey through further explorations of figure and ground that can represent many facets of our world.

In some spiritual traditions there has been much awareness of the illusion of separation. For example, Nagarjuna: “Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves” (quoted by McFarlane 2002, p. 122). And modern
holistic scientists have also become aware of wholeness and fragmentation (see, for example, Bohm 1976, Bohm and Hiley 1993, Hollick 2006). The physicist Bernard D’Espagnat wrote: “If we call “atoms” micro-objects, having definite properties, or micro-events, then it is we who, so to speak, paint the distinct atoms on the canvas of non-separable reality, whatever this last word means” (ibid. p. 117). The biologist Barabara McClintock concluded: “Basically, everything is one” (quoted by Keller 1983, p. 204). Nonetheless, many or most people still seem to have little or no awareness of oneness. In his book The Illusion of Separation, Hutchins (2014) explored many far-reaching consequences of this illusion. One could say that this illusion is at the root of many or most ills in our individual lives and society. To name just a few: problems in relationships, sex, reckless capitalism, consumerism, the ecological crisis, climate change, fundamentalism, conflicts and wars.

To summarize, figure and ground (that can represent many different kinds of “entities”) belong together. They do not exist separately. They form a unity due to their connectedness. Now, in addition to
connectedness or interconnection, unity or wholeness may also occur through the interpenetration of figure and ground. Thus, if the figure represents an organism and the ground its environment, it has been said that the organism and its environment interpenetrate one another and therefore to some extent the environment is in the organism and vice versa (Rose et al. 1984: 272-277).

There has been much awareness of interpenetration in some spiritual traditions. It is well indicated in the Daoist
Yin-Yang symbol where Yin contains Yang and vice versa. With regard to Zen Buddhism, the Zen Master D. T. Suzuki said: “There is here a state of interpenetration of all objects” (quoted by McFarlane 2002, p.116). Yogi Chen Chien said: “Every phenomenon “contains” every other phenomenon, and every phenomenon “contains” the totality of all phenomena which interpenetrate in perfect freedom and non-obstruction” (ibid. p. 121). And modern holistic scientists have also come to similar conclusions (see, for example, Bohm 1976, Bohm and Hiley 1993, Hollick 2006). The physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote: “Every particle consists of all other particles” (quoted by McFarlane 2002, p. 121). And some surrealist artists such as Magritte have expressed interpenetration artistically.

Painting by René Magritte

In addition to the figure/ground integration and interpenetration, a third way to become aware of fragmentation is through the recognition that boundaries may not exist. Thus, instead of a discontinuum created by imposed boundaries we may see a continuum. Chapter 2 of this book deals in more detail with this topic. Here I present only one example that illustrates the fragmentation of a continuum: the abstraction of discrete colors from the continuous color spectrum. If we look, for example, at a rainbow, we notice a color continuum:


But when we distinguish different colors such as red, orange, green, blue, and violet, we have drawn boundaries around each color. We have abstracted (drawn away) one portion of the spectrum after another, and thus end up with six “entities” to which we give the names red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. The boundaries between these colors do not exist in nature. They are our creation. The abstraction of six colors appears rather widespread, but it is not universal. There are, for example, tribes in Africa that divide the spectrum differently and as a result end up with different colors. Thus, the Shona tribe in Rhodesia fragments the spectrum into only three colors and not all boundaries between these colors coincide with the boundaries that we draw in our abstraction of colors (see, for example, Sattler 1986). This shows that there are different ways of conceptual fragmentation or abstraction. Depending on which fragmentation or abstraction has been chosen, the world will be described differently. Thus, to some extent, members of the Shona tribe live in a different world from ours. Looking at the same place, they would give a different description in terms of colors.

Even in the same culture, different people may conceptualize at least some aspects of the world in different ways. “Love”, for example, can have a number of different meanings. Therefore, when two people tell each other “I love you”, they may or may not have the same concept of love in mind. Many misunderstandings may arise when we are not aware that the same word has been used for different concepts.

Although concepts are the result of abstraction that is fragmenting, they need not be totally arbitrary. In most cases, abstraction is carried out in such a way that fragmentation is minimized, although not totally avoided. For example, dividing a person into an upper and a lower half, would be an extremely artificial way of fragmentation, whereas distinguishing the trunk from the extremities or separating a person from his or her environment would be much less artificial, but nonetheless a form of fragmentation due to abstraction.

In some spiritual traditions there has been much awareness of the artificiality of boundaries (see, for example, Wilber 1979). So the Daoist master Chuang Tzu: “The Way has never known boundaries…But because of the recognition of a “this,” there came to be boundaries” (quoted by McFarlane 2002, p. 117). And holistic modern scientists concurred. For example, the physicist Feynman concluded: “If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this… universe into parts… remember that nature does not know it. So let us put it all together” (ibid. p. 118).

To summarize the preceding discussion, we may say:
Wholeness may imply contiguity, continuity, and interpenetration. Look, for example, at a rock in a lake. From a macroscopic perspective it appears contiguous with the surrounding water (the water touches it). From a microscopic perspective at the level of molecules and atoms, there may be a continuum between the lake and the rock and maybe even interpenetration. If the rock is covered with algae, a continuum between the lake water and the algae may be observed at the microscopic level because water and dissolved minerals occur inside the algae as well as outside in the lake water. Energies, including subtle energy, also may unite the algae and the rock with their environment (see Chapter 2).

A Joke

Osho told the following joke:

Dr. Feelgood is at a psychiatrists’ convention in New York. During one of the breaks he goes into the cafeteria. He notices a beautiful woman sitting alone in the corner, drinking coffee. She is so beautiful and attractive that Feelgood cannot resist the temptation to talk to her.
He goes up close to her and asks quietly, “Can I join you?”
The young lady shrink looks at him for a few seconds and then replies, “Why? Do I look like I am falling apart?”

Hierarchy: Boxes within Boxes within Boxes…

As I pointed out, our thinking mind cuts up the world into fragments (“entities”), and then a name is given to each fragment. Subsequently the fragments (“entities”) are often used to construct hierarchies such as the following:

subatomic particle

We can see that entities at a lower level compose higher-level entities. For example, molecules compose cells. As we go down the hierarchy, we see that a higher level is composed of entities at a lower level. For example, an organism is composed of cells. Any entity between the extremes is a part/whole. It is a part because it is a part of the higher-level entity and it is a whole, or, more correctly, a sub-whole or relative whole, because it comprises entities of a lower level. Thus, a cell is a sub-whole with regard to molecules, but it is a part with regard to the organism.

The relation between entities at different levels is like that of concentric circles or Chinese boxes. Just as there are circles within circles or Chinese boxes within boxes within boxes, so part/wholes are within part/wholes within part/wholes, and so on. Some authors have called the part/wholes holons, which, in spite of their holistic allure, constitute fragments, although less artificial ones. In that case, the hierarchy has been referred to as a holarchy - a different name, but the structure is still the same as in a hierarchy (see Wilber 2000). Whichever name we use, a hierarchy (or holarchy) represents an edifice of fragments.

nested presentation of a hierachy

Many other hierarchies besides the above one have been constructed. The holarchy of Ken Wilber’s AQAL map, inspired to some extent by “The Great Nest of Being” implies entities at different levels that range from matter to spirit. In the above diagram the innermost circle encloses matter, subsequent circles enclose body, mind, soul, and spirit (enclosed by the outermost circle). Again each entity, except the extremes, is a part/(sub)whole. Note that spirit here is not the opposite of matter or the body, but that which comprises all lower levels, that is, everything. Wilber (2000) modified this hierarchy (holarchy) and differentiated it into four quadrants or “The Big Three.” The Big Three are the subjective, cultural and objective (scientific) dimensions of the different levels (for more details see Chapter 2).

Unity Dissolving Hierarchical Structure

Hierarchies and their entities are useful for communication and in many instances the entities bear some resemblance to reality. Nonetheless, they are abstractions and thus do not exist independently of our thinking mind that dissects. How can we get a glimpse of the underlying wholeness from which the entities have been abstracted? And what is the concrete factual evidence that we have created the entities through the process of abstraction? I shall answer these questions first at the level of cells in plants. Cells do not really exist as separate entities. Why not? Because they are interconnected through bridges (called plasmodesmata) that form a continuum between cells. Thus a minute molecular traveler could traverse the whole plant through thousands of so-called cells without encountering a barrier. That traveler could only conclude that there is undivided wholeness, not an assemblage of separate cells. However, since the nucleus of the cells is too large to pass through the interconnecting bridges (the plasmodesmata), for the nucleus as a structure there is a discontinuity between cells. But this discontinuity does not exist for the molecular products of the nucleus. Therefore, it seems a matter of perspective whether we can see cells as separate entities or not. According to one perspective we see undivided wholeness, and according to another perspective we see entities, called cells. The two perspectives complement one another (concerning complementarity see the I
ntroduction to this book and Chapter 6 on complementarity in my free e-book Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond).

How does this relate to hierarchical thinking? According to hierarchical thinking, there are basic entities such as cells that compose a higher-level entity, the organism. This means, nature is fragmented first into two kinds of entities, cells and organisms, and second, into two levels of organization. According to the evidence of continuity and wholeness, the cells as separate entities disappear (at least from one perspective) and therefore the two levels of the hierarchy also vanish. What remains is an organism that is partially subdivided, but nonetheless one unity (just as two lakes connected by a river form a unity).

Now we can go one step further and show that the organism can also be dissolved as an entity. If we think, for example, of the human organism, it is evident that it is not separate from the environment. Air with oxygen enters deeply into the lungs and from there into the bloodstream that circulates through the whole body. In addition, there are other ways how the human body is continuous with the environment (see Chapter 2). So where is the boundary between organism and environment? There is none in an absolute sense and consequently the organism is not a separate entity. Organism and environment are one continuous whole. This means that another level of the hierarchy vanishes. As we can show continuity between entities at the other levels, the hierarchy disappears also at those levels.

If we recognize that a hierarchy is based on entities that are the result of fragmentation and if we want to avoid this fragmentation, then the hierarchy dissolves into one whole: instead of fragmentation into entities and levels, we find wholeness. The recognition of this wholeness is of profound importance because it removes barriers that create separation, isolation and alienation in many ways. Nonetheless, there is also a limited usefulness for thinking in terms of a hierarchy of entities at different levels. It represents one aspect of reality and it seems useful and convenient for communication. For practical orientation in this world, we need reference points and hierarchies provide that. The danger is that the habitual use of language referring to hierarchies and entities makes many people forget that hierarchies and entities do not represent ultimate reality.

Hierarchies mistaken as ultimate reality are very destructive because they rob life and living of its wholeness. This is obvious - or maybe not so obvious? - with regard to the hierarchy of the Great Nest of Being or Ken Wilber’s holarchy. Fragmenting ourselves into body, mind, and soul has had far-reaching debilitating effects on our health and well-being. Therefore, we need to realize that these distinctions, although useful to some extent, are not based on an ultimate reality, but on abstractions from that reality. When I look into your eyes, I do not just see a part of your body; I look into your body-mind-soul. Hence, there is no division, no fragmentation into body, mind and soul. Such experience can be whole and holy and mysterious. It can be Zen that “brings holiness to ordinary life,” that “transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary,” that “transforms the profane into the holy” (Osho 2001: 16; see also Grigg 1994). The relation between wholeness and holiness and health has been pointed out by various authors.

There have always been exceptional people who could see beyond the fragmentation inherent in hierarchies and entities, which is reinforced by the use of language and therefore tends to become habitual. The power of habits should not be underestimated. Habits form deep roots. Profound transformation may be required to uproot them. Even in science revolutionary views often meet with enormous resistance. Let us look at one such view that turns hierarchical thinking upside down.

The Holographic Paradigm: the Whole in the Part

According to hierarchical thinking, the part is in the whole. Holographic thinking reverses this. Thus, the whole is in the part. This is not wishful thinking. It can be demonstrated in a hologram, an optical storage system. If we take a small part of a hologram, we can recover in it the whole hologram, not in as much detail as in the whole hologram; but, nonetheless, the whole hologram is present in its parts in a condensed form. For example, if we take a holographic photo of a man, cut out one hand in this photo and enlarge it to the size of the whole photo, we obtain not a large hand, but a picture of the whole man with less detail.

According to the holographic paradigm, the whole universe is a hologram, which means that it is contained in its parts such as an organism. The evidence for this claim is controversial, to say the least. However, I mention it to show that what normally is taken for granted, namely, that the part is in the whole, can be turned upside down, which means seeing the whole in the part. Regardless of what future research will demonstrate, we can no longer completely disregard holographic thinking. Holograms have become a fact of life.

According to the late physicist David Bohm, there is an implicate order underlying the explicate order of separate subatomic entities. In the implicate order, the entities of the explicate order are unified so that the implicate order can be seen as an order of undivided wholeness. Since this implicate order resides in every part of the explicate order, the whole physical universe can be seen as a hologram.

According to the neurobiologist Karl Pribram, the brain is a hologram that interprets the holographic universe (see Talbot 1992). This means that the brain has access to a larger whole transcending space and time (see, for example, Wilber 1982). Psychic phenomena such as telepathy and clairvoyance (remote viewing) have been interpreted in terms of the holographic paradigm. However, they have also been tentatively explained in terms of nonlocality and other aspects of quantum physics (see, for example, Radin 1997).

It is interesting that great poets and visionaries have alluded to holographic images. Thus, William Blake wrote:

To see the world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

From Fragments to Increasing Wholeness

What I have discussed so far, we can see as stages that lead us from a highly fragmented view and experience of reality to an increasing awareness of wholeness. The most highly fragmented extreme is to see the world as just a heap of disconnected fragments, each of which is referred to by a word. Even this may be useful for practical orientation, although it does not convey a sense of wholeness. The next stage is the use of hierarchies (or holarchies). Since each level in a hierarchy represents a part/(sub)whole, we gain some limited integration and wholeness. The higher-level entity has emergent properties that are not found in the lower level entities. For example, a bird can fly, but not its cells. A human being can engage in mathematics, but not its cells. The next stage toward wholeness goes beyond the fragmentation into entities and levels that are necessary in hierarchies (holarchies). At this stage we can experience a still more fundamental aspect of wholeness. For example, we can go beyond the fragmentation into body, mind and soul as I discussed it above. Many holistic thinkers believe that this stage represents ultimate wholeness. But it does not. At this stage there is still
the thinker who thinks wholeness. This means that, although wholeness is seen in the world, the thinker has not yet been totally integrated with this wholeness. In other words, there is still a fragmentation into the thinker and the world, or the knower and the known. To transcend this fragmentation, this dualism, one has to go beyond the thinking mind to no-mind...


Mind (that is, the thinking mind) appears like a prism. A prism divides white light into colors. Mind divides reality into fragments. It analyses and as a result reality is decomposed into smaller and smaller entities. To reverse this process no-mind is needed. But no-mind is not easy to come by. We can find it in us, but most of the time it seems covered up by mind. Our culture supports mind in most of our activities since ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle defined the human being as a rational animal. At that time we had already entered the mental structure of consciousness (see Gebser 1985). In this structure no-mind is difficult to recognize. However,
meditation can help us to become aware of no-mind, our nature that is not dominated by the thinking mind.

Integral Structure of Consciousness and Beyond

The thinking mind is often against no-mind, but no-mind is not against the thinking mind because it is part of who we are. We are, however, much more than just the thinking mind. The thinking mind is useful as long as it does not suppress our basic nature that includes our evolution from an archaic structure of consciousness through a magical and mythical structure to the mental structure (Gebser 1985, Wilber 2007). The mythical structure is the structure of fundamentalism, which is still the dominant structure in some parts of the world and even some segments of American society. Fundamentalism can be very destructive because one view of the world and ourselves has been separated from other views, which then may lead to a clash of different views that may end in major conflicts and war. Otherwise in modern Western and Westernized societies the mental structure dominates, and to some extent we are beginning to enter an integral consciousness, which integrates all previous structures of consciousness and as a result of this integration goes beyond all of them. The inner circle of the mandala of this book represents this integral consciousness. From there we can move toward the centre into higher mystical states of consciousness beyond words that separate.

Zen circle


In the heat of discussions, which usually involve the thinking mind even when they are about no-mind, it is so easily forgotten that beyond the thinking mind there is no-mind. The mandala, however, helps us to remember no-mind because of the empty centre. Whatever subject we discuss, whether it is fragmentation or wholeness, we are reminded of the unnamable mystery. And this allows us to see everything in relation to the unnamable source.

The thinking mind dissects, dis-members by its very nature and the result is concepts referred to by words. Re-membering means reuniting what the thinking mind has torn apart so that we can recover the wholeness and holiness from the fragments. If there is any sin, it is not to re-member (see Wilber 2000: 339).

Life and Death

Life and death are also often torn apart by the thinking mind, yet they belong together. “In the Buddhist approach, life and death are seen as one whole, where death is the beginning of another chapter of life. Death is a mirror in which the entire meaning of life is reflected” (Sogyal Rinpoche 1992: 11). And life can be a mirror in which death is reflected and experienced. During our life, as a moment passes, it dies. In this sense, living with the awareness of impermanence can be a practice of dying, of letting go. We also know that our life is sustained by the continual death of cells and the formation of new cells within our body. As the death of cells and the formation of new cells support the functioning of the organism, so the death organisms (including humans) and the birth of new organisms sustain the functioning of the ecosystem. Death seems just as necessary as birth. Thus, our body can be seen as a playground of life and death, which means that life and death belong together at the material plane.
We have, however, not only a material body, but also a subtle and very subtle body (see Chapter 4 and
Body, Speech, and Mind). The very subtle body and its corresponding energy are also called the universal body (Greene 2009) and clear light (see Wangyal Rinpoche 2011 and Body, Speech, and Mind). Especially through the universal body or clear light we remain connected with the whole universe and at least in this sense we can be considered immortal. For some lamas it has been reported that at their death their physical body was reabsorbed into the universal body of clear light. All that remained at the physical level were their nails and hair (see, for example, Sogyal Rinpoche 1992: 167-169). For the vast majority of people, including most lamas, whose physical body is not reabsorbed into clear light, their subtle body (or their soul) is thought to survive according to various doctrines such as those of Tibetan Buddhism (see, for example, Sogyal Rinpoche 1992). In contrast o this view, David Lawton (2010) supported psychosomatic survivalism according to which at death the material body survives by passing from four-dimensional to a higher-dimensional space-time. "Survival is thus a transition and literally a transformation" (Lawton 2010: 17). Thus, according to Lawton, survival is not only psychic but psychosomatic.

Regardless of whether we believe in psychosomatic survival or survival of the subtle body or soul, life and death can be transcended through the recognition that nothing exists in separation: everything appears interconnected, hence things appear boundless, and being boundless they cannot disappear, they cannot die (as separate things). Therefore, it is stated in the
Heart Sutra, "nothing can be born, nothing can die" (Thich Nhat Hanh 1988: 19) because everything is one with the whole universe. Birth and death can refer only to a thing, not to no-thing. No-thing cannot be born and cannot die. In this sense, in Mahamudra reference is made to the "unborn mind" (see, for example, Ray 2012). Being unborn makes it also deathless, immortal. Mystics know this immortality because they identify with the whole of existence, which changes but cannot completely disappear, cannot die. When their body dies, they know that they retain the oneness with the whole of existence that does not die. This oneness entails immortality. Thus, in oneness (no-thingness) birth and death, life and death are transcended.

Besides life and death there are many other opposites such as love and hate, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, truth and falsehood, the infinite and the finite, the one and the many. These opposites also belong together in a
Yin-Yang fashion and can be transcended. Agnes Arber’s book The Manifold and the One (1967) contains a beautifully written, profound chapter on “The Coincidence of Contraries.”

“Before there is right and wrong,
we are just here.
Before there is good and bad, or unworthy,
and before there is the sinner or saint,
we are just here.
Just meet here, where silence is –
where the stillness inside dances”
(Adyashanti 2006: 159).

This-Worldly and Otherworldly

For many religious people the sin is to become too much absorbed in this world, which is often thought of as material, and to forget the other world, which is thought to be spiritual. This implies a duality, an opposition between the This-Worldly and the Otherworldly, which is one of the most divisive fragmentations that has led to much conflict and suffering. Furthermore, it has led to the desacralization of Nature. If Nature is part of this world, so it is believed, it cannot be sacred because the sacred resides in the other world. And if Nature is not sacred, then it can be used and misused; it becomes a commodity. Here we have at least one of the roots of the ecological crisis.

The mandala of this book and other mandalas do not support this split between This-Worldly and Otherworldly. They do not imply a dualism between their centre and the periphery. As I pointed out in the Introduction, the centre radiates to the periphery and underlies the whole mandala as its ground. The manifest (that is, this-worldly manifestations in their various forms) arise from this ground and thus they are not separate from it. They are part of the ground and the centre as waves are part of the ocean. As stated in the Heart Sutra, form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Hence, form and emptiness are not separate from each other. In his new translation of the Heart Sutra, Tanahashi (2014) used the word boundlessness instead of emptiness. Emptiness, in the Buddhist sense, implies boundlessness, but referring to boundlessness may facilitate understanding the profound wisdom of the Heart Sutra. Thus, according to Tanahashi (2014), "form is boundlessness, and boundlessness is form".

a mandala


The common dualism of This-Worldly and Otherworldly has also led to the desacralization of sex. Accordingly, sex is considered This-Worldly and therefore it is separated from the Otherworldly. If in a dualistic way, spirit is seen as Otherworldy, then sex is devoid of the spiritual, devoid of the sacred. And for this reason it would be considered sacrilegious to have sex in a church.

Sex as just an affair of the body appears very limiting. Spirituality as just Otherworldly appears also limiting. And the This-Worldly/Otherworldly split appeas limiting. If, however, the fragmentation is overcome and we can experience existence in its totality, then everything becomes spiritual, sacred, even sex. And once the sacredness of sex has been discovered, all guilt and shame vanishes. Sex becomes a celebration. In left-handed Tantra it even becomes the path to liberation and enlightenment (Rajneesh (Osho) in Sheela 1884, Volume 3: 325-332).
However, as Osho has emphasized repeatedly, sacred sex and love with a partner is, of course, not the only way to enlightenment. A time may come when a partner is no longer needed, when the union of Yin and Yang, male and female energies happen within oneself: “Now your inner man and woman have fallen in a togetherness, and this togetherness is not momentary...Now to be orgasmic is your natural state. The Buddha lives in orgasm continuously, he breathes in and out in orgasm” (Rajneesh (Osho) in Sheela 1884, Volume 3:189).

A Joke

Two friends meet at the bus station. One is waiting for bus #1, the other for bus #3. After a while bus #13 arrives and they say to each other: “How lucky we are. Now we can go together”.

Romantic Love

Romantic love - one of the most beautiful and mysterious experiences. It gives us wings to fly through the skies in ecstatic embrace with our beloved. It inspires us to compose beautiful poetry, to create art and music. It transports us into paradise on this earth... But why is it often so short-lived? At first it appears as if it would last forever. And then often our wings fall off: we return from our dizzying flights of ecstasy to the sobering activities of everyday life and not rarely our beloved even becomes our enemy. Why is this so? It seems so because of fragmentation, most of which seems unconscious. Often unconsciously, we fragmented our beloved into the part we loved so passionately and the other part we could not accept. And that other part sooner or later takes revenge for having been ignored or suppressed. When it comes to the fore, it seems we barely recognize our beloved any more. Now she or he seems to be another person. How could we ever fall in love with that person, we ask? Or the initial romanticism lingers on but more or less overshadowed by aspects we don't like or cannot accept. Or those aspects become integrated into a more inclusive love. Schellenbaum (1998) distinguished three stages in romantic love relationships: 1. Fusion, which may be more or less illusory and therefore leads to the second stage, 2. Separation due to projection of the ignored and unaccepted parts, and 3. Reflection in which lovers become a mirror to each other, which leads to integration and/or total acceptance of the beloved. It seems that only few lovers reach the third stage because many love relationships break up in the second stage or they remain somewhere between the second and third stage (see also Tolle 2004, Chapter 7 on Enlightened Relationships).

There is a saying: "Love is blind," referring to romantic love. This means that we do not see the beloved for what he or she really is. We see only or mainly the traits we like and we are intoxicated with these traits. So we have fragmented the beloved into what we like and what we don't like, and the latter we tend to ignore in the beginning, but later it may destroy the love.


"Lovers" by Magritte (showing that they don't know each other deeply and totally). This painting could also have been entitled: The illusion of romantic love.

Another fragmentation that may destroy romantic love is the tendency to more or less separate the beloved from the rest of the world. When we are passionately in love, we want to be with our beloved and then we often - but not always - tend to ignore that that person is an integral part of the world, interconnected with it through numerous strands. If, consciously or unconsciously, for various reasons we try to ignore or cut these strands, we isolate our beloved and destroy our love.

Hopes and expectations can also undermine or destroy a romantic love relationship. Furthermore, love also requires understanding. One cannot fully love a person without understanding him or her. One has to understand that person's needs and suffering. For example, if you offer that person a fruit that she detests, she will not feel loved, although you may have had the best loving intentions. Thus understanding appears fundamental to love. "Without understanding your love is not true love" (Thich Nhat Hanh).

Romantic love often involves jealousy, possessiveness, and fear of loss. If indeed "the other person does leave you, this can give rise to the most intense hostility and the most profound grief and despair. In an instant, loving tenderness can turn into a savage attack or dreadful grief. Where is the love now? …Was it love in the first place, or just an addictive grasping and clinging?" (Tolle 2004, p. 149).

Yet the attentiveness and devotion of many romantic lovers to their beloved verge on sacredness. But this sacredness often fades more or less. Exceptional lovers seem able to retain it and for others it may shine through occasionally as the following joke by Osho (1999, p. 64) shows:

The Temperature of Marriage:

Wedding Day - one hundred degrees. Feverish.
Jimmy: “ My own sweetie sugarpie.”
Judy: “My own darling honeybunch.”

One day later - fifty degrees. Hot.
Jimmy: “My own precious.”
Judy: “My own love.”

Two days later - twenty-five degrees. Warm.
Jimmy: “Dearest.”
Judy: “Dearie.”

Three days later - fifteen degrees. Tepid.
Jimmy: “Sweatheart.”
Judy: “Dear.”

Four days later - five degrees. Cool.
Jimmy: “Judith.”
Judy: “James.”

Five days later - zero degrees. Very cool.
Jimmy: “ Madam.”
Judy: “Sir.”

Six days later - below freezing. Icy.
Jimmy: “Bitch!”
Judy: “Bastard!”

On the seventh day - minus twenty degrees. Very cold.
Jimmy: “GET LOST! - Pow!
Judy: “FUCK YOU!” - Crash!

Two days after the storm - meltdown.
Jimmy: “Oh Judy, OH! OH! OH!”
Judy: “Ah Jimmy, AH! AH! AH!”

Romantic love appears to be a love/hate relationship in as much as it involves the ego and the desires of the ego. The ego desires specific qualities in the beloved - qualities such as a certain face and body, a certain tone of the voice, a certain behaviour, a certain attitude, etc. What the ego loves are these qualities, not the person as he or she is. Such a love disappears when these qualities change. There are people who talk of love independent of qualities, unconditional love (see, for example, Jean Klein).

According to Georg Feuerstein, romantic love "is of the ego and hence can never reach across space and time to delight in the other's true being. Only in genuine love, which is free of all idealization, are the ego's distortions of truth overcome...True love exceeds the ego infinitely" (Feuerstein 2006: 54-55). The ego is also a fragment, cut off from the rest of the universe and often unaware that it forms part of a more inclusive whole. As the ego is transcended, romantic love can deepen beyond fragmentation. And then one can see the great mystery in the eyes of one's beloved and recognize that "our lives in their myriad aspects are embedded in and held by a great Mystery. That Mystery pulsates in the distant galaxies as much as it throbs in the human body and sparkles in the delight of sexual play" (ibid. pp. XI-XII). "Lovers [who behold the Mystery] are people who have stepped outside the angry world of kept and broken promises, of expectations and disappointments, of need and hurt" (ibid. p. 24). "This is what happens in meditation… You come to feel, "Existence and I are one." Then…there is no fear [of losing your lover]" (Osho 1974, p. 281). Love becomes a celebration of existence.

Osho said that falling in love is like falling into a ditch. Instead of falling in love, we need rising in love. This happens more easily if a relationship begins as a friendship in which a deep mutual acquaintance and understanding occurs. On such a basis rising in love may then happen more easily.

However, many people are in a hurry. They feel incomplete, an incomplete fragment of the universe. Thus, they yearn for completion and hope to find it in their beloved - a painfully romantic idea. No single person can complete you. Only the awareness of oneness with the universe can complete you. And with this awareness you do not even need another person. You are one with all and the ego need not complain that this and that is lacking in the beloved.


In one way, enemies are just the opposite of romantic lovers. But in another, deeper way, they share much with lovers: they make the same fundamental mistake of fragmentation and as a result see and recognize only one fragment, one aspect, of the enemy. Whereas lovers, in their initial ecstatic phase, see only or mainly the attractive side of the other, enemies recognize only or mainly the repulsive side. Enemies don’t see that the other is also a human being who suffers, who has feelings and longings to unite. But if they recognize what unites, that is, if they can surmount the fragmentation, then enemies may become friends or maybe even lovers (see, for example, Jampolsky 1979:124-126).
This may happen not only to personal enemies, but also to group enemies such as families, organizations, nations, etc. Therefore, the recognition and transcendence of fragmentation can help to resolve conflict in personal, social and even global dimensions and thus has the potential to create a more peaceful world with less alienation and loneliness.

Alienation and Loneliness

Alienation and loneliness seem widespread in our society. Alienation means being cut off, and thus it results from fragmentation. The feeling of loneliness seems the inevitable consequence. This feeling may overwhelm us even when we are with other people. Even lovers, husbands and wives may feel lonely when they have become alienated from each other. And the loneliness in the presence of another seems the most depressing: two lonelinesses side by side accentuate loneliness to an almost unbearable extent.

In contrast to loneliness, aloneness does not alienate. Aloneness means all oneness, that is, being connected to the one, to the centre of the mandala and the mandala as a whole. A person who has this connection can feel joyful regardless of whether (s)he is in the company of another human being or alone because (s)he is all one in any situation.

Lovers who know aloneness in this sense and can enjoy it, have a different relationship. They are not together because they need each other; they don’t use each other as crutches for living to overcome their loneliness. They are together because they have so much to share, so much joy.

How do we get to know aloneness in the sense of all oneness? We just have to look deeply into ourselves, and the deeper we go into ourselves, the closer we come to the source of the whole universe. Needless to say, this is not easy to do. However, various meditation techniques may be helpful, if they appeal to us and allow us to go from the method to the unnamable mystery. As pointed out in the Introduction, the method by itself cannot bring us salvation, although it can be very helpful; the method is only a tool to go beyond the method.

We also may immerse ourselves into the mandala of this book, especially the artistic version, or any other mandala, and thus we may discover that the centre of the mandala can lead us to our own centre. Or we may just sit in silence and the door to the source may open miraculously. Or we may dance and become the dance of the universe. Or we may laugh and let go of all the fragmentation that kept us away from all oneness. Ramana Maharshi, the Indian sage, reminded us that we “are
always already home” (quoted in Hendricks and Johncock 2005, p.3), at home in what in Advaita Vedanta is called the Self (with a Capital S), the universal Self that in contrast to the individual self is beyond all limitation and fragmentation. “This realization undoes the Great Search that is at the heart of the separate self-sense” (Wilber 2001, p. 290). For “you and the Kosmos are one Spirit, one Taste” (ibid. p. 295). As any individual wave is one with the whole ocean, so the individual self is one with the universal Self (see Foster 2012). This oneness cannot be gained or acquired because it is always already the case; thus it can only be realized.

Being too serious about reaching all oneness is not necessarily helpful or only up to a point. It may also become an obstruction because it may create too much tension and even stress. Therefore relaxation is most important even in a disciplined meditation practice. And jokes provide a wonderful release, if only temporarily. Therefore, I included jokes in this book. However, I want to conclude with a meditation that seems appropriate for this chapter on wholeness and fragmentation.

A Meditation: Include Everything

Osho (1992: 168-9) gave a detailed description of this meditation technique. In a nutshell it implies: “Sitting in meditation, be inclusive of all – your body, your mind, your breath, your thinking, your knowing , everything… Don’t divide, don’t create any fragmentation…[thus] ultimately the whole universe becomes inclusive to you” (ibid. p. 168).

And Osho also tells us to make this not only a meditation but a style of life in which “the whole existence is included. This is the ultimate of all religious experience” (ibid. p. 169).

Through this meditation and life style we can become universal. However, if for some reason it is not appealing to you or too difficult, there are other ways of transcending one's limited small self. For example, sit quietly with closed eyes and go deeply into your centre, deeper, deeper, deeper... When you arrive at the greatest depth, you may realize that there is no difference between your deepest centre and the the Kosmos. From this centre everything radiates, as the conceptual and pictorial periphery of the mandala of this book radiates from its centre, which is also its ground. And ultimately centre and periphery are one (not two). As the Heart Sutra states: Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form, or according to another translation, form is boundlessness, and boundlessness is form (Tanahashi 2014). See also the meditations at the end of the other chapters of this book.

Radical Conclusions

Fragmentation occurs through the process of abstraction, which literally means "drawing away," drawing away from a whole or subwhole (part/whole). Many (or most?)people seem to take it for granted that objects such as plants, animals and humans are solid and real. But upon closer inspection objects turn out to be fragments that have been created through abstraction from a more inclusive whole and that have been passed on through education from early childhood. Similarly, sensations, emotions, thoughts, philosophies, ideologies, religions, as well as opposites such as life and death, good and evil, truth and falsehood have been created through abstraction (fragmentation). Body, mind, and soul have also been abstracted from a more inclusive whole. Even the self or ego has been abstracted from a more inclusive whole that has been referred to by various names such as, for example, the universal Self. According to Advaita Vedanta and other inclusive nondualistic views of reality, we are always already home in this universal Self and since there is nothing outside this universal Self we have nothing to fear and nothing to hope for. We can be in peace. However, referring to the most inclusive whole through language implies also fragmentation because by its very nature language involves fragmentation into words that refer to concepts, which represent abstractions. Therefore, Korzybski said, “Whatever you might say something “is, it is not” (Korzybski 1958, p. 409; see also Stockdale) and thus as ultimate reality remains unnamable, it can only be experienced in silence. Even experience may involve a subtle dualism between the experiencer and the experience. Beyond that dualism we may find pure being, which is represented by the whole mandala, in which the unnamable in the centre and the namable (wholeness and fragmentation) at the periphery are seen as one (not two) as stated in the Heart Sutra: Form (the namable) is emptiness (the unnamable), and emptiness is form, or according to a more recent translation: "Form is boundlessness, and boundlessness is form... boundlessness is the nature of all things" (Tanahashi 2014). In this sense we can also say that the This-Worldly is the Otherworldly, samsara is nirvana. "Spirit is what matter is like when it is experienced completely" (Shinzen Young 1997, Session 16).

Obviously not all abstractions are equal. Whereas some may be more or less artificial, others may be relatively natural (I emphasize "relatively"). For example, distinguishing an organism from its environment appears relatively natural, but as I pointed out above, even some biologists have recognized the integration of organism and its environment. Nonetheless, the distinction of organisms and other objects appears useful and necessary for our orientation in the world, and it need not be harmful as long as we remain aware of the abstraction. Unfortunately this awareness seems absent to a very great extent and as a result we find much conflict, war, and suffering. Fortunately, in the
alternative culture we see an increasing awareness of more inclusive wholes. In alternative holistic medicine the human organism is not only seen in terms of fragments such as genes, cells and organs but also in terms of more inclusive wholes such as the whole organism or organism-environment or spirit (in spiritual healing). Spirituality is increasingly understood as experience and being that transcends the limitations of language and dogmas. The most inclusive spirituality has been referred to as unity consciousness (see, for example, Wilber 2016, pp. 107-112).

I find these conclusions "radical" in the literal sense of "radical," which means proceeding from the root, here from the root or the source of reality. They may, of course, also appear radical in the sense of being a profound departure from commonly held views that seem oblivious of abstraction to a great extent.


I consider the recognition of both wholeness and fragmentation important and useful for our orientation in and understanding of the world and ourselves. Whereas fragmentation seems prevalent and often not recognized as such, wholeness remains still elusive to a great extent for at least three reasons:
When presented with a figure and a ground (let’s say a black square on a white ground) many (or most?) people take it for granted that the figure exists independently of the surrounding ground. But take away the ground and the figure disappears too and vice versa, which shows that figure and ground codetermine one another: they form a unity. In actual life the figure may represent many things and the ground as well. For example, the figure may represent an atom, a cell, an organism, a lover, an enemy, etc.
Figure and ground are not only interconnected, they may also interpenetrate one another so that they co-develop together. Thus, for example, a person is to some extent transformed by his or her environment and vice versa, and in this sense the environment is to some extent in the person and vice versa.
We often don’t see that our so-called entities are abstracted from a continuum and therefore we fail to see the underlying unity that integrates them. This topic is dealt with in detail in Chapter 2 of this book.
Thus, wholeness may arise through contiguity, interpenetration, and continuity. The fragments that we have created through the process of abstraction (which literally means drawing away from the whole) are often arranged in a hierarchy. Thus, a hierarchy constitutes an edifice of fragments. Nonetheless, hierarchies can be useful, but we need to realize that they obscure unity to a greater or lesser extent. The holographic paradigm, which is controversial, turns hierarchical thinking upside down because whereas in a hierarchy the part is in the whole, according to the holographic paradigm, the whole is in the part.

Fragmentation, especially when it is not recognized as such, which is often the case, may profoundly impact in more or less negative and destructive ways our personal lives and society. It may be at the root of problems in relationships and sex, reckless capitalism, consumerism, the ecological crisis, climate change, fundamentalism, conflicts and wars.

Romantic love relationships may often be more or less doomed because at the beginning of the sweet relationship positive appealing traits are abstracted and the lover is abstracted from his or her environment. This more or less unrealistic view gradually may undermine the relationship that at the beginning appeared so promising. With regard to persons that are perceived as enemies, the opposite happens. Negative traits that are abstracted obscure the positive ones and the role of the environment also tends to be more or less ignored.

The conscious or subconscious separation of the This-Worldly form the Otherworldly may have devastating consequences that may show up in may guises. It can lead to the desacralization of sex and nature because if the body and nature are seen only or mainly as material, then they lose their sacred dimension, and then both the other person and nature may be exploited. Such exploitation has been at the root of many sexual problems, reckless capitalism, consumerism, the ecological crisis, climate change, etc.

Besides the split of This-Worldly and Otherworldly many other harmful and destructive splits into opposites have often been taken for granted such as life and death,
love and hate, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, truth and falsehood, the infinite and the finite, the one and the many. A closer look and understanding of such opposites reveals that they belong together, that they may be continuous with one another and may even interpenetrate one another as is indicated by the Yin-Yang symbol.

Fundamentalism in science, philosophy, and religion can be very destructive because one view of the world and ourselves has been separated from other views, which then may lead to a clash of different views that may end in major conflicts and war. The complementarity of opposing views and wholeness that may transcend oppositions seem to be ignored.

One of the saddest consequences of conscious or unconscious fragmentation involves alienation and loneliness. In that case the individual self has more or less lost the awareness that it belongs to the universal Self, the most encompassing whole. But as Ramana Maharshi and others have pointed out, we are always already home in the universal Self or whatever we may wish to call the most encompassing whole. The mind, that is, the thinking mind alone will not be able to uncover the awareness of the most encompassing whole because the thinking mind itself constitutes only an abstraction from the whole. Since we are so much more than just our thinking mind (valuable as it is), we need to transcend the thinking mind to what in Zen has been called no-mind. Different ways of meditation and other paths can lead to this radical transformation. For this reason I ended this first chapter of my mandala book on
Wholeness, Fragmentation, and the Unnamable: Holism, Materialism, and Mysticism – A Mandala with a meditation called Include Everything. With regard to the mandala, this implies that we include both its unnamable centre and the namable periphery of wholeness and fragmentation, or, in Buddhist terms, emptiness and form, not as two, but as one.


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[with my comments in brackets]

“The world is like a piece of paper on which you have typed a lot of words…The paper is always there in the background [like the unnamable], yet few people notice it” (Sri Nisargadatta).

“As a person, you are separate. At your core, by just being, you are united” (Sri Nisargadatta).

"By itself nothing has existence" (Sri Nisargadatta).

"Do away with man-made separations and all this horror of people killing each other will surely end" (Sri Nisargadatta).

"Bhagavan is correct when he states that there is only one cause for human problems, and that is the sense of separateness" (Laszlo).

“What is needed is for man [and woman] to give attention to his [her] habit of fragmentary thought, to be aware of it, and thus bring it to an end” (David Bohm).

“Individual realities are enfolded in one great Reality” (D. T. Suzuki).

“To come directly into harmony with this reality just simply say when doubt arises, “Not two.” In this “not two” nothing is separate, nothing is excluded” (Sengtsan).

"In Buddhism we use the words
no or not to show that nothing has its own separate existence, everything is interconnected and produced by interdependent co-origination" (Dainin Katagiri Roshi).

“The no-mind not-thinks no-thoughts about no-thing” (Buddha, according to Bart Kosko.)

“I’m everything, and I’m absolutely nothing” (Adyashanti).

“Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” (Heart Sutra, common translation).
[Emptiness in the Buddhist sense means that form does not have any intrinsic existence by itself]

"Form is boundlessness, and boundlessness if form" (K. Tanahashi).

“Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves” (Siddha Nagarjuna).
[nothing in the sense of no-thing, that is, not separate from other no-things]

“Nothingness and everything become the same experience as they conceptually disappear in opposite directions into the one absolute…the unsayable, inexplicable, unknowable…” (Ray Grigg).

“Atoms are not things” (Werner Heisenberg).
[neither are genes, cell, organisms and other entities]

“For the wise all “things” are wiped away” (Buddha).

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite" (William Blake).

“The way has never known boundaries…But because of the recognition of a “this,” there came to be boundaries” (Chuang Tzu).

“Forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home” (Chuang Tzu).

“Non-separability …shows that the general approach of Democritian atomism is a false view of nature even when applied to events. If we call “atoms” micro-objects, having definite properties, or micro-events, then it is we who, so to speak, paint the distinct atoms on the canvas of non-separable reality, what ever this latter word means” (Bernard d’Espagnat).
[Note that the atomistic view of the Greek philosopher Democritus has profoundly influenced our thinking, not only with regard to atoms of physics but to atoms (fundamental entities) in a wider sense such as genes, cells, organisms, etc.]

“Quantum physics reveals the world to be an intricate web of events…nature is an inseparable whole, not merely a collection of parts” (Thomas J. McFarlane).

“The world, as Eastern mystics tell us, consists of harmonious relationships between parts that are ultimately identical with their common source, forming a coherent and ordered whole that is strikingly similar in concept to the realm of quantum physics” (Thomas J. McFarlane).

[But] “modern physics offers no positive support (let alone proof) for a mystical worldview” (Ken Wilber in
Quantum Questions).
[But there seems to be a striking compatibility between holistic aspects of modern physics and mysticism. However, since physics deals only with the material aspect of reality and since as a science it uses logic and language, including mathematics, it cannot reach ultimate reality as Korzybski and others have clearly demonstrated. Mystics in mystical union are said to be one with ultimate reality, with all there is.]

“Whatever you might
say something “is, it is not” (Alfred Korzybski).
[Reality encompasses both the namable and unnamable. Therefore, we cannot
say what it “is.” But we can say that wholeness represents one important aspect of reality. See also Korzybski Quotes, Healing Thinking through Non-Identity (Korzybski) and Health Language-Behavior and Spirituality.]

“Silence is the best language. More is communicated through silence than you realize” (Ramana Maharshi).

“When we become silent, we become whole. And when we become whole, we become holy” (Swami Dhyan Giten).

“The ultimate value of the body is to serve you in discovering the cosmic body, the universe in its entirety [and not only its physical aspect]…In reality you are infinite and eternal” (Sri Nisargadatta).

"If we look very deeply, we will transcend birth and death" (Thich Nhat Hanh).

“On this sacred path of Radical Acceptance, rather than striving for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness [and the unnamable]” (Tara Brach).

"you are That Whole which has no parts" (Sri H. W. L. Poonja, also known as Papaji).

"The Prajnaparamita (The Perfection of Wisdom) is inconceivable, indescribable, and unnameable" (Buddha, according to Khenchen Thrangu).

"We are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness" (Thich Nhat Hanh).

The One alone resides within the two. Wherever the intellect sees duality, the Existence is yet one alone" (Rajneesh).

Latest update of this webpage on January 13, 2020.

Preface (including the Table of Contents) and Introduction of this book.

Next Chapter:
Chapter 2: Continuum and Discontinuum


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