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Atthi Paccaya, Natthi Paccaya – Condition of Presence and Condition of Absence

Presence Condition (or condition of being) is referring to the existence of mental and material phenomena in the limited space of the “Now”. While the condition of absence is referring to the opposite, that is, to the non-existence of mental and material phenomena in that limited space of the “Now”.

A question about being and absence seems as absurd, if not more so, than our question “What is matter?” in the key blog of this website. Presence and absence seem so self-explanatory things that hardly anyone would bother about giving it any second thought. Yet, as the thoughtful reader of our treatment on matter might have found, for the philosopher or truth seeker there are benefits to be derived from studying that which for the rabble seems self explanatory. Thus, if we seek some guiding light as to how to better order this, our existence, we might give some further thought about the meaning of “being” or the meaning of “presence and absence”.

These two in fact make up one duality. And the crux of these two conditions is really best summarised by the Buddhas formula:

“When this is, this will be, with the arising of this, this will come to be”…and equally, …”When this is not, this will not be, with the cessation of this, this will cease.”

Having to begin somewhere, we ever best start with what seems most obvious. Thus, we again start with matter and with our consideration of the four elements.

So we may see that, material things may be known either through the presence of certain qualities or through the absence thereof. Hence, will an experience of heat be indicative of the presence of the fire element, while cold means just the absence thereof. So it is with light and its absence, darkness. Substance means the presence of the element of earth, but its absence experienced as insubstantiality may at times be noticed too. Stillness is the absence of movement, the defining presence condition of the air element, while dryness is really just the absence of liquidity or wetness. And naturally following that, we see that, we may get the one either by removing or by filling the space of the other.

That much perhaps even an animal will be able to do.

But then we go further. We have already before talked about the life-element. And when we begin to meditate about it, we begin to understand, that its existence is experienced as being alive, as feeling alive. This is different from feeling hot or heavy or diluted. And when we had any experience of it even once, its absence will become noticeable when it has happened to disappear.

Further we too have shown, that there are certain laws attached to the presence or existence of this life-element. That is, it is in the nature of that element to be attracted to what appears to support it and it is equally in the nature of that element to feel repelled by whatever seems to threaten it. These are the essential characteristics and hence, the inmost being of that element.

And when this life-element is then considered in relation to a physical body, its presence or absence may manifest in more manifold manners. It may for example manifest as craving for food, or it may manifest as being attracted to agreeable sights, sounds, or smells, etc. Or it may manifest as the drive to sexuality. But equally so may its absence become manifest as the absence of appetite, or the absence of attraction to sights, sounds, smells, etc. Or as the absence of the sexual drive.

And there we see already the relation to the mind and how the mind is conditioned by the presence or absence of the element of life within the physical body. And thus by the body itself.

Thus we can see, that much life within the body will also allow for a richer mental life. While lack of physical life will usually also mean lack of mental life.

But then, what is that mental life? It is greed, it is anger, it is love, it is wisdom. And that life, be it of a greedy, angry or loving kind, will in turn too have its laws of existence attached to it. And there we may perhaps rather reformulate the Buddha’s initially stated formula into: ‘What you are, is what you get!’ (or, ‘Who you are is what you get!’) .

If you are radiating calm and peace and goodness, the people you are in contact with will usually also become calm and talk to you in a calm manner.

In the same manner, if you are full of anger, full of wicked mindedness, you are also much more likely to find yourself surrounded by people who interact with you in an angry or wicked manner.
Thus will the presence of certain mind-states very often condition the life-experiences which you are facing.

But equally so it is with the absence of certain mind-states. If you appear to be quite free from fear, you are less likely to attract bully people for example. While if you are a person who is void of love, most likely you will also not be loved by others. Etc.

What has been written in the blog on “Bhūmis” was precisely an example of the far reaching extend of these two conditions.

And this will then quiet naturally lead us to a consideration of the nature of consciousness in relation to the conditions of presence and absence.

Consciousness, the way it is usually understood, that is, as awareness, usually requires something without in order to arise from a condition of latency within. And that is the precise reason for the existence of the senses. It is through sense experience that consciousness becomes manifest and it is through sense experience that consciousness learns to remain manifestly present. That is at least how things work in the sense-sphere world. It is through the knowing of an object that consciousness is. Only gradually consciousness learns to investigate, designate and evolve ideas of things. And each of those faculties in turn will give consciousness greater power of presence, while their sequence also allow consciousness to remain present for a longer duration.

Only when consciousness’s interest in mere transient material phenomena begins to cease and when it starts to look for (adverts to) things which are subtler than the things of the ordinary 5 senses, it gradually begins to function independent from outer sense-impressions. That is, it will no longer require sense-impressions to trigger it into activity, but begins to respond to subtler feelings and perceptions. And based on those it evolves ideas of their meaning and purpose, which will give it greater power of presence still.

Still greater a power of presence consciousness acquires when it not only learns to respond to subtler feelings and perceptions, but also begins to see and respond towards ideas behind things which somewhat transcend the things themselves. And only when that is perfected through consciousness’s acquisition of perfect knowledge regarding what is hidden behind phenomenal existence, will consciousness’s presence become unceasing.

Concluding thus, we may see, that these two conditions constitute in fact, a very fundamental law of being. The realisation of which shall give us some key, if not power, to overcome a myriad difficulties of life.

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