While I was in Germany on my current European tour, I found a special double-disc edition DVD of the Godzilla movie commonly known in the US as Monster Zero. This version has a bunch of extras available only in Germany and I’m a geek so I bought it. In Germany the movie, originally called Kaiju Daisenso (The Great Monster War) in Japanese, was titled Befehl Aus Dem Dunkel, or “Command from the Darkness.” The title refers to the plot of the movie in which we Earth people receive a message from an alien race requesting us to loan them Godzilla to help them defeat an even scarier monster on their planet. It can also be sung to the tune of this Guns and Roses song.
I like that title. It’s very evocative. The first person I asked mistakenly translated it as “Message From the Darkness,” which is even better. A message, a communication, from that which is unknown, perhaps even unknowable.
In Zen, we often talk about emptiness. But we could use other words. St. John of the Cross wrote about unknowing. Lately I’ve been talking about silence. We could refer to the same idea by calling it darkness. We’re trying to indicate the area of life, the universe and everything that we cannot express in words.
There’s a recent scientific theory that emptiness gave rise to the universe of form. The idea of the Big Bang has been widely accepted for decades now, but nobody can explain where that tiny little ball of stuff that exploded into the universe as we know it came from. Now some folks are saying that maybe emptiness itself gave rise to its opposite.
They only need a little more coaxing to make the leap that the Buddhists made a thousand years ago, that what we know as form didn’t just derive from emptiness. It is emptiness. One of the manifestations of absolute nothing is this world, is you and me.
Silence or emptiness is the most powerful thing there can be. Nothing can ever harm it because it is nothing. Nothing can escape it. Silence underlies everything. Silence is the basis of all sound. It’s there even in the loudest place there is. Emptiness is the basis of all form. Emptiness is what allows form to be form. Form is what allows emptiness to be emptiness.
Everybody wants to know what will happen after they die. We fear death. We fear the darkness, the silence. In the novel John Dies At The End by David Wong, a character says, “You’re going to die, Arnie. Someday, you will face that moment. Regardless of what you believe, at that moment you will either face complete nonexistence, which is something you can’t possibly imagine, or you will face something even stranger that you also can’t possibly imagine. On an actual day in the future, you will be in the unimaginable, Arnie. Set your mind on that.”
Darkness, or silence, or emptiness is the unimaginable. It’s beyond our ability to comprehend. Or maybe it’s not. Kobun Chino Roshi talked about what he called “the other side of nothing.” He said, “Wanting to be alone is impossible. When you become really alone you notice you are not alone. You flip into the other side of nothing, where you discover everybody is waiting for you. Before that, you are living together like that — day, sun, moon, stars, and food — everything is helping you, but you are all blocked off, a closed system. It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself, which brings you to the other side of nothing. People experience that in many ways. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute.”
The silence we fear is the basis of ourselves and of everyone and everything else there ever was, will be, could be or isn’t.
There is no reason to fear complete nonexistence. Complete nonexistence is what you are made from.
Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.
This is a message from the darkness. A message from that part of ourselves which is darkness, which is silence, which is the unknown and unknowable.
But rather than being from aliens asking us to lend them Godzilla, it is ourselves telling ourselves that there is nothing to fear, nothing to run from, nothing to fight against. That which terrifies us more than anything else is just ourselves. Our infinite and nonexistent selves.
I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!
September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT
September 16, 2015 Hebden Bridge, England TALK AND DISCUSSION at 7:30pm
September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT
September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP
September 21, 2015 7:30pm Newcastle, Northern Ireland SHIMNA INTEGRATED COLLEGE (Zazen & Dharma Talk)
September 22, 2o15 6:30pm Belfast, Northern Ireland THE DARK HORSE (Talk: Punk Rock Commentaries on Zen)
September 23, 2015 7:00pm BELFAST ZEN MAITRI YOGA STUDIO (Zazen & Dharma Talk)
September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 1-DAY RETREAT
October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova
November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT
April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!
Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!
Your donations are important to me. They are my main source of income, far more than book royalties or retreat fees. You are my patrons. Thank you for your support!