If you asked someone, “Do things exist?” the response would probably be, “Of course things exist! The world is full of things. Everyone knows that there is physical stuff out there, that reality is tangible and real!”
But what allows any thing — a hand, a chair or any other object — to exist? One way to discover the answer is to imagine a specific thing — say, your hand — expanding and expanding until there is nothing in the universe except the hand. What would happen to it? Really, just take a moment and try this. You’ll be amazed at your experience. You wouldn’t see the hand anymore, would you? Why? It would disappear because there would be nothing in the universe that was not the hand. This is a very basic concept about reality: In order for any given thing to exist, there must also be something other than that thing.
Consider this for a moment. Can you see that any physical object is bounded by “not that object”? If an object did not have any borders — that is, if it wasn’t surrounded by “not that object” — it couldn’t be distinguished from everything else. In other words, it wouldn’t exist.
The same principle applies to non-material concepts. Love and hate, peace and war, strong and weak, beautiful and ugly — these only exist and have unique attributes because they have been distinguished from each other. For example, the state of war is distinguished from peace by the presence of armed conflict. When there is no armed conflict, there is peace. But if peace existed throughout the world all the time, and if the alternative (war) was unimaginable, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish peace. Peace, as a condition distinct from war, couldn’t exist.
A Universe Without Distinctions
Now imagine everything in the universe without any distinctions. It’s all just an undifferentiated whole. Can you see that there is nothing? That’s because in order for anything to exist, it must be distinguished from everything else. If no distinction is made between a specific thing and everything else, then there is only an undifferentiated everything — which is another way of saying nothing.
Everything, without any distinctions, is the same as nothing. Take a moment and think about that. Until consciousness has made a distinction, nothing can possibly exist.
Therefore, the world really isn’t the way you perceive it. In fact, it isn’t any way until you perceive it that way (that is, until you distinguish it that way).
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