Black is said to be the color of creation. It is said to be the womb out of which the new is born – the color of the dark of the night.
Darkness is what comes to the mind when we think of black. Technically, black isn’t a color. Black is a lack, a void of light.
This is my first attempt at drawing on black paper.
While light shows the way, darkness unveils the way to the stars. The primordial darkness of the universe at the moment before creation, – Et sic in infinitum (“and like this to infinity”) – The black Buddha alludes to primeval nature and the primal laws of the cosmos and hence this drawing.
The music playing in the background of this video clip is the sacred chant of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – the Japanese Nichiren Buddhist version of the Lotus Sutra.
Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō (南無妙法蓮華經) literally translated says – “I dedicate myself to the eternal, mystical law of cause and effect.”
The cause of light is darkness ! In order to bring light to this world we must first make our own unconscious (where darkness resides) conscious (the light of our awareness.) – We don’t become enlightened by light, but by making the darkness conscious.
A conscious awareness of the all pervading darkness reveals the ‘what is’ – the abysmal mystery of the cosmos.
When you think about it, it’s surprising that we can see black at all – our eyes are engineered to receive light; in its absence, you’d think we simply wouldn’t see, any more than we taste when our mouths are empty.
How then do we perceive Black ?
To find the answer, we need a teeny knowledge of neurophysiology – that there are these photoreceptors in our retinas that respond to photons of light, and we see black in those areas of the retina where the photoreceptors are relatively inactive. But what would happen when no photoreceptors are working – as happens when we are sitting in a dark room ?
It is in complete darkness that we comprehend that sight, unlike touch or taste, continues to operate in the absence of anything visible. Even when we are not seeing, it is by sight that we discriminate darkness from light, though not in the same way as we distinguish one color from another. We “see” in total darkness because sight itself has a color, and that color is black – like the feedback ‘background score’ that lets us know the machine is still on.
The fact that we see darkness means that our eyes have not only the potential to see, but also the potential not to see. (If we had only the potential to see, we would never have the experience of not-seeing.) This duplex potential, ‘to do’ & ‘not to do’, is not only a feature of our sight; it is the essence of existence. The greatness – and also the abyss – of human potentiality is that it is first of all potential not to act, the potential for darkness! Because we are capable of inaction, we know that we have the ability to act, and also the choice of whether to act or not.
The color of inaction is also the color of imagination, the color of creation. And black, the color of not seeing, not doing, is in that sense the color of freedom.
In total darkness, early human beings rubbed their eyes until they saw seemingly sacred patterns in the dark – Gods, they thought. (Patterns generated by feedback loops in the visual cortex creating sacred visual experiences.)
Darkness is a liminal space – between two stages of existence, the one dissolved in darkness and the other not yet known.. You can sit in the darkness for as long as you like, staring blindly at nothing, and see what you will.