Thursday 12 February 2015

Is everything "nothing"? Is it all "One Mind"? Or dependently originated?

I often find that folks have a few illogical ideas about the nature of reality which crop up once the common views are seen thru.

First, the "everything is nothing" idea Actually, I can see why a very rough understanding of dependent origination would be simply that "there is nothing." That's because when we commonly think of "something," we are imagining some kind of essence. In reality, there are no essences to anything, since everything arises dependent upon everything else, so to that simple mindset used to imputing inherency to things, dependent origination may as well be "there is nothing." But compare the simplicity of "there is nothing" (which also makes no sense of reality, merely negating it all), to the incredible profundity of dependent origination:
The most obvious problem with the "everything is nothing" idea is that it explains nothing. Which is fine, if you don't mind being completely ignorant. But then what is the point of having this view if everything is nothing? The view itself is nothing, so does not even exist?

Tell me what you think of this,

Everything that's happened, never happened, it's a thought living in your consciousness falsely perceived as being in the nonexistent past. The point is the past doesn't exist so nothing that ever happened really happened and of course
the same holds true for the future and the present which is undefinable. I'm enjoying this.
Again, I think you are getting stuck in this either/or mode of perception. Either things are real, or they aren't, for you. 

What I'm trying to show you is that the either/or is not the way reality is. Buddha said that self neither exists, nor doesn't exist, nor both exists and doesn't exist, nor neither exists nor doesn't exist. That's the famous "tetralemma" which he applied to all things. What is the point of that? The point is that dependent origination is not simply about denying reality as it is experienced. It is about explaining it logically so that it can be seen for what it is.

Perhaps it would be better to say, "everything that's happened happened as interdependent processes functioning perfectly and ultimately timelessly, but was misperceived to be independent, linear and discrete events which caused suffering."

Second, the "everything is One Mind" ideaI can say that I have experienced One Mind many times... so I understand it from that level of experience.

But I've also come to realize, as Bill F. explains, that One Mind experience is simply the last illusion that remains due to conditioned belief in the self. In other words, we still cling to the notion of self, the background permanent awareness that all things spring from or are contained in, even tho we can't locate it, so instead, we say, oh, well then everything is self, it is all One Mind. Thus, we are still suffering in order to continue splitting reality into two: the universe (let's say appearances), and that universal consciousness which is aware of everything. In order to stop splitting reality up like this, we have to let go of the idea that there is something separate containing everything else. Then we arrive at dependent origination, the view that everything is a reflection of everything else (NOT that everything IS everything else)... i.e. it is not possible for anything to affect anything else without also itself being affected, nor is it possible for anything to be unaffected or not affect the rest of the universe. This much I actually did see with ayahuasca originally, but somehow this infinite reflection (Indra's Net) also had the One Mind identity traces within it.

With One Mind, we haven't actually gotten away from self or any of the suffering caused by self. We've simply expanded our view of self and lost sight of much of the previously clearly visible suffering. Why does one in One Mind consciousness still suffer, even if almost imperceptibly? Because the clinging to a fixed nature remains, yet in reality there is nothing that is fixed or unchanging ever. Since the One Mind is a fabrication, clinging to it does not lead to freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Every fabrication will eventually dissolve due to the changing conditions which it relies upon for its support.

Also, importantly, One Mind does not have much explanatory power. It does not explain why there are such a variety of appearances rather than just one appearance of the One Mind. It also does not explain how so much of the one mind can be apparently unaware of the One Mind. The one thing that One Mind does explain is the amazing sense of unity among all apparently separate appearances that can be realized. This unity is actually the infinite interpenetration and reflection of all appearances which dependently originate from each other, but without seeing dependent origination, we have no choice but to imagine that there must be One Mind.  

Zen teachings have some interesting things to say about the illusion of One Mind. Check the fourth paragraph on this page:


Buddha said that the first being in each universe falls under the delusion that it created the universe, since it finds itself alone in it and only after wishing for company does it find others existing in it. This first being thinks it is the God of the universe, but with the demise of the universe comes the demise of this and all other beings. I find this an interesting idea, although it isn't necessarily important for the current discussion.

Now, here I post an excerpt from a conversation I had with another friend. He wanted to stick to his belief in free will, even though he acknowledged that it was illogical. He felt that somehow, everything was random (quantum indeterminism), and that the randomness was part of some transcendent free will, and that infinite free will made things seem as if they are determined by conditions. Quite a mess to try to untie, but here is one of my attempts:

"Me": " if [randomness] does exist, it is just another condition within determinism."

Friend: "Or it is what creates the determinism you perceive as it builds up everything that is. "

"Me": But if randomness builds everything, then how to explain why everything apparently operates according to natural laws? Why would you speculate on something that seems to make no sense rather than accepting what makes sense? What elegance does that add? Does it seem more "spiritual" to you to have no logic?

Friend: "From current scientific knowledge reality makes no sense to be. Infinity is the answer to this paradox but infinity is something out of range of scientific reach so they label it as simple material determinism because in infinity lies no cause to create this determinism. Things were, are and will be all at once in one infinity. "

"Me": Science does not ask the question "why IS reality?" That isn't even a logical question. Infinity answers nothing, because the question is malformed. As for all things being all at once in infinity, yes, that is cosmic consciousness--when you are aware of the whole universe/multiverse thru all times all at once. But in that state, there is no way of knowing anything in particular, and certainly no logical mind.

One might say, "Fantastic, then why would we need the logical mind?" The reason is because even in Cosmic Consciousness, there can still be identity. I have experienced this state with various levels of identity. One can feel as a cosmic "witness" to it all, or as a collection of infinite witnesses, or as the "background" awareness permeating it all, or if one gets really past all that illusion, one is totally gone, and there is only the infinity, with nobody in it at all. Why is that the most perfect state? Because as long as there is identity, there is separation from reality which produces "cognitive dissonance" and eventually the downfall from that exalted position into a more ordinary separate identity. This is what Buddha said and this is what I have found to be true. One will never know true freedom until one has experienced absolutely no self, no witness, no background, no center, but that experience cannot even be owned--I can't say that my experience of that is mine, because "I" was not in it at all.

So we have the wonderful gift of a logical mind here as humans. This logical mind is our last, best hope to get past the delusion of self, which in higher dimensions cannot be got past, because logic isn't understood in nonlinear dimensions. Ultimately the logical mind is left behind, but it is the key to leaving itself behind forever, paradoxically. I know you like paradox, so perhaps you will appreciate that.   

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