Saturday 25 Mar 2017
I love the various television documentaries’ that report on our connection to the planets stars and ultimately the vastness of space that contains it all. The narration can take us back into deep time and right to the edges of the known universe. They can also allow our gaze to go deep inside particle accelerators, to uncover elementary nature, existing in hardly any time at all. Carl Sagan and his television series along with his accompanying book called “Cosmos” was to my mind, the start of the gifted narrators that started to effectively use multimedia platforms, to engage and convince us that science can go beyond religion to look at and explain truth and reality. Professor Brian Cox is the latest incarnation of these persuasive scientific priests.
The current narratives do make a very good case against old style myths and ideas that invoke a creator God sitting in heaven, pulling levers. Science, with its emphasis on proof and repeatability has gone deep into the physical world, both astronomically and sub atomically, to explain and reflect the physical world in new and modern ways; showing us how to manipulate the physical world in order to create new circumstances and situations. Some of our problems are being helped while others are possibly made worse. The scientific method and its emphasis on repeatable measurement is hoping to explain Absolute Truth and Reality with what it calls Grand Unified Theory’s (GUT’s)
The holy grail of science is the unification of the four known physical forces that are thought to exist in the universe. This is desired in order to show that the energy that conditions these forces is one and the same. Newton gave us laws of nature that explain the things we see well enough, but as measurements became more refined Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was needed to go deeper. He imagined himself travelling with a photon of light and crossing the entire Universe in no time at all. In this insight he saw the equivalence of mass and energy in time and space (Space-time) as it relates to the known constant of light speed. His principles explain the universe well past what can be easily measured without sophisticated measurements. Relativity demonstrates how space curves to the demand of mass and mass moves in the way that space dictates, with the speed of light mediating. So space and time adjusts in relative ways to the mass affecting it and in this way remains balanced, no matter the time and place of viewing.
Then along comes Quantum Mechanics with measurements even more refined. Not only that, it comes with paradoxes that go way past what Einstein’s Relativity can explain. Quantum Mechanics is apparently showing us that by measuring nature we are actually creating what we are measuring. This phenomenon is seen in what is called the Particle/Wave duality. It is a paradox that holds the wave in a super position of all states until it is measured, whereon it collapses into a particle state to become measurable.
The quantum wave has infinite possibility and can be seen as a resonance of the universe or multiverse. Multiverses are currently popular because they introduce an eternal continuum --- beginning less beginnings and endless ends; however space-time is a concept that can be cancelled out in GUT’s theory when all the forces are unified. This will show that the universe is always in a state of perfect balance and is essentially empty and made of no-thing.
At this point I would like to introduce Buddhism and its teachings that go back well over 2500 years. Beginnings and endings have been thought about in religious terms for a long time. Originally Christianity had God creating the universe at some point in the past and has always thought about endings as an eternal time with God. Today, for a lot people, I believe these ideas have morphed into a more spiritual understanding. By contrast and as a point of difference, when the Buddha was asked where it all began, his reply was that “no beginning could be seen”. In terms of the universe ending, he saw that the universe would continue eternally, as a continuum, until we, as individuals make the effort to become enlightened. Suggestions of universal cycles (Kalpa’s in his original Pali language) that come and go are prominent in Buddhist teachings. Deep Time and Space had always been understood by the Buddha. Descriptions of Kalpa’s can be found in past blogs. The Buddha was never really interested in the beginnings or endings of the Universe. Even the beginning and ending of life was never his focus, notwithstanding his explanations of rebirth --- descriptions of which can also be found in past blogs.
The Buddha’s focus was and is always on the “Present Moment”. “This is the time and place where we can find reality,” he said. “Right Now!” It pays to think about the truth being spoken of here. There is no reality in yesterday it is gone and finished, and tomorrow is just speculation. The truth is that we do not even know if the sun will rise tomorrow morning! So the present moment may be informed by what happened yesterday and the future may be informed by the past and present, but the past is, in effect, dead and gone and the future is merely speculation no matter how good the speculation might be. This present moment is where reality is. Buddhist practice employs meditation as a tool to focus on the present. Meditation helps focus and sharpen the mind to allow the present moment to be uncovered. As the practiced mind penetrates, it energises stillness which allows an even deeper refection as the mind stabilises. Then in a similar pattern to the way GUT’s theory works, phase transitions of energy can be observed as the mind intensifies and unifies. The body and physical world are eventually subsumed into pure mind energy. This is pure consciousness that is unmoving. The physical world finishes and falls away. The pure consciousness is feeding back on itself; the Buddha says uncountable times in the wink of an eye. The feedback is providing an identity for the still consciousness that can be known. The conditioning of consciousness that creates us and the universe finishes at this more refined level. We do need to understand that the individual mind is the only measuring instrument that can see this phenomena and it does need to be calibrated with meditation.
As meditation practice deepens and mindfulness of daily life expands with stillness, (or one could say spaciousness or emptiness in place), our life can be seen playing out with this same pure --- still consciousness as a matrix. This pure consciousness can then form a datum for the practitioner to work with in his or her daily life. Wisdom will then arise rapidly as one starts to understand where reality really is. One starts to see reality more and more in the stillness or space of the mind rather than in the day to day movement of mind. One starts to see how the still space is conditioned to move, we see how it lures us to form perceptions, which move to feelings and then the creation of physicality. In Buddhist teaching, this process is described in what is called the five aggregations.
Meditation and mindfulness continues working to develop wisdom and this in turn starts a purification process that sees the practitioner starting to move away from belief in world. One starts to see clearly what is called Dukka --- a Pali word for suffering in the Buddhist teachings. One sees that the world is always in a state of uncertainty because it is impermanent; it is also conditional and dependently arising. We realise that it can never deliver peace. Our insight can now clearly see what the Buddha called the “Three characteristics of all things”, Dukka, (Suffereing) Anicca (Impermanence) and Anatta which means (Not Self). The emptiness of the world is now becoming clear. Our belief is starting to develop roots more in the stillness rather than in the passing parade of worldly conditions. A good analogy to describe this switch of perception comes for me at the car wash. I know I am sitting in my car and it is not moving and the car wash mechanism is moving over the car, but it can make me feel like it is the car that is moving, even though I know it is not. Our belief in the conditions of the world is strong and it is only when our perspective from stillness is founded deeply and beyond doubt that the transformation in perspective can take place.
When the datum of stillness is mindfully established in our life, the stage is then set to let go further. Momentum can then be developed in deep stillness and clarity, such that we can start to realise what the Buddha realised. So purity of mind is established and pure still consciousness is now well known. The practitioner will then notice, all of a sudden, that the mind has finished. It has settled and relaxed deeply, infused with purity, the still consciousness has finished. When the practitioner realises this, they will know that for them, at that time, the feedback into the external universe has finished. In effect, mind has finished. In terms of the Quantum Mechanical paradox above, the wave of their universal potential has unified and collapsed into a single state. They will know that if they were to die in this state, without the mind feeding back, that they will not be reborn. The compelling realisation of beauty and truth --- of absolute peace will be a reality for them. Their work is done; in this state they are complete. The mind will have completely unified. This practitioner will have gone beyond time, space and consciousness into freedom. At their death they will move to a "place" that the Buddha called Nibbana. A place that is unconditioned. The only caveat here is that this knowledge must have remained in place at death. If the practitioner had not quite seen through the desire of attachment and has been “pulled out” back into the external world, the Buddha said that in subsequent rebirths, (Seven at most), this practitioner will become enlightened.
The RIGHT VIEW of reality is difficult to see. It requires the three “Ps” Practice, Persistence and Perfection. The world and the universe are beguiling. It all seems to be something that is real and separate from us, but practice and insight will confirm it is part of us. It is created by us! Conditioned by us! Pure still consciousness is the energy that forms it. This consciousness is fungible and is the well-known but invisible energy forming all conditions. It is consciousness that moves to create the world in our minds. We each condition the powerful empty and spacious matrix of the universe to create our own individual minds and condition our own individual lives. Our countless rebirths can be seen written into our consciousness, into the universal consciousness. Every particle has its individual place! Every universe perceived has its own individuality! In a statement that resonates with the Quantum Mechanical paradox of the “particle and the wave”, the Buddha said “Enlighten yourself and you Enlighten the entire Universe”! It is only when we can move from our state of dissociation to develop awareness in the moment and then allow that awareness of reality to mature using stillness and emptiness as a datum that we can start viewing the universe correctly. Then we can start to see it all in the right way, with the “RIGHT VIEW”.