Thursday, December 28, 2006

There is Nothing that Transcends

"There is nothing that transcends, no person or soul to be liberated, just as there is nothing to transcend from; because what had been was only the churning of an illusion foolishly grasped at with tendencies of consciousness, learned habits and a memory. There is nowhere to transcend to, only being here now, with a mind that is clear and free of illusion. The unfolding process is known, the burden of the false has been abandoned, gone is the ownerless desire that tended it, becoming is no more."

Wikipedia on egolessness

"But sire, this is no time for philosophy!"

"It is not the body, nor the personality that is the true self.
The true self is eternal.
Even on the point of death we can say to ourselves,
'my true self is free. I cannot be contained.' "

- Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The True Appearance of Santa

Saint Nicholas' skull was preserved as a relic til the present, so it has been possible for forensic scientists to reconstruct his real appearance!

Christmas time is a time truly thick with racial irony. Many people of 'European appearance' who normally shun people of 'Middle-Eastern appearance', go about merrily worshipping a Judean (Jesus) and venerating a Turk (Santa Claus), without the slightest inkling that there might be an inconsistency in their attitude. Yep, that's right; Santa (Ni-)Claus was Turkish (well not exactly; but he was from the part of the world now known as Turkey). Nicholas was an early Christian Bishop in Asia Minor who came from a wealthy background and liked to give out gifts. Of course, the Santas in the shop windows are always very Nordic looking, and his place of origin was conveniently shifted above the arctic circle.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Boundaries of Self

With the ever increasing modularity of the body and the growing permeability of its boundary, "the idea of the body as an exclusive physical sanctuary of the self is coming under mounting pressure, in part due to the spectacular rise in the two-way commerce between the body and other objects." As external objects (implants, artificial or transplanted organs) are increasingly incorporated into the body, or form accessories to it (eg. earpieces and PDAs accessing wireless internet), it becomes more and more difficult to accept the significance of a rigid boundary, between self and other, along the body's surface.

Adapted from
"The Value of Ownership"
Meir Dan-Cohen
University of California, Berkeley.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Non-ownership of Creativity

“The artist belongs to his work, not the work to the artist.”
- Novalis (Friedrich Von Hardenberg)

Novalis transformed Fichte’s Nicht-Ich ("not I") to a Du ("you"), an equal subject to the Ich ("I"). This was the starting point for his Liebesreligion ("religion of love").

Perhaps the reason artists live to paint is because they feel that the Self,
in the form of Art, is - in a way - painting them, rather than the other way around.

Solaris Still

Still and dialogue from SOLARIS
(the original Tarkovsky version)

Some have interpreted the mysterious planet
in Solaris to be a symbol of the Self.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

If there is no 'me'...

“If there is no ‘me,’ then who is the person thinking, doing, feeling, etc?”

"Since there’s a duality at play in that question, there can be a subject-object at play in regards to witnessing or observing. To be free of the limited identification with the body and the "mind roles" it plays, You must find who or what subject knows that false object. Who or what is the witness of that body and those roles and personas and false identities? Who or what is that You which can observe you (the “me” in the question) and is far enough removed from it to be able to make an inquiry into what that “me” might be? Who or what is that You that knows its presence? Who is that I which, in the case of some persons, can reach a point when it can say, “I realize that I am as phony as a three-dollar bill”? Who are the two “I’s” used to generate that statement of duality? Do You see that two different versions of “you,” that two different “I’s,” are at play in that revelation? Do You see—since all dualities are always lies—that only one of those “I’s” can refer to the Real You and that the other has to be referring to something that is not real? Who is that You which can know ItSelf and can come to know that the false roles are false? Only You can do that witnessing and and only You can come to know the “not you.”

[From the Blogger blog: Advaita Vedanta]

"The Mind is not Real at all"

The Courage and the Composure of Mind, in the face of death, of the Zen Monk, and of the Samurai, is illustrated by this anecdote about Tsu Yuen (So-gen), who came over to Japan in 1280. The event happened when he was in China, where the invading army of Yuen spread terror all over the country. Some of the barbarians, who crossed the border of the State of Wan, broke into the monastery of Tsu Yuen, and threatened to behead him. Then calmly sitting down, ready to meet his fate, he composed the following verses:
"The heaven and earth afford me no shelter at all;
I'm glad, unreal are body and soul.
Welcome thy weapon, O warrior of Yuen!
Thy trusty steel, That flashes lightning,
cuts the wind of Spring, I feel."

This reminds us of Sang Chao (So-jo), who, on the verge of death by the vagabond's sword, expressed his feelings in the follow lines:
"In body there exists no soul.
The mind is not real at all.
Now try on me thy flashing steel,
As if it cuts the wind of Spring, I feel."
The barbarians, moved by this calm resolution and dignified air of Tsu Yuen, rightly supposed him to be no ordinary personage, and left the monastery, doing no harm to him.

"The Mind is not Real"

"To the universal one the mind is not real.
The mind of the past cannot be kept,
the mind of the present cannot be held
and the mind of the future cannot be caught.
Yet people are attached to such delusions
and label them as mind."
-Lao Tse
(sometime in the middle of the first millenium BCE)

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Scroll of Heaven

The Scroll of Heaven
Church of Chora,

3 & 1/2 coils with sun and Moon

Self-ownership and Morality

It is commonly recognised in the West that the basis of human rights is the principle of self-ownership. (If we do not own ourselves then there is no basis for doing unto others as we would have them do unto us). In contast, Vedanta and Buddhist scriptures state that immorality has its root in the idea of self-ownership or egoism. Morality springs from dissolving the individual self in the universal Self.

Socialism began as a movement to abolish regimes in which serfs were literally owned by the rich, but Stalinist and Maoist totalitarianism removed the people's newly won self-ownership. Marx's 'Property is theft' was extended to even ownership of self. Except for the leader, of course.
The deluded belief in an imaginary ego, bolstered by yes men living in fear of being sent to the Gulag or worse, led the atheist Stalin to perpetrate some of the worst immorality ever known.
A prevailing atheist view is that morality should come from the self-owning individual, not from a sense of being owned by an omnipresent self (God). Morality should come from an individual's personal responsiblity - it should not be imposed from 'above'. The well-known
spokesman for atheism Richard Dawkins writes:
"We're much better off when we're answerable to ourselves, and the principle that everyone owns his or her self - no slavery to dogma, or philosophy. No domination, no war, no harm, no theft. But lots of voluntary mutual consent."
Dawkins is a logical positivist yet he believes in something there is no scientific evidence for: individual selves. He is right to try to abolish conditioning even conditioning in the form of religion. Conditioning is a terrible basis for morality - but there is a basic inconsistency in the view that morality should be based on an imaginary ego.

Who Are You?

Only once was I made mute.
It was when a man asked me,
"Who are you?"

-Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Radiant River Valley

This image looks like the cover of a New Age book but reminds one that serendipity is a real factor in photography, and one should allow oneself to go with the flow of cosmic being so as to be at the right place at the right time.

The other possibility is that someone has just done a really good photoshop job on a relatively boring travel snap.

Poisonous Positivism

David Deutsch, professor of physics at the University of Oxford's Centre for Quantum Computation, pioneered the field of quantum information science by describing a universal quantum computer. He is critical of the
toxic effect logical positivism has had on science. Logical Positivism (also called Logical Empiricism) is a philosophical doctrine formulated in Vienna in the 1920s, according to which scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge and all traditional metaphysical doctrines are to be rejected as meaningless. Deutsch believes that, though it was intended to be a retreat from metaphysics, it was really a retreat from reality and explanation."In physics", he says, "it took the form of deciding as a matter of principle that science is not about discovering how the world really is, but instead must confine itself to predicting the outcomes of observations. When quantum mechanics came along it required a drastic revision of people's conception of the world. Many physicists responded by denying that physics is about the world at all, only about what we see."

"Logical positivism is a form of solipsism", states Deutsch, "If you say physics is only about predicting the outcomes of experiments, you can only really say it's about experiments that you personally do, because to you any other person is just another thing you're observing. But solipsism is a dead-end philosophy and when it comes to science it's a poison. It doesn't allow further progress from existing theories, and that's why I think applications of quantum theory, particularly quantum computation, were overlooked for decades. You could say people didn't really think the theory was true because they had rejected the idea of truth in science. Truth in science must mean correspondence to reality, or it means nothing."

The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics can explain how a quantum computer could perform, in a few seconds or minutes, a computation of such magnitude that a classical computer, even if it consisted of all the matter in the universe and ran as long as the age of the universe, could not even come close to; for example, the factorisation of a 10,000-digit integer, the product of two very large primes. The quantum computer must use some process beyond the perceivable universe to arrive at the answer. "At that point logically, we have already accepted the many-worlds structure. The way the quantum computer works is: the universe differentiates itself into multiple universes and each one performs a different sub-computation. The number of sub-computations is vastly more than the number of atoms in the visible universe. Then they pool their results to get the answer. Anyone who denies the existence of parallel universes has to explain how the factorisation process works."

It used to be the case that many physicists were completely sceptical that quantum computing could ever be a possibility. Now the consensus is that it is possible, but will probably take decades, to build a quantum computer.

The Mythical Mind

"The mind is a myth."

-Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Apparent Solipsism in The Diamond Sutra

From the Diamond Sutra:
Then the Lord Buddha addressed the assembley...
Though the sentient beings thus to be delivered by me are innumerable and without limit yet, in reality, there are no sentient beings to be delivered. And why, Subhuti? Because, should there exist in the minds of Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas such arbitrary conceptions of phenomena as the existence of one's own ego-selfness. The ego-selfness of another, self-ness as divided into an infinite number of living and dying beings, or selfness as unified into one Universal Self existing eternally, they would be unworthy to be called Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas....
The Lord Buddha continued:- Do not think, Subhuti, that the Tathagata would consider within himself:- I will deliver human beings. That would be a degrading thought. Why? Because really there are no sentient beings to be delivered by the Tathagata. Should there be any sentient beings to be delivered by the Tatagatha, it would mean that the Tathagata was cherishing within his mind arbitrary conceptions of phenomena such as one's own self, other selves, living beings and an universal self. Even when the Tathagata refers to himself, he is not holding in his mind any such arbitrary thought. Only terrestrial human beings think of selfhood as being a personal possession. Subhuti, even the expression "terrestrial beings" as used by the Tathagata does not mean that there are any such beings. It is used only as a figure of speech....

It seems solipsistic to suggest that there are no other beings; however, the Diamond Sutra also refutes the notion of a single self. It therefore repudiates solipsism. If there is no such thing as ego, there is no solipsism. It seems pointless, even mocking, on the part of the sutra, to conjure such paradoxes: the Universe is thoughtless, concept-less and ego-less...yet awareness exists...something is aware of this....Who or what? To realise that unknowable Self - that is the point.

The Atomistic Model of consciousness
We tend to have an atomistic model of awareness: each human body has it's own separate field of awareness loosely located in the neurological structure of the brain and possibly extending to extremities of the body because of the integrity of the brain and the entire nervous system. However; at a subatomic level, it is probably meaningless to speak of a boundary between the senses and what is sensed.
Awareness can be directed outwards to the world or inwards to itself, to the viewer. In both directions the extent of the field of awareness is utterly indefinable. The point of view is impossible to pinpoint and the outer extremity of the field could be said to include all that is sensed. In the visual sense, the boundary of consciousness is the extent of what can be seen. Looking at the sky, trying to locate such a boundary, gives a sense of how nebulous the field of awareness is.

Buddhist Metaphysics

The Buddha’s statements about Nirvana (the state of unwavering pure Selfhood beyond the illusory world of Samsara) are usually described as ‘metaphysical’ because they seem to be describing something that transcends the physical world. The word 'Metaphysics' means literally “after” (not "beyond" or “above”) “physics", and refers to the arrangement of Aristotle's writings, in which his books on “first philosophy” were placed after the books on “physics”. This is quite distinct to the popular definition of 'beyond or above the physical reality'. The term should be defined thus: ‘pertaining to questions that cannot be answered by any empirical evidence or criteria’.
As Walter Stace observes:
"On this basis most modern thinkers would doubtless class the Buddha’s Nirvana as metaphysical. But it would not be so to Buddha, because he would not, like most modern empiricists, identify experience with sense-experience. The Buddhist adept claims to have direct experience of Nirvana in this life and without waiting for another life. Therefore for Buddha the conception of Nirvana is not metaphysical but empirical"

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Consciousness is Indivisible

Time and space are basic properties of the Universe.
Consciousness is clearly another.
Time and space are indivisible. We speak of segments: minutes, miles -
but we know that they are not real divisions of time and space - they do not actually have any effect on these basic properties at all. They are convenient units of measurement existing only in the human mind.
Divisions of consciousness are the same. One speaks of 'you and me', 'them and us', but these are words which do not refer to actual things. Consciousness is coextensive with time and space; and, like them, is an indivisible, curved, curlicued, continuum.
'Individuals' seem to have their 'own' thoughts, and act independently; however, action and thought are not what is meant by consciousness. One is conscious of thoughts and actions.
There is nothing wrong with using terms of measurement: 'this millisecond', 'that cubic lightyear', 'me' - as long as one remembers that these terms do not actually divide anything, or cause anything.

The Nature of Self

What is the nature of the Self?

"What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it. like silver in mother-of-pearl, these three appear at the same time, and disappear at the same time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no "I" thought. That is called "Silence". The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is "I"; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self."

- Sri Ramana Maharshi