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.

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