Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Nature of Reality

From the web site,

“The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamed that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, " ‘Was I before a man who dreamed about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?’ "
Take a moment to think about what that means. Reread that paragraph and really think about it. I’ll wait. Then continue reading below for my thoughts on it.

How do we really know if we are awake or dreaming? What is this reality that we perceive? Do we believe in what our senses tell us? That’s risky. Our senses can be fooled in so many ways. My eyes tell me the world is flat. I know that isn’t true. My sense of balance tells me that the ground is stable. I know that isn’t true. The earth is rotating on its axis at over 1000 mph.

Do we believe in what scientists and doctors tell us? That’s risky, too. Doctors tell us that our body is a collection of chemicals that react together to give us awareness. Scientists are unable to detect the presence of qi. I know from personal experience that qi exists. These same scientists have shown that acupuncture works but they can’t explain why. Their view of the nature of reality is very incomplete.

Reality should be the same for the scientist, philosopher, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, magician, atheist, or any other observer. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be true, either. In the Tibetan traditions, reincarnation is a fundamental principle of reality. To an enlightened person, there is personal experience in the form of memories of past lives that justifies this view of reality. In the Christian traditions, God as a creator is a fundamental principle of reality. There is personal experience in the form of prayer and conversations with God that justifies this view of reality.

According to Buddhist traditions, Vipassana meditation gives us a better understanding of the nature of relative reality. From the web site,
“Although Vipassana does not introduce us to the absolute, it is designed to help us see much that must be seen, and in my view (and that of most Buddhist teachers) it is the place to start. We first need to learn to quiet the mind and look with detachment at the relative reality into which we are heavily immersed and identified. The Tibetan Buddhist practice of Dzogchen and the Advaita Vedanta of Nisargadatta, on the other hand, seek to introduce us to the absolute. Yes, underlying the relative world of mental information, and allowing it to exist, is that enabling something we usually call awareness.”

So where do we go with this? I have no idea. It looks like I have a lot of work in front of me.

© 2010 Eric Borreson

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