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November 23, 2010


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Blogger Brian wrote:

"Supposedly enlightened people, such as the Buddha, talk about how 'I-ness' isn't truly real. We humans aren't ego-encapsulated entities who inhabit our own realm of reality. Rather, we're part and parcel of the cosmos, an integral aspect of the interconnected world.

Well, that's exactly what science says. Also, everyday experience."

--We often hear in Buddhism and advaita/neo-advaita that enlightenment is no big deal or doesn't exist because how can a ficticious entity become enlightened, or there is no one to be enlightened, or enlightenment is the case whether you know it or not, or enlightenment is a myth. Sometimes I say it myself.

But it isn't as simple as that. I think paradoxically, while the above is true, enlightenment DOES happen.

Being "part and parcel of the cosmos, an integral aspect of the interconnected world" can be intensely, profoundly, intrinsically realized, not as a concept that one accepts via logic or intuition, but as an actual experience.

It is not dry and theoretical like science or an idea. It is alive, vibrant, visceral, immediate and all pervasive like a light going on in a dim room. All becomes crystal clear, There is doubt about it. It is beyond doubt or question. It just is as it is and couldn't be any other way.

The tendency is to go "aha!" now I see it, but as soon as that clinging occurs it slips away. Yet the impact remains, maybe for years, even decades. It may continue to color your life even if you never see it again.

However, it may continue to occur from time to time and one may learn not to get too excited but rather to relax into it...here it is again. Let it come over you like syrup on a pancake. Just continue to lay flat and let the syrup soak in. Don't stand on end in the excitement of the moment. The syrup just rolls off. It can't be owned. It owns you.


Have you ever woken up earlier than usual and meditated instead of continuing with sleep? Say you sleep 7 hours and go to bed at 12am. Why not wake up at 5am and meditate? You should be in REM rebound at that time and start to experience funky hypnagogic stuff, possibly even an OBE.

So enlightenment made simple is the recognition that 'all is interconnected'.

What does interconnected mean?

It cannot mean a mental connection since i do not know what you think, nor you me. I only know what I think, I think therefore I am.

It cannot mean a physical connection because the last time we were physically connected to another was to our mothers before the umbilical was cut.

Perhaps interconnectedness means all being composed of the same basic building blocks or atoms, this may be so, but each arrangement of said atoms is unique. Not only are species different, but so are all individiduals within a species. This diversity is essential for life.

So what are we left with? the recognition that we are all products of, or dependent on, our environment, so what? this is common sense, it requires no enlightenment. It does not even require any conscious recognition, since it is hardwired into every lifeform, whose very existence is dependent on its uniquely evolved way of interacting with its environment.

George, I gave some examples of interconnectedness -- they're ubiquitous in both science and everyday life. Interchanges of matter and energy are everywhere, from the air we breathe to the Internet by which we're communicating.

Interconnectedness doesn't mean identity. If everything in the cosmos were exactly the same, without any distinctions, there wouldn't be "everything." Or any thing.

Interconnectedness or interrelationships are how the universe functions. That was the core premise of my Systems Science studies. Look at any one thing in isolation and you miss what's really going on, because nothing is isolated.

The problem with us human beings, as I see it, is that we have a mistaken intuitive understanding of our separate uniqueness, a.k.a. ego or self. I agree with you that our inherent connectedness with the environment should be obvious. But for many, it isn't.

Religion is largely to blame, with all of its talk about an immortal soul or pristine consciousness. This leads people to believe that they can view the world from a detached perspective, and after death will leave the world entirely to enter a better one.

As Alan Watts said, our language reflects this unwarranted supposition. We speak of babies coming "into" the world, rather than "from" the world, as if they popped into existence from some realm external to the universe.

Feeling that we part and parcel of the world is different from simply thinking that this is true. Tucson's comment makes this point. "Enlightenment" might be a whole bodied/brained realization of the obvious fact of interconnectedness, which otherwise remains a surface understanding that doesn't penetrate through the core of us.


while i think some of your statements may be right, they are vague and not so clearcut as you make out.

For example "nothing is isolated" is a very tenuous statement imo. The gas in a hermetically sealed box is isolated from its surrounding environment. My thoughts are isolated from yours. I can have a thought, which I choose not to act on, free will, etc.

"no species is an island" - but many species have evolved uniquely on islands, notably Darwins galapagos isles. In other words, species evolve uniquely in an isolated local environment. Flighless birds have evolved in New Zealand because there no large land predators. Similarly, life on earth may have evolved completely independently to life in another part of the cosmos.

Systems theory is perhaps an interesting way of looking at the world, in that it assumes a more holistic perspective, as perhaps compared to the more reductionist (or atomistic) tendency of traditional physical science. Thus, i can see why ppl with more mystical leanings of oneness would be drawn to systems theory, but its never really had the accuracy or predictive accuracy of science. Perhaps the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but identifying the whole and its behaviour is not so clear.

As a not-apart from the whole.Who is there to say anything is "this or that"?

George, let's think for a moment about the supposedly "isolated" gas in a hermetically sealed box. It isn't really isolated, because it is part of a system which determines its isolated status.

The gas is constrained within the walls of the box. Without the box, it wouldn't be possible to speak of isolation. This is the figure/ground issue that Alan Watts talks about. We get focused on a figure, and forget that what gives it reality is the ground against which it stands out.

Also, if the walls of the box changed temperature, so would the gas. And the gas isn't isolated from the laws of nature. Gravity, electromagnetism and the nuclear forces still exist within the "isolated" box.

Quantum physics tells us there is a slight probability that a particle of the gas could "tunnel" its way through the walls of the box and end up in another location. So this is another way the gas isn't isolated.

For me, the figure/ground notion is the easiest way to understand how everything in the universe is interconnected. The only way it is possible to perceive some seemingly distinct entity is by discerning how it stands out against a backdrop, even if this is a vacuum of apparent nothingness.

Which doesn't really exist. There is no such thing as "nothing," another demonstration of how the cosmos is interconnected. See:
(thanks Alex, for sharing that link in an email to me)

Thanks for bringing attention to Watts' "The Book". Of all that I've read, I would choose it as the one book to offer someone who was curious about this not-so-mainstream perspective on life. I still remember being electrified in the days after first reading it, the total freedom and joy of being a genuine fake.

We are all afraid to relinquish our little egos, but when it happens we wonder what the fuss was about. Nobody does it fully or for very long, but with each contraction of the egotistic impulse comes joy and compassion in ever greater proportion.

Brian, enlightenment was forced upon you by your
own readers. You got trapped by your own audience.

But, enlightenment does not make you smart. It does
not make you a decent person.

The rabbits hole is much deeper.

Much deeper. It is a place you do not want to go.

It is the place Faquir Chand called, "hanging on the gallows with no support."

The simply enlightened, are still capable of committing the most terrible crimes without even knowing it.

Enlightenment will not help the world.

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