Tag Archives: Knowledge

Ignorance Fosters Arrogance

9 May

We are an integral part of everything.

22 Apr

As we have seen in other chapters, the ultimate, even the very idea of the ultimate, cannot be known by discursive thinking. In the now we live our life as it is. Also, through the practice of silent meditation, we focus on life awareness. With this awareness, we experience the interconnectedness of all things and compassion for all sentient beings. Knowing shatters illusions Knowing, then, begins with the release of illusions, with disillusionment. Knowing means to penetrate through the fog, to arrive at the reality; knowing means to “see” the reality without illusion. Knowing is that the ownership of truth is not possible. The I-Thou relationship cannot be explained; it simply is. Through the I-Thou relation, we interact with the world in this whole Being. It is not a means to some object or goal, but an authentic relationship involving respect for the whole being of each subject. Buber considers “I-Thou” communication the fundamental expression of the uniqueness of relation within inter-being. These relation patterns of rapport and affinity are usually found when beings relate with brotherly love, friendship, openness, and care. In the I-Thou encounter, we relate to each other as authentic beings, without inquisition, prejudice, enmity, or predisposition. I meet you as you are, and you meet me as who I am. In the I-Thou relationship, I am with you openly in my heart and mind. However, there are many people who never live through this deeper level of relation. This is unfortunate because living through relationships that enable “I-Thou” brings deep satisfaction and richness in life and opens a greater sense of the original relation with the Absolute. When an I-Thou encounter occurs I am meeting the other as a thou with openness, directness, and presence by means of real mutual action, meaning and confirmation. As Buber wrote, “This person is other, essentially other than myself… I confirm it; I wish his otherness to exist, because I wish his particular being to exist”. We are interconnected, “not just with people, but animals too, and stones, clouds, trees” (Aitken 1984, p. 10). We are an integral part of everything. Nothing exists by itself; nothing has a separate existence, a separate self. As human beings we are Being, one with All. The truth is pure interbeing, beyond the dualistic thinking of the alienated mind. Thus, we are aware of the impermanence, and the ignorance of the “IT” world. Serenity comes with the acceptance of impermanence and interrelatedness. The insights of such Sages as the Buddha, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Master Eckhart show that knowing begins with the awareness of the deceptiveness of our common-sense perceptions; our picture of physical reality does not correspond to what is “really real”. Therefore, most people are half-awake, half-dreaming, and are unaware that most of what they hold to be true and self-evident is an illusion produced by the influence of the dualistic alienated world in which they live. Knowing, then, begins with the transformation of illusions, disillusionment and alienation. Knowing means to penetrate through the fog, to arrive at reality, and “see” the reality without illusion. Knowing is not to have the truth, as possession is not possible, but to be the truth. The being mode of knowing allows us, as psychologist Erich Fromm (1992, pp.117-120) also observed, to go beyond ourselves, outside the ego. The goals are to be kind to oneself and another, to transcend the barriers that separate us from one another, and to live life with recognition of interdependence and impermanence. When communicating at this level, we move beyond social roles, identifications and objectifications. In I-Thou dialogues, we trust and can disclose deep, private, aspects of ourselves that enable us to engage in “I-Thou” relationships. The Buddha, one of the greatest Apophatic teachers, said in his last words to the monks, “It may be that after I am gone that some of you will think, ‘now we have no teacher.’ But that is not how you should see it. Let the Dharma and the discipline that I have taught you be your teacher. All individual things pass away. Strive on, untiringly.” Now, as we have explored in this book the similar meditation instructions and doctrinal perspectives taught by the many Apophatic spiritual teachers, we know we can attain Awakening and know Emptiness and end our suffering, and harmful consequences of dualistic alienation. Let us all follow the Path and accomplish knowing the ‘unknowable’ – No-thing

The Universality of the Mystical Experience

18 Apr

The Universality of the Mystical Experience
Over the centuries and throughout many cultures, ordinary people as well as monks and mystics, have reported personal experiences that transformed their lives and perspective on life and existence. While interpretations of this experience have differed, researcher Walter Stace outlined important common characteristics which distinguish them from any other kind of experience. These include: * The Unitary Consciousness; the One; pure consciousness. * All life is interconnected and the One is in all things. * Non-spatiality, non-temporality. *Sense of objectivity or reality. * Peace, bliss, serenity, rapture. *Feeling of the sacred or mysterious. * To be transcendent, immanent, indescribable, ineffable. *No judgmental quality. *”Insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect.” *Transiency
Most transcendent experiences have a short occurrence, but their effect persists. While the discernment of this Reality is subjective, it is not exclusively personal as the experience has been shared often throughout different epochs and localities. Although a supramundane experience can occur spontaneously, it is usually discerned profoundly after living virtuously and immersion in deep states of meditation. In that consummate state of awareness, the illusory boundaries of the separate self dissolve and there is no longer any cognitive distinction between subject and object, and time and space disappear.
To paraphrase psychologist William James: ‘This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute … we become aware of our oneness, however, (labeling it as) “union with God” is only one possible interpretation of it, which should not, therefore, be given as its definition. The same experience can be interpreted non theistically as in Buddhism…. All this can be experienced and felt without any creed at all. … The mystic in any culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical experience.’ All this can be experienced and felt without any creed at all. … The mystic in any culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical experience.’ This discernment can be experienced without any ideology at all and it is still understood as sacred and spiritual.
The Apophatic theology proposes that instead of aiming for worldly glory, wealth, or power, it is far more worthwhile that we become fulfilled with our own existence and strive for virtue, goodness, and a quiet mind to eventually gain access to the essence of Being or ‘God’. In fact, as Angelus Silesius wrote, ‘God’ is a pure No-thing; concealed in now and here; the less you reach for ‘Him’, the more ‘He’ will appear.’ The All is the divine immanence that embraces all.


Beginner’s Mind

7 Apr

Existence is a Continual Flow

20 Mar

God is the grace that lives within all lives.

17 Feb

Creating Heaven on Earth.

15 Feb

Written and copyright claimed by Rodger R Ricketts, Psy.D. July, 2019
‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and
getting the same result, but expecting a Different One.’
Albert Einstein

The Creators of our own destiny
Indeed, the path of human existence is solely in the hands of
humans. This is a path that requires training
, discipline, a giving
up of selfishness, immaturity and unethical living to achieve a human
existence resulting in well-being, happiness, compassion and
wisdom. As the expression is: “If we have not found the heaven within,
we have not found the heaven without.” While this project of the
construction of peaceful coexistence, dignity, equality and prosperity
for all sentient beings at first glance might seem if not impossible,
very difficult, it is possible.
This needed profound change in our fundamental model of
understanding correctly how reality is, while paradoxically not new,
it finally needs its rightful place of importance and actuality in
human’s operational definitions of sanity and wisdom. Therefore,
humankind must shift from the predominate dogma of dualism
which creates most of our problems, to a non-dualism which is not
only different, but also better. Non-dualism is a radically different
way of understanding and organizing
personal beliefs, complex
systems and organization policies, by transcending dualistic thinking
and organization.
Both the principles of life-based on Transcendental Idealism and a
course based in Transcendent Psychology require recognizing a very
different even radical approaches how to live our lives as successful and
prosperous human beings. But, as history has continually shown us
and human behavior continues even today to destroy, murder,
annihilate and create massive suffering not only for all sentient
beings but also the destruction includes the earth – transformation
from ignorance is absolutely necessary. The course is clear and the
guidelines are well situated and proven. What is needed as in any
important human endeavor is not only the desire, which in this case,
humans want peace, prosperity, and happiness, but also the correct
effort and knowledge for success.

The New Possibility
The simile which expresses well what will it take to reach this new
phase of harmonious human existence on earth is that of the
butterfly. To actualize its beauty and freedom it must emerge from
the darkness of a cocoon. However, through the natural process of
giving birth to itself, with the correct effort and intention, the
butterfly larvae slowly emerge from the cocoon into the mature and
capable butterfly. Similarly, following the path away from immature
greed, anger, and ignorance into the light of the day and out of
darkness is the basic thing humans must do in order to reach a level of
stability and peace. Ultimately, the way we understand and think
about existence, a paradigm shift must be advanced which will
change our human character and end further suffering.
This opportunity of living in a world without the horrendous
suffering and destruction of war and conflict created through
ignorance has long been recognized by visionaries as a possibility
since it is solely in the hands of human beings to do this. It is only
through taking responsibility for our actions, thoughts and emotions
and living in a way that will we create our own peace. We also see
that by not including others in this vision, we are still living in the
cocoon, in ignorance, selfishness, and in anger which is based on our
old dualist mindset rooted in separation and alienation.
The lesson is that our deep happiness depends on our
mental/emotional state as well as living conditions. And in both
cases, we have the possibility of creating positive, realistic and
pragmatic mental states which include the living conditions that
promote, foster and sustain our well-being. This project depends on
the way we understand and implement it. Our suffering is created by
ourselves; therefore, the ending of our suffering is also possible by
ourselves together.

Looking to each other to remove the ignorance and hindrances to
our vision of life on earth without the suffering created through
wars, greed, hatred, ignorance, and injustice are a must. As Wells
wrote during WWI: ‘This monstrous conflict in Europe, the
slaughtering, the famine, the confusion, the panic and hatred, and
lying pride, it is all of it really only in the darkness of the mind. At the
coming of understanding, it will vanish as dreams vanish at
awakening. But never will it vanish until understanding has come.’ For
the mind enmeshed in ignorance, greed, and anger feeds on itself
and, therefore, has difficulty letting go and rising above the quagmire
in which it remains.
This blindness needs an empathetic and compassionate approach to
assist in showing how it is possible to live in a world without the pain
and distrust and suffering created through ignorance. And the
path can be clear and successful without much difficulty. What is
difficult is allowing oneself to give up the hatred, the anger, the
greed, the points of view of egoism and selfishness – like those of a
child. In the book, Lost Horizon, there is this passage: ‘Look at the
world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is!
What blindness! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing
headlong against each other. The time must come when brutality and
the lust for power will perish by their own sword. When that day comes,
the world must begin to look for a new life.’ The new paradigm is away
from that, and instead, the whole movement is a development of
maturity of perspective and therefore action with wisdom about the
way we understand and think about existence. Therefore incorrect
ideas and beliefs have to be renounced, which will change our
human character and end further suffering.

For as the Buddha taught and is now clear through scientific
investigation, humans and the environment are deeply enmeshed
and co-dependent on each other. This is one world and every action
by all living and non-living forces interact with and alter the previous
reality- some more than others. Therefore, once we are inspired and
apply the truths that the Buddha discovered and now are explicated
in more modern terminology and description, there is a real
possibility for a heaven on earth without the distraction of seeking
supernatural intervention. The heaven on Earth can briefly be
described as a world of humans acting through wisdom and empathy
and compassion

Everything is inter-being, interconnected and all living Beings are a Family of the Universe or divine

15 Feb

Philosopher, educator and writer, Martin Buber wrote, “Now from my own unforgettable experience I know well that there is a state in which the bonds of the personal nature of life seem to have fallen away from us and we experience an undivided unity…. I can elicit from those experiences only that in them I reached an undifferentiable unity of myself without form or content. I may call this an original pre-biographical unity and suppose that it is hidden unchanged beneath all biographical change, all development and complication of the soul.’

When that happens, we understand and empathically feel that everything is inter-being, interconnected and all living Beings are a Family of the Universe or divine. The realm of pure experience is not an ontological category, but the ordinary world of phenomena experienced directly, with no intervening conceptualization.

May be an image of 1 person, beard and text

The Biological Origin of “Self”

14 Feb

 Everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler!” ~ Albert Einstein

 In my book, The Buddha’s Teachings: Seeing Without Illusion, I explore the Buddha’s concept of Anatta, or no-self. I show that the Buddha described the concept of self as a relative, linguistic, social construct dependent on culture and time. Experiencing this insight of ‘no-self’ helps us to comprehend and dissolve away the attachment and clinging to self-identification that causes suffering until ultimately all traces of self-identification are gone and all that’s left is freedom.  However, the nature of self is one of the most enduring assumptions of humankind, and if asked how one knows they have a self, often the reply is, “I can make decisions, I can choose; therefore, I know there is an ‘I’ who is the chooser behind my choices.” This blog explores the question, “How real is the conscious self as the cognitive executive in charge?”

 The newest research in neuroscience and biology indicates that besides some significant cognitive embellishments on the original phenomena, selectivity and choice is a function based on an organism’s biological and evolutionary need to minimize and sort out all possible “blooming, buzzing confusion” (William James) that would occur without the body’s filtering system. In his book, Quantum Reality, Physicist Wolfram Schommers quotes physician Hoimar von Ditfurth, who stated: “No doubt, the rule ‘As little outside world as possible’, only as much as is absolutely necessary is apparent in evolution. It is valid for all descendants of the primeval cell and therefore for ourselves. Without a doubt, the horizon of the properties of the tangible environment has been extended more and more in the course of time. But in principle, only those qualities of the outside world are accessible to our perception apparatus which, in the meantime, we need as living organisms in our stage of development. Also, our brain has evolved not as an organ to understand the world but an organ to survive.”

 In fact, every second, we are inundated with information from the many stimuli around and in us. In order to keep the brain from becoming overwhelmed by the steady stream of data competing for attention, brain cells work together to sort and prioritize information. Our sense organs and our brain operate as an intricate kind of filter that limits and directs the mind’s focus, so that under normal conditions, attention is concentrated on just those objects or situations or sensations that are of importance to the organism. This ability to pay attention to relevant information while ignoring distractions is a core brain function.

 Without the ability to focus and filter out “noise” we could not effectively function. As reported in Science Digest, in a study appearing in the journal Nature, researchers from Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and the University of California Davis studied communications between synaptically connected neurons under conditions where subjects shifted their attention toward or away from visual stimuli that activated the recorded neurons. The results point to a novel mechanism by which attention shapes perception by selectively altering presynaptic weights to highlight sensory features among all the noisy sensory input. “While our findings are consistent with other reported changes in neuronal firing rates with attention, they go far beyond such descriptions, revealing never-before tested mechanisms at the synaptic level,” said study co-author Farran Briggs Ph.D., assistant professor of Physiology and Neurobiology at the Geisel School of Medicine. “Many processes in the brain occur automatically and without the involvement of our consciousness. This prevents our mind from being overloaded by simple routine tasks. But when it comes to decisions, we tend to assume they are made by our conscious mind. This is questioned by our current findings.” The researchers found that it was possible to predict from brain signals which options participants would take up to seven seconds before they consciously made their decision. The fact that decisions could be predicted so long before they were made goes against our usual intuitive sense that we always make our decisions with conscious deliberation, and that this deliberation process is a foundation of our self.

 How does our brain achieve this ability to choose and focus attention? The answer is believed to be connected with what is called “efficient selection”, which is likened to a filter; routing important sensory information to higher-order perceptual areas of the brain while suppressing disruptions from irrelevant information. Reporting their research in Neuron, Justin Gardner and colleagues at the RIKEN BSI, found that sensory signals were efficiently selected. They said that stimuli that are particularly disruptive to our ability to focus and that evoke high neural activity, are preferentially passed on to perceptual areas of the brain because stimuli with high contrast that evoke large sensory responses, such as flashing lights or loud noises, can easily disrupt our ability to focus. 

  Expanding on the description of the neurobiological-cognitive system in his paper, The self: social construct or neurobiological system?, Philipp Rau wrote:‘We can rightfully reject the social theory of selfhood with its claim that the self is only a social post-lingual emergent. Rather, the self is at root a neurobiological-cognitive system that, long before socialization, allows the individual to be conscious of itself in the world. But having rejected a social account of how the self emerges does not compel us to deny that the self, once emerged, can be shaped by sociocultural factors. The processes contributing to the self are distributed across a number of neuroanatomical structures. It is only their synchronous neural activity that generates a self.  The core self of the neuro-cognitive theory only arises when the organism becomes conscious of itself interacting with the world. Thus, the self emerges precisely when the internal-external boundary is straddled. The phenomenal content of the neuro-cognitive self, however, corresponds to what Cartesian intuition would have us conceive of as an ontologically independent self. There is no such self-independent of the brain and body, of course, but the self-representational processes described by the neuro-cognitive theory, in creating a conscious self-model, produce in us the illusion that there might be (cf. Metzinger, 2003, chs. 1, 6, 8).

 What Descartes in his Meditations believed to have isolated as “a res cogitans” (a thinking thing), is the content of the core self, the product of a neurobiologically driven cognitive system.’

Biochemist Mae-Wan Ho goes one step further by saying that this system is a function not only of the brain, but of how the organism functions as a coherent whole; what she calls “the quantum coherence of the organism”. In an article on the ISIS website titled, Quantum Coherence and Conscious Experience, she wrote, “I propose that quantum coherence is the basis of living organization and can also account for key features of conscious experience – the ‘unity of intentionality’, our inner identity of the singular ‘I’, the simultaneous binding and segmentation of features in the perceptive act, the distributed, holographic nature of memory, and the distinctive quality of each experienced occasion.”

In her book, The Rainbow and the Worm, she explains that:“The liquid crystalline water matrix pervades the entire organism from the extracellular connective tissues to the interior of every single cell, and is the carrier of electric and electromagnetic signals. Special membrane proteins have water-filled channels that cross the cell membrane, acting as ‘proton wires’ to transport protons in and out of the cell. This is a special instance of the proton jump conduction that’s much faster than ordinary electric currents through wires, and it could be happening all over the body. The same liquid crystalline matrix transmits the heart’s large pulsating electromagnetic field throughout the body, including the brain, which paces and intercommunicates with the myriad local rhythms. Within the cell, it transmits the much higher frequency electromagnetic waves emitted by molecules that depend on specific frequencies to recognize one another and coordinate their actions even at a distance. So we see that the body is a quantum coherent organism which creates and recreate herself from moment to moment.”

 Mae -Wan Ho likes to call this process “Quantum jazz”, which is the music of the organism dancing life into being. She goes on to write that: “Quantum jazz is played out by the whole organism, in every nerve and sinew, every muscle, every single cell, molecule, atom, and elementary particle, a light and sound display that spans seventy octaves in all the colors of the rainbow. There is no conductor or choreographer. Quantum jazz is written while it is being performed; each gesture, each phrase is new, shaped by what has gone before, though not quite. The organism never ceases to experience her environment, taking it in (entangling it) for future reference, modifying her liquid crystalline matrix and neural circuits, recoding and rewriting her genes. Quantum coherence is the ‘I’ in everyone that gives unity to conscious experience.”

 As we can see from these examples of a new understanding about the significance of biological regulation and coherence of the organism, the previously intuitive construct of the “Cartesian Theater” in the brain, wherein the self sits as a spectator on the world and self acts as the CEO executive of all decision making, is exposed as an illusion. Clearly, the biologically based core functions of organization, selectivity, and coherence are necessary for organism survival. The abstracted cognitive embellishments serve as relative, convenient designations or identifications, which constructs a virtual presence of the ‘self’ illusion, and is based in ignorance, and through steadfast identification creates craving and suffering. Only now are we able to empirically support the Buddha’s insights of ‘anatta or no-self’ which he gained through the introspective practice of bhavana, or meditation.

Copyright Rodger R Ricketts, Psy.D. 2021

The Trap of Dualism – The unanswered questions.

14 Feb

When the monk Malunkyaputta decided to ask questions to the
Buddha ‘These theories have been left unexplained by the Lord,’ and he
asked them all dualistically arranged. He expressed them this way, “Is
the world eternal, or not?” Almost binary in its dualism, the answers
must be dualistic. As they speak to relative reality, one reason often
cited as to why the Buddha would not answer these questions is that
any answer, regardless of what those answers were, would reinforce
dualism: me-you, space-time, object, and subject. So, Buddha not
only left his answers “undeclared” because they would set back the
unlearned practice with notions of duality, but also because they
have no validity nor benefit to achieve Awakening,
Attaching to relative reality and duality is one of the causes of not
Instead, at a non-dualistic level, one knows Oneness.
Oneness or the concept of Emptiness is about all things —including
every atom in the “infinite” or the “non-infinite” universe (whichever
it is.) The apophatic tradition emphasizes the unity, wholeness,
interdependence, and interconnectedness of all things.
In distinction from the dualism of the unanswerable questions, there
are intuitions about realities that transcend the systems of categories
in our human thought and language. They are matters which, in St
Paul’s words, ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man
conceived’ (I Corinthians 2:9). Instead, apophatic theology refers to
the subject matter of these unanswerable questions as mysteries, as
matters that are beyond human comprehension and expression. Also,
they recognize that the endless pursual of logical and rational
thinking about these mysteries is useless and instead, makes it
impossible to attain Awakening or Emptiness.
The sciences are left to do their own legitimate study of finding out
what the physical universe is composed of, and how it works.
However, the Buddha would not have endorsed any attempts to
aspects of physics or scientific cosmology, as a new form of natural
theology leading ‘from science to God’. In another essay, I explore
more in-depth why that is true. ‘Both the physicist and the mystic
want to communicate their knowledge, and when they do so with
words their statements are paradoxical and full of logical
contradictions.’ Beyond Language, Fritjof Capra.
Nor, would he have supported the struggles of theologians over the
centuries, who have developed complex Cataphatic systems of
doctrine about the positive attributes of God. For the Buddha, all
such dogmas come under the heading of speculative views, the
pursuit of which is not relevant to finally understanding our
immanent relationship with Awakening.
It is remarkably difficult for human beings to overcome the
illusion of dualism. Mostly there is very little promoted to
break down the dualistic mindset which is so detrimental to
the interior, mystical, and experiential faith. “In ordinary life, we
are not aware of the unity of all things but divide the world into
separate objects and events. This division is useful and necessary
to cope with our everyday environment, but it is not a fundamental
feature of reality. It is an abstraction devised by our discriminating
and categorizing intellect. To believe that our abstract concepts of
separate ‘things’ and ‘events’ are realities of nature is an illusion.”
— Fritjof Capra
The ultimate reality is unknowable and beyond the scope of human
conceptualization. The non-dual state or emptiness ceases to
make distinctions, and non-dualistic awareness can see inwardly,
subtly, feeling and experiencing and loving with unconditional
kindness, truth, wisdom, and compassion. Being, living,
experiencing without cognitive borders is pure awareness. It is a
radical awareness, an understanding, a transformation of
When we listen deeply to our intuition, the internal sense, all is a
seamless unity, despite the appearance or teachings to the
contrary or the commonly held assumptions and mindset that
we live in a dualistic creation. The challenge is to give pure
awareness to the present moment, to personal, interior
experience, to the ‘simple’ presence of the now, the only place
where we can be in the truth, immersed in and infused with
discovering how to be fully alive. The negative way opens a path to
non-duality. “Immeasurably exalted is His Essence above the
descriptions of His creatures… Far be it from His glory that human pen
or tongue should hint at His mystery, or that human heart conceives
His Essence” (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet to Hashim. GWB XCIV:192)
Importantly, meditation practices cut through even the most subtle
clinging to concepts, including all clinging to religious ideas, beliefs,
practices, and spiritual experiences as if they were ultimate. This
clinging to a religious tradition as if it were an ultimate occurs if
religious training does not provide the means to uproot fully the
subconscious tendencies of conditioned grasping to human
conceptualizations that obscure the unconditioned and nonconceptual Awakening or emptiness.
An innate, pure, non-dual awareness uniting the wisdom of beyond
grasping to dualism with compassion for all still caught in such
grasping is conveyed by Buddhism through its teachings and
practices. The fruit of this path is the actualization of Emptiness:
non-dual, non-conceptual awareness, tranquility, equanimity, all-
inclusive compassion with activity on behalf of all alienated beings.
The Buddha saw in the wisdom of non-conceptual, non-dual
awareness, a path that is capable of non-attachment to even the
subtlest attachments. For Kitaro Nishida, perhaps the most
significant and influential Japanese philosopher of the twentieth
century, pure experience is:
‘To experience is to know facts just as they are, to know in
accordance with facts by completely relinquishing one’s own
fabrications. What we usually refer to as experience is
adulterated with some sort of thought, so by pure I am
referring to the state of experience just as it is without the
least addition of deliberative discrimination. …Pure experience
is identical to direct experience. When one directly
experiences one’s own state of consciousness, there is not yet a
subject or an object, and knowing and its object are completely
unified. This is the most refined type of experience.’
Mental training in Buddhism and apophatic theology is based on an
empirical perspective; that experience is the ultimate criterion of
truth. With the penetrative insight of Awakening, the Arahant,
meaning worthy or noble person who has attained enlightenment
because of listening to and practicing the teachings of a Buddha, sees
through the commonly proposed ultimate validity of concepts. For
the Arahant, all concepts are transparent and are not grasped
dogmatically. They are not regarded as ultimate categories, concepts
are “merely worldly conventions in common use, which an Arahant
makes use of, without clinging to them.” (D. N. I. 202) One’s entire
conceptual blueprint must be released—though gradually—and in
the final awareness, even those concepts that have given us the
greatest help in our spiritual practice are given up.
The Buddha used the raft simile to illustrate this; “In the same way, monks, I have
taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing
over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Understanding the Dhamma
as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to
say nothing of non-Dhammas.” (Sutta-pitakaMajjhimaNikaya 22)
The common human condition is to be attached to the cravings of
egotistical consciousness, and yet this dualistic consciousness
deludes us of the awareness of the flow of reality. The Cataphatic
religions provide languages, symbols, and practices that alert us to
the compelling deceptiveness of egotistical consciousness with its
illusory character of separation and relativity of pain and
pleasure. However, it has been a tragedy of religion, that while
pointing toward an Awakening from dualistic dogma, it entangles its
practitioners in a dualistic consciousness which experiences the
ego/self as Soul.
Indeed, this common version of moral and metaphysical duality undermines and confuses any capacities for trueself-kindness, humility, compassion, and Awakening.
In many religions, there is an implicit non-duality in the often promoted imagery of love. It uses a vocabulary that expresses the intuitive primacy of love, peace, and compassion accompanying the
non-dual, non-conceptual awareness. However, any commandment
to love will remain encumbered by one’s own egotistical will.
Marguerite Porete was someone who understood that clinging to
religious ideas, beliefs, practices, and spiritual experiences did indeed
serve as an impediment to the annihilation of the final obstacle of a
permanency idea. As Marguerite Porete said, “One who remains in
will is often in such a war, whatever good works his will might do.’
Through the disciplines of asceticism, there is a lifestyle that
reduces material aspects of life to a minimum and to a high degree of
simplicity. This can include simple clothing, sleeping without a bed
or in nature, and eating a minimal amount of food. Then there are
the harsher practices that involve body mortification, torturing
one’s body, and self-infliction of pain.
The will is remorselessly dominated to renounce its attachments, but
the will often resist and is strengthened by those techniques because
of the maintenance of the dualistic foundation of subject/object, and
egocentric structures of the mind remain intact. However, just as the
the truth about divinity is not apprehended by more accurate
conceptualizations, the release of the will is not accomplished by
painful joys and sorrows but, instead, by letting it go with attaining
pure awareness or nothingness.
As Rumi wrote, ‘Your worst enemy is hiding within yourself, and that
enemy is your nafs or false ego.’ In a mystical way, Rumi is effectively
instructing us of the need of purifying our consciousness from the
falseness and dualities that are embedded in the sense-based life.
Therefore, Nafs or False Ego(نفس (equals any egotistical inclination.
The last hindrance of achieving awakening for the Buddha was
understanding impermanence and co-dependent arising and then
letting go of craving and attachment to everything leaving pure
awareness and No-thing.
Mistaking Words for the Truth
In the pre-enlightened mind, language is intimately linked with
not only the dualistic subject/object illusion but also with the
objectivist concept of a chasm between symbol-system realism and
truth. there is a fallacy of the use of language as a descriptor of an
objective, static ‘world’ experience. Words, and all concepts, are
mental constructions of the internal and external world. They are
abstractions, not the objective reality they try to capture. As Rudolf
Carnap stated, ‘[…] The formulation in terms of “comparison”, in
speaking of “facts” or “realities”, easily tempts one into the absolutistic
view according to which we are said to search for an absolute reality
whose nature is assumed as fixed independently of the language
chosen for its description. The answer to a question concerning reality
however depends not only upon that “reality” or upon the facts, but
also upon the structure (and the set of concepts) of the language used
for the description.’ In Buddhism and apophatic theology, a language
is a tool for communication and for pointing to the truth, a means to
help us attain Awakening and Nothingness. However, to mistake
words for the truth is almost as ridiculous as mistaking a finger
pointing to the moon for the moon itself!