*Last night I read this to my wife. I knew I’d find fault and would be editing, I’d been focusing on getting momentum going on this project, but it was worse than I thought. Perhaps the learning experience while writing the rest of the chapters helped me read this in a slightly different light, evolution in action.
edited July 26, 2023
Chapter 1, Buddha Science, The Elephant
Chapter 1a, Desperately Seeking Reality
¶1 “What is Reality?”
I would respond that our human reality can most succinctly be defined as Physical Reality. That is atomic matter, biology, and the rules they abide by, including our biological body/brain. Beyond that, all there is, is our Human Mind, which our physical body produces and through which we perceive our body and the world, and our gods for that matter.
“Can we ever cut through the haze . . .”
It would help to realize the haze is a product of our own imaginations.
Tackling that challenge begins with finding an answer to the, “Who are you?”, question.
Only after coming to terms with the “me, myself & I” mystery does the “Reality” question start opening up.
¶3 “Why have we looked so hard in so many ways for so many years?”
Because we are curious mammals extraordinaire with a profoundly inquisitive introspective active mind driven by biological imperatives that trace back to the dawn of time.
¶4 “I’m convinced that it’s not where we look, but how we are looking. In looking we cling to (our) certain(ties), to the idea that we can find ultimate answers.”
Not just how we are looking but also what are our expectations, as in searching for ultimate Truth. This world is too big to take it all in and each creature can only observe from our unique center.
¶6 “… But the approach we take to answering the question, and even the language we use to talk about reality affects the answers so much that we can’t even see the insight provided through other approaches.”
My point exactly, I speak of the Abrahamic mindset, self absorbed, convinced the Earth and her resources are here for us to consume as fast as possible. That attitude renders us blind to how our framing of the basic questions hobble our understanding and behavior.
“Is reality purely physical?”
Physical Reality is atoms, molecules, biology the stuff that can be observed and measured and all the laws they abide by. Earth’s Biology produces life and creatures with ever increasing levels of awareness; mind; consciousness; eventually arriving at a self-consciousness producing human mind.
Consciousness, mind is the meta-physical product of a living organism needing to communicate with itself.
I believe it could be stated that a biological creature producing mind is no more mysterious than a coil of wire and a magnet in motion producing electricity. There too, experts still can’t adequately answer, what is electricity, nor exactly how it works.
But philosophers don’t marvel at that, why the double standard?
“… we all seem to fall into the trap of thinking that if you don’t see things the way I do, you must be wrong. …”
Let me suggest it’s more a matter of how far one strives to see. Do we want to limit ourselves to our own mindscape and the comfort of our ego, or do we strive to consider what’s beyond those bounds?
Appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mind(scape) divide, it seems to me a foundational concept, a benchmark to help us recognize and respect our consciousness and the disconnect we feel with the “real” world, and that too many feel with their own bodies.
¶7 “… Each man is too busy clinging to the details of his particular experience to try and find the similarities with what the others are experiencing. If they’d quit arguing, shed their fixed concepts, and try to discover the larger truth that their collective experience is pointing toward, they might be able to piece together a clearer concept of what the elephant actually looks like.”
We’re stuck with ourselves and need to do our learning for ourselves, through good faith curiosity and doing the homework. Not ‘each person’ clings to their routines, some seek knowledge that goes beyond themselves and the circumstance they were born into.
My twenties, thirties found me busy collecting experiences and miles. I did a good deal of hitchhiking, thumb out and pointing down the road, with no idea who was going to give me a ride or what was next, sometime with a destination, sometimes not. The day was an act of meditation in the now moment, striving to absorb the scene and experience.
I wasn’t trying to figure out what the elephant looked like, I was simply sampling the experience as well as I could.
I figured eventually an increasingly accurate impression will develop of itself, I wasn’t in a hurry, too busy enjoying youth and keeping up with work. Attentive to the moment.
Turns out it was a good approach that produced results, such as a personal clarity founded in experience rather than simply convictions and story telling.
Chapter 1b, Planet Silorian
¶b1 “Let’s imagine a world existing in a golden age . . .”
With apologies, analogy has its purpose, to some extent, after that it’s diminishing returns that I can’t do anything with it.
So I won’t try.
Chapter 1c, The Boundaries We Build
¶c1 “The buddha said that if we can recognize our true nature, we can escape the suffering that comes from feeling separate from the world around us.”
Through my modern USA lens, I don’t think it’s so much about escaping suffering as it is escaping expectations and the disappointments they lead to.
¶c3 “We want to know where we fit and how it all fits together, so we close out ideas that threaten our comfortable understanding.”
Hopefully not everyone is like that.
What happened to thinking “honorably”? Personal character and the will to practice honest introspection. Believing that learning is more important than facade and salving of one’s ego?
Or, is one seeking truthful information and honest understanding - even if it forces one to face up to one’s own failings and need for improvement?
Can I accept new valid information that exposes my errors, then face and over-come the humiliation of having failed and absorb those mistakes in order to learn their lessons, then move on, better informed than before? That is the honest intellectual’s challenge.
¶c5 “At it’s heart, science is an approach, a way of investigating observations …
True enough, at it’s heart:
Science is a set of rules based on an unspoken understanding that, we need each other, to keep ourselves honest.*
Honesty is science’s supreme rule! Evidence driven conclusions, with the rules formulated in a way to exclude human ego, and passion driven biases, from its evidence gathering and deliberations as much as possible.
Anyone, from anywhere on this global can learn the rules and the language of their field, work hard and contribute to the community of experts.
*“*In this book, we want to explore the findings of science to see what they can tell us about the nature of reality, but still remain open to the limitations of the scientific method.
“For our discussion we will break the subject down into chaos and complexity, physical science, science of life, and science of the mind.”
This configuration confused me. Because, at its roots we are dealing with a Physical Reality ~ Human mind divide.
It’s an essential first-base lesson and it becomes a benchmark that opens new vistas that we’ve been blind to.
Among the cascading consequences of such an appreciation is realizing how all we experience, all we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, sense, travels through our physical biological body/brain, which in turn produces our mind (consciousness) and that everything you know, science, religion, God, heaven, hell, art, music, all of it unfolds within our own minds, or more descriptively, our Mindscape.
¶c7 “Mysticism is a belief that union with the absolute (i.e., God) can be attained through contemplation and self-surrender. …”
For me Mysticism is all about striving to walk with grace and to focus on trying to Touch the Earth. Or when it’s really grooving, to touch our evolving Earth, that is, to taste deep-time and recognize that I am an aware filament in the pageant of Earth’s Evolution, my moment is fleeting, but it is mine, and it is here, and it is good.
To feel at home in the world is big.
In that spirit, self-surrender makes sense, to know your self from the inside out, then as a part of the “All”.
¶c8 “… We’re more interested in Buddhist observations about the nature of the world and of perceptible reality. …”
“Perceptible” - “our perception” is a key concept that doesn’t get repeated enough.
We humans, as all creatures, perceive the sliver of the reality we are embedded within.
The physical reality that made us doesn’t shape-shift!
How we perceive it, that’s all over the map - because it is absolutely bound up with the unique body you happen to inhabit and the mood you are in and feedback you’re receiving from the environment and circumstances, etc., etc…
¶c11 “… the message of this book is connection. …”
Speaking of connecting, there’s nothing like a thorough understanding of your body’s evolution, (in context with other creatures’ evolution, their environment, our Earth’s biosphere), to infuse one with a sense of connection and awe.
¶c12 “… Religion and metaphysics exist in the realms of thought and belief. This is tricky when we’re trying to understand something about Reality as a whole, because if we’re not going to limit reality to the physical, then thoughts and beliefs also exist as part of reality.
It doesn’t need to be this tricky.
Appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide.
It clarifies that the only “meta-physics" in our lives is the mind that our body/brain creates.
The purpose of excluding the thought process of metaphysics and the beliefs of religion from our discussion is simply to limit the conversation relatively manageable set of topics.
But our thought process is the central key to all this. Grasping that your consciousness is a product of your body interacting with the environment & circumstance, and your consciousness is the source of all your ideas.
Isn’t that the definition of meta-physical?
¶c13 “What do we mean by religion? … In other words, religion is based on the belief that the rules of reality were created by something outside of reality.”
“… As long as you can accept the concept of an open reality, there is no inconsistency between a belief in the existence of God and the findings of science. …”
I’ve tried imagining this Open Reality, but it’s not working.
What would visualizing an “Open Reality” concept actually achieve for us?
It seems to hinge on semantics rather than the observable world we live in.
“… science is purely an attempt to describe a closed reality based on what we can observe and infer from those observations . . .”
Fair enough, after all science’s specific remit is to study physical reality.
Honestly observe, accurately measure, repeatability, strive to minimize ego driven biases in pursuit of understanding, honest constructive debates.
¶c14 “… God may well exist, by whatever name you wish to use, but such discussions are well beyond the scope of this book. …”
Of course our gods exist. They exist in our minds and hearts.
Thinking about Evolution offers an interesting idea for a satisfying non-cosmic story for our Gods.
It starts with considering the awareness of life, living organisms from the first cells and then eukaryotes and the increasing complexity of creatures that followed. Consciousness striving to do better, eventually evolving into humans with an introspective learning mind that could image God, and fill that imagined god with substance.
¶c15 “Metaphysics, on the other hand, is a search for the rules of reality that can be deduced, but not tested in an experimental context. …”
Meaning, metaphysics is susceptible to human ego, human vanity, human envy, human avarice, human insecurity, human vengeance lust and human manipulation.
Without objective benchmarks rational examination and assessment are impossible.
“… It shares with science the attempt to describe Reality but the basis for description is conception rather than observations. … As such, it’s an intellectual pursuit, one that relies purely on ideas and logic …”
Which is why it belongs within the realm of our mindscape - as opposed to the physical realm of matter and the laws of physics.
Chapter 1d, Can’t we all just get along?
¶d1 “… so let’s try to define what we do want to talk about. … Many principles that we will be discussing here are not limited to science or Buddhism. Writings on non-duality can be found in many traditions. … Philosophical discourse regarding the nature of reality continued with the Pythagoreans, Plato, and Aristotle, and the conversation continues today.”
¶d3 “A key focus of this book is empirical knowledge, which deals with what we perceive rather than the ideas we form about things. In other words, empirical rather than conceptions.
Yet, empirical knowledge must be perceived and processed via the concepts we form. Perhaps a more useful starting point for this discussion would be first getting clear on :
Recognizing and appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide.
…For now, let’s just say that perceptions are about observations, and conceptions are about ideas.
True enough, as far as it goes.
“… So while religion seeks to find meaning beyond our reality and metaphysics explores conception of reality, empirical observations provide perceptions of reality based on direct examination of what our senses tell us."
There’s something missing here. Perceptions are limited by the sensing and processing abilities (& inabilities) of the receiving person, creature, or instrument.
¶d4 “… Buddhism (science) principles include direct perception and inference rooted in empirical perception. …”
¶d6 “… in this book we’ll be exporting the parallels between Buddha Science and formal science. … focusing on similarities, … interested with where the two approaches agree rather than where they differ. …”
And me? I’m going to use Steve Daut’s well considered outline of this very human intellectual spiritual challenge to help me better explain what Earth Centrism is all about.
I’ve read through Buddha Science a couple times and find much to agree with and respect. My intention isn’t to dispute or challenge - it’s a matter of looking at it from my deep-time, down to Earth lens, as opposed to the traditional human-centric lens.
¶d9 “… Matt Flickstein (The Mediator’s Atlas) focuses one different views of reality. He writes: “Truth is one. However, there are two approaches to realizing this truth: via affirma the positive approach, and via negativa, the negative approach. …”
These are paths of mental disciplines.
Not to be overlooked, is the mental discipline of, what shall I be present to?
¶d11 “The scientific path follows positive action to develop concepts and tests in an effort to pry reality loose from hiding. The path of Buddha Science, on the other hand, is based on silent listening, clearing the mind to allow Reality to speak for itself. The main premise of this book is that the approach doesn’t matter to reality.”
“… Reality is the same, no matter what approach you take …”
I like that, it echos a key lesson within, “Appreciating the Human Mind ~ Physical Reality divide.”
¶d12 “… Discoveries in quantum physics were driving scientists to take another look at the connection between science and mysticism, … (Dr. Frijof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975) … boundary between mysticism and science … began to fall. …
I’m proud to say Capra’s book was a travel companion for a while, way back in my on-the-road days, as was Robert Pirsig’s Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, good companions for a young thoughtful tramp.
Quantum weirdness and other lessons from the realm of the very tiniest of tiny, right up against the threshold between matter and energy itself. Fun stuff, it probably helped inspire me to start reading up on biographies of those early physics pioneers, trying to learn about them and the physics they were uncovering. Admittedly, I’m handicapped by my lack of complex math skills, still the mind’s eye can follow the fundamentals fairly well.
As for quantum physics, bizarre behavior is to be expected.
Still, I’ve come to realize imaginative storytelling can’t scale up from quantum weirdness examples, up to our macroscopic human realm. It’s deep within the fabric of our reality, still it’s nothing but background hummm for our own day to days.
We should be focusing all that philosophical time & treasure on our middle-ground day to day physical reality.
But, we’re so busy staring into clouds, we’ve forgotten all about understanding and caring about the living biosphere, and planet, we depend on for everything.
¶d13 “… the goal of journey is not the fingers pointing - it is the moon. …”
I thank Steve Daut for the thoughtful intellectual vehicle he’s provided for my journey of discovery.
I encourage you to read his complete book.
Buddha Science, ©2016, For a copy contact Steve Daut:
This is another Cc’s Student’s Workbook, of sorts,
meaning a little repetition is to be expected,
honing concepts and descriptions.
Offering food for thought.
Is there anybody out there?
citizenschallenge at gmail