19 Apr 2016
We begin the session by returning to the practice of Taking the Mind as the Path. In the introductory comments to the meditation, Alan mentions the two-fold division of Buddha-nature (1. the naturally abiding Buddha-nature and 2. the evolving Buddha-nature). One is already present, while the other is evolving, transforming (the latter is a deliberate evolution or transformation towards enlightenment, this is the path). With this practice of taking the mind as the path, we rest in awareness, always luminous and cognisant, our closest approximation to resting in and being fully cognisant of our naturally abiding Buddha-nature. But we are observing our own mind, and we see that from month to month, from year to year, our mind is changing, is becoming saner, more gentle, compassionate thanks to diligent, continuous and intelligent practice. We can transform the mind with effort (through lojong training, lam-rim, stage of generation & completion) to make it a Buddha’s mind. And then we have the effortless approach of resting in rigpa (Dzogchen) and watching it happen by itself (stay home and watch the show, it turns out well!).
The meditation is on Taking the Mind as the Path (silent, not recorded).
After meditation, we go back to the astonishing statements of the Prajñāpāramitā sutra in hundred thousand verses. Is it possible to stroke the sun and the moon? Or is it just a joke? In the western, eurocentric world we have a common story coming from science (the universe started 13.8 billion years ago with the big bang etc.), but also in the US there are many people who are creationists. If we have been educated in science, basically we have been given one story, but there is also one story coming from the Abrahamic traditions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). The creationist story is deeply rooted in metaphysical realism, and was believed without question by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton. Darwin instead could not reconcile his Christian faith with what he discovered about evolution. It was a big schism. However, Darwin candidly said that he had no theory about the origin of life, and he acknowledged that God might have done it. Now we leap forward to Maxwell, who was also a very devout Christian. Then Einstein believed in a higher intelligence that created the entire universe, Spinoza’s God, and he spoke very respectfully of religion. Then in the same trajectory we arrive at Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (1894 – 1966): Belgian priest, astronomer, and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven, proposed the theory of the expansion of the universe, and he also proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his “hypothesis of the primeval atom” or the “Cosmic Egg.” Alan comments that basically all the history of science since Copernicus to Lemaître is judeo-christian science, rooted in a worldview where God started it, it was already there, it is absolutely real, and scientists are “representing” or approximating a God’s eye view. The point is that, if one is Christian or Muslim etc., God created this universe, God imbued the universe with meaning. The universe is meaningful because God made it meaningful. God is a source of eudaimonia, there is hedonia, and there is a path to salvation.
But what happens if we take God out of the equation? To explain this, among others Alan quotes Stephen Hawking (1990): “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.”
However, modern science, to this day, has no answers nor a scientific testable theory to the questions about the origin of the universe, the origin of life on earth and the origin of consciousness. But scientific materialists give the public the impression that they already know that the universe originated from purely physical causes, as did life and consciousness in the universe. They don’t know this, they simply assume it and falsely claim their metaphysical beliefs to be scientific truths. This is a charade. You pretend to know something that you don’t know.
We finally arrive at what Alan calls “The General Theory of Ontological Relativity”: it pertains not just to the relation between the desire realm (including the physical universe) and the form realm, but rather points to the relativity of all phenomena in relation to the methods of inquiry and the role of conceptual designation. Whether you live as an animal, a hell-being, a preta, a human or a deva, whether you live in the form or formless realms you are making measurements, and the reality that rises to you is relative to your observations. This applies everywhere, and this gives rise to the Madhyamaka constant—the emptiness of inherent existence of all phenomena—which is invariable across all cognitive frames of reference. The conclusion is that there is no one definitive description of the universe anywhere (not in Modern Science, not in Kalachakra, not in Abhidhamma, not in Dzogchen, not in Hinduism or Christianity, not in string theory or quantum theory). There is no one actually true, truly right, account of an objective universe out there, because there is no objective universe out there existing in and of itself. There is no one right story, and some stories are false - people make up stuff.
Then Alan returns to Buddhism, especially Buddhist cosmology. What to do with the Buddha’s statements about Mount Meru and the four continents? Devas influencing the weather? The fact that previous Buddhas lived for thousands of years before Gautama came along? The Buddha states that what he said comes from his direct experience. If we take the perspective of metaphysical realism, we cannot have incompatible - and true - descriptions of the real objective universe.
Finally Alan quotes Yangthang Rinpoche, a great Vidyādhara, who gave teachings on Mount Meru, the four continents and multiple world-systems last year. In that occasion Alan asked this great master: “Who sees this? What realisation do you need to have to see this?” Rinpoche’s response was “first dhyana.” This is what you see if you are viewing from the form realm. Different set of questions, different measurement system - different reality that rises to meet you from that different set of questions and different measurement system. In the form realm you have purely mental consciousness, but you are seeing form. In the form realm there is a sun and a moon. In the form realm you can see Mount Meru and all the four continents. The Buddha saw this from the perspective of achieving the dhyanas. He never said we can see this from an ordinary perspective. Other people can check this out by achieving the first dhyana and putting it to the test of experience. Shift your perspective, shift your system of measurement and you see a different reality. From the form realm you can reach out and touch the sun and moon.
Meditation is silent and not recorded.
CORRECTION in the recording: Alan said that the region of south Asia lies in the spatial region of the Southern Continent; North America corresponds to the space of the Northern Continent; Europe corresponds to the Eastern Continent, and the Pacific region to the Western continent. Instead Europe corresponds to the Western Continent, and the Pacific region to the Eastern continent.
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