To Live or Not to Live in a Material World?
First there is our instinctual, naïve, understanding . . . that the world has an objective observable independent existence. Then something happens – we smoke some dope, drop some acid, imbibe some peyote, fast, stay awake for 72 hours, get an education, study psychology, meditate, explore hypnosis, fall in love, lose a loved one, suffer grief, have a spontaneous epiphany about perceptual reality, attend satsangs, read some books about Zen-Advaita-Non duality, notice we live in an assumptive social reality locked into roles and labels and careers, have an out of body experience or two . . . something happens . . . and we’re no longer inhabiting a recognizable world. Everything apparently is illusory including “me.”
Some say that everything happens in the head. And until I recognize the universe in my head all attempts to understand reality are going to lead me down blind alleys. There are supposed to be about100 billion or so neurons in the human brain and the body’s nervous system constantly sending and receiving electrochemical signals that govern my perceiving, walking, talking and thinking. Thus there is a biological basis for the physical impossibility of attaining the Holy Grail of “directly perceiving" objective reality.
So what’s the problem? Well, if there is an objective world out there, and I think that there is, and everything I come to know about it happens in my head, I’ve got to consider the very real possibility that OBJECTIVE REALITY and understanding IT as such is never going to happen for me.
For example, I may share planet earth with other species, but I definitely don’t share a common perceptual reality. I can’t see the world with the keen eyesight of an eagle that can spot a scampering rabbit a mile away, or the fragmented vision of the multifaceted eye of the dragonfly, or sense the world through the highly sensitive nose of the bear. No . . . I know the world through my human consciousness.
Those that study quantum physics suggest that when studying subatomic particles, the observer alters and determines what is perceived. So what’s real? Not TIME, which apparently is merely a subjective experience and a social convention. And space and time are tools of the mind, not actual realities in themselves.
So my knowledge of anything is at the relative level (limited), not at the absolute level (unlimited) because with everything happening all at once all over the universe I use a personal worldview to make sense of my tiny patch of existence. And in this way I understand that what “I” know relates to a limited domain of validity, maybe measurable and quantifiable, maybe not.
Some think that enlightenment comes about by “the removal of the illusion of separate-self created by our perceptions.” That in this fashion the true nature of reality is known. If you know how to see the universe other than through human consciousness while manifested as human being, my hat's off to you.
How long does it take to see that as human beings we are always biased in understanding the universe through human consciousness? There’s a Zen story that summarizes it really well:
“Before one explores Zen . . . non-duality. . . consciousness
mountains are mountains and clouds are clouds;
after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen. . . non-duality. . . consciousness
mountains are no longer mountains and clouds are no longer clouds;
after enlightenment. . . awakening. . . being self. . . mountains are once again mountains
and clouds are once again clouds."
My encouragement for the day: stay alert, if you can, to how long you tarry in that middle ground; a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, a few months, a few years, a few decades . . . a lifetime?