Sunday, December 30, 2012

Touch the Earth

When the Buddha encountered the Devil and his temptations, the last temptation offered up by the Devil was the fact that there was no witness to the Buddha’s achievement of enlightenment, there was no definitive outer sign, he had achieved no power, no fame, there was no transformation, he was still just a man. To answer this the Buddha simply touched the earth. I believe this was also the lesson that God was teaching Job when he paraded all the animals by. This is the true meaning of humility, which, as Job implied, cannot be explained in words (note - most scholars agree that the fourth friend in Job was written in later, obviously by someone who didn’t get it).

I also relate this to statements by Jesus about he need to be seen to be religious, such as praying in the closet. Your practice should be between you and God only.  It sounds different on the surface - the Buddha needs no witness but we need God to witness, but actually it is the same. When we achieve we should not need God to witness because it is we who should witnessing Gods work in us. We are the witness. However, on the path to this it is a good intermediate step to first switch from needing man as a witness to needing only God.

Inner and Outer Life

In Christianity there are a lot of writings about internal things and external things, and sometimes it can be a bit negative toward external things. I believe the distinction is important but muddled as there wasn't an accurate neural/psychological/philosophical framework to make the distinction clear. However, Cognitive Science now provides us with this framework.

I wrote elsewhere that no joy can come from external things. This is true because joy is a product of your brain. External things can only trigger joy as a reaction to things. The brain reacts based evolutionary programming and learned experience, sometimes called conditioning or habit in Buddhist literature. Likewise, what we perceive is constructed by the brain based on signals from outside. We now know that a lot of (unconscious) choice and interpretation is involved in this. We experience life in a world generated by our brains that is perceptually correlated with the outer world. Scientifically and philosophically this is known as the noumena (external) and phenomena (internal). Essentially it's like the Matrix movie, only we each generate our own Matrix.

The external world that mystical Christianity is so distrustful of is (I believe) the matrix world that we generate in our brains. In the matrix world, perceptions are intricately linked to our programmed desires and needs. Historically, this has been muddled in Christianity, leading some to reject and mistrust the actual external world (the noumena). However, careful reading of the best sources reveals (I believe) that the goal is to become free from the conditioning we have built up from our basic evolutionary needs and through our lifetime of social conditioning. This programming, to be greedy, to be afraid, to be hateful, is the actual source of the demons that we fight. 

This bad programing is referred to as ignorance in Buddhism and is regarded as the ultimate source of suffering. The good news is that compassion and joy arise simply by stopping the program and being silent and free. To attain this we need to create new programs that allow us to be still, to listen for our compassion and to be directed by it. 

So, the external world in mystical Christian writings should refer to the world that we we create in our heads and perceive as external. It is an image of the actual external world colored and tainted by our desires and passions. The actual external world, as noted in Genesis, is good.