Saturday, January 30, 2010

Buddha & Science: Exploring the Buddhaverse

Space, the final frontier...

Space, we are told by scientists is so immense, so mind-bogglingly vast that it is as good as (or, in fact, actually is) infinite. It is full of billions galaxies that are in turn inhabited by billions of stars and planets, and, moreover, the new scientific theories of the multiverse  state that the universe in which all of this exists is just one of countless parallel universes. And, because space contains all of this stuff, it can kinda make one feel not so much tiny in comparison, but rather insignificant. For, in such an unimaginably infinite void, 'I' am just a tiny, albeit somewhat intelligent, animal scurrying around on the surface of Planet Earth along with nearly seven billion fellow human beings. We are like ants, nay microbes, in the sheer magnitude of this existence: so, in this light, how unimportant 'I' seem.

Despite the gloomy sentiments of the paragraph above, please don't despair, because space itself will now be shown to be the cure to this existential angst that contemplating it created in the first place! This more pleasing apprehension of space is not to be seen 'out there', however, but is to be experienced right here, where the feeling of 'I' occurs. And, thankfully, it doesn't require an extremely large and expensive telescope to be witnessed, either. All that is required to see the space at the heart of one's being is attention - even eyes aren't essential, in fact, for 'it' can be known just as well with eyes shut as open. To see what I mean, dear reader, I invite you to give a few minutes to investigate what lies at your very center:

Look at whatever is in front you - probably a computer screen at present - and notice its shape, size, colors, and its solidity. Now, turn your attention around to gaze back at what is doing the looking. Do you see 'you', dear reader, or do you see the space to which this little exercise is aimed at uncovering? What I mean to suggest, is that everything that you perceive right now is appearing in a spacious awareness located right where you are: do you see what I'm getting at? And, to show that this isn't a trick of the eyes, close them and pay attention to all the sounds that you can hear and that in which they arise. Do sounds not occur in a silent (spacious) awareness, too, along with all other physical and mental phenomena? Play with this exercise a short while, and see if you can find the space that lies behind the sense of 'I'.

Now, this space that we can experience in this present moment is also infinite, just as the 'outer' space described above. If you don't believe this, take a few more moments to explore it, and see if you can define it anymore than scientists can define that which contains the universe or multiverse. How big is it? Where does it begin and where does it end? Can it be timed or measured in any other way? I find not. This space is as infinite as the cosmic one that astronomers spend their days (and nights) staring at so intently. Moreover, this spaciousness is (thanks to the human mind) aware of itself; it can know that it is. And, because it has this capacity to know, it can be dubbed 'Buddha Space', for the term 'Buddha' comes from the root word 'budh', which means to be awake or to know.

In this context, the 'I' that can feel so minuscule and irrelevant when pondering the enormity of existence can be seen to be a valid vehicle for spacious awareness to know the universe and itself. 'I' do not have to feel so impotent in the face of the cosmos because at heart I am not 'I' but the spacious knowing that contains all that is experienced. Whilst over-identification with being this person can cause all kinds of problems for all concerned, seeing 'me' in its grander context as that which the monk Ajahn Sumehdo likes to call 'the knowing' is the beginning of awakening to our true nature, which is a vast and peaceful awareness. It is the 'Buddha Space' after which this blog is named, and if you are encouraged to take a peek back at what you truly are at heart by these words, then the blog has done its job, and 'I' can feel some pleasure from writing these small black squiggles, knowing that even they have some relevance in the vastness of this 'Buddhaverse.'

6 comments:

Gladstone said...

Ah the vastness and infinity of the universe! Methinks that there is more available evidence to show that it is all a dream, supported by eyeballs and mathematical imagination.

If you take being a human being and your own existence seriously then naturally the environment of such a temporary sensual experience is seen as significant and impressive.

However, even as cosmic dreams go, this particular one is way down the list.

First thing to do of course is to wake up, then you can see where you really are.

G said...

In other words, the 'Buddhaverse,' Gladstone. Or, if anyone's into Pure Land Buddhism, the Pure Land. There's nowhere to go and no one to go there, just this wondrous moment...

Anonymous said...

The point/exercise about silent/spacious awareness is one of my pet peeves with talk about the mind from buddhist/non-dual approaches. Where does this awareness go when we're asleep? Or if we get hit over the head with a bat? Or if the brain is deprived of oxygen? Consciousness appears then disappears according to activity in the brain. Are you "aware" of awareness in sleep?

G said...

Thanks for the comment, 'Anonymous.'
All good questions which 'I' cannot answer! But I can look right now and see / know this spacious awareness that contains your questions and these words that arise in response. And this awareness is not troubled by the thought that there's no immediate answer to your queries. Where do you think consciousness goes when we're asleep, etc.? But more crucially in this present moment, what do you see when you gaze back now and notice what's at your end of these words? What is all this arising in? Right now, you can answer these questions much more readily than I (or you?) can answer your questions, simply by looking at who's looking. Revel in this wondrous answer!

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I have some questions that I would like to have an answer from Buddhist people.

Although maritime expansion brought a lot of knowledge and change on Earth, the primary thought that made it possible was "I need to know what is out there, beyond the oceans". Is it right that some people are moved by these kind of questions? If no, would it have any difference (not materially talking) if people were still divided between America and the rest of the lands, without knowing about each other?

Do you believe that science is wasting their time when they seek for answers by exploring space? Like, where do we came from? As it's proven to be expanding, what's beyond the universe frontiers? Etc.

Am I not tricking myself when I try to find these answers?

Opinions are more than welcome, thanks!

Anonymous said...

The answer for these questions on the previous comment are here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoUMLb8es4A