Crossing the Road

Categorized under Enlightenment

After so much suffering in Nirvanic castles
What a joy to sink into this world!
People wear silk clothes,
Buddhas dress in rags.
A wooden man walking in the evening,
A stone woman with a bonnet -
For the first time you will see
When you can cup your hands
And pick up the moon as it floats
On the still surface of a pond.

A few years ago I wrote a book called The Wisdom of the Infinite which detailed some of the logic involved in reaching a perfect intellectual understanding of reality. Reaching such an understanding, however, is really just the first step of the spiritual path. It is the easy part. The real business of spirituality involves applying this understanding to your daily life – indeed, applying it whole-heartedly to such an extent that it utterly consumes your existence.

This is the stage where philosophy transforms into spirituality and all subsequent progress is driven by desire, courage and character. It is the stage where terms like “faith” and “gnashing of teeth” begin to have real meaning. It can be a lonely and frightening road, but also one filled with wondrous sights. It is like being dropped into a hostile world which has no interest in truth and one has to fight demons on all fronts – both outwardly in the form of other people and their sheer loathing towards anything that forces them to become more conscious, and inwardly in the form of one’s own hesitations and weaknesses. And then, every now and then, one slips into heaven.

Many people who seek the truth are motivated by the wrong reasons. Their desire for truth is borne out of a disgust of mainstream life and a hatred of the lies and falsehoods which permeate society. Their disgust is essentially a desire to escape. This is fine as far as it goes, as it can take you some way towards the goal, but if it is not sublimated and eventually replaced by a child-like love of truth for its own sake, then there will come a point where you will stop and go no further. For as your intellectual understanding develops and creates distance between yourself and the world, the driving force of disgust will peter out and all you will be left with is a hollow conceptual understanding of things and an impoverished daily existence. The disgust needs to be transformed into love, for only then will you be motivated to push on when the going gets tough. Only then will truth come to life and reveal its countless treasures.

Don’t be fooled by lesser attainments. Set only the highest standards for yourself. Aim for the stars. If you are not experiencing the full nature of the Infinite in every moment – concretely, directly and consciously, in every situation you find yourself in – then you do not really know it at all. That is how you should always be viewing the matter. The whole of God’s nature can be found in a crumpled leaf or a speck of dust if you know how to look. The key lies in having the courage to look.

If you truly desire the truth, then it helps to burn your bridges to the world. If you can extinguish all other avenues of fulfilment, if you can place all of your eggs in the one basket of truth, it will force you to make the truth the centre of your life whether you like it or not. Spiritual success is a product of total commitment. If you can take the plunge and reject the world completely then not only will you quickly find nirvana, but it will save you a lot of unnecessary suffering as well. Kevin Solway makes the analogy of crossing a busy street to get to the other side (where nirvana resides). If you hesitantly venture out a little way and then stop, you will quickly be battered into submission. But if you can stride out with clarity and purpose, you will reach the other side in no time. Then you can take your ease.

Of course, things are rarely this black and white. We are human, after all, and each of us has our own fears and weaknesses. While stepping out onto the road is relatively easy, as one is still feeling empowered by one’s intellectual understanding and everything still looks fresh and new, it is making the decision to go further out into the road, away from the world, away from the human race, which is the challenge. For it means entering a sort of bleak half-way abyss in which one is all alone. Those who enter it find that they are too spiritual to find comfort in the world and yet not spiritual enough to find comfort in nirvana. It is at this point that the lustre of the spiritual path seems to fade, reason seems to lose its power and truth seems to be an empty mirage. Even people with great character sometimes need encouragement to continue on with their journey, and indeed this is the primary purpose of the world’s scriptures and spiritual texts, such as the Tao Te Ching, the Dharmapada, the Bhagavad Gita, the Gospels, Kierkegaard’s writings, etc. They are essentially written for those few who have already reached the very pinnacle of intellectual understanding. Their prime focus is to encourage such people to continue striving for the other side. The great value of these texts is that they can help steel the mind and fan a powerful love for truth.

In any case, enough of the introduction. Time to step out onto the road ….

The phrase “intellectually understanding the nature of reality” essentially means understanding the illusory nature of all things. Again, I refer the reader to The Wisdom of the Infinite for a detailed account of what this is about. But for those of you who already understand the logic of why things are illusory, the next step is to thoroughly break the spell of “objective existence” in every aspect of your daily life.

It has sometimes been said by Buddhist sages that life is like a dream, which is not a bad way of looking at the matter. It is obviously not equivalent to a dream, but it is like a dream in the sense that all we ever experience are appearances. Whether it be the distant stars, the nearby hills, the busy streets, the crowds of noisy people milling around, the molecules inside your body, the thoughts inside your mind – they are all appearances. Even your very own self is nothing more than an appearance.

It is very important to thoroughly understand what this means. There is no denying that the world appears to objectively exist, and for all intents and purposes, it does objectively exist, yet it is easy to see that it is nothing more than an apparition. It is similar to the way the sun appears to rise and set each day. We might directly experience the rising and setting of the sun with our own eyes, so to speak, yet the whole thing is an illusion produced by the rotating earth. It is an experience which is constructed out of our perspective as beings situated on the earth. In the same way, our experience of the world as an objective entity is a mirage generated out of a particular perspective, one that is centred around a belief in the self and reinforced by habit of thought. The objectivity of the world appears real on the surface, but it disappears the moment you begin to approach it.

All things are fundamentally like this. They appear to exist from certain angles, but they are not really there. I have always liked the Buddha’s illustration of this, where he twirled a flame around and around in a circle so that it formed a ring of light. The ring of light certainly appears to exist and can be perceived by observers, and yet it has no existence outside of that perception. As soon as you look more closely at the twirling, you can see that the ring does not really exist at all. It is merely an illusion of perspective. Your very own self is like that ring. You could search for your self forever and you would never find it. For there is nothing to find.

The biggest mistake people make is grasping at the world as though it was real. They are subconsciously convinced that there must be a “bottom line” to Nature, that there is a fundamental realm of reality somewhere, that there is a particular form of Nature which comprises the one true reality. This is ultimately where all belief comes from, whether it be a belief in a particular god, or a belief in scientific atheism. Belief is the arbitrary raising of a particular form over and above all other forms. It is also the essence of insanity.

The word “enlightenment” is sometimes used to mean moksha or liberation, and this is probably the best way to conceive of it. To be enlightened means to be liberated from all forms, all things, all events, all states, all hopes, all regrets, all happiness, and all suffering. It even means being liberated from the truth, from the spiritual path, from all knowledge and wisdom, even from enlightenment itself. In each moment, all of it has to be abandoned. Throw it all away as though it were a filthy piece of clothing. Whatever you think you might have achieved, whatever insights you might have gathered, whatever skills or merits you believe you have accumulated, whatever mystical experiences you have enjoyed, whatever social standing you possess – all of it needs to be tossed to the winds and allowed to disperse. Hold on to nothing whatsoever.

The greatest spiritual practice is to engage in no practice at all. The person who engages in such a practice single-mindedly ensures that his mind never clings to anything and never strives for anything. His meditation is to studiously avoid all forms of meditation. He does not seek any kind of understanding, nor any kind of mystical experience, nor any kind of altered state of consciousness. He does not seek these things because his every experience is already nirvanic in nature. He is already in nirvana. Even the most mundane aspects of his life are full expressions of nirvana. He knows that he can no more leave nirvana than he can enter into it.

The enlightened person is perfectly at home in all realms. He sees them all as equal expressions of ultimate reality. He does not have to enter a particular realm or mental state in order to feel more enlightened. He could travel into the depths of outer space and into other galaxies, or into other universes and dimensions, and yet he would not have moved an inch. He could dive inwardly into the most heavenly of mystical states and experience all that is sublime and timeless, and yet he would feel as though nothing has happened. For him, everything is already complete. And he too is complete.

In order to fully understand and engage in this practice, you need to abandon every preconceived idea of what you think nirvana should be. You must not equate it with any kind of egotistical heaven. Accept nirvana for what it is and forget about what you would like it to be. Nirvana has no form, yet there is never any place where it is absent. It is constantly before our eyes in all of its glory, yet it is impossible to get a handle on it in any way. It has an infinite number of faces and yet none of them can be caught.

So treat everything that you experience for the appearance that it is. Or better yet, treat every experience as a temporary form that only exists in the moment. In this way, you can go beyond the perception that everything is an appearance, for that too lacks objective reality. The whole history of the Universe, with the Big Bang and the formation of the galaxies and stars, and the long, gradual evolution of life on earth eventually leading to the reign of the dinosaurs and the mammals, and then human history with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the Dark Ages, the scientific revolution and the advent of the modern world – all of it is nothing more than a fleeting form that exists in the moment and nowhere else. Break the spell of objective reality in all of its guises and slide into formlessness. Stop seeing yourself as a finite being who is stuck inside a concrete, three-dimensional world. Slip sideways out of existence, as it were, and enter the void of the All which is not really a void. Tune into your unborn nature and truly live.

The most important aspect of this practice is constancy of application. Moment after moment, day after day, do everything you can to be aware of your formless nature. No matter what the situation is, or what you are doing, or how you are feeling, or who you are talking to, make it your highest priority to constantly think of the Infinite. Try to avoid the habit of confining such a meditation to your spare time. It is relatively easy to think of the Infinite when you are alone and not doing anything else, but the real test comes when you are in the midst of the world and its distracting situations. That is when you should redouble your efforts and really apply yourself. The more you can think about God in those situations the more powerful your overall practice will be, and even your quieter times will become more fruitful. It is all about building up a head of steam and maintaining the momentum, and this requires the discipline of single-mindedness. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays in order to set fire to a piece of paper. If you are constantly stopping and starting, or waving the magnifying glass about, you will never succeed.

The definitive sign that one is enlightened is when one is able to see into the nature of reality with an instantaneous application of will, without any need to engage in laborious mental processes or having to solve philosophic problems. And this can only be achieved when you become intimately familiar with the ins and outs of nirvana, when you know it like the back of your hand. This is the great prize of spiritual expertise. It is only at this point that the real benefits of truthful living start to emerge in terms of perfect freedom, utter certainty, pure spontaneity, fearlessness, immeasurable peace, and so on.

While the ultimate spiritual practice is to engage in no practice at all, sometimes you do need to engage in other practices in order to keep the mind focused. The practice of no practice can be difficult to sustain throughout the day, particularly in the early stages. It is easy to become distracted and lose sight of what needs to be done. It is a bit like experiencing narcolepsy, in that one often slides into unconsciousness of reality – that is to say, back into ordinary consciousness – without even realizing what is happening. And then twenty minutes later you suddenly wake up and only then do you realize that you have been fast asleep all that while! When this happens – as it will, again and again – all you can do is write the whole thing off as the workings of karma and climb back into the saddle once more. There is no point in recriminating yourself over such lapses. They will invariably happen. It is better to look to the future, vow to improve, and move on.

One way to keep the mind focused is to exploit your ego’s instinctive desire for happiness and use it to direct your attention to the All. For example, you can train your mind to view every aspect of Nature as an artistic masterpiece. It is easy to see that everything is immensely beautiful in an aesthetic sense. The colours, textures and sounds of even the most mundane things in life possess a sublime beauty if you know how to see it. Most people block out this beauty because they are so caught up in their daily worries, but there is no reason why you should be trapped in misery like them and go around being cranky at everything. You are well within your rights to experience the magical beauty of reality in everything that you do. It is an excellent way to find joy in the All and help free the mind from worldly attachments. All it takes is a little time and practice until it becomes second nature.

I have found through experience that many people who embark on the path to enlightenment are afraid to enjoy God. This relates to the earlier point about being motivated by the wrong reasons – namely, by disgust and anger, rather than by love and joy. A lot of people become too caught up in the crassness of the human race and the dire situation of modern society, and they waste their lives loathing everything, including themselves. This is surely the height of stupidity. To hate something, whatever it might be, is to hate Nature itself, for Nature is the root cause of everything that happens. People are essentially flawed robots, as far as this matter is concerned. It is not their fault if they grow up with lots of bugs in their programming. If an opportunity presents itself to engage in some debugging, then fine. Go for it. But it is not your responsibility to worry and fret over the outcome.

A genius is able to shoulder the responsibility of the world and work diligently for the sake of other people’s welfare, yet for him it is no burden at all. Freedom and lightness is his default state of being. So give up all your cares and keep your mind in the Infinite. Don’t be afraid to enjoy God. Indeed, it is very important that you learn how to flourish in your infinite nature and take delight in it. It will make you a far better teacher in the long run.

In everything that you do, treat each moment as though it were the very first moment of creation. Beginningless time and the present moment are the same. There is no before, and no after. Everything is as it should be – utterly pure and innocent. We literally live our lives in the Garden of Eden. What is there to fix?

Another example of an exercise you can do involves making love to everything that happens. You can even mentally verbalize this love, if you want. Sometimes, I like to walk around the place and mentally affirm my love for everything that I see. “I love the way that piece of paper is crumpled up like that”, or “I love the way that tree is fluttering lightly in the breeze”, or “I love the way all that hair is growing out of that man’s ear.” This might seem like a corny thing to do, but using words to mentally verbalize such practices can help concentrate the mind and lock it into the right attitude. It is not unlike the way writing can help crystallize your thoughts and bring them into greater clarity.

Another exercise involves affirming the truth that everything is literally your self, simply by reversing or subverting habitual thought. For example, you can view the world as your body, and your body as the world. See how the distant stars are as familiar as the freckles on your legs, while the blood coursing throughout your body and the synapses firing inside your brain are as alien as the stars. The wind rustling through the trees is your consciousness moving. The thoughts appearing in your mind are like the clouds which appear in the sky. A loud noise erupts and the heart beats faster. A decision is made in the brain and the world changes. Where exactly is this boundary between self and other!

In any case, these are just a few examples of what can be done to keep the mind focused on the All. I am sure there are countless other exercises you can devise. Feel free to be creative. Experiment and improvise. Try not to settle into any one kind of practice, though. Mix it up. Always be alert, intelligent and flexible. Learn to read your moods and adapt your practice accordingly.

To recap ….

If you are planning to cross the road, then do it whole-heartedly. Burn all of your bridges and escape routes and go at it as hard as you can. Generate the momentum needed to reach the other side. This momentum will be your greatest asset during that bleak period when you are neither part of the world, nor part of nirvana. Use your ego against itself and exploit its desire for happiness by seeking joy in the All. Be intelligent and creative with your practices and ground them all in the core practice of no practice. Keep doing this day after day after day.

In the end, the whole spiritual path to enlightenment boils down to belief. Not in the sense of blindly accepting articles of faith, but in the sense of having utter conviction in the truth. You really have to believe, with the whole of your being, in what you know to be true. Intellectually, you know that everything is nirvana. So believe it. And keep believing it, over and over, all the time, no matter what the situation. If you can apply this belief in a sustained manner, you will find yourself on the other side of the road in no time. Indeed, you will find that there has never been any road in the first place.

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20 Responses to “Crossing the Road”

  1. jupiviv Says:

    Good article. A few points – if the intellectual understanding of reality doesn’t lead to an experience of it in everyday life, then it is not perfect. About stimulating the mind – I’ve found that the best way to rejuvenate one’s interest in truth is to feel the opposition of those who are ignorant of truth.

  2. David Quinn Says:

    Regarding point 1: Yes, imperfection in understanding is the root dynamic of ignorance.

    Regarding point 2: Yes, that’s a good way to get motivated, but as I allude to in the blog it would be better to have a number of motivations.

  3. diebert Says:

    A pinnacle of an article, David. Perhaps this means you can finally die now as it summarizes everything you ever were about with difficult to surpass, engaging but concise prose. Then again, it’s understood the wise already views his life as fundamentally completed and finished from the moment the first sparks of realization drifted through that open window. Therefore even now no difference!

  4. Kunga Says:

    Little gem in in little gem in an. Extra.

  5. Sphere70 Says:

    A very beautiful and helpful article David. Thanks.

  6. movingalways Says:

    Very illuminating, as the finger pointing to the moon should be. :-)

    I have been crossing the road for a long time. It is helpful to read the words of others who acknowledge that although the road is not actually there, in our dissolving state of ignorance it is the most real thing we’ll ever experience.

    I love your words above, especially those about enjoying God, which is really God enjoying God. Although I have never hated ignorance, I have felt deeply its suffering, a suffering that I now see has prevented me from moving forward to stand in the fruit of the rest of wisdom’s light. This letting go of my attachment to compassion now is my road to cross, my crucifixion to bear.

    Again, thank you for your breadcrumbs of light.

  7. Kelly Jones Says:

    I love the way people flock around a beautiful woman, eager to become oblivious and mindless, in the throes of sexual voyeurism. I love how keen people are to encourage women to be pretty, to ornament themselves, to act sweetly and compliantly, to make them into human-dolly pets, into a human version of a fluffy, playful, ornamental cat or dog. I love the twisted and agitated expression of an enraged person. I love the malicious streak in someone who is trying to blame someone else for their own mistakes. I love the sadness and apathy in people so depressed by systemic injustice, that they have given up on expecting others to behave rightly. I love pretentiousness and superficial politeness. I love the hatred or instinctive distrust of reason, truth, self-awareness and wisdom systemic in today’s society. I love the way people cannot stand solitude, and must socialise, and force others to socialise. I love the way ordinary conversations are rarely honest and direct, but generally focussed on an unspoken subtext. I love the way wisdom is suppressed by everyone, and no one speaks openly about what they believe to be fundamentally true. I love small talk. I love the way people talk about the importance of work, and being productive, and the point of their work is a distraction from being conscious, which they call “getting into mischief”. I love rush and hurry and avoidable stress and suffering. I love silent lifelong martyrdom, the products of which others exploit so as to feel alive and “spiritual”, but which they never take on themselves. I love the way people are attracted to being told what to do, and become mentally dead, uncreative robots, instead of working it out for themselves. I love the way most people love shopping for over-priced, badly-designed, junk products so as to match what others have. I love the way thousands of people flit around the globe in airplanes on expensive trips, making environmentally devastating flights, and justify their actions by saying they had so much fun, it was all worth it. I love the way humans are hardly any more spiritually evolved from apes and hyenas. I love the bewildered and angry screams of a child in incurable pain. I love the distress of a person dying from thirst. I love the way a brutish person abuses a pet dog, throwing stones at it and torturing it to a frenzied pitch of exasperation. I love the confusion of a pod of beached whales burning and dying slowly in the sun. I love all the countless ways people fill their lives with rubbish thoughts. I love all that senseless and unnecessary sadness and pain, because it is essentially as glorious as the fluctuating colour of a rainbow. I love how people immediately conclude the wise man is a psychopath, with no regard to the profundity of this mind.

    ________________________________________________
    At what point has one said too much? “This is indeed the most difficult, to close the open hand out of love, and to restrain oneself as a giver, out of modesty.” – Nietzsche

  8. Matt Gregory Says:

    Yeah, this is brilliant! I like this post a lot.

  9. Mark Says:

    Hi David,

    I read Wisdom of the Infinite a good while ago, and I’m grateful for it. Recently I discovered this blog, and also started listening to the Reasoning Show (only the first episode so far), where you say that what you’re interested in is logical truths that are true in all possible worlds. And you call those absolute truths. But I was wondering about that, and I’d be curious about your thoughts on the following.

    Isn’t a necessary part of enlightenment the recognition that truth can not be stated? Because all abstracts are false, because all reification is false (i.e. all concreteness is misplaced), because no abstract can capture or contain truth (being nondual and infinite and all)…

    For example, how can it be an absolute truth, in all possible worlds, that all things are finite, as you claimed in WotI? Since from the “absolute perspective” there are no things, there are no actual boundaries, and there can’t be actual things or boundaries in any possible world, except as a matter of convention (which is to say, as an abstract). You even wrote in WotI that causality means things have no beginning or end, that it’s all essentially one reality. It can’t both be absolutely true that there are no finite things and that there are finite things.

    In the first podcast you said something about science which you claimed to be an absolute truth (about science), because it is logically true in all possible worlds. But there is no science either, any more than there are things. That would be just another reification.

    Nothing ever happened, as they say. Or as you said in WotI: “What we call the car, then, is simply a conceptual creation that we project onto a particular arrangement of components. It is an abstraction that ultimately has no physical referent.” (and the same goes for what we call science, and for whatever else we call anything).

    It seems to me that an abstract only has meaning in terms of its relationships with other abstracts, so its meaning (and all meaning) is contingent on context. And so the meaning of any logical statement (being abstract) is also contingent.

    Abstracts (e.g. words and concepts) don’t actually and truly point to anything, it is only a matter of interpretation (i.e. a matter of convention) that they are taken as pointing to something. Which interpretation necessarily occurs in terms of some context. All definition is ultimately arbitrary, all context is ultimately arbitrary, and truth is not captured or contained by any definition or context.

    Which btw. also explains the emptiness of emptiness itself, although as far as I can tell, you also hold emptiness as an absolute truth. But as they say, the emptiness of a thing is contingent on the thing. In other words, even a negative claim (there are no things, there is no self, there is no inherent existence) only makes sense in a context where someone actually makes the positive claim that is being refuted (which context is what lends such a claim and its refutation meaning). To consider emptiness absolute, is to reify it.

    Isn’t it already a mistake to talk in terms of “an absolute truth”, or of “absolute truths”, as if there were a multiplicity of them? All of this sounds to me as though what you call absolute truth is really just a subset of what is called conventional truth. While I would rather say that conventional truth is a hugely confused misnomer and is no truth at all, but just convention.

    As far as I can tell (but I’m not there yet), enlightenment doesn’t really leave one with anything to argue for (at most it leaves one with things to argue against if one were so inclined, and even then only in response to others making positive claims).

    And as far as I can tell, the logical realm certainly needs to be entered, but primarily as a means to put it (and thereby philosophy) in its proper place. I see reason and philosophy as a way of using the terms of delusion against itself, as a means of finding my way out. After all, wouldn’t you say that reification precisely IS delusion?

    So even though it is a necessary device for eliminating untruth, it ultimately defeats itself when it comes to truth. At which point of course it becomes clear that there was never really anything to defeat, that it was just a big tail chase.

    Also, what would be “the logical realm”, if not just one realm among many, in a manner of speaking? All of which would be inextricable parts of the one totality.

    The more I think about it and the more I read your blog, the more it seems to me (but please correct me if I’m wrong) that what you consider absolute truth and what you have been looking for (and still are?), is truth ABOUT the infinite, some kind of ultimate explanation of what or why. But although I’m not enlightened, I would say truth has to be the infinite itself, and the whole notion of explanation is a bogus invention of abstsract thought.

    For example, you wrote in one of these blogposts: “I remember when I was younger and pushing myself ever more deeply into philosophy, I used to hate the fact that I was uncertain of everything. It is a truly terrible experience not knowing where to ground the mind. Being uncertain of everything is like having a bad acid trip, with everything flopping about topsy-turvy. It is not a realm in which you can rest and take it easy.”

    From what I gather, your conclusion is somehow that surely there must be some kind of solid ground for the mind to take a stand in absolute truth. In other words (and again please correct me if I’m wrong), you are looking to abstracts for providing ultimate answers, even though all meaning (including both the meaning of answers and of questions) is contingent.

    For another example, you wrote in one of these blogposts: “By constantly affirming that science is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world, they are in effect affirming that all we ever have access to are Rorschach ink blots.” But just how is the infinite NOT a Rorschach ink blot? (please note I’m not trying to defend science in asking this).

    But then in this, your latest blog post (which was the last one I read and which makes a lot more sense to me), you turn it all around and write: “Hold on to nothing whatsoever” and “it is impossible to get a handle on it in any way”.

    Hope you would clarify for me.

    Thanks and best regards,

    Mark

  10. David Quinn Says:

    Hi Mark, and welcome. Excellent opening post. I have actually started on a new blog which deals with some of the issues you have raised. So rather than preempt that, I’ll just make a couple of points:

    You more or less answered your own question when you asked, “Isn’t a necessary part of enlightenment the recognition that truth can not be stated?”. Yes, ultimately, the great truth of existence cannot be captured in words, as it is far too subjective and immediate for that. It is something that can only be understood and experienced inwardly by the individual. So it is true that you should regard everything I have written as temporary, provisional, corrective, etc. The same goes for the words uttered by Buddha, Lao Tzu, and co.

    Spiritual teaching is about providing medicines to particular ailments, and these ailments can range from being primitive and crude (such as beliving in a Christian God) to profound and subtle (such as being taken in by objective existence). The medicines themselves only have meaning within the particular context they are used. They address a particular ailment and once that ailment has been cured there is no longer any need for that particular medicine. It can be thrown away.

    To use an example you raised, the truth that “all things are finite” is a corrective against a whole bundle of deluded views which include the view that Reality is dualistic, that Reality has a form, that Reality begins and ends, etc. It also has value in “equalizing” all things, which enables the mind to orientate itself towards the all-important step of transcending all things. Even though it is based on the false idea that things have boundaries, it is still a logical truth which necessary applies to all possible worlds. It is true to the degree that mind continues to experience forms, continues to experience beginnings and ends, etc. If you already understand the Infinite and see through all beginnings and ends, then yes, you no longer have to refer to it.

    Regarding logical truths, think of them as rungs of a ladder that can be used to climb up into the Infinite. As you point out, logical truths are abstractions that can used to break down deluded beliefs, and when one pushes this process to the very end and all delusions have been eliminated, only the Infinite remains, which is when true certainty is attained. It is the certainty of knowing that there is no certainty, that there is nothing to ground the mind in.

    You ask, “Wouldn’t you say that reification precisely IS delusion”? Yes, but with the caveat that one has to be careful not to fall into more subtle forms of reification – such as imagining that reality is really an emptiness or a void. That’s equally delusional, in the end.

    As I say, I will be addressing the issue of logical truths in more detail in the upcoming blog, so I’ll leave it there for the time being. Hopefully, it will be up by the weekend. Good to meet you, Mark.

  11. David Quinn Says:

    I should add that all of the blogs I have written thus far have come from the same place, from the same consciousness of the Infinite. It might seem more obvious in this particular blog, but I assure you it is fully there in the previous blogs as well.

  12. Mark Says:

    Thanks David, I understand and agree. But then how do you reconcile that with the promotion of a certain class of conventions as being absolutely true? Even causation, being by your own admission a conceptual construct (and which I interpret as your own formulation of dependent origination) is a matter of convention. It’s a way of talking about observed regularities, not an/the absolute truth ABOUT existence, nor the inherent nature of existence, nor some kind of underlying substrate or force. To think of it in that way is fundamentally mistaken, I would say.

    Any talk about causality already rests on the assumption of finite things/events (causes, effects, conditions, dependencies, call them whatever). As and when the reification of causes and effects as finite things falls away (and certainly when the reification of time as a sequence of moments falls away), with that should fall away the reification of causality itself. It’s just a model after all (not to mention an extremely potent device for navigating out of delusion, but one which eventually has to be let go of). If reality is one undivided whole, then there are no things causing other things, it becomes one single flow of ongoing pattern (of which only a very small part is those thoughts about causality and the arrow of time, and of course no thought is true either). The caveat you mention is simply saying that ALL reification is without exception deluded, and not just SOME reification.

    I noticed someone wrote something in one of their comments on one of your blog posts, which in a way illustrates the mistake that I think tends to be made. He wrote: “Existence is inherently empty”. I would dispute that, and would rather say in the broadest possible sense, simply: “There is no inherent existence”. There is no inherent existence that has the inherent nature of inherent emptiness. Subtle but significant difference. Can’t reify existence, can’t reify emptiness, nature has no nature. And so there are no inherent attributes or substrate to existence, nor is there an inherent identity of existence.

    The whole notion of identity as something other than convention is also bogus (upon which rests any notion of description and explanation). Identity is reification. And this is also something I can’t reconcile with certain explicit claims made in the Reasoning Show (I’ve listened to the rest of them now). Also I would say this calls into question a number of things, like defending a single point of view (e.g. about archetypal femininity), or believing in ones own rationalizations (such as the justification for your choices about income and life style, or for any choice at all – I’m not saying there can be true rationalizations as opposed to false ones, I’m saying they are necessarily superfluous and ultimately irrelevant). By which I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with any of it, but it just seems to me that taking any of it too seriously or literally, would not be coherent with a proper understanding of the infinite.

    Which is why I’m asking about it :). Looking forward to your next blog post.

    Cheers,

    Mark

    P.S. I recently found this article, which looks like it’s relevant to my comments here:

    “Dependent Arising and the Emptiness of Emptiness: Why did Nagarjuana start with causation?”
    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Nagarjuna/Dependent_Arising.htm

    I haven’t read the whole thing yet, right now I’m only up to the final paragraph of the first section of the article, which I’ll quote below because I think it illustrates the article’s relevance here nicely:

    “I will begin by offering a philosophical reading of chapter 1. I will argue that Nagarjuna distinguishes two possible views of dependent origination or the causal process–one according to which causes bring about their effects in virtue of causal powers and one according to which causal relations simply amount to explanatorily useful regularities–and defends the latter. This, I will argue, when suitably fleshed out, amounts to Nagarjuna’s doctrine of the emptiness of causation. I will then turn immediately to chapter 24, focusing on the link between emptiness, dependent origination, and convention, and developing the theory of the emptiness of emptiness. With this in hand, we will return to chapter 1, showing how this doctrine is anticipated in the initial discussion of causation. Finally, I will show quickly how this way of reading the texts changes the way we would read subsequent chapters, and I will make a few general remarks about the moral of this textual exercise for an understanding of the centrality of causation to metaphysics and for an understanding of the remarkably pragmatic outlook of Madhyamika philosophy. ”

    In other words, your view of the causal process, as it comes across to me in the way you often tend to talk and write about it, and as it seems to underly many other things that you talk and write about, seems to be the former of those two possible views. Which I think represents a subtle form of reification as per the caveat you just mentioned. And which is why only the latter of the two views makes sense to me.

  13. Mark Says:

    On a side note, I think this article illustrates the core issue of reification nicely:
    http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/

  14. David Quinn Says:

    Hi Mark,

    As with your first post, there are a lot of things I agree with in your latest post and some things I disagree with:

    You’re right in saying that cause and effect rests on the notion of “things”. Even causes and effects are themselves “things”. So yes, once you see through the existence of things, the concept of cause and effect falls away. We can think of the concept of cause and effect as a kind of blowtorch that can be used to wipe away the divisions in Nature that the ignorant mind arbitrarily creates. Once this process is completed and the seamlessness of Nature is thoroughly understood, the blowtorch can be switched off and put away.

    Nonetheless, the concept of cause and effect still remains an absolute truth, as it is something which is necessarily true of anything that exists in Nature. As soon as a thing is perceived to exist, cause and effect immediately becomes a reality. Cause and effect and existence go together hand in hand and can never be seperated.

    The truth of cause and effect is not a model, however. That is completely the wrong way to conceive of it. Rather, it is a logical understanding that kicks in the moment that things are perceived to exist. And it has no special relationship to regularities. The logical understanding of cause and affect applies to all things without exception, to both regularities and irregularities.

    As for reification, in the “Mastering Perspective” blog I stressed the importance of learning how to go beyond all perspectives. This alone should put to bed that I am somehow engaging in a reification process. In the end, the aim is to go beyond all forms and immerse oneself in the Infinite. Logical truths are excellent tools for making this happen.

    As for justifying one’s choices in life, such as I do with respect to income, this all boils down to what one values in life. I happen to value wisdom (i.e. consciousness of the Infinite) and make all my choices in life on that basis. Immersing oneself in the Infinite doesn’t lead to an absence of platforms upon which to make choices. I don’t know where you got that idea from. Choices comes from values, and everyone has values of one kind or another. Even Buddhas have values.

  15. David Quinn Says:

    A couple of more points:

    “I will begin by offering a philosophical reading of chapter 1. I will argue that Nagarjuna distinguishes two possible views of dependent origination or the causal process–one according to which causes bring about their effects in virtue of causal powers and one according to which causal relations simply amount to explanatorily useful regularities–and defends the latter.”

    DQ: Neither of these apply to the way I conceive of cause and effect. The regularities bit I’ve already answered. As for the idea of “causal powers”, I agree that such a conception is nonsensical. The process of cause and effect shouldn’t be conceived as being separate from “things” in any way. A person only begins to understand cause and effect when he sees that there is no cause and effect. There is only things coming together to create other things.

    “The whole notion of identity as something other than convention is also bogus (upon which rests any notion of description and explanation). Identity is reification. And this is also something I can’t reconcile with certain explicit claims made in the Reasoning Show (I’ve listened to the rest of them now). Also I would say this calls into question a number of things, like defending a single point of view (e.g. about archetypal femininity), or believing in ones own rationalizations (such as the justification for your choices about income and life style, or for any choice at all – I’m not saying there can be true rationalizations as opposed to false ones, I’m saying they are necessarily superfluous and ultimately irrelevant). By which I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with any of it, but it just seems to me that taking any of it too seriously or literally, would not be coherent with a proper understanding of the infinite.”

    DQ: I refer you back to my point medicines and ailments. Some ailments are very persistent!

    You seem to have the idea that the enlightened person is a kind of shape-shifter who aimlessly flits from one moment to another without any purpose, which in turn stems from thinking that being purposeful automatically negates the reality of emptiness. Given this, how do you view, say, the Buddha who set up the Sangha and spent decades teaching a particular set of doctrines?

  16. Mark Says:

    Thank you David, that clears up some things for me, to an extent.

    - “As soon as a thing is perceived to exist, cause and effect immediately becomes a reality.”
    But then that’s saying that causality is contingent, isn’t it?

    - “Logical truths are excellent tools for making this happen.”
    I think that’s my main confusion at the moment: This tool, this medicine, how can it be anything more than that, i.e. how can it be absolute truth? I’m not convinced of the equivalence of logical truth and absolute truth.

    In a way, that Nagarjuna article helped me with seeing their connection (it even claims they are really the same thing). And that’s still being worked out in my brain. But right now I don’t know how to reconcile that with the notion that truth is simply the infinite as it experientially presents itself. Maybe that notion is just wrong then, but still I can’t think of logical truth as anything other than convention.

    - “Even Buddhas have values.”
    Sure, but I’m not convinced that he needs to rationalize or justify them. At least not in the sense of believing that ones rationalizations and justifications were the actual deciding factors in creating those values. More like a posterior attempt at accounting for the values he has discovered in himself, but for which there is ultimately no accounting.

    Anyway that’s how it often seems to work for me. Of course I do see my values change and refine as a result of the philosophical process. But I’m just not sure how those interactions really work. Again it’s more of a discovery after the fact, an observation of what my actual values in a particular area seem to be (which can in turn be an invitation for investigating them further), but there’s to not so much a sense that I am personally reaching those values directly by reaching rational conclusions. And I don’t think that’s really how it happens with anyone.

    So I also don’t try to live up to some kind of ideal, my values take care of themselves as long as I remain a discerning observer of them, but without trying to push them in any particular direction. First of all I think that would be deluded effort and fundamentally impossible, all that does is create more conflict within oneself. But also, whatever future direction I might choose for them is necessarily based on my present deluded view. Best I just address my delusions directly and let my values follow suit however they may.

    And at the same time I’m also reminded of a fitting Dirty Harry quote: “Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s got one.”

    Hope I’m making some sense.

    - “There is only things coming together to create other things.”
    Thanks, that’s exactly how I tend to think of it and explain it.

    - “I refer you back to my point medicines and ailments. Some ailments are very persistent!”
    Indeed, I also (happily) notice that in myself all the time. And I’m not suggesting anyone get off the medicine prematurely. I’m just saying that the medicine itself shouldn’t become the thing to ground the mind in, it just so easily becomes yet another form of fundamentalism. And that would go against the whole point of taking the medicine at all, because it would just be substituting delusions.

    - “You seem to have the idea that the enlightened person is a kind of shape-shifter who aimlessly flits from one moment to another without any purpose”

    No that’s not the idea I have. I don’t think being enlightened entails any particular prescription of what overal life-purpose to adopt, or whether to adopt any life-purpose at all. I guess I would say the purpose one adopts, if any, depends on those values mentioned earlier.

    But I’m not really in a position to speculate, right now my purpose is to address my own delusion, and not for any particular purpose beyond that. I’m extremely hesitant to hold on to any preconceived notions about it, because I think it will just have to show itself as and when appropriate.

    Naturally I’ve had my ideals about the good of humanity and all that, and now I’m not necessarily against that, but I just don’t see how I can get any clear view on it as long as I’m still looking through this lense of delusion, even though my intellectual understanding seems to be very good and getting better every day. And of course I can’t know how my values will further change as I get closer to the elimination of delusion.

    Cheers

  17. Mark Says:

    Btw. please don’t take my continued questions as asking you to preempt your upcoming blogpost, insofar as it addresses them.

  18. David Quinn Says:

    Hi Mark, I haven’t yet finalized in my own mind the content of the upcoming blog. (One of the challenges I have found writing these blogs is deciding each time what to include and what not to include, as each of these subjects could easily fill an entire book on their own). I think what I’ll do is write the blog over the next few days and then post it. After that, I’ll come back here and address any areas that end up not being included in the blog. I hope that suits you okay.

  19. Mark Says:

    Sure, it’s not a question of suiting me. I’m happy for the opportunity to talk and/or read your blogposts regardless. No rush, no obligations. Cheers.

  20. Mark Says:

    Hi again David, hope you’re doing well. Just felt compelled to recommend the following, to whomever reading this may be interested:
    http://www.wisefoolpress.com/toe/

    Best regards,
    Mark

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