Is All One?

As our sensory-material world draws us into its web, being distanced from its sensations and objects feels unsatisfactory. This is because we have identified sensations and activities as the source of our pleasures.

In meditation there is an effort to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’: a steady dis-identification from the objects of consciousness, including the self, and a ‘return’ to the role of the ‘watcher’, the canvas on which life is being continuously painted.

Counter to the instincts of our naïve mind, as one persists in recognizing and inhabiting the empty watcher, that very happiness which had been elusively sought in the world of objects purportedly begins to arrive, unconditionally.

What is this riddle? Is this a way for God to reconcile itself to the ultimacy of bare being, bereft of form and action?

I have heard of the loneliness of this primordial singular existence, and perhaps this is what is hinted at by the feelings that we feel surrounding death. Yet, why in the first place would God feel lonely enough to create samsara? If it is the all-powerful creator, why would it be subject to its own created, limited illusion of ‘loneliness’? (Unless God is not omnipotent, and the loneliness It is subject to is the condition created by a higher God.)

Yet, disidentification from samsara, and movement toward that ‘loneliness’ is rewarded by the very peace, happiness, and liberation from death-fear, that samsara lures us on with.

A paradoxical duality, yet again.

‘All is One’. If you consider this sentence, it exhibits the dance between duality and non-duality at several levels. ‘All’ of course implies dual, ‘one’ implies non-dual. Talking about them as two things, using two words, indicates that they are different. This is since in our experience, even if we can conceive of ‘all’ and ‘one’, ‘all’ does not seem to be ‘one’. This is a duality.

Yet, the statement of the sentence is that, despite, being apparently two different things, they are ultimately the same: non-dual.

How can many things be one? Perhaps because truth, i.e. what is or is not, is subjective or relative, for lack of a better word. Truth is not singular, but different depending on the perceiver.

From the dual perspective of our mind, there may appear to be many separate things. Yet, from the non-dual standpoint they may truly  all be one, including — as they must be for complete non-duality — our dual perceptions.

That there merely exists more than one perspective/truth ought to imply that the world is ultimately dual.

Yet, how can there be more than one truth? Well, in Relativity we have seen how the hitherto single absolute truths of space and time were revealed to be multiple relative truths, and in Quantum Mechanics we have seen how truth only emerges in response to perception. With these discoveries, there arose no conflicts of the new truth with the previously held single absolute truths, since the new truth accounted for all of it, including the previous misperception, and thus was a greater truth.

Yet, one Truth may plausibly ultimately absorb all of these truths. From the perspective of unity, all of these various forms, and multiple subjective truths, are somehow ultimately one, in a way that I cannot understand owing to my dualistic worldview.

Our rational, scientific minds cannot readily fathom the logic of this unity thesis. Yet, look at Science itself! Its marching frontiers are increasingly uncovering unification beneath a world of material multiplicity. So even the apparent greatest advocate against unity, the material science of the thinking mind, may be pointing in the direction of one.

What does it mean to say that science is uncovering One? If it is the ultimate, non-dual, oneness, what would it take for science to convince us that it is everything? Will this very thinking mind, that now does not see all as one, be convinced somehow when scientists find their coveted Grand Unified Theory? How can such a factual, clinical finding override my subjective dualistic experience?

Also, why the ‘coveted’ grand unified theory? Are we merely stumbling upon unification in the material sciences as reported? Aren’t we psychologically pointed at unification a priori, by a bias so deep it is beyond science? For what do we call ‘understanding’? When apparently distinct entities and phenomena are reduced in terms of fewer entities and phenomena. If science is the endeavour to understand, then science is a priori the directed endeavour to unify. (One might argue instead that science is the endeavour to predict, and unification has only incidentally been seen to aid that in certain circumstances.) Why do we unquestioningly regard the account of this unification-oriented enterprise as the truth, without interrogating that desire for unification, or ‘who’ installed it in us?

What if our scientific discoveries of unification are resulting only in response to our desire for it, like a non-singular, subjective, ‘choose your own adventure’ universe?

Where does this duality end?

Who cares? Am I having fun?

 

Dear God

Our school prayer, recited together every morning before the beginning of classes and often fondly remembered by me and my schoolmates now, went like this:

Dear God,
Thank you for everything;
Bless me and help me to be good,
And to do my studies well.

I stopped believing in god when I was very small. I don’t even remember how far back that was; I was probably about eight or nine then. I faintly remember that I used to harbour a mild irritation for this prayer as a reaction from this atheism. Along with some other funny stuff I used to do. Like I remember that in all my essays and elsewhere I never capitalized the word ‘god’ or pronouns referring to god, as is the norm (I still stick to that). One of my aunts, very religious, used to give me on my exam days a little paper-wrapped bundle of flowers from her puja, for luck. My schoolmates who brought these used to brush them over all the pages of their answer scripts. I remember throwing it out the window once, and then feeling crap about it because my aunt had only wished me well.

Where many of my friends had pictures of gods and goddesses on the inside of their pencil-boxes, I had pasted pictures of Einstein and Donald Duck.

On visits to temples, I used to refuse to toll the bell. I was very little then. I was forced to do it once, “just to be nice”, by another aunt. Although I remember faintly, and this is one of my oldest memories, that I used to enjoy vigorously tolling the bell at a nearby temple when I was very small and before I stopped believing in god. But I guess at that age I had no clue what it was about.

I don’t remember at all why I stopped believing in god; it happened a long time back when memory starts failing. But it has stood for that long. Right now I won’t offhand say that I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe in organized religion. But god, well, it’s complicated, I’m not sure, and I don’t have very good arguments for whatever little ideas I have. I haven’t thought about it as much as I should. But yeah, for all practical purposes (which includes praying, visiting temples, fear of sin, trust on god etc) I am an atheist.

Coming back to that school prayer. Some friends were circulating it on facebook as a way to reminisce fond memories, and it suddenly struck me how wrong that prayer was in a way.

In an educational institute such as a school where the very foundations of a great many characters are laid, why would you put that prayer in everyone’s mouth? Educators need to know that theism is an opinion, that too without substantial arguments and a lot of bad past. Furthermore, thanking this elusive god character for ‘everything’ is so demeaning of oneself and one’s achievements and all other good things that happen in one’s life. And that ‘help me to be good’ really drives home the point that morality must be attained with assistance from this character. In the early constructive stages of so many children’s lives, this reiterated appointment of an absent character as the overseer of their lives to whom all credit for good things, good academic performance and morality must be channelled, suddenly seems very wrong to me now.

Is it part of an enforcement of conduct, this repeated chanting every morning of god as the controller of tidiness and goodness in oneself? If this is just an aid to discipline students, it was a bad choice. A dangerous, careless, morally incorrect choice.

I am no child psychologist, but attributing the credit for good behaviour to the one who exhibits it makes more sense to me. By Occam’s razor, there’s no need for an invention of an intermediate god to take over that credit. More important, it emphasizes that the ultimate person responsible for one’s actions is oneself, just as all things to be thankful for originate from life itself, from the doings of oneself and others. No divine assistance or intervention is needed to ‘be good’. Children are capable of goodness that comes from their own self. Isn’t that something important to let them realize instead of this ritual? Later on in their lives their spiritual and religious beliefs could grow independently from their experiences and thoughts; there’s no need to so crudely enforce that so early via a daily prayer.

But then, theism is expected to manifest in just such things.