Saturday, 17 December 2016

Introspection - 5 : Illusion of a Material World


We will attempt to experience the illusion of a separate material world directly.


Same as that for introspection - 1. Note that the word "World" is used with a philosophical meaning. Whatever that surrounds us here and now. So its not the globe or the "cruel world".

This is probably the easiest of all introspections. You don't need to keep the mind out of the way. It stops on its own. But it is always good to start with a clear mind.


Ask yourself - What is this world made of?

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Of course its made up of stuff, things, elements, air, water, sky etc. and they are made up of matter. Matter is just stuff made up of tiny matter - the atoms. This is what your "educated" mind likes to answer. That answers almost everything, but wait, you are in a questioning mood today, like a child. So ask anything you like, such as - what are those atoms made of? You may find more answers depending on your knowledge of physics, but go on questioning. In the end, it will be like - the matter is made up of atoms and the atoms are made up of matter.  Perhaps there is more stuff like fields, light, energy and mental stuff which is nothing but matter in action.

But then, isn't it only natural that gross matter is made up of fine matter? In what terms are we expecting the answer if not material terms? As you are a master of introspection by now, you know an easy way out of this loop here. Just remember that the introspection is not about what others say about whatever you are introspecting on, as the term suggests, its about what you yourself see it as a direct experience. So lets put our memorized information about physics aside and ask - how do I know what the world is made of? 

The mind will take you to memories of lots and lots of books, lectures and beliefs formed since childhood. You will find that you have never seen any atoms or light or fields or energies etc., you just believed whatever they told you. Perhaps the fellow who wrote that book has seen them all, or perhaps some great scientist has taken that trouble on your behalf. But you yourself know nothing at all as far as your own experience goes. It surely does not prove that the theories and models of physics are all useless, but it shows that these terms that we substitute for matter and its forms are merely ideas, concepts and beliefs. These keep changing frequently, one falls and another, perhaps a better one, takes its place, but they are all theories, hypotheses, ways of describing what we observe. The correct term is - Model.

So all you know are various models of the world. Models are very useful, but keep changing depending on place, time and utility. Your faith on them is now shaky - what if democratically accepted models change again? The model of a material world is just another model, there are many more, some exotic and some stupid. Is it wise to assume any of them as "truth" just because crowd around you assumes so? Is a model same thing as a world? No. So how do you really know the world? The question persists.

Of course, the clear answer is - I see it here, its before me, I experience it via senses. You will soon find that the only way to know the world is via sensory perception. Senses provide us a direct experience of world. Ask - what do senses tell me about this world? 

This question will shift you into an observer mode instead of a book parrot mode. This also silences the mind and you just look around as if you are looking at the world for the first time. You will find that the world is made of entities of various forms and qualities (aka qualia). Shapes, colours, voices, tones and textures or smells. That’s what the senses tell us. Our learned "knowledge" and conditioning labels the sense perception with all those gross or sophisticated labels and ideas. However the world is known only via senses. The labels are an add on, tags.

Ask - will the world disappear if all the ideas and theories about it disappear? The obvious answer is no. The world cares not about our ideas of it. Ask - will the world disappear if all my senses disappear suddenly? Well, the image is scary, but the answer is a clear yes. Try closing eyes and ears and ignoring most of other senses, you get a taste of "no-world". The mind creates a world out of sense data. That’s right its just data the senses feed your mind with.

So that answers the question of what this world is made up of, its a structure in the mind formed out of sensory data. You can see it here and now and can also make it disappear. But there is a problem here, as many of you have already suspected. Wouldn't senses need something to get their data from? And that something must be the world as it is. This is how others can see the world, even when I make it disappear. It can be just energy, daemons feeding pictures into your brain or the code of the Matrix. We will never know, but it must be out there somewhere, isn’t it?

So lets find out where it is, whatever it is. Ask - where do I see all those objects that make up this apparent world? And the answer from the mind is - out there. Ask - where is "out"? And then where is "in"? You are a part of the world, so are you not also out there?  So if both are “out”, where is “in”? Look closely, the objects and you are separated by space but "you", objects and space taken together are just "here". Include everything in your field of view at this point.

The sense of vision creates this illusion of in and out with the nearest thing, which is an imaginary place behind your eyes, as "in" and everything else including your body as "out". Just close your eyes to verify it. Wait, but you hear sounds out there and can also touch things that are outside. Check again, those sensations are only in your mind, the "internal space". The mind assigns them "locations" once it recalls where you have seen them before. The sounds "are" and so is the touch. You never hear a car horn or never touch a chair. You only sense those signals. They are non-local, they are “here”.

The world is already beginning to lose its solidity and certainty. Summon your super introspection skills at this point. Ask - how do I know sense percepts? You will find that there is a direct experience of those percepts, you don't need to open a book, ask a teacher or Google it. Ask - what is an experience? You will now shift into a subjective point of view. You will see that the world and the experience of it are one and the same thing.

An experience is just being that experience, there is no difference between being and experiencing. Ask – what is experiencing it all? And the Self shifts out of the nondual experience and takes its familiar seat, creating the split of an experience and an experiencer.

You will find that there is no world, no sense data, there is no perception or mind to organize it all, there is just an experience. All you ever knew were only experiences, nothing else. Even the mental contents, the thoughts, memories or imaginations are nothing but experiences. Isn’t an experience also a concept? No, check it now, it is here and now. The concepts and words are formed after the experience has already happened. We name “this-ness” or “suchness” as an experience.

The experiences, the experiencer and the experienced are all one, identical. All those divisions are assumed, a result of functioning of the Mind.

Analysis and conclusions

I think most of the analysis happened above. The only conclusion is that its fun to deconstruct the seemingly solid and concrete reality of a world into merely an illusion. The world is an experience and all experiences are modulations of the Self. The only reality of the world is whatever the Self assigns to it.

We need to define the word "illusion" here. What does it really mean? It means that the world has no separate and independent existence apart from the Self. The world and consciousness of it arise together, they are inseparable, and hence are one.

So does that mean the world is not real? It depends on how you choose to define real. As we have seen before in the discussion about the term "reality", its not a very useful concept. One can mark anything real or unreal by twisting the definition of reality. But roughly speaking, the world is not real, and is not unreal too. It is there, we can all experience it, however, upon closer inspection we find that we are experiencing our own Self in the form of a world.

It is real in a sense that your actions, as a member of this world, as a person, have real consequences. The world behaves in a certain way, its not totally random. So as soon as you know what it really is, it does not change or disappear. But this knowledge will change you greatly. Now your presence in the world takes on a new meaning. You are not present in the world, the world is present in you.

Once you have freed yourself from the ignorance of the world, you begin to wonder - what is the best way to experience it as a human with a physical body? In other words - how should I live my life? As Self, who creates and enjoys the world or as an object (person, body) in the world? In the light of this knowledge, what is the meaning of it all? What are my life goals? Which path to take from here on?

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