Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reality As Lived

If you think about it, it would seem very strange that any of the ancient philosophers of East and West could arrive at a deep understanding of 'reality', when this is defined as 'something that is examined with scientific devices'. 

The current 'model of reality' on the subatomic level reveals the 'particle zoo' containing all kinds of mysterious sub-atomic entities ('particle' is hardly the name for many of them), while on the cosmological scale, there is talk about dalk matter and energy which might not even be perceivable.

So what do these kinds of theories have in common with those of ancient seers who were not equipped with radio-telescopes or atom smashers or non-linear algebra, and the like?

I think the answer to this conundrum lies in the fact that the understanding and definition of what consitutes 'reality' is different between ancient philosophers and modern scientists. And this is because it was natural that to the ancients, Reality was something that you lived. It wasn't an objective field of entities which you examined through mathematics and instruments. It was the field of your own existence with its pains and problems. Whereas to the modern scientist, who has supposedly or implicitly removed him or herself from the picture (although not really, as quantum measurements reveal) regards 'natural philosophy' as the study of objects, energy and their relationships, and impllicitly that the 'objective world' is the sole reality.

Contrast this with the ancient sage whose object of contemplation includes the nature of (his or her) own being. Now because of the recursiveness of being, it is not possible to 'know' what being is; we can never be object to ourselves. But by deep meditation, some understanding of the nature of being can be understood by the separation of the intellect from the realm of manifestation. This is the way of the samadhi of the sages which reveals 'reality as lived', as distinct from 'reality as array of objects'.

Now the question you have to ask yourself is that, while deep objective knowledge is undoubtedly very useful, the use you put it to is nevertheless subordinate to the kind of human you are.

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