I have a manuscript kicking around here that I've meant to get back to and finish someday. In it I try, through some poetic images and various 'thought experiments', to get folks to see some of this. Humor me on some of these, as I was just trying something creative here. What I have discovered over the years, in getting folks to look at some of these, is that some folks can see the image and some can't ... not unlike the way some folks cannot see those "3-D Images" which they publish in the newspaper sometimes, or the famous "Old Lady/Young Lady" optical illision:
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/YoungGirl- ... usion.html
There are now some aspects of the following I would change if writing this today, such as the emphasis on the word "One", which can be misleading (for example, being "at one" with reality does not necessarily mean that all of reality is "one" single thing. That is why Buddhist philosophers often use such phrases as "not one, not two"). Something else I might change is the feel that I am necessarily talking about some "universal consciousness". A much younger me wrote this, so I would not do it just the same way.
Work on through it to the "YOU/I" image in the third excerpt. Anyway, here goes "NOTHING"! :D
We think of ourselves as separate individuals born into a universe, independent bodies calling a world our home. Like inhabitants of a house, we feel that the universe is where we live, not what we are. We see the world as but the stage for our dance of life, not as the fusion unbroken of dancer, stage and dance. In our limited way, although we may be aware of scattered connections between our individual ‘self’ and all that surrounds us, we perceive no more than chance, isolated relationships among separate things and beings. We see that humans live in the world, but not that humans and the world are wholly One, a single entity undivided.
We feel as dancers in a dance, across a stage we run,
each dancer dancing solo, our connection nearly none.
But when our steps are flowing, as leaves in wind a’frenzy spun,
it’s not hard to see that dancers, stage and dance are truly One.
Our separation is a perspective, but offers no more than a confined viewpoint on reality. Far from being the only vision we should hold to – an encompassing perspective is simultaneously true and useful. In this tale, I propose that we learn to see ourselves ….
as this universe itself,
as much as the lonely leaf is part of its parent tree,
and thereby -is- the tree.
Picture in your mind a single tree leaf growing from a tree. Is the fragile leaf a separate thing, that which we call a “leaf”? Or is it instead the tree itself?
It is possible to view the single leaf as both “leaf” and “tree,” one and the other. Certainly, a tree is but its roots, trunk, branches and leaves. Strip away, one and all, root, trunk, branch and leaf, and there shall be no tree at all. Nothing remains.
Yet the true key to union is the human beholder, for when the mind steps back, no longer focuses on the leaf, ceases to isolate its separate form, when we see nothing but the whole and forget about the part ….. all that we see is the tree. The leaf is absorbed into the tree, vanishes like a ladleful of water poured into a sea, there perhaps - but not there. Thus, each leaf is a separate life, unique. Simultaneously, it is the tree itself. A human being may, too, forget her separate self, cease to isolate identity from the whole, pour her being into that sea. We human beings are, likewise, each one separate and unique. Simultaneously, we are but this universe in its expression.
The leaf is part of the Tree, without one no other.
For a tree must have its leaves to be,
and no leaf is born apart from tree.
Yet root, trunk, branch, leaf …..
they are not mere parts of their Tree -
They are the Tree, the One, inseparable.
For if no root, trunk, branch and leaf,
what Tree would be at all?
If no root and trunk and branch below,
where would the frail leaf grow?
We are the universe.
* * *
Seeing beyond the particular- thus All becomes clear.
Single brushstrokes unnoticed, and a painting beheld,
much as the Ocean appears by absorbing each drop.
It is the eye’s focus, with expansive vision,
for our thoughts set life’s boundaries, shapes and forms.
When leaf is forgotten, a Tree is there;
unseeing of sand grains, wide desert found;
overlooking the many, the One comes in view…..
Mankind, your Self is, as self drifts from mind.
Dogen wrote in the Genjo Koan….
To know the Self is to forget the self…..
When the facet-partial is not forefront in thought, the whole-encompassing is first seen. The clouds of atoms which assemble as a tree are (in daily life) invisible to our eyes, and in this way before us - the total tree appears. Should we magnify our vision to the trillion, trillion atoms, the tree must vanish from our sight. Seeing the wondrous tree’s beauty, we rarely bring to mind its constituent elements, only doing so when summoned to our notice (perhaps as the poet draws our inner eye there).
From one perspective, there is only the tree - the atoms forgotten, swallowed whole by the Whole. From another perspective, there are only atoms, for the tree (as all matter) is nothing but atoms - no tree truly there at all. From still another, just as valid as an insight, both the tree and tree’s atoms are there all along (in fact, one is the other). But the more one is seen, the harder to see the other.
Mankind, it is the same for you, each perspective true in its way, for you are an element of the Tree, you are an aspect of the greater reality of Being …..
Mankind, though you go about this daily life
thinking but of your little self,
take a chance!
Lose your ‘self’ for a moment,
thereby to find your ‘Self.’
Oh, the mind plays games of separation!
Sometimes, in the stillness by the empty window - I sit in formal meditation. Perfect is the moment. The rain stops, the clouds depart, but the eaves drip each single drop. Moonlight floods my room. I recall the words of Ikkyu ….
Bright and clear
In this unclouded sky …..
Yet somehow we stumble
In the worldly darkness
It is by such state that the hard borders of my body and being come to soften. My self is real, yet too is self gone. Why are we so quick to think that we are what is contained in the margins and restrictions where flesh meets the air, where our feet touch the ground and head will reach no higher? Is my true being but my hand, or too whatever a hand may grasp? Just these eyes, or any vista that these eyes might see? My mind, or whatever the mind might know, feel? The distant hills, the farthest star, are no less “me” than the tip of my tongue.
And it is not just into space that my being expands, but into time. For I am no more constrained by the false boundaries of birth and death than I can be prisoner in an unlocked room. If the world is but me, and the world has been for eons, then I have been for eons. If the universe is but me, and has always been, then I have always been. Though the single leaf may grow, soon to fade and disappear, still the Tree goes on …..
Leaves come and go,
Only the Tree remains …..
For all that grows there,
Only the Tree …..
As a first step, it is important to understand that the statement “we are the universe” is meant in a strict sense. It does not mean that we are but isolatable parts of the universe, like autonomous beings who are members of a social club or citizens of a nation. Nor is the point mere “solipsism,” the idea that, for example, you (the reader) are the one and only being that exists in the entire universe, and thus everything else in the universe except for you (but including, unfortunately for me, this writer!) is unreal.
What does it mean to say “the leaf is the Tree?”
Does it mean that there is no Tree,
only leaves, branch, trunk and roots united, a “Society of Tree?”
Does it mean that there is only a single leaf that’s true,
with all the other leaves, the branches, trunk and roots but its dream?
Nothing of the sort!
For there is leaf, it’s sister leaves, each branch, trunk and root ….
Yet, there is only the Tree.
What is meant has a very different meaning from some “club of parts” or from “solipsism,” made clear in the following example:
Let us suppose that your human body were the whole universe. (As I do not know the reader’s actual name, I will take the liberty of calling you “Albert.”) What we call our universe, with all it contains, is contained within Albert’s body, and nothing exists outside that body. I suppose that in such case, in place of black holes and planets and such, the universe then consists of the various bodily insides, as well as the hands, the feet and all the rest. Your body is perhaps billions of years old. As with the real universe, the ‘Albert’s body’ universe is constituted of a multitude of parts, represented by the billions and billions of tiny, vibrant cells which make your body.
One wondrous day, some of the very smallest cells of Albert’s left foot become conscious and intelligent, just as we human beings did in an isolated corner of the real universe. After some millions of years of further development (and not knowing that they are part of you), those cells begin to philosophize, to ask themselves “who are we?” and “why are we here?”
It is at this point that Eastern philosophers may offer again that a ‘tautology’ need not be a “begging of the question,” but can be an answer complete and sufficient unto itself, an answer to which nothing more can or should be added. Accordingly, if a philosophically inclined speck of Albert’s instep were to make inquiry regarding the foregoing questions, “who am I” and “why am I here,” the best answers for it might be just as follows:
You are your bit of Albert (particularly, his graceful foot).
You are here as your bit of Albert.
Go to it!
In equivalent fashion, when I (Jundo Cohen) ask myself “who am I?” and “why am I here?” in the real universe, the best answers for me may be simply:
You are the universe’s Jundo Cohen.
You are here as the universe’s Jundo Cohen.
Go to it!
It is quite satisfying to my heart as an answer, letting me know my very specific, most unique place in reality and what I am to do in it: I am me, and I am to lead my own life as it goes, as I lead it. Enough said. Also, the answers are unchanged whether or not Albert is currently asleep, in deepest coma or completely without intelligence or awareness whatsoever (just as we cannot be sure for now that the real universe has some higher intelligence or grand awareness to it). We are still our unique bit nonetheless, even if Albert is as dull and dormant as a tree.
And just as a tiny bit of Albert’s heel is thereby just Albert, the one making possible the other, the one being the other, so am I no less
….. just this universe.
So for all of us, so for you, as you must be the only you of this universe, doing as you do, thereby this universe in its unique expression. Go to it!
Suppose “I” were really everyone and everything in the universe, and everyone and everything in the universe were really “another I” (just as much as “I” am “I”). Suppose the sensation of my being a separate and independent “I” from everyone and everything else in the universe were really the illusion. Then, “I” would inhabit my body because “I” inhabit every body. “I” exist in the universe because any person (let alone “thing”) which exists in the universe is “I” as much as “I” (Jundo) am “I.”
Though it may sound confusing at first impression, I think it can be described simply.
But before I do describe my idea, it is important to emphasize certain points: My proposal is not what is often called “solipsism,” the idea that “I” am the only being that exists in the entire universe, and that everything else in the universe except for ‘me’ is unreal. On the contrary, I believe that everything is quite real, quite distinct one from the other. Nor do I mean that “you” and “I” simply are linked together in a common being, like cosmic siamese twins (interesting enough thought as that is).
Instead, my concept is that there is not one bit of separation or distinction between you and I whatsoever in the most radical sense, and further, that neither you nor I are quite what we think we are. In fact, you are YOU/I, and I am YOU/I, i.e., both the I/OTHER. Thus you and I had to exist, because everything is, was and shall be YOU/I. Every human being alive wakes up in the morning and says of himself or herself, "I am YOU/I. How did I get here?" I think the idea not illogical with the right perspective.
The reason that this perspective is not obvious to most people may be because the human mind plays tricks of smoke and mirrors, leading us to think of ourselves as separate, autonomous entities. I wish now to try to clear away some of the smoke, and show how the magician might perform the illusion of separateness. Of course, modern physics has already introduced the basic concept by demonstrating that your perception of “you,” your friends, your house and your car as being physically distinct entities is untrue. In fact, you, your friends, your house and your car (and all things in the universe) form a single, unbroken continuum of matter/energy. There is simply no clear place where you end and the chair you are sitting in begins, except as intersecting wave patterns on the continuum. Thus, though the perspectives of science and the perspective of Buddhism should not be taken as the same, my assertions may have modern science on their side (at least, on the sub-atomic level).
To see how the illusion works, please picture me in two ways, both “Jundo.” The first Jundo, I will call “small jundo” (If you wish, dear reader, please pretend that I am you, and substitute your own name in the example). This “small jundo” is my normal, day-to-day self, with its own sensation of separate identity. It is the “Jundo” that gets up in the morning in his apparently separate house, goes to his job in his apparently separate car, and has little sensation of being part of a continuum with the world around him.
However, the other aspect of Jundo I will call “BIG JUNDO” (Again, please substitute your own name if you wish). “BIG JUNDO” is the continuum, and might also be called one’s “True Self.” To understand the concept, it may help to picture “BIG JUNDO” as being the single, undivided “stuff” of which all the individual “things” of the universe are made (equivalent to our ‘Tree’). For simplicity, try to picture “BIG JUNDO” as a vast sea of clay perhaps, or as the body of the Tree. All the individual “things” of the universe are made of “BIG JUNDO,” are made out of small pieces of that clay (are leaves, fruits and flowers of our Tree).
The key is this: Each and every one of the “things” made out of the clay or of the Tree (BIG JUNDO) is itself a “small jundo.” You and I are each a “small jundo.” My house is a “small jundo” and my car is another “small jundo.” For purposes of keeping them separate, let me assign arbitrary numbers to each one: e.g., You are “small jundo 1,” I am “small jundo 2,” my car is “small jundo 3,” and my house is “small jundo 4.” In fact, every individual “thing” in the universe is a “small jundo,” and could be assigned a number.
Now we come to the point where the human brain starts to play its tricks. Of course (as far as I know) my house and my car do not “think,” and thus do not think about themselves existing as “Jundo,” or in any other way. However, each human being’s brain thinks. Thus, “small jundo 1” (you) wakes up every day and thinks “I am Jundo” (meaning, that you are thinking that you exist as “you”). As well, “small jundo 2” (me) wakes up every day and thinks “I am Jundo” (meaning, that I am thinking that I exist as “me”). In fact, we each think of ourselves as the one and only “Jundo,” and that all the other people and things in the world are NOT “Jundo.” We each think we are fully individual and separate, and are blind to the fact that we are BOTH “Jundo” from a different perspective (that we are both YOU/I, the I/OTHER, both the Tree). We thus both think, “How did I (meaning “Jundo”) come to inhabit my particular physical body,” because we do not see that every person in the world would have had to have been “Jundo.” We fail to see that “small jundo 2” (me) is thinking and feeling that I am “the only Jundo” as much as “small jundo 1” (you) are thinking that you are “the only Jundo.” Each singular leaf of the “Jundo” Tree thinks itself the one and only “Jundo” leaf, unique and separate, yet each is no more than the “Jundo” Tree.
At this point, some readers may raise an objection: They might say, “Although you may be “Jundo,” my name is “Francesco.” You are short and round and live in Tokyo, I am tall and skinny and live in Venice. What do you mean that we are both the same and both named ‘Jundo’?”
The answer is that I am not talking about how we each appear on the surface, or who we think we are, our personal life histories or day-to-day names and selves. That is all just the “small jundo” self, the particular leaf with its unique position in the sun, but an expression of the encompassing Tree.
This perspective may become clearer by a further example: Imagine that the universe were a vast airplane in which an “I” (Jundo) is sitting in each and every seat. One “Jundo” starts to wonder how he came to be in seat 27D (his particular life), and not in some other seat (or, how he came to be on the plane at all). The answer is that “Jundo” is in every seat, even if passenger 27D does not feel it so. In fact, the whole plane is likely “Jundo,” and each wing, wheel and motor is “Jundo.” Also, since the airplane represents the entire universe, there is nowhere outside the airplane, and thus no place for Jundo to be but on that plane. Thereby, if there is a certain passenger on the plane, that passenger must be a “Jundo.” However, because each passenger is sitting in a separate seat, with his or her own view of the cabin or out a window, each sees life from quite a unique perspective (i.e., each has his or her particular, individual life, seen out of his or her own eyes).
How does the brain play the trick of causing us to perceive only our “small jundo” self, and not our “BIG JUNDO” Self? It is an illusion, possibly much like one’s being seated in a multi-screen cinema, each screen showing what appears to the viewer to be a very distinct image. Depending on the angle (or the particular life), each view appears quite different from all the others. However, the viewer cannot see that each “small jundo” image is but light on a blank screen emanating from a single, hidden “BIG JUNDO” projector, each image but the cast light refracted differently, at different angles and perspectives, and thus looking most distinct. As well, the viewer cannot see all the other screens of the theatre, only his or her own. Thus, the leaf experiences its leaf-ness, not easily the total being of the Tree. It is much the reverse trick as experienced in the “Hall of Mirrors” of the carnival funhouse …… You see yourself reflected by the thousands, tens-of-thousands, endlessly to the horizons, each image slightly distinct …… Which is the “real” you?
You may wish to imagine another situation, that, due to a mysterious twist of genetic latency, your single, little head suddenly sprouted a second, fully distinct brain, one brain now controlling your left eye and the left side of your body, the other the right. Although from the outside you still appear a fairly normal person, in fact each half of your body is under a fully separate consciousness, conjoined twins within. Each eye and hand sees and feels the world in a slightly distinct manner, distinct from the experiences and awareness of the other half of your body, whereby each of your two minds undergoes its own experiences, holds it own subjective beliefs and personal judgments. Now, imagine that this magical body of yours began to sprout additional brains by the billions, each with its own eye and independent hand, each brain representing one of the untold sentient lives that exist on this planet which is our home. Would we then be speaking of but one creature or a world of creatures? Which is the real “you?”
And that (perhaps) is the story of how “you” got to be “you,” and “I” got to be “I,” and how we are different, and how we are the same.