Life is perpetually beginning, and so right living means beginning each day anew—dying each day and beginning each day without continuity. To my mind, that’s the only way to live and grow in this terrible world.
Modern humans (at least reasonable ones) conflate two completely distinct processes—the fact of evolution and the continuity of thought. In subconsciously combining these two completely different phenomena, we misunderstand the essential nature of life, and deny ourselves our birthright: to live in harmony with nature and other human beings.
Rather than view evolution in terms of our measurements of time, we can see it as an unfolding, like a flower. Then the false continuity of thought becomes the issue, and we don’t confuse it with the development of stars or species.
Of course humans could not do science without the construct of time, but it is the hubris of many scientists these days to say inane things like I heard an astrophysicist say yesterday, “We will be able to do away with the concept of space, but not time.”
If time is an illusion, except as a measuring tool for science, and life is continuously beginning, then why work for illumination and psychological revolution?
It’s become de rigueur in New Age and Buddhist circles to resolve this conundrum by either saying, ‘we’re all enlightened in essence,’ or, conversely and perversely, ‘there’s no such thing as enlightenment.’
But there is such a thing as ‘attaining enlightenment,’ though that’s an unfortunate phrase, since it ineluctably conveys arrival at some point of complete awakening. There is complete awakening, but inwardly speaking, there is no arrival anywhere.
If we hold these two things—perpetual beginning and the phenomenon of illumination—and allow the space for the question of their relationship to unfold, there’s a natural tension (without conflict) that allows insight to flower.
Quieting the mind, ending the chatter of memories, associations and emotions, is the goal of all systems of meditation. But systems and techniques fail because they are still produced by thought and require effort. Besides, the mind’s chattering is only surface reactions of the inattentive mind; the deeper habit of judgment and control is what really precludes the quieting of the mind and the ending of time.
A tentative definition of enlightenment is the irrevocable ending of psychological time. With the movement of negation in meditation, which occurs with intense, passive and undivided (observer-less) observation, a ‘state’ of timelessness begins. One finds oneself completely in the present, in which there is infinite beauty, great peace and immense love beyond the brain’s ability to generate or comprehend. It’s unexpected and new each time it happens.
Though evolution is a fact, even physical time appears to be a construct generated by the human mind. Certainly psychological time is a complete fiction, as anyone who has actually experienced the state of timelessness can attest.
That means that the ‘attainment of enlightenment’ happens in reverse, not through any kind of pursuit or positive goal, but through the ending of all goals and ideas, in an ongoing movement of negation. A transmutation apparently occurs in the enlightened person, who then has no choice but to live in the present.
Is illumination just for the very few, or can and must it occur within anyone for humanity to survive and thrive? Is that the next evolutionary leap for humankind?
It’s interesting how experiencing the omnipresent actuality of death is in the art of meditation and right living. Death is the infinitely incorruptible ground of life. In clinging to life and fearing and pushing away death, man has made a corruption of life.
An illumined human being is in a state of insight, and insight is always of the present. In effect, the illumined person has transcended the psychological dimension altogether.
Does that mean an enlightened man or woman no longer suffers? Yes, since suffering, unlike pain, is entirely psychological, rooted in the movement of time—the past transgressing the present and overshadowing the future.
Experiencing such a state nearly every day now, I’m sure illumination is a true phenomenon, the realization of the highest human potential. Personally I’m asking, why does the mind/brain return to content-consciousness, with its characteristics of time, suffering and self-concern?
Clearly, the illumined person lives in a state of perpetual beginning. When one is in that state, it seems the most natural thing in the world; when one isn’t, it seems irrelevant to one’s life and the world as they are.
In light of these insights, it’s important to consider whether children can be brought up essentially free of suffering. Not protected from it, just not automatically conditioned into it.
Developmentally, that would be a completely different kind of human being. Surely that’s the future of humanity. The question is, can this psychological revolution ignite now?