Prince Ea recently posted a video that went viral on facebook to 30 million people (you can see it here on YouTube):
Thich Nhat Hanh demonstrates what Prince Ea is saying beautifully in his gem of a little book “The Heart of Understanding”, his translation of the famous Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra is considered by many to be the very essence of Buddhism. Thich Nhat Hanh uses a water vs waves analogy to lay out what Prince Ea shows so well in his video.
We struggle because we think we’re the waves (waves that are separate, are born and die). But we’re really the water (all part of one whole ocean with no birth and no death — only transformation from form to form, container to container). We are not our bodies just like water is not the cup that holds it in its present form. We discover and experience this very routinely if we mediate and grow still enough to allow what Reshad Feild called “the observer” to arise. (Reshad Feild’s book “The Last Barrier” is a wonderful read. It’s the essence of Sufism in the form of a story about a middle eastern teacher helping his English student discover timeless wisdom).
A wave does not exist in the world. It’s simply a form, a construct of our mind. We think it exists as a separate thing because we gave it a name. But when we look carefully, we can easily see that there’s no defined beginning or end to a “wave”. You can’t point to where it starts or stops. There are no definable boundries because the designation is not absolute. It’s arbitrary. The separation is an artificial construct. When we give something we see a name, we perceive that to be a separate thing OUT IN THE WORLD. . . simply because we named it. Our feeling of loneliness and separation that brings so much in individual humans and between us is fabricated. We need to rediscover who we really are. If we can observe our thoughts, we can’t BE our thoughts.
It’s as if we are wearing green tinted sunglasses and we swear everything in the world is green. We’re absolutely convinced the green tint (separation) is out in the world and we scoff at anyone who would suggest otherwise. It’s not. The tint is coming from us, from those glasses. And believing that tint is out in their world is a crucial error of perception (one that causes us to do all sorts of harmful things in the world).
Think of the way Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in Terminator films sees a grid as he looks out at the world. Or think of the way a soldier looks through night vision goggles which sometimes have a grid on the viewfinder. We make the mistake of thinking the grid of separation is actually out in the world but that grid is really just built into our night vision goggles. Those little squares aren’t out there in the world.
Form (wave) is nothing. It is empty (empty of a separate self). This delusion of separation comes partly from Descartes mistaken reductionist thinking (the film “Mindwalk” breaks this down beautifully). We took a wrong turn down Descartes dead end reductionist street centuries ago and we have been stuck ever since.
Reductionism assumes you can understand a thing by looking only at that thing and breaking it into pieces. Systems thinking, conversely, says that is the dynamic relationships between the parts that are important, not the individual parts themselves. Systems thinking acknowledges that we are a part of a dynamic whole, a web of relationships. And all these parts are interconnected. (Anyone who thinks this doesn’t matter should consider how such an understanding of interconnectedness would transform our politics and economics. Native Americans had a systems thinking viewpoint informed by an understanding of interconnectedness so they looked forward seven generations to gauge impact of any decisions. We appear to have trouble looking forward at all because we have S resctiinist mindset. We don’t see the interconnectness).
Thich Nhat Hanh seems to agree concerning this web of relationships when he says that a piece of paper is not a separate thing… because it couldn’t exist independently. It needs to logger, the tree, the sunshine, the rain, the logger’s parents and so on and so on. There is nothing that is not related to that piece of paper. The piece of paper (form) is empty (empty of a separate self). We are the same as that piece of paper. We “inter-be” (as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it) with everything else.
Astronaut Edgar Mitchell reported extensively on his experience coming back from the moon where all barriers of separation dropped (more on that below). Philosopher David Loy responded to Mitchell’s description this way: “TO HAVE THAT EXPERIENCE OF AWE IS AT LEAST FOR THE MOMENT, TO LET GO OF YOURSELF, TO TRANSCEND THE SENSE OF SEPARATION. So it’s not just that they were experiencing something other than them but that they were, at some very deep level, integrating, realizing interconnectedness with that beautiful blue green ball.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way:
“I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be in until I am what I ought to be. We are, all of us, inextricably linked.”
Albert Einstein put it this way: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Here’s a link to a clip from the film “Mindwalk” (only two minutes long but NAILS IT): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1-4O4r8RKrM
That film is a must see. It shows (among many other thing) how particle physicists are discovering that great spiritual masters were right about interconnectness. They have found that you and your chair, for example, are not separate at all. The atoms of your chair are swirling around the atoms of your body. We are literally scientifically not separate!
Mindwalk really shows where we took a wrong turn in our perception of the world, how that wrong turn of perception has resulted in policies that lead to poverty, war, environmental destruction and racism (including the most destructive policy most Americans have never heard of: https://clearblueskyoutwest.com/2017/09/15/the-most-destructive-policy-youve-never-heard-of/ . There is real hope though for us. “12 Good Reasons to Hope” https://clearblueskyoutwest.com/2017/09/11/what-gives-me-hop/ .
The key is that we need a whole new mindset first before we tried to change surface political, economic, environmental and social problems. The core mindset we currently have maintains the surface dysfunction. No matter how hard we work on any one small part, the problems will always keep returning because of the flawed mindset and failure to recognize interconnectedness.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can EVOLVE FROM reductionist thinking in silos and EVOLVE TO systems thinking with a recognition of the fact that we are not independent beings. We are part of a delicate web of relationships. Here’s more on that shift of mindset: https://clearblueskyoutwest.com/2017/08/10/a-whole-new-view/
The award-winning documentary “Planetary” nails how the shift in mindset can totally transform our world (politics, economics, environmental problems and social problems). Here’s preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbhRqRAMSKI&feature=youtu.be
Dostoevsky seems to point to this in the Brothers Karamazov:
“Today, everyone asserts his own personality and strives to live a full life as an individual. But these efforts lead not to a full life but to suicide, because instead of realizing his personality, man only slips into total isolation. For in our age, man has been broken up into self-contained individuals, each of whom retreats into his lair, trying to stay away from the rest, hiding himself and his belongings from the rest of mankind, and finally isolating himself from people and people from him.
And while he accumulates material wealth in his isolation, he thinks with satisfaction how mighty and secure he has become, because he is mad and cannot see that the more goods he accumulates, the deeper he sinks into suicidal impotence. The reason for this is that he has become accustomed to relying only on himself; he has split off from the whole and become an isolated unit; he has trained his soul not to rely on human help, not to believe in man and mankind, and only to worry that the wealth and privileges he has accumulated may get lost.
Everywhere men today are turning scornfully away from the truth that the security of the individual cannot be achieved by his isolated efforts but only by mankind as a whole.
BUT AN END to this fearful isolation is bound to come and all men will understand how unnatural it was for them to have isolated themselves from one another. This will be the spirit of the new era and people will look in amazement at the past when they sat in darkness and refused to see the light. . .
. . . Until that day, we must keep hope alive, and now and then a man must set an example, even if only an isolated one, by trying to lift his soul out of its isolation and offering it up in an act of brotherly communion, even if he is taken for one of God’s fools.
This is necessary to keep the great idea alive.”
STAR DUST – A quick story about Astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s experience of unity while returning from the moon (includes thoughts by Carl Sagan and Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield which totally jive with Mitchell’s account:
Edgar Mitchell was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, and an Apollo 14 astronaut. He was the Lunar Module Pilot and the sixth person to walk on the Moon. Mitchell was a true man of science. He had earned his doctorate in Aeronautics and Astronautics from M.I.T. He developed ingenious solutions that helped save the lives of the crew of Apollo 13 when their craft developed a dangerous oxygen leak (a triumph that earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom). Edgar was no slouch.
His time on the moon during the successful Apollo 14 mission had a profound impact on him.
“Edgar Mitchell was on his way home. Two days before he had been on the moon collecting rock samples, and now he was speeding through space accompanied by two other astronauts. Gazing at the earth and the stars through the tiny window of Apollo 14, he was engulfed by a new and startling sensation: an all encompassing aura of universal connectedness. All sense of boundaries dissolved, and he saw that he, his companions, and everyone and everything on the shining planet in the window were held in a luminous web of consciousness. What is more, he knew with absolute certainty that, as he put it later, ”the glittering cosmos itself was in someway conscious.”
“I had studied stellar formation and knew how the furnaces of the stars and galaxies created our chemical elements,” Mitchell explained. [Edgar D. Mitchell, The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds].
“My job as lunar module pilot was to be responsible for the lunar module itself and responsible for the science on the moon. So, when we started home, I had a little more time to look out the window than the other guys because most of my responsibilities were completed. We were in a particular mode called the “barbecue mode” [slowly rotating]. . . every two minutes a picture of the earth, the moon, the sun and a 360 degree panorama of the heavens appeared in the spacecraft window.”
“I’d studied astronomy and I’d studied cosmology and fully understood that the molecules in my body and the molecules in my partners’ bodies and in the spacecraft had been prototyped in some ancient generation stars. In other words, it was pretty obvious from those descriptions, we’re stardust. Well, that was pretty awesome and powerful, particularly since I had a little more time at this point to be reflective and to think about it.”
from interview with Edgar Mitchell in the film “the overview effect” http://space.stackexchange.com/questions/12114/how-many-astronauts-have-had-spiritual-experiences-while-in-space
“On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.”
“TO HAVE THAT EXPERIENCE OF AWE IS AT LEAST FOR THE MOMENT, TO LET GO OF YOURSELF, TO TRANSCEND THE SENSE OF SEPARATION. So it’s not just that they were experiencing something other than them but that they were, at some very deep level, integrating, realizing interconnectedness with that beautiful blue green ball.”
– David Loy, Philosopher (during interview in the film “The Overview Effect”)
The 2 quotes by Franz Kafka and Thich Nhat Hanh here at this link really capture that feeling:
Here’s to you Prince Ea for inspiring this post. Prince Ea has inspired millions of people around the world and he is part of a long tradition of people “keeping the great idea alive”. Thank you Prince Ea! I honor your inspiring commitment and wisdom and wish you all the best!