The Mind is Like a Clear Mirror

Learn to use the senses with precision and clarity, like a mirror, in its richness, its rainbow of colors, its subtle nuances, with no distortions, life exactly as it is.


| November 2016



spiritual perception

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one was there to sense it, did it really happen?

Photo by Cavan Images

In Eyes Wide Open (Inner Traditions, 2016), Will Johnson discusses how you right behind your eyes, you are there. You can feel yourself there, looking. So intimate is your connection with your looking that when you say, “I’m looking,” you’re implying that how you look and what you see are a direct reflection of who you are in this moment. Your attitudes and beliefs reflect what you see, and the way you live in your body can color your perceptions as well.

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Ordinarily we take the visual appearance of the world we look out on so completely for granted that we lose sight of any participatory role we might play in its creation. We believe that visual appearance is an intrinsic property of physical objects, that the visual field looks the way it looks whether we’re looking at it or not, that it exists completely independent of any act of vision on our part. But...

If a random event occurs and no one’s there to see it (the age-old tree crashing down in the philosophical forest), has anything that we conventionally refer to as visual occurred?

You may have been a sophomore in high school when a teacher first asked you about the sound falling trees made in a distant forest with no one around to hear it. Grudgingly and probably after much harrumphing (I mean what a ridiculous question, really!), you were forced to admit that, okay, while something can be said to have occurred, it couldn’t properly be labeled as sound. For sound to occur, three conditions have to be present: a source of friction that generates soundwaves; the presence of a functioning ear in the near vicinity (and not just a human ear; animals, birds, and insects are all equally capable of hearing sound); and finally, the wide-awake consciousness, directed toward listening, of the sentient being to whom that ear belongs. If any one of these three conditions is absent, sound doesn’t occur.

That much most of us can understand. It becomes far more uncomfortable, however, if we apply this same line of reasoning not to sound, but to vision. If no one was nearby in that forest when the tree fell over, did its dropping to the ground exist as a visual event? And just as you concluded that no sound could have occurred if no one was there to hear it, and for the exact same reasons, it couldn’t have occurred as a visualevent either if no one was there to see it.

donsalmon7
12/4/2016 11:36:34 AM

Forgot to link to a website trying to articulate a different vision of the cosmos - one breath at a time: www.remember-to-breathe.org


donsalmon7
12/4/2016 11:36:29 AM

This is a good first step in getting us past naive realism, and even the yogachara school of Buddhism, over 1000 years ago, started with a similar idea. But with one very big difference. The yogacharins saw no need to make up a pretend world of dead physical vibrations careening through endless space and time with no discernible qualities, with absolutely no foundation to support their orderly movement, endlessly shifting in dead, unintelligent, non-sentient space-time. In striking contrast, most of today's scientists believe in this rather malevolent fantasy, with absolutely no scientific data to support it. The most significant fact about this bizarre notion is that it confers upon humans the right to control it. There being absolutely nothing of any value or worth in purely quantitative, invisible, intangible, odorless, tasteless, inaudible "vibrations", there is no reason why we can't manipulate them for any purpose whatsoever. Fortunately, this world view is crumbling, along with our global financial system, as well as our environment. The most crucial thing is, can we shift our consciousness to one that perceives and feels an alive cosmos before we destroy ourselves?