Time, Suffering and Liberation

Cat watching the Starship Enterprise in space and time. (Photo from the children's book 'The Man Who Wore All His Clothes' by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Katharine McEwen)

Cat watching the Starship Enterprise in space and time. (Photo from the children’s book ‘The Man Who Wore All His Clothes’ by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Katharine McEwen)

If we are suffering, in one sense, we are paying off some karmic debt.

I remember back in school thinking about doing homework… I didn’t actually want to do it, but I also did want to… so I got good grades, etc ..

I thought about this apparent paradox a lot… it seemed to boil down to a sacrifice of sorts.. sacrificing the present for a better future.  I also understood that I could get hit by a bus the next day, so this sacrifice was a gamble. I always thought it was a healthy gamble to assume I wouldn’t get hit by a bus tomorrow! lol.

But, we always might get hit by a bus tomorrow…

In Buddhism, there is talk of being present, being in the present… that the past and future are illusionary.. we can’t live there so don’t attach ourselves there.  Mindfulness…

While the present may seem to be the only time that exists, this too, is illusionary.

The future affects the past. Time is not truly linear.

In Buddhism, there is co-dependent origination. All things co-created all other things and the beginning of it all was beginning-less.  

What does this mean? It hurts my brain to think about! Lol. Yet it also excites it.

As I mentioned, we can conceptualize suffering as a payment back of previous wrong actions, thoughts or words. When we see good, decent people suffering.. what did they do to deserve that horrible suffering? Maybe nothing at all. If rebirth exists, maybe it is from a life left long ago… or even a future life yet to unfold.

Is it worth arguing over the cause of suffering though? Be it external or internal? That oppressive government is to blame! My past misdeeds are to blame! Blame, blame, blame….

It doesn’t matter.  Sure, it can matter in terms of proactive and reactive actions to help reduce or end that suffering, sure… But, that’s not what I mean when I say it doesn’t matter…. In terms of liberation, of freedom, of Enlightenment… blame is worthless. We are all to blame, yet no one is to blame. Blameless blame!
Back to time. What is time? Time, is, well, an illusion, yet it can be a very useful one! It is an excellent tool. A conceptual tool… a model.. A very convincing model.

Science is a truth seeker. The Buddha was a truth seeker. Holding on to our knowledge as if it is a given, as if it is truth, is dangerous. Knowledge is co-dependently created. You need some knowledge to create other knowledge..when thought through… knowledge is nothing more than a house of cards…. It can be a beautiful and amazing house of cards! Lol. And it can be damn useful too! If I ever need heart surgery, I will rely on that surgeon’s knowledge when he cuts me open! Lol.

But we must not be afraid to replace cards from time to time.. sometimes it makes the house stronger, sometimes it makes the whole house crumble.

We can do this experimentally too, thought experiments.. we can play! What if I temporarily think that the center of the Universe is, in fact, Saturn! How does this effect our knowledge house? What are the ramifications? What if we think that time actually is flowing backwards? OR not flowing at all? This makes us think deeply about what we even consider time. It forces us to define ‘time’. This is very important. Hey, this is how Einstein did some of his greatest thinking… he just thought.. ‘what if..’

Is knowledge Truth though? What is truth? Can we ever understand Truth through knowledge? When we realize that knowledge is like 49 reeds, each holding the other up but each would fall without the others, we can begin to realize that Truth has to, must, lie outside of knowledge..outside of conceptual thinking…

Let’s explore this, eh?!

Dancing with the Dishes

Sometimes our blossoming is hidden deep inside ourselves

Sometimes our blossoming is hidden deep inside ourselves, sometimes it is not so deep.

Plants are amazing and wonderful life forms! The other day I was reading about how some animals can actually photosynthesize like a plant! Insane! Life is truly amazing.

Now, some plants we might think of as boring. We may even call them weeds. But nothing is boring! Even some ‘boring’ plants can hold amazing surprises. Some plants look fairly nondescript, and can live in this manner for years, even decades… and then, without warning… BAM! an amazing flowering display occurs! 

Somewhere inside that plant, this towering flower is waiting to be born. Is it not already there in some manner? Scientifically, you can say this exists as information encoded in its genome. Does that take away its magic or mystery? I don’t think so!

In Buddhism, it is said that all beings are already Buddha… we just fail to realize this, so we never bloom. But that kernel is inside us… in fact, it is not inside us, it is the entire Universe. And that is not just words, not merely symbolism and metaphor. It is the truth. Our inherent Buddha nature is, in a way, a gift from the entire cosmos… it is always speaking to us, trying to get us to bloom. Just as a plant must face the sun to flower, we must face the Universe too.

Inside of trying to become enlightened by turning inward, we must turn outward… and this in turns unfolds itself inwards… then outer becomes inner and inner becomes outer… in fact, neither exist. Freedom lies within this dance between inner and outer…. actually, it doesn’t it lies when the dance is just a dance without an inner self or an outer self… the Dance itself is freedom.

In Zen, it is said that Enlightenment is nothing more than washing the dishes…. When washing dishes becomes a dance, this is true.