It’s been awhile. Lets kick things off with a convoluted quote from our boy Plato (Athens, 424ish-347 BCE)
"What is filled with more real existence, and actually has a more real existence, is more really filled than that which is filled with less real existence and is less real.” (1)
Yes. Awesome. Wait. What?
For me, this quote can be directly correlated to why I have converted to the way of Buddhism. Not the religious, deity worshipping ideology, but the philosophical, life living approach. (although I do prostrate, it’s more of a personal reminder to stay humble and a way to show respect to life).
According to many philosophers, life has varying degrees of REALNESS. This realness can also be named FREEDOM.
Not freedom in the sense of doing what you want, when you want, while saying what you want, to whom you want to (DON’T TREAD ON ME), but freedom from self. Or perhaps you could say freedom from the concept of self. A freedom that is accessible to everyone. A freedom that implies a higher level of reality.
What is this reality you talk about?
Knowledge of one’s true motivations and implications that an identification with a self brings.
While the man said “Know thyself”, maybe he meant “Know thy concept of self.”
In knowing your “self”, I don’t mean your favorite color, what kind of smells you find detestable, or even your secret fantasies (you pervert). We have to get all comic book nerd on this shit and see what exists within the source material. Where do these things come from? Why do you feel that way?
Particularly, why do you have the judgements, thoughts, and reactions you have, and, equally important, why do you make the decisions you make? Are you aware of the process? I don’t just mean sitting down and gathering knowledge for an informed decision, I mean what was the catalyst behind you wanting to make that decision in the first place?
Do you understand why it is you do what you do?
CONGRATULATIONS! That is freedom. At least according to Hegel (Germany,1770-1831 CE) it is.
According to Hagel, there are levels of reality consistent with the level of self-awareness a person has. So a person’s subjective reality is contingent on their ability to harness a macro perspective on their own thought processes. That is to say there is a higher plane of reality that exists on a spectrum that people are able to experience if they can tap into it. The deeper we tap into this, the wider our horizon of understanding self (catalyst for actions, defensive reactions, dependence of vice, reasons for decisions) becomes. And as we become cognizant of this vast spectrum of self, or what we had previously identified (or unconsciously identified) as self, the more we are able to access...
I thought we were talking about reality?
Same thing. Or so they say.
According to Stephen West, Hegel was saying “Something that makes itself what it is, is more fully real than something made by something else, and constantly dependent on something else.” (2)
Sounds a little like Plato’s quote, right?
The contrast being that Hegel was more focused on an external variable by which your internal is informed. But I think that that could just as easily be something manufactured from within. That is to say, unexamined thoughts or unrecognized patterns of mental processes that you let inform or control your decision making is just as inhibitory as the external stimuli that you let impact how you think, act, or behave.
In dealing with both the external and internal, you need true recognition in order to be free.
Ok. Now, you’ve basically said freedom from self comes from awareness of self, but also implied that the concept of self or identification with a separate self is in and of itself wrong. Self. SELF!
Well, here’s where it gets tricky. Or maybe not. Here is where this concept of freedom lies. Also, this is where I can find my personal connection to Buddhism and what I’m basing my current life approach around.
I bring to the stage, my last contestant. Mr. Eckart Tolle (Earth, 1946-present).
Mr. Tolle presupposes that that which we had previously established as freedom and/or reality is further conflated with BEING.
Underneath our thought processes, under the internalized and learned mechanisms that make up the contents of what you address as YOU is pure consciousness. It not only exists in all of us, but it is the eternal that connects us all. It is being and it is right NOW.
When is now? Well, regardless of what your clock says, it’s now.
What does that mean?
Mr. Tolle says,
"Nothing will ever happen in the past; it is happening now.
Nothing will ever happen in the future; it is happening now.” (3)
Now is the constant. Underneath all the mental commentary, projections, anxieties and dread, expectations and hopes, disappointments and accomplishments, is now.
It’s always now.
It’s impossible for it to be anything else. Now exists as the eternal in all of us, because we are all perpetually experiencing it. We color it with our own internal commentary, but it remains, unchanged underneath. It’s our connecting force, because it is in all of us.
This “now” is the constant in our collective consciousness.
It could be what some call God.
And if we accept, embrace, trust, and learn to tap into that, then the reality we experience becomes more real. Or maybe better put, you accept the real reality that has always been.
We can look past what we previously identified as “self” and learn to identify all those spinning gears that move, often against the flow, in our minds and lives.
And how to we tap into this now? This being?
Well, I’m not going to sit here and tell you I got it all figured out. Because dear god is that not true. But, I’m much more at peace, much more present in my life, much more compassionate, and generally more satisfied with my place in this world because I believe I’m on the path to understanding and accepting what being is. It’s right now. And I tap into that through the only way I know how.
And there is my Buddhist connection.
Now we could open up a whole new can of barracudas on the implications of what that means, but I’ll just sum up what Buddhism means to me and the general thesis of what I understand from my experiences with Buddhism.
Everything changes. Nothing lasts. Meet the present with acceptance and release your cravings and aversions.
That’s what I’m trying to do. Or what I’m trying to access. There’s a school of thought that says once you acknowledge and accept the impermanence, you’re instantly transported to the stream of being that flows eternal. But that hasn’t been my experience. I call Buddhism and meditation a practice, because I have to do just that. Practice.
I have to practice meditation and living by the eightfold path. I have to practice identifying negative, or even positive thought patterns. It’s difficult going against all the ways in which my thought process has been wired over 30+ years of living and interacting with society and all that comes with it.
I’m trying to get real.
But I’m not saying I’m somehow more real than anyone else. And if you ever hear me saying that, please take a running soccer kick at my organs of generation. I’m trying to make my reality more real. You can choose to do the same if you wish. It’s your life, and just like Project Mayhem, you choose your own level of involvement.
Now none of this is original. I’m tying together things I’ve learned and studied and trying to make sense of them. This was a another focal point of Hegel’s theories. Learning from those who came before us, and putting together different ideas that come from different people during different eras to make conclusions
And the sum total of my current conclusion is I want the freedom to live my realist reality by means of accessing the stream of constant that is the present.
Or, as Garth Algar said to Wayne Campbell, “LIVE IN THE NOW!” (4)
(1) - Plato’s Republic. Book 9. (380 BCE)
(2) - Philosophize this! podcast. Episode 76. Hegel’s God. (2016)
(3) - The Power of Now. Chapter 3. Nothing Exists Outside the Now. (1997)
(4) - Wayne’s World. (1992)