Friday, July 19, 2019

Science and Religion - again

Regarding Maria Popova's   -   thanks JR

The following is what came to mind when I read that piece.

I enjoy reading the science but all the stuff about god just irritates me. Talking about the word god from the point of view of a superficial literal understanding of myth is pointless and like having a long discussion of science from the point of view of junk science. It shows the ignorance and narrowness of the great scientific minds so limited in understanding what religion is all about. It's not about belief though that's called "the first door," but about insight into the nature of what we are.

Einstein had a much broader view than many physicists (but not all). When he said he needed no god other than nature itself, he wasn't limiting what that meant to the laws of nature. He called time, and thus to me phenomena, "an illusion, but a very convincing one." He said that he didn't disprove Newton, just dealt with laws on a different scale where Newton's work no longer applies. Einstein said that others will come after him who do the same. My understanding is that Newtonian physics got us to the moon. Who's you're copilot? NASA asked the astronauts going around the moon and got the answer, "Newton.".

To me there is no possible conflict between science and real religion. A Buddhist steeped in science said to me that the Heart Sutra was wrong, that Buddhism was wrong, when it said, as in the Heart Sutra, that there are six senses, six sense objects, and six sense organs - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and mental functions. He said that now we know there are many others. I said that that's what some people came up with 2500 years ago and it's arbitrary - six, ten, whatever. The point was that they're all empty, that there's no substance, that however things are, they have no independent reality.

Religion to me means waking up to, becoming greatly more aware of what is, who we are, and has nothing to do with what it's commonly thought to be - which is clinging to beliefs however ridiculous. And whatever the laws of nature are seen to be at any particular time and place are just measurements and descriptions of how things work. That's why a lot of people including in academia leave the word religion to stand for institutional religion and popular literal understanding and use other words instead like spiritual practice. Others have used noumena. Noumena and phenomena then would be the two sides of the reality coin just as space and time are two sides of phenomena. Or absolute and relative. Nirvana Samsara. Heaven and earth. And again the two are understood as one. My friend, artist and writer Father Steve Frost says that original sin is the separation of heaven and earth. And there's no doubt in my mind that all the beings I know of are born experiencing the separation and not the unity. But the Hawkins, Tyson, Sagan great minds deal only with and do not go beyond phenomena in their views. They think it's big. I love to hear what they have to say until they get into their view of religion as being about worshiping action figures and then I see their understanding as small - but still mind-blowing. Sagan thought the greatest thing would be to travel around the universe looking at all the phenomena. The saints would tell him that it's all right where he's sitting. As Rumi wrote, "We are not drops in a great ocean but the great ocean in a drop."

The article quoted top physists talking about how the universe came from nothing, it's a free lunch that doesn't need an external god to explain where it came from. Again, speaking to literalists which is fine, but it's stated as if that answers a great question of "Is there a god?" whereas "god" was just a word to stand for that nothing, but it's a mysterious nothing. That it all came from nothing is nothing new to religion though the enlightened have found that out over and over from many cultures in a more intimate way - by direct experience, through meditation, insight. My family was into New Thought Christianity. My father told me when I was young that matter didn't exist, that it was an emination of mind. Buddhism doesn't have the ostensible problems of theism but neither in my view do the core of the Abrhahamic tradition with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, or Hinduism (and lots more like Jainism, shamanism) - all of which have seen everything as coming from nothing back into pre-history, or more accurately that everything IS nothing. Meiter Eckhart infuriated the pope by teaching that "all creatures are pure nothings" which means all creation is pure nothing. Brother David and other contemplatives say they are not into theism but panentheism - nature and god - and they don't see them as separate. In my understanding, it's not like there was nothing then something came from nothing and now there's something. The two are eternal twins. It's not like there was no space and time and then the big bang happened and then there was space and time - twins - and that's how it is always is, constantly being born and dying in the midst of no birth no death.

As Nagarjuna pointed out with his emptiness writings, this nothing is full - the word emptiness implying swelling or expanding - opening to a greater reality, not one based on things and beings - like science today. As the great Pseudo Dionysius wrote to his brother Timothy, "Don't even bother talking about these matters to those who can only see things in terms of individual being." Those into what Huxley and others called "the perennial philosophy" have not tended to start of with things though - as in the earth and sun and stars, but with being or what's behind being that includes all things. Again, nothing of course, but a full nothing.

In Hinduism, as clarified by the Advaita Vedanta, the central issue is Who am I? The great Advaita Vedanta guru of the 20th century, Ramana Mahrashi, said that the Bible says it best with "I am that I am." That's pure awareness beyond being, all there is being pure awareness and all phenomena as a dream not separate. In this way of explaining things, all beings know only one thing - "I am." They all feel that, know that. They don't know what they are (original sin or original mistake or Buddhism's ignorance) but they know they are, they know "I am." So they said that the "I" one feels, that self, is actually not an independent separate self, but the great self (usually capitalized) that is all that is. So everyone has the same "I am." Buddhism came along and said there's no self and no Self - but they have to say something so different words would be used like "mind" which is universally used instead of god or cosmic consciousness - not mind as brain but mind as all, as in god is all. Then of course there had to be "no mind."

Buddhism said there are three marks to existence - no self, impermanence, and suffering (or incompleteness or separation). Then my teacher Suzuki comes along talking about small mind and big mind which could just as easily be small self and big self. The point of all great teachers though is to go beyond the teachings, don't hold on to them - find out for yourself, as Buddha said, through direct experience. Naturally, most people and priests in all these religions soon come to cling to beliefs and take on literal understandings that are in conflict with science. It doesn't matter that much as long as the don't take it too seriously as most don't but then the fanatics take over and they want power, control, have all the kids and society brainwashed, start chopping off people's heads, etc.

I tend to think that the world should be managed by science and humanism (including all beings) and a lot of my heroes in this are atheists - but so in my view are the heroes of spirit.

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