Sunday, January 10, 2010

T. Byram Karasu - Awareness of Awareness - The world is one of our senses

Interesting - and cool - that the Psychology Today blogs are including more Buddhist perspectives.

From The Mystery of Happiness: How to live a soulful and spiritual life, by T. Byram Karasu, M.D.

The world is one of our senses.

In The Tibetan Book of the Dead it is said:

Nothing that we think we are, do, feel, or have has any essence,
Substance, stability, or solidity. All the somethings in and around
us with which we preoccupy ourselves from morning to night are
potentially nothing to us. If we die, they would dissolve in our
tightest grasp, forgotten if they were in our mind, lost if they were
in our hand, faded into blank numbness if they were our mind and
body. Surprisingly, once we become accustomed to the omnipresent
possibility of death in life, we feel greatly liberated. We realize
we are essentially free at all times in all situations.

We seek to penetrate linguistic, mythical, and religious depths in order that we may rejoin the eternal. We struggle with concepts such as formlessness, beyond, infinite space, final ultimacy, becoming one with the absolute, each one indefinable. The exhilarating freedom comes only from being dissolved in the eternal.

Awareness of our existence is the ultimate reward and punishment for our evolution.
Animals are aware of their environment and their enemies but not aware of their awareness. They communicate with each other within their species and perhaps even across species. They are instinctively aware of and act on their physiological impulses: hunger, fighting, coupling, protecting offspring, and the like.

Humans share this physiological awareness. However, in the evolutionary process, we developed an additional awareness, of these awarenesses. For example, not only do we get hungry and look for food but we know, that we are hungry and that we are looking for food. Primitive awareness of sexuality must exist in animals, at least to recognize their reproductive partners, and they have an instinctual drive to reproduce, as we do. However, we are also cognitively aware that if we do not reproduce, our genes will not be passed on to the next generation.

It is interesting that the same evolutionary process condemns us to dying-we die because we reproduce sexually. Those organisms that reside at the bottom of the evolutionary chain merely clone; they do not reproduce sexually. Once they bud, the genetic make-up remains forevermore. In fact, they never die unless they are directly destroyed. But they never experience what we would consider aging or natural death. Only when an organism gets high enough in the evolutionary chain does sexual reproduction occur, and when it does it is always accompanied by natural aging and eventual death. Therefore, one may look at death as an evolutionary phenomenon. And we are still evolving in nature. At some time in the future, we may yet evolve to something else that our present awareness cannot capture.

The cognitive awareness of dying is like any other awareness of awareness. That I will disappear and the rest will remain is a recognition of one's being a separate entity. That sense of separateness is the source of dread of death-the ultimate disruption of one's sense of continuity. The serenity of dying, by contrast, comes from sensing our nonseparateness and believing in our destiny, which is ultimately being one with nature, from which we all come.

The very process of thinking separates us from endless existence. As long as we are conscious of our separateness, we are not experiencing the moment of being part of the eternal universe. The actual experience of the moment, not the thought of it, is the closest one can get to eternity. Immortality is then experienced as a present fact. In the repetitive words of the Trantric aphorism, "It is here! It is here!"

T. Byram Karasu, M.D. is author of The Art of Serenity

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