Question: One question not asked by Anyone but which has always niggled me is where deep sleep figures in all of this. Is it Pure Awareness or is it a relative dualistic truth forming part of the duality of awake/asleep?
Response: Deep sleep holds no special place. Pure Awareness is direct Knowledge—i.e., pure perception, Objectless Awareness. It is immediate. Sleep (deep or otherwise) as well as waking, are mental constructs—i.e., pure conception—and neither immediate, nor direct.
Question: On page 195 [Chapter 36] of The Grand Delusion where you say of relative truth “It’s the familiar world that appears, not to consciousness but as consciousness.” [Q1]: Is consciousness none other than formless Awareness appearing as the multiplicity and diversity of things, form, time, space, thoughts (that is even though they appear as something they are the same formlessness as Awareness appearing just so)? [Q2]: So then even though they are not two, does consciousness appear to Awareness? [Q3]: That is, is consciousness the appearance of Awareness appearing to itself? [Q4]: And so to ‘SEE’ that this is so, one just needs to get out the way, via meditation, or repeatedly coming back to this moment as it arises?
Response to Q1: Conscious awareness, not be confused with Awareness (see glossary), is the appearance of diverse things, thoughts, and feelings. These appearances are of continuous flux, but they need not always appear.
Response to Q2 and Q3: No. Pure Awareness has no objects.
Response to Q4: Meditation cannot be used for anything. If you’re using “it,” “it” is not meditation.
Question: On page 195 [Chapter 36] of The Grand Delusion you state that Reality with a capital R is “... seamless UNCHANGING World of Totality ...” What I am misunderstanding is that I thought that Reality was CHANGE and FLUX. You state on page 227 [Appendix B, part 3] that “[This objectless] World of [undivided] Wholeness is none other than the everyday world of this and that.” Now the everyday world seems to be one of change and flux. So, if it is identical to the World of Undivided Wholeness, doesn’t that imply Reality is also change and flux? Or are you saying that things only APPEAR to change? That change and Nonchange are the same.
Response: Excellent questions. You’ve gotten to the heart of matter. But notice the title of Chapter 36: The Two Truths. Bearing this title in mind, slowly reread page 195 and continue on for three more paragraphs to where I point out that the “first aspect appears dynamic; the second, eternal.” Then skip to the top of page 207 (near the end of Chapter 37) where ANYONE asks, “What are not two?” Read from there to the end of the chapter. Please take special note of the line where I tell ANYONE to “first set down everything you’re carrying.” Including, I would add here, even the idea that “I exist,” as Zen master Ikkyu points out before the start of Part II. Set down everything. That’s actually the “secret” which, of course, is always in plain view.
Question: Throughout The Grand Delusion I think your “case” about the utility of science / belief within a limited sphere (Chapter 34) is fairly clear. At the same time, (Appendix B) you point out myriad problems (e.g. unwarranted assumptions like those contained in the hard problem) with the current status quo in branches of neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. Collectively, your “case” seems to at least approach a generalized skepticism about their inherent projects (i.e. given so much of their entire endeavor is predicated on “flat earth” perspectives, we may do more to perpetuate confusion rather than clarify).
Do you have any thought on what salvaging the metaphoric “baby” from the bathwater would look like for these branches of science / research? To put it another way, in Appendix B, Part 1, you say, “A radically different understanding of what is actually going on is needed.” Concretely applied, do you have thoughts on what that could / would that look like?
Response to Q1: Salvaging what baby? To continue with your metaphor, all such “babies” (I assume you mean “hypotheses”) are necessarily made of clays (concepts) which inevitably dissolve in the bathwater of silent, astute observation.
Response to Q2: Rather than formulating yet another hypothesis, what’s required is a response much like what I’ve laid out in this book. That is, one that encourages us to abandon searches for solutions solely within the conceptual but instead directs us to rely on perceptual experience alone—i.e., on pure Awareness, with no thought or mental construction (i.e., concepts) whatsoever.
Question: In TGD you state that physical processes in the brain have never been demonstrated to give rise to subjective experience (Appendix B). What do you make of experiences occurring in neurosurgery, in which physical stimulation of parts of the brain do cause conscious patients to experience mental phenomena? Or, for that matter, transcranial magnetic stimulation inducing subjective phenomena to occur? Both of these seem to undermine your assertion that these are merely correlated but not causative.
Response: You present yet another example of the “hard problem” that David Chalmers identified, and which I quote immediately above the passage you refer to in my book: “How do physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience?” Your examples don’t answer this question. Though you refer to “cause,” if you look carefully, your examples don’t actually show cause. They show that physical stimulations of the brain accompany mental phenomena. But cause? How? What? Where? Why? Nor will any other such examples ever show cause. All such demonstrations only continue to beg the question of the hard problem without ever making even the slightest bit of headway in answering it. I suggest that you read TGD again but this time give more attention to the disintegration of substance—physicality and subjectivity—as it’s being pointed out. Note that these impressions always appear, not with, but as consciousness and never otherwise. Thus, as I point out repeatedly in the book, physicality reduces to Mind. There simply are no cases showing the reverse. Nor could there be.
Question: Are you saying that we already SEE the whole/totality, but we get so caught up in the concepts that arise through consciousness appearing to split the whole that we miss the absolute truth/Awareness which together with the relative truths/consciousness comprise Ultimate Truth? This is, so to speak, our basic problem?
And all we have to do is wordlessly pay attention to the Whole and this imbalance between the two truths will clear up and balance or symmetry will be restored?
Response: Yes, basically—at least to your first question. Just be aware that the terms and phrasings you’re using take things a bit off. For example, when you write “we already see the Whole/Totality,” or “which together with,” or even “wordlessly pay attention to the Whole,” the implication is that there are things. What is seen, however, is never an object, as your language might suggest. We don’t actually see consciousness as something splitting another something called “The Whole.” Consciousness simply is the divided appearance of the World “we” see, hear, feel, think. Apart from such appearances there is never any imbalance between the two truths since they’re not exactly two.
Question: I think I'd like to experience Totality, but is it better to consider that I am the Totality experiencing itself from the perspective of 'Chris?'
Response: Better still is to not take hold of anything as either Totality or as Chris. All that is ever experienced, Chris, is Totality. There is no “experiencer,” as such. “You” only wordlessly need to pay attention. Don’t think.
Question: Is Awareness one aspect of Mind that pertains to the Whole and consciousness another aspect of Mind that pertains to the apparent division of the Whole? And these two seen together are the One Mind?
Response: Yes, more or less, though we can’t say precisely. As I point out in The Grand Delusion, can’t say “yes,” can’t say “no.” Good question, though.
Question: I’ve read and re-read TGD and have gained more intellectual understanding but it hasn’t helped much with the deep ache of the heart.
In these times of uncertainty and insanity more intellectual understanding doesn’t really help. People are suffering and telling them that seeing through non-substantiality will clear everything up doesn’t make sense as how are they to do that when they don’t “see” it. Telling them to drop substantiality (in chapter 9) and not how to drop it except suggesting meditation which too is no guarantee, just makes the situation quite hopeless. It seems as if there is no way out of this despair. Either there is “seeing” which happens of its own accord or there isn’t and there is nothing that can be done to make it happen.
Response: You are correct. More intellectual understanding doesn’t help. It only increases the deep ache of the heart—if only because, in and of itself, intellectual understanding can never be brought to completion. So, I did not write The Grand Delusion to assist ANYONE in expanding their intellectual understanding of anything—even though, as you indicated, it can’t be helped. Intellectual understanding mostly accumulates. As I state in the book, though, I’m only trying to help people wake up. I don’t want to give people more ideas. Mainly I’m just pointing out the faultiness of all beliefs—particularly our unexamined and unwavering belief in substantiality. Forming radically new ideas is not going to help us here. For this, we have to just see. You ask me how. The entire book points to it. Just notice. Please turn to chapter 37 where ANYONE asks: “Notice what, though?” Then, very slowly, reread what follows. I reiterate just a few echoes of what the dialogue was all about.
Question: I have no doubt that belief causes all sorts of evil in the world, and that experience is a far better barometer to gain true knowledge. However, is that just not a belief as well? Can we truly ever get away from beliefs?
Response to Q1: Yes, for those who think your opening statement is True.
Response to Q2: Yes, it is quite possible to not hold particular beliefs. I don’t believe that there are pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, for example. It is even possible to not hold any beliefs at all, but you will probably have to work at it before that becomes the backdrop of your mind. I know of no one who can manage this perfectly. But we can certainly learn to not be governed by beliefs and to be vigilant whenever beliefs begin to carry us away. As Sextus Empiricus put it, “For it is sufficient to live by experience, and without subscribing to beliefs….”
Thank you. I’ve been waiting for over 30 years for someone to ask me this question.