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.
Question: My question would be pertaining to your concept of "grand symmetry." What is it? Is it "above" duality? Would an examen of grand symmetry be everything being mind, below which is mind and body?
In other words, everything is one (mind), though that "one" can exist as two (mind and body/matter)?
Response: Symmetry, as used in The Grand Delusion, is defined as the two truths which ultimately manifest in Grand Symmetry where phenomena unceasingly appear in constant flux while Reality, as Whole, remains forever Thus. Consequently, beyond appearances, we cannot say there is either “above” or “below.” Nor can we say otherwise. You might want to reread chapter 36.
Question: Consciousness, as defined in The Grand Delusion, is not the same as the everyday distinction we make between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Unless I'm misreading, consciousness (as you define and describe it) would include, for example, a dream that I might have while I'm asleep. I would be unconscious, but the dream would still involve consciousness, since there would be an experience of the dream. Similarly, an experience of being asleep without dreaming would also involve consciousness, as long as there is some awareness of being asleep. Presumably, a sunflower's experience of the sun and its urge to grow toward it would also be a manifestation of consciousness.
This seems quite different from consciousness as the opposite of unconsciousness, which are two states, like being drunk or sober.
Such "states of consciousness" do appear to be either mediated or shaped by the brain, just as tastes and sounds are. Most neuroscientists think that these states are created (rather than shaped or mediated) by the brain. But I don't see how they—or a lab experiment—would be able to tell the difference between mediation and creation.
Can you speak to this?
Response: Indeed, consciousness, as defined in The Grand Delusion, makes no distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness whatsoever since, as is implied throughout the book, we can make no sense of unconsciousness. Please reread the last couple of exchanges between ANYONE and me at the end of chapter 25, and then turn to endnote 61. Also, please reread chapter 22, and then reflect on the implications of Bell’s theorem. It seems you might be conflating the terms “awareness” and “consciousness.” To see how these terms are being used in this book, please consult the glossary. Finally, I also suggest that you reread Appendix B.
Question: I take it that Buddhist Pure Land practice is another construct from our minds. So too the Bodhisattva ideal. Is there any value in these efforts and for whom?
Response: Yes, these are mental constructs. And, as stated in The Grand Delusion, concepts and actions based on thought constructs often seem very helpful and useful to people. Though the opposite often seems true as well.
Question: My assumption is that when the quantum field collapses into a point, that this is when the awakened are experiencing NOW. Because the endless possibilities must crystallize into an “actuality” of sorts when examined by awareness. Is that the right way to look at this? All possibilities are there, but when we are looking at the NOW, the reality, there is only what is happening NOW so the possibilities collapse.
Response: I would loosen my grip on everything you are assuming here. Just consider this: Awakened or not, all we ever experience is now.
Question about Grand Symmetry and participation. Thank you for saying something. If I follow you correctly, some relative truths are more coherent than others, even if none can describe Truth with a capital T. My sense is that thoughts and actions that arise out of seeing may be particularly interesting. Would you say that there is a certain ‘art’ to this dance of participating in the ‘Grand Symmetry’? Kind regards from across the seas.
Response: Thank you. It seems that way, doesn’t it? Just remember that I’m loath to say “is,” or, “is not.”
Question: In your book, “Mind” seems rather impersonal. There is no God, there is awareness. Buddhists do have compassion. Do you think that there are forces that connect us all, that really, we ARE that force? There is no separate “you” and “me” deep down, in reality. Is that a valid way of picturing it?
Response: I do not argue that there is no God in The Grand Delusion. I do not argue that there is. Compassion comes with not losing sight of the Whole. And while at first blush this may seem impersonal, in actuality this is thoroughgoing warmheartedness. There is no need to connect what cannot be separated.
Question: Does the Mind-that-is-All make substance? If not, because there can be no substance, does the Mind make a kind of a movie type reality in which all operates perfectly as if there were substance and its laws?
Response: You are making a number of assumptions here, but you seem to be pointing in the right direction. I will assume that what you mean by “Mind-that-is-All” (which is not how I would characterize Mind), is what I refer to as “Mind” in The Grand Delusion. So, I assume you are asking, “Does Mind make substance?” It does not, but not because “there can be no substance.” Strictly speaking, Mind doesn’t make a movie-like reality, either. It doesn’t make anything. As Huang Po put it, “There is only the One Mind and not a particle of anything else on which to lay hold….”
Question: You mention that there are forces that hold “things” together. There is impermeability. There are no hard edges or boundaries. At one point, for example, you state there are no surfaces to atoms, it’s all pushes and pulls. Not trying to sound too mystical, but would you expect that as we awaken we would be more aware of the bigger picture and these forces and energies that interconnect us? That everything is just part of the stream? Just wanted to see if I’m understanding this correctly.
Response: Just for the record, the term “impermeability” is not in The Grand Delusion.
With full Awakening, there’d be Awareness of Totality—but at this point I would not refer to Awareness as though it came in degrees. Nor would I characterize what is going on as “forces and energies that interconnect us.” (The problem here has to do with the idea “interconnect us.”) As for, “part of the stream,” in view of Totality, it would be obvious that there is only what appears as stream, not “things.” Blue sky, for example, is scattering light. A process, not a thing.
Question: In meditation we are often told to watch our mind. If reality is non-dualistic, then isn’t the act of watching still a division? Who is the watcher? And who watches the watcher and so on? If we are JUST doing something wholeheartedly won’t there be no room for a watcher? No one there to experience and KNOW awareness?
Response to Q1: Not if we’re referring to perception.
Response to Q4: More or less, yes. Please reread Chapter 26, particularly the last four exchanges between ANYONE and myself at the end of the chapter.