Sunday, May 09, 2021

Emptiness and Illusion - Two Truths - Heart Sutra - Ultimate Reality

Sanskrit manuscript of the Heart Sūtra,
written in the Siddhaṃ script.
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Mind/Body Dualism

This little essay started as a discussion of mind/body dualism with a friend. Out discussion then proceeded with a comparison of materialism and idealism. Then my friend made the following point, after I brought up the illusory nature of reality, 

"If you feel that physical reality is an illusion, kick a rock as one materialist has argued. That is unless you think the pain you feel is an illusion. That takes an awful lot of denial."

Illusory Nature of Reality

In my opinion, the concept of "illusion" is not well understood in this example. My understanding is that idealism does not deny perceived reality, it simply states that our sensory inputs are quite different from the realization of an objective reality existing outside of our mind. Of course, when we kick a rock we feel pain; idealism does not deny our pain (or any other perceived or imagined sensory phenomena). 

Physics Declares No Solid Objects Exist

Physics explains that when we kick a rock we feel pain because of the strong electron-electron repulsion force between the rock and our toe. Physics tells us that the rock and our toe (or any perceived "solid" object) are really just clouds of invisible particles held together by powerful electrical forces and that solid objects are mostly empty space. Therefore physics declares that there exists no such thing as a solid object despite our painful toe. The illusion is the apparent perceived solidity of objects. 

With that said, we don't go around saying, "Ouch! The volume of mostly empty space that I perceive as my body just experienced a strong electron-electron repulsion force with the volume of mostly empty space that I perceive as a rock." Practically speaking, we just say "F**k, I just stubbed my toe on a rock!" 

What is an electron really? Have you ever seen an electron? If you have not perceived an electron directly using your senses, does it exist outside of your mind? 

Do We Live in a Dream?

We perceive apparently external objects and have strong feelings in our dreams, but the objects in our dreams are not objectively real; they do not exist outside of our mind. This is why the illusory nature of reality is often likened to a dream.

Phantom pain is pain that feels like it's coming from a body part that's no longer there. Synesthetes can often “see” music as colors when they hear it, and “taste” textures like “round” or “pointy” when they eat food. The rock that we kicked that caused us pain is mostly empty space. The examples of the illusory nature of the reality perceived by our senses are endless. 

We only see 0.0035 percent of the Electromagnetic Truth

As humans we are in many ways limited by what our senses can directly tell us about the universe, that's why scientists invent instrumentation that extends our senses. The entire rainbow of radiation observable to the human eye only makes up a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum – about 0.0035 percent. We are in this way misled by our visual sense. We feel that what we see is "real" and existing outside of ourselves, however even if you trusted your eyes 100% this is only 0.0035 percent of the electromagnetic truth.

Expansive knowledge of the universe has been gathered with the invention of powerful instruments used to explore the microcosm and macrocosm. It is the mind that developed and tested the theories upon which these tools were created. It is the mind that engineered and developed these tools. It is the mind that gathered the data from these tools which then found patterns in the data and developed new theories, more sensitive tools, etc., etc.

Flying on Instrument Readings

Pilots are taught to fly by their instruments and trust the data from their instruments and not their own senses. I underwent some pilot training in the Air Force Academy and experienced first hand how our senses can be easily fooled. For example, lots of disorienting fun can be had by spinning in a chair LOL. In aviation, a graveyard spiral is a type of dangerous spiral dive entered into accidentally by a pilot who is not trained or not proficient in instrument flight when flying in instrument meteorological conditions. 

Our survival in this highly technological world is dependent upon our ability to cognize data delivered to us by instrumentation and not by our unaided senses. This is another way to understand the illusory nature of perceived reality. Of course, we must perceive the instrument readings through our senses, however it is the mind that must intervene and draw conclusions from the instrument data in order to decide how best to act.

Science is flying on instrumentation. The enormous amounts of instrument data analyzed on a daily basis by human minds is unimaginable. This instrument data has extended the human neurological system far beyond what can be perceived. Our best knowledge and understanding of conventional truth are conceptual models derived empirically and mathematically by the mind. The mind has elevated our understanding of phenomena and describes with greater and greater accuracy conventional truth. 

Two Truths - Conventional and Ultimate

The ever-evolving mind in this way has developed conceptual models of conventional reality far beyond what we can directly perceive. However, I believe that ultimate truth is beyond what even the mind can understand. 

The Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism investigates the workings of the mind, stating that only the mind or the representations we cognize, really exist. In later Buddhist Mahayana thought, which took an idealistic turn, the unmodified mind came to be seen as a pure consciousness, from which everything arises. This is what makes sense to me. 

Pure Consciousness

My friend often talks about what he calls, "Pure Consciousness," but I'm not certain if his meaning is the same as the Mahayana teaching. 

The Heart Sutra

The famous statement from the Heart Sutra, "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form," is also relevant. The Heart Sutra is a condensed exposé on the Buddhist Mahayana teaching of the Two Truths doctrine (conventional and ultimate truth). The Two Truths doctrine says that ultimately all phenomena are empty of an unchanging essence. This emptiness is a 'characteristic' of all phenomena, and not a transcendent reality, but also "empty" of an essence of its own. 

In the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteśvara (the Buddhist deity of compassion) explains the fundamental emptiness of all phenomena, known as the five aggregates of human existence: form, feeling, volitions, perceptions, and consciousness. This is interpreted according to the Two Truths doctrine as saying that teachings, while accurate descriptions of conventional truth, are mere statements about reality—they are not reality itself—and that they are therefore not applicable to the ultimate truth that is by definition beyond mental understanding.

Perfection of Wisdom Mantra

The Heart Sutra, Perfection of Wisdom mantra in Sanskrit is: 

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

meaning

"gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, awaken, rejoice"

Hans-Peter Wellke uses my Spheriphor



Tom Greenbaum with Rocky, Bucky and
the gift of two bells from Hans-Peter Wellke

18.01.2008

Dear Tom,

When you asked me to send a token gift about my area for the use of your Spheriphor and your more-pixel-solution, I thought "what for a great idea" and I started immediately to find something very special.

I am living in the very south of Germany near the Alps. It is a very green area and next to my house there start the first mountains. Because of quite much rain in the summer and a lot of sun at the same time and lots of steep hills, we do not have any fields, just hills and mountains covered with grass. Munich is about 1 ½ hours drive away. Austria half an hour and Switzerland about 1 ½ hours drive. We are also living near the castle Neuschwanstein (1/2 hour) which you know as a copy standing in Disneyland. In our area there are living more cows then people. When I look out of the window of my office there are cows next to my door and next to my home we can listen to the sound of the bells, all the cows are wearing round their neck to be found everywhere in the mountains when we go hiking in summer. So I decided to send you this special sound of our hills. But when 1 tried the different ding-dongs of the bells to buy, something strange happened: One bell sounded nice, but two sounded exactly like the never ending ding-dong of our area in summer. That's the reason you got two instead of one. The calendar includes photographs which are all made in our area. You can reach each of these places in about 10-40 min drive around my home and my office.

Hope you have fun with it.

Thank you and best wishes
Hans-Peter Wellke
Posted by Picasa
The letter from Hans-Peter Wellke

Spheriphor by Tom Greenbaum
Cube Face Center View

Spheriphor by Tom Greenbaum
Cube Corner View

Spheriphor by Tom Greenbaum
Cube Edge View

Friday, May 07, 2021

Empathic Coupling and Kinesthetic Empathy in Dance Movement

"Laminar Flow" a dance movement by Thomas J. Greenbaum

Following my Encore Fellowship at Keshet Dance and Art Center, I participated in a unique Art/Science collaborative development of a dance movement. The teams vision led us to explore incorporating a citizen science experiment to validate the central ideas of Empathetic Coupling and Kinesthetic Empathy.

ABSTRACT

A creative project in which a diverse group of dancers and scientists investigate opportunities to collaboratively develop a dance movement evoking a common understanding of human discovery.

  • Partnership with Sandia National Labs and the Weizmann Institute.
  • Explore the synergy between dance and science.
  • Commonality as creative human endeavors.
  • Relationships between the languages of both science and art.

Empathic coupling, is coupling dependent on being physically present at a dance performance as opposed to watching a video. 

Spectators of dance experience Kinesthetic Empathy when, even while sitting still, they feel they are participating in the movements they observe, and experience related feelings and ideas. 

How does Dance through Kinesthetic Empathy AFFECT our experience of Time and INFORM our understanding of the nature of Reality? 

Furthermore, if Consciousness is the new Fundamental CONSTANT of Reality, then can Dance convey this concept?"

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Alchemical Light-Fire Yoga

Heart Center Circle Hum by Thomas J. Greenbaum

Artwork Description

My artwork is a mashup of several wisdom teachings, sacred geometry and meditation exercises from a variety of sources including teachings from my blessed gurus.

It was my intention to create this artwork as a meditation device in order to begin with focused attention centered on my heart and expand healing, brilliant light outward to All Sentient Beings. In this way I creatively combine Sacred Geometry, Alchemical, Tibetan Buddhist and Zen teachings in one artwork. 

Heart Center Circle Hum includes a hand-drawn black circle with a fine black dot in the center (ink on rice paper). This simple Circle and Center dot is supported by two Tibetan "Hung" symbols on either side (acrylic paint on mylar). The surrounding frame is art paper and vellum (27"x19"). 

Following are my inspirations for this artwork, each one a meditation in itself, together they form a unity of wisdom and skillful means. 

Circle and Zero Point Center - Zen Teaching

The circle and center point is a simple sacred geometry, but it is highly charged with energy and meaning for me. 

You are probably familiar with Zen masters drawing a circle with an ink brush in a demonstration of their self-realization, the art form known as Enso.

I was a student of Zen Master Philip Kapleau Roshi (Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe) in the early 1980's. During the first teaching of Kapleau Roshi that I attended, I witnessed him draw a circle similar to Enso, but he did not use an ink brush, instead he used a black marker on a clearboard! 

Kapleau Roshi was a creative thinker and added a black dot in the center of the circle. Enso paintings do not traditionally include a center point dot. Kapleau Roshi taught about two types of consciousness. The dot in the center represents inwardly focused attention. The circle represents expanded awareness of the universe we perceive 'outside' our selves). I will never forget this teaching. This artwork was primarily inspired by my memory of Roshi Kapleau. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Kapleau

Tibetan Buddhist Hung - Heart/Mind

The two Tibetan "Hung" symbols on either side. The meaning of hung (in Sanskrit hum) is Mind visualized at the Heart center of our ethereal body. The artistic form of the two hung symbols informed by Lama Anagarika Govinda Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (page 189). Rider & Co. American edition 1969. https://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Tibetan-Mysticism-Anagarika-Govinda/dp/0877280649

Symbolism of the Seed-Syllable HÚM as quintessence of the Five Wisdoms

The Demchog Tantra, therefore, says that HÚM represents the 'mind free from all thought-contents or concepts'. The five parts of which HÚM is composed in its visible form (in Indian as well as Tibetan script) correspond to the five Dhyãni-Buddhas and their Wisdoms. 
The third phase, consists in the return to the human plane, on which all attainments are translated into life and deed. The place of this experience is the human heart, in which the 'Diamond Being', that is Vajrasattva, is realized and becomes an ever-present force in the seed-syllable HÚM.

Side note: Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism was one of my first books introducing me to Tibetan Buddhism. I started reading this book in college. Then following my studies with Kapleau Roshi my spiritual path led me to take refuge in the Buddhist Three Jewels entering formally into the Karma Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist lineage. My Buddhist name, Karma Lödro Gyaltsen was given to me by the Venerable Khenpo Kharthar Rinpoche. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khenpo_Karthar_Rinpoche

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Hand to Source Reaching for Contact

Hand to Source Reaching for Contact

A presence of light.

Free form not bound by structure.

The desire to connect.

Fingers, a hand reaching.

To reach for, but not to grasp.

Defined by shadow and light.

True connection not felt, only imagined.

We observe the play of diffraction patterns portraying the illusive nature of perception:
  1. the source exists as revealed by movement of shadows.
  2. the shadows exist only as illuminated by the source.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Relaxed Awake Tai Chi

Dedicated to Great Grandmaster Willem Reeder (Liu Siong)

photo from http://www.tibetantaichi.com/LiuSeong.htm 

Relaxed Awake is a general attitude toward being, however we are discussing an attitude with Tai Chi practice in mind. 

Relaxed Awake 

Movement timed to our breath. 
Counting breaths, measuring time,
For each stance, each moment,  shifting.
Each stance only a temporary milestone,
Along a long journey of 108 Long Form kata.
Movement happening in a relaxed manner.
Not-holding, embracing, stillness, a pause.
Not-pushing, feeling volume, allowing space.
Not-pulling, connecting, centering inward.
Tension and compression always coexist.
Balancing tension and compression,
Being the synthesis of cohesion.
Being fully awake each moment,
Is all that is needed to
Maintain balance.


Physical form ebbs and flows, always cycling. Round and round she goes, where she stops no one knows. 

Stance flows into stance and there exists a pause between. That's the wide open door right before it closes. Or, the fully closed door right before it opens. The opening at the end of the Blue Tube Ojai Portal.

The pause right after in-breath and right before out-breath is different yet similar to the pause right after out-breath and right before in-breath. Observe this difference from complete breath to complete breath, multiple times in a row and achieve Heightened Awareness

As the kata progresses through 108 stances, it is joined by relaxation and awareness. The intrinsic nature of breathing overrides willfulness. The breath slows down on it's own. The mind settles and movement tends to Stillness.

Breath is the ever-cycling junction between self and other -- between our individual mind/body/spirit and the greater Universe Of All Existence

By itself, the kata slows down always, never done slowing down (Hexagram 64). Observant consciousness (different from controling consciousness) relaxes control, but at the same time becomes more awake. Relaxed Awake Tai Chi.

The system which slows down informs a self-governing process. If the observer/performer is successful in Turning The Light Around, then powerful life-energy pours forth from the Fountain Of Youth

In other words, the physical body has an innate ability to slow itself down when our mental complex releases control and observes our inner processes with continuous, un-interrupted attention. The observed lengthening of intervals influences conscious processes in general. Stillness increases for all processes at the root. Profound stillness opens etheric channels of communication with the Essence Of Life.

Ultimately the kata performs as a self-governing feedback loop resulting in an increased flow of life-energy accompanied by bliss, peaceful mind and healthy body. Relaxed Awake Tai Chi

Karma Lodro Gyaltsen
Tom Greenbaum
20201104

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, the Vulcan Salute, Jewish Priestly Blessing and Shefa Tal

I was sad to hear that Leonard Nimoy died. Although he wrestled with the fact that people saw him only as Spock, I believe that it was Nimoy's vital human spirit that was shining through and illuminated the character of Spock. This is why I discovered a childhood hero in Spock.

Do you know the origin of the Vulcan salute invented by Leonard Nimoy? Consider first that he was born in the West End of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Soviet Union (now Ukraine).

Nimoy witnessed the Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim (Raising of the Hands) when he was a young boy. At the time Nimoy did fully understand what he saw, but the hand gestures (Shefa Tal) used during the blessing stuck in his memory. It is the Shefa Tal that he remembered years later when he came up with the idea for a Vulcan salute. 

I first came across the Priestly Blessing and the Shefa Tal years ago in my research on Kabbalah, the Tetragrammaton and Shekinah.

Look closely at the drawing of the Shefa Tal below. Do you see the four letters written across the wrists of the two hands? Do you recognize these four letters as the Tetragrammaton?






Leonard Nimoy on the Jewish Story Behind the Vulcan Salute:

YouTube Video Interview of Nimoy (in only 5 min. Nimoy tells the entire story):
Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock, Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character

YouTube Video:
Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim, Raising of the Hands: Shefa Tal

Wiki article Priestly Blessing (excellent general information):

Wiki article Vulcan Salute:

In his autobiography I Am Not Spock, Nimoy wrote that he based it on the Priestly Blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the salute. The letter Shin here stands for El Shaddai, meaning "Almighty (God)", as well as for Shekinah and Shalom. Nimoy wrote that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to an Orthodox synagogue, where he saw the blessing performed and was impressed by it.

The symbol became so well-known that in June 2014 it was added to version 7 of the Unicode standard as U+1F596 (raised hand with part between middle and ring fingers), and the White House referenced it directly in its statement on Leonard Nimoy's death, calling it "the universal sign for 'Live long and prosper.'" NASA astronaut Terry W. Virts posted the salute without commentary on his Twitter feed from the International Space Station with the Earth as the background. 

Washington Post article The touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy from space:

On Saturday, American astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this photo while aboard the International Space Station:



The simple Vulcan salute, flashed back at earth from so many miles away, speaks to the impact that Nimoy and "Star Trek" had on American space exploration.

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague."

Rest In Peace Leonard Nimoy

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Newly Hatched Praying Mantis - Teaching Patience

Newly Hatched Praying Mantis

I encountered another Praying Mantis Sunday night (4/27/14). It was a newly hatched praying mantis on my front porch stucco wall. Smaller than a dime, this little guy is already on the hunt. 

This is the second year in a row that I have found multiple juvenile Praying Mantis on my front porch. They grab moths attracted to my porch light. 

He was a challenge to photograph, even at this young age he was very much aware of his environment and the possible threat that I represented. He dodged my macro camera lens for awhile. I lost him several times. Eventually, he settled down and I got this close-up shot.

FUN FACT: unlike most of other insects, mantises have stereoscopic vision (the ability to perceive the world in three dimensions). See more at: Praying mantises get extra-tiny 3D glasses to test their vision

Lastly, I believe that it is of symbolic importance when we encounter certain animals. A friend of mine gave me a reading regarding the Praying Mantis. She was very accurate and the reading was very helpful to me. Essentially, the reading was very similar to the following web page excerpt:

Praying Mantis Meanings in the Realms of Animal Symbolism


The mantis comes to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives. Usually the mantis makes an appearance when we've flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us because of the external din we've created.

After observing this creature for any length of time you can see why the symbolism of the praying mantis deals with stillness and patience. The mantis takes her time, and lives her life at her own silent pace.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Question Of Ego: Who Am I If Not Ego?

If the Ego's greatest act of deception is to get oneself to believe that the Ego is who we are, then who are we?

Stated another way:
If I am not who I think I am, then who am I?
Good question. It is a matter of perspective. Ego is the mistaken perspective that we are an independently existing, singular self. We actually are a collection of experiences loosely tied together. All these experiences depend on a large number of causes and conditions. In truth, the ego is an illusion; there is no singular, separately existing, independent self.

Following is an image of the Buddhist deity Manjushri. Manjushri has the ability to see the nature of reality as it is. Manjushri is seen holding the flaming sword of Discriminating Wisdom with his right hand and a book called Prajñāpāramitā with his left hand. Prajñāpāramitā in Buddhism, means "the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom." The word Prajñāpāramitā combines the Sanskrit words prajñā ("wisdom") with pāramitā ("perfection"). The Prajñāpāramitā sūtras suggest that all things including oneself, appear as thoughtforms (conceptual constructs).

Inline image 1

Our stream of consciousness is composed of five senses, feelings/emotions, and higher intellect/reasoning. What we perceive becomes the reality of ego and ego is at the center of all this experience. One moment we are focused on listening to music, the next moment we feel a chill, the next moment is lost in a memory, the next moment the cat catches our eye, etc. From this stream of discontinuous experiences that involve various different perceptions and mental events we deduce that an ego or self exists. We feel that a separately existing self resides at the center of these perceptual/mental events. 

We experience the illusion of "self-awareness" in the midst of a seemingly objectively existing external world. We feel as if we are separate from others and an entire universe of separately existing objects, as small as atoms and as large as galaxies. The truth is that all things are temporary and inter-dependently existing. No-thing exists separate from any other thing. There is no external, objective reality. There are no separate, independently existing "selves" at all. There are no separately existing things at all. 

CAUTION: this is not the same as nihilism. This is not a negation of existence. This is a reinterpretation of our knowledge gained through experience. We are simply arriving at a greater truth derived from higher order reasoning. 

The truth is that existence is a collection of experiences tied loosely together. Reality is consciousness only. The mystery of the nature of human consciousness is revealed through meditation on the temporary nature of all things and the truth of selflessness. The Buddhists call this sunyata or emptiness. That is, experience is in actuality empty of separate, independently existing things and consciousness is empty of a self. 

No self is required to explain phenomena. Occam's Razor states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The assumption of the existence of a self is unnecessary and should be discarded due to succinct reasoning.

We go through life in a fairly successful manner and make okay decisions even while under the false assumption based on the existence of an ego. We go through challenges, illness, periods of doubt, depression, pain and even mental anguish. Eventually we get to the end of our life and wonder what it was all about. Of course, waiting until we die to face the meaning of life is not the best strategy. Having to face death while clinging to an ego results in fear and mental anguish is not a good way to go.

If we are blessed with curiosity, a sense of wonder, or a sharp intellect, then we may explore alternative explanations for life's experiences even before we are faced with illness, pain and death. During moments of introspection and philosophical query we question the nature of what we are. The person seeking answers to life's mysteries may find that we exist on a wholly different level of reality than what is commonly held as actual reality.

To seek truth and meaning while facing the challenges of mundane existence is a spiritual warrior's path. It is a very difficult path, but it ultimately yields the greatest rewards. The spiritual warrior focuses the mind inward and sharpens their mental focus and inner calm. The spiritual warrior wields the flaming sword of Discriminating Wisdom to cut down falsely held beliefs, dispel the illusion of ego and clear a path to greater happiness and peace of mind.