This is a long shot, but do any of you live in New York? I’m going to be there from this Sunday to Thursday next week. Or if anyone’s been there, have you got any recommendations of places to hit up? It’s a big ass city and I’d love to meet some new people! Peace !
"The greatest measure of a man’s peace is his relationship with solitude.
If he cannot bear to be alone, his heart will know no rest……."
— Nathen Surman (via nathensurman)
I am convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that there is no-thing (no separate or persisting thing) here to die. Yes, relatively speaking, a baby called Joan was born many decades ago and will one day die. I suspect that dying will be like falling into deep sleep or going under anesthesia. Everything will disappear including any sense that I have disappeared. As in deep sleep (and unlike our fearful fantasies of being buried alive), no one will be left over to miss what has disappeared.
Does that mean I think death is the end, that we live and then die and that’s it? No, not really. The energy or pure consciousness that IS this body and this universe doesn’t die and won’t die when Joan disappears. What I truly am will not die, and it was never not here. As they say in Zen, it is my face before my parents were born.
I compare the fear of death to the fear our ancestors had of stepping off the edge of the earth. It’s a flat-earth problem, a fear based on a misconception, the misconception in the case of death being that I am a separate mind (or soul) encapsulated in a separate body. When we believe this misconception, our deepest fear is that this “me” will come to an end. But when we look more closely, either with science or meditation, we cannot actually find this “me” as anything in particular. We also cannot pin down an exact moment where somebody begins or ends. Time-of-birth and time-of-death are like dividing lines on a map. Reality is seamless.
I suspect that many people’s interest in reincarnation or near-death experiences comes from the intuitive sense that consciousness is not encapsulated in a body and that death is not the end of what we truly are. And that’s great. But from the awakened perspective, it’s clear that the belief in reincarnation and the fascination with NDEs is in some way still driven by a dualistic view—dividing the brain from consciousness, mind from matter, existence from non-existence—and by the belief in a separate self and the deep urge to survive as this form, this present experience.
And yet, this present experience is always changing. What is it that I treasure most deeply in this present moment? Is it the sense of being Joan (the patterns of thought and behavior, the particular sensations, memories, narratives and emotions that form this personality)? Or is it something much deeper, much more subtle, much vaster, much freer? Does the sense of being Joan survive death, or will that vanish completely, as it does in deep sleep, with no one leftover to miss it? My guess is that it will vanish completely.
Buddhism often compares individual consciousness with a stream. When the stream flows into the ocean, no stream remains as anything intact. There is only ocean. Vedanta compares the individual consciousness to a wave on the ocean. The wave is never really separate, but is simply an activity of the ocean, and when it subsides in calm waters or crashes on the beach, there is nothing separate there to reincarnate or go off to some heaven. The ocean simply keeps on waving, forming and unforming, seamlessly.
The true “I” to which we all refer is beyond name and form. It is not the personality. It is deeper and vaster and freer than anything perceivable or conceivable. It is deathless and all-inclusive, without beginning or end. It is the Ocean, not any single wave, for “a wave” is only an abstract idea, a freezing and carving up of reality. In reality, there is no clear boundary where one wave begins and another ends. Another word for the Ocean in this case is Consciousness, Primordial Awareness, or the Self. This energy shows up one moment as a chair, one moment as a fish, one moment as a mother’s face, one moment a long dark tunnel, one moment a bright light, one moment a cloudscape at sunset, one moment a traffic jam, one moment falling snow, one moment the unseeable darkness and stillness of deep sleep (the deepest part of the ocean). All of it, all these different waves or forms, are one Ocean, one Consciousness, one intelligence, one energy experiencing itself in endless variations. In reality, there is no border between life and death, or between existence and non-existence. It is one seamless happening.
Much is made of near-death experiences, but NDEs are just that, experiences that happen to people who are near death. Their heart and their breathing may have temporarily stopped, they may briefly have been medically brain dead, but they came back. I suspect that these near death experiences are what happens in the moments right before they “died” or as they were coming back to life. They are experiences in consciousness. They resemble dreams, visions or hallucinations. Christians see Jesus, Hindus see Krishna. I don’t doubt the reality of these experiences as experiences, but as far as I can see, they are no indication of what awaits us “after death.” They may offer some peace and solace, but there is a much deeper peace and solace available right here, right now, at the heart of every moment.
For some people, NDEs and out-of-body experiences are ways to “prove” that consciousness is not dependent on the brain, that consciousness survives death. But this is once again rooted in a kind of dualistic thinking, dividing mind from matter, the brain from consciousness, existence from non-existence, and then trying to decide which comes first, the chicken or the egg. But the universe can’t be pulled apart that way. These pairs arise together as one whole happening. That doesn’t mean that consciousness is “in” the brain, or that consciousness is merely some kind of materialistic brain-creation, or that the brain comes first, but rather, all of these words refer to one energy, one undivided happening. Our thoughts about cause and effect, and what comes before and after, are just that—thoughts, conceptual abstractions, maps of a territory that is actually ungraspable, indivisible and inconceivable, a territory that needs no proof.
Does “my consciousness” survive death? The question itself is misconceived, just like asking what will happen to me if I fall off the edge of the flat earth. In fact, “my consciousness” was never really separate and never really had an owner. The “me” who seemingly owns “my consciousness” is a mirage created by thoughts, memories, images, stories and sensations. “The body” is another conceptual abstraction of what is actuality ever-changing energy and movement, inseparable from and interdependent with everything it supposedly is not. Consciousness was never really encapsulated inside of “my body.” If anything, it was the other way around—“me” and “my body” were intermittent, ever-changing, momentary appearances in consciousness, fluid wavings of the ocean. No wave is separate from the ocean—it is an activity of the ocean, and the ocean simply keeps waving, just as life keeps peopling. Everything is endlessly dying and being born, but just as there is no solid “thing” that reincarnates from one wave to another, there is no “me” to go from one lifetime to another. This “me” is an idea. Living without it is called liberation.
From the awakened perspective, fascination with NDEs, past lives and visions of the afterlife is like being fascinated with elves and Santa Claus. Losing our present experience and dying to everything we know may be a scary thought. But actually, it is an immense relief. It is the refreshment of deep sleep. And it can happen right now in the waking state. Not by physically dying, not by falling asleep, not by forgetting your name or going into some rarified samadhi state. But simply by relaxing into bare being. Noticing that there is really nothing here to die in the first place."
— Joan Tollifson (via oceanandwave)