Be your own light

Question: Dear Sir,

Once again even before I start, let me apologize for impinging on you time. I am sure you are very busy and hence I appreciate your help all the more.

Buddha’s thoughts and quantum mechanics.

Dear Sir,

As you know the double-slit experiment is quite famous in quantum mechanics or quantum theory. Without getting into details the experiment simply proves that the result of the experiment lies in the eyes of the person observing it or the participator. Matter duality in quantum mechanics can cause things to behave both as waves and as solid matter: what the participator sees as, for instance, one ball shot at one particular place is actually a probabilistic field of all potentialities of the ball which is behaving like a wave as well.

Buddha says that the world is our thoughts, and while we are talking about material reality here, conscious reality is all too similar.

Similarly Einstein had talked about quantum interaction: the phenomena that states that if two particles were ever linked together no matter if they are taken light years away, they still become, in several aspects, mirror images: and so one affects the other tremendously and none exists independently, they are all ‘one’ like all of the universe born out of the big bang.

My partial understanding of the Buddha’s take on Oneness (and may be extremely naïve).

In the same vein as the above, Buddha sees everything interconnected: this is evident when he says there  is Saamsara and there is Karmaa which operates at different levels: there is the individual Karmaa, there is karmaa of things around a person and then there is the Karmaa of the entire race of people ( something like global warming affecting our whole planet because of what we have done). And hence first one has to accept that life simply is and that one’s action affects one’s karma at all levels ….

My question here is:

However, and this is where I am confused. Why would the so-called ‘civilized world’ we live in, buy this Kaarmic argument? What I mean is no matter how I act, I am still affected because of what my neighbor does and he or she might do some horrible things (for instance my neighbor is a country that wants to destroy me). Would not in such a case, an individual who is interconnected think that there is hell to pay anyway so why be ‘ loving/compassionate’ to the neighbor. I am not saying this is how I would act but would this not make sense?

Do you think I am looking at the answer here rather than the question? If you could give me some guidance on why  I cannot grip this, I would be immensely grateful.

Thanking you very much.

Answer:

There are 2 issues I could understand, one from your mail and one from our conversation:

1. “However, and this is where I am confused. Why would the so-called civilized world we live in, buy this karmic argument. What I mean is no matter how I act, I am still affected because of what my neighbor does and he or she might do some horrible things (for instance my neighbor is a country with a ruler like Hitler who wants to destroy me)… would not in such a case, an individual who is interconnected think that there is hell to pay anyway so why be ‘ loving/compassionate’ to the neighbor. I am not saying this is how I would act but would this not make sense?”

2. Why do we see a large gap between the Buddha’s core understanding and the practical day-to-day precepts of Buddhism?

Your first question: The Karmic argument in Hinduism is one of great individuality. It says you pay for your actions. The development of consciousness takes us through the following path:

Chaos
Ritual
Morality
Individuality
Oneness

Zeroness

Hinduism has been wonderful in talking of Oneness. Krishna asks Arjuna to become one with him. Advait itself means non-dual. The great and final truth of Hinduism is the realisation of the Aatm (individual) and then the Paramaatm (The One). Because the Aatm has been given a prime place in Hinduism, hence individual action is also given a place of consequence. So, Krishna’s law of Karma is highly individualistic.

The great contribution of Buddha is to say that beyond the positive and ultimate Brahm reality of Hinduism (the great One in which all things and beings merge), there lies great emptiness (zeroness). Zeroness as a concept is present in Hinduism, but only inferentially. Whereas for the Buddha, Anatta is a core concept.

Hence, the Karmic law of Hinduism- a purely individualistic one- gets modified in Buddhism and Sufism. You are very right when you discover the disconnect as in your question. If we are all interconnected through a web of awareness, then one being’s actions affect all.

Next thing you could inquire into is the nature of this effect. In a material way, we all are surely affected by actions of faraway, even dead, people; global warming, for instance. Buddha is so right. However, we do understand that the world is no different from the individual mind. There is no Samsara without the perception of the Samsara by one’s mind. Then we see that the real extent to which others’ actions (others’ karma) affect me is mostly dependent on my mind, which in turn, is dependent on my own karma.

In other words, others’ karma can give us pain, but not suffering. The individual’s suffering will depend totally on the individual’s mind (individual karma).

So, if you are being loving to your neighbour, that does not mean that your body will not be affected by Global Warming. You will surely be in pain because of your neighbour’s karma. However, if you are loving to your neighbour, it means love is in your being, it means you have learnt surrender and dropped resistance. If you have dropped resistance, you will not suffer.

So, ultimately your suffering does depend only on your own karma.

Second question:

For 2 reasons:

a) Buddha never himself put down any detailed laws for sanctimonious living. All he could give was some broad directions and a practice of deep silence. Even at the time of his death, when he was asked for directions, all he said was ‘App Deepo Bhav‘ – become your own light. Such a person is unlikely to delve into prescriptions on intricacies of marital conduct. The detailed writs that we see in the name of Dhamma are all later additions by other people.

b) To some extent, the common man does require detailed directions even on the mundane matters of his daily life. He begs for it. However much a Buddha may want to get away with ‘App Deepo Bhav‘, his followers do not allow him to. They yearn for clear, concise directions, not some vague statement of the ultimate truth. Hence, there exist rituals and warrants on ‘ways of living’ in every religion. You should remember how peripheral these are.

-Based on my interactions on various e-forums.

Dated: 21st April,’ 11

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3 thoughts on “Be your own light

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