beyond belief


IMG_4118POSTCARD #131: Delhi: I received this photo of a plane journey on my phone from M, my 11-year-old Thai niece. She was on a night flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. All our devices are connected so I get her photos, downloaded images, screenshots, kiddie’s apps and have to subscribe to an increased GB storage plan due to these thousands of ‘cute’ digital items, increasing daily. I read in Google somewhere that the number of mobile phones exceeds the population of the world, due to users that own multiple devices. Let’s say there are trillions of images all around the planet… whatever, there’s just this sense of vastness. Like the stars seen through M’s downloaded pic of the plane window. More than that; a quick look at Google tells me there are 200 billion galaxies out there, a Universe filled with a septillion: 1024 planets –on ‘the short scale’ (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) and 1042 on ‘the long scale’.

Changing from the Macro to the Micro, each star that can be seen from the plane window out there looks like a micro particle – wiki tells me that ‘point-particles’ are zero-dimensional. So it doesn’t take long to start thinking about transparency, lightness, non-being:

You are boundless space.
You are nothing that you appear to be.
You are the fathomless ocean, forever flowing.
The waves do not affect you.
Nothing affects you, for there’s no you.
[Robert Adams]

(reblogged from: Known is a drop, Unknown is an ocean

It’s just that everything I’ve been taught as a child is the received perception that’s passed down through generations of those with the same mind/body organism as I have. Most of us hold on to creationist belief systems, “God” – the ‘Big Bang’. But what caused the big bang? What came before that? A lot of people I know spend most of their time in contemplation, one way or another  – meditation or focused thought, and seeking a way of living that allows for this because it’s possibly the most important thing you can do with your life.

Advaita Vedanta talks about Brahman being the cause, and the world is the effect. Without the cause, the effect is no longer there. What that means is the ‘World” is real when seen with Brahman but it’s false when seen without Brahman. So basically Brahman is the original cause and those of us who see without Brahman are seeing the World as an illusion. Sounds like the sky is blue, the grass is green because the human sensory system creates it like that, and there’s no way to prove this is ‘real.’ That’s how it seems to be, in a manner of speaking – the sense there’s something missing… Brahman/Pure Consciousness/Reality? Not seeking, just considering the question. I like what cabrogal says: ‘Pure consciousness has no object’ – this has become like a kind of koan for me.

The Buddha didn’t agree with the external, eternal creationist idea:

“As far as the suns and moons extend their courses and the regions of the sky shine in splendor, there is a thousandfold world system. In each single one of these there are a thousand suns, moons, Meru Mountains, four times a thousand continents and oceans, a thousand heavens of all stages of the realm of sense pleasure, a thousand Brahma worlds. As far as a thousandfold world system reaches in other words, [the universe], the Great God is the highest being. But even the Great God is subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be.” (Anguttara-Nikaya X 29)

It’s like saying these are all concepts and true reality is not a concept – words cannot reach that far. I received another picture from M, her painting of a beehive, done after she got off the flight and back in school again. It’s a natural hive in the forest. When Jiab asked what the bee outside the hive was doing there, she gave it some thought and said it was counting the stars – a created answer, sort of an on-the-spur-of-the-moment thing…

IMG_2162

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Note: I Googled the title of this post after I’d set up the thing for publication and discovered in Amazon it’s the title of a book: ‘Beyond Belief’ by Elaine Pagels about the “secret” Gospel of Thomas. The idea that the Jesus Teachings were changed by Churchianity. Jesus was saying he was the son of God but we are all the sons and daughters of God, no difference. We can all be enlightened. I was wondering if anybody had read this book and should I order it from Amazon?

37 thoughts on “beyond belief

    • Yes I see what you mean, it could become more and more remote but I think there’s a cut-off point and the state of beyond belief would be something like saying belief on it’s own isn’t anything. There is actual ‘being’ – just no more concepts, you know? something like that. I get most of my ideas from M…

    • Thanks Miriam, there’ll come a day when M will be able to answer some of these comments herself. As for the photo, M told me she downloaded it from somewhere in the internet so she chose it, right enough. I’d be interested if anyone can identify the constellation out there, it looks to me like the Plough but that’s because the Plough is the only constellation I can recognize. The beehive painting is great, all the stars on the outside and all the stars on the inside…

  1. Adore M’s painting- truly beautiful, truly, and her answer about the bee counting the stars, wonderful, too. Also a great photo. A precursor to the painting. The painting has everything, a shooting star, the dark of the night sky, the light of day– total experience. A confirmation of the way we perceive Maya. The quote very apt. M has great talent and shows the influence of her uncle.

    • Wonderful comment Ellen. M and I are very close. Her whole fluency and thought and creativity in the English language comes from me being in her house when she was an infant and her mommy and Jiab speaking English with me. So M grew up as a bilingual child to some extent, started using a few English words instead of Thai in ordinary conversation at the dinner table. Nowadays, her creativity is not typically Thai… it comes from exposure to English and my dialogues with her – which are similar in lots of ways to the way I write posts. People often ask me about style, I say, What style? It’s just how I learned to express myself in English in a simple direct way with M… others too of course but the motivation was the relationship with M.
      So there, I’ve used up all the space in this reply talking about how important M is to me. Understandable. I think the picture is great too and it is a follow-through with the downloaded pic of the plane window. Thanks for noticing all these things
      T

      • Your relationship with M is simply wonderful and how nice to have such an influence on her. And she on you. It is a win-win situation. I really do love that painting. It didn’t seem Thai style to me. I just think it was so inspired and appealing!! She has lots of talent!

      • Yes she has talent, also plays piano well and learning guitar. About the part I play in her life, it’s quite special; there must be other Thai children in that situation but more likely it would be a foreign daddy and the child would be mixed race. As it is, M is a purely Asian child: Thai/Taiwanese/Japanese and the Western influence is through an uncle, just a little more distance. Also, it has been my choice to identify more with the Asian host countries than my own place where I was born. So my influence is gently including a universality into the Thai and seen from a Thai point of view, because now it’s been more than thirty years and Asia has become more of a home to me than UK… thinking about it today because I’m working out an itinerary – I’ll be in UK this time next week. Thanks for your thoughts
        T
        ps. Thanks again for the distance Reiki 9-9:30 EDT on Friday

  2. Hi Tiramit,

    I love how in just discovering this today we each seem to have bitten off topics this weekend that relate to questions about east and west. I think you may find it interesting that in A Course of Love, Jesus says God, too, exists in relationship, as the relationship of all to all. A think-a-ma-jig, for lack of even trying to put a term on it, that arises with all others who arise through relationship. Without the differentiation that relationship makes possible, there is only the all of all, and the nothing of nothing… No God in a sense. No Creation.

    ACOL says, “God is being in unity and relationship with everything.”

    I think this is similar to what is suggested in the scripture passage you quoted, allowing for various nuances of terminology.

    There is also a section where Jesus suggest that “God the Father” was a construction– a device that was used to teach and share an experience– that “became real” through sharing. The idea being that ideas we hold are not as willy-nilly as we often suggest either, as in when we say, “oh, that’s just an idea…” I think of cultures like the Native Americans, who have ceremonies that have been handed down for countless generations, that surely came into being as ideas, and have developed power through the attention of countless generations, but very well may one day cease to be… I am suggesting that within what is called “creation” there is opportunity for increasingly powerful forms of expression.

    M’s painting was beautiful…

    Michael

    • Yes, great! I suppose it’s inevitable that we start writing, more and more, in a way that can be mutually understood. And yes, God exists in relationship all to all, I agree. Without that relationship there is only the nothing of nothing… impossible, as far as I can see.
      I agree also that the God-the-father thing is one of many ways of teaching people who don’t know. There comes a point when knowledge enters and that way of learning can be put aside.
      By the way, I keyed in ‘Native Americans and Non Duality’ in Google and came up with pages on the subject, enough to say the ideas they started with were/are non dual and God is in relationship with them too.
      Thanks for these kind words about M’s painting she will be so pleased. Others have mentioned this too, I’m sure that quite soon M will be able to reply to some comments by herself.

  3. Hi Tiramit, more than a decade ago, when I was rebuilding a house of beliefs, I encountered and read a lot of ‘apocryphal’ texts, amongst others the gospel of St. Thomas.
    Around the beginning of this year, I read ‘confession of a Buddhist atheist’ by Stephen Batchelor. I barely remember either’s content, but both gave me the same kind of satisfaction: ‘that we will never know …’ 🙂 smiling but also wanting to laugh out loud because of total and utter ignorance

    • There must be a smiley-face icon that shows a laughing-out-loud (because of total and utter ignorance). I’ll have a look. Probably M’s phone has one…
      Don’t know anything about Stephen Batchelor but I’m curious about the gospel of St Thomas, so I’ll look for a good entry point and try and see if it’s saying that the Jesus Teachings were about non duality (as I’ve heard from others)…

      • I never noticed the non-dual nature of the ‘quotation like’ gospel of st thomas. then, I wasn’t looking for that either, and we find what we look for, isn’t it? I remember only a lot of wisdom nuggets, 3-liners … but I cannot recite any 🙂 It will certainly not harm to take a look.
        =:o]

      • I did a post a long time ago that had this as a quote: (3) Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.” [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts, Selected Sayings of Jesus From Gospel of Thomas]

      • Paramahansa Yogananda does a great job of interpreting the bible in non-dual terms. It is in a two volume set called “The Second Coming of Christ.” It is wonderful but overwhelming in sheer volume. I have only read parts.

      • More and more I’m coming to see the non-dual quality in spirituality in general, including Christianity. The thing that does it for me is that all of this has to be a subjective understanding, ‘God’ is inside, not outside…

      • Yes, this is true. Only after studying with Yogananda and Mooji, when I looked again at Christian prayers and thought (having grown up Christian) did I see non dualism was in there all along. But it makes more of an impact on me in Buddhism. Somehow the Eastern religious route seems to focus more intently on non-dualism than Christianity does. But it’s there. Even I as a novice can see that.

  4. WHAT DO WE KNOW?

    Somewhere in your forearm there is an atom. Circling the nucleus is an electron. On the electron two small bipeds are standing. The side of the electron they are on is facing away from the nucleus just at present, and they are gazing up at the starlight from distant atoms. Maybe they are on the way home from the pub, or walking their dogs. The night is very still. Says one biped to his companion:

    “Do you suppose there’s anything out there?”

    “What, are you insane or something?” replies the other.

    https://bookofguff.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/what-do-we-know/

  5. Vajrayana Buddhists say that the essence of all phenomena is self-knowing awareness, which is to say that “pure consciousness has no object.” Which is to say that at their root, all phenomena are equal–Brahman– empty of any material reality.

    • Interesting, ‘…the essence of all phenomena is self-knowing awareness’. All this stuff has definitely got my attention, maybe because it’s fairly new to me. I’ve been following the (Thai) Theravada Buddhist way for about 20 years. This new perspective is leading me more in the Mahayanist direction. In early Buddhism there’s not much said about the Buddha commenting on this kind of thing, or if he did, he was non-commital, feeling that to give an answer would not be helpful. But I’m not an expert on the Suttas of the Pali canon. Maybe there is evidence that he did.
      Thanks Gary, I’m in Scotland now, it’s v cold here and totally different, hard to see examples here at the moment 🙂

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