9/11/2015: perception

September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02A Buddhist Reflection: Survivors describe how, after the debris and dust settled, there was only blue sky where the twin towers used to be. It was as if the awful devastation hadn’t occurred, mind turns away… natural reaction, a kind of sleight-of-hand,  conjuring trick – one thing becomes something else, what is seen and what it appears to be merge together. Human beings have a deep familiarity with the illusion – everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch is perceived. Consciousness of the world unfolds and thought rationalises how it appears to be. It’s this, it’s that, the illusion insists on being there until things hidden and obscured are revealed and we cannot return to the unknowingness of how it was before… ignorance is a kind of ignoring.

Form and formlessness; there are planes, explosions and buildings disappear. The video running continuously on YouTube for 14 years, I know the sequence in detail. I also know how the mind habitually joins up all the loose ends of awareness input, interpreting reality, perception is interpretation. Now you see it, now you don’t… a technology that can break up the molecular structure of concrete, turns buildings to dust – hoover it all up, remove melted steel remnants and everything is gone. I try not to think about it anymore; war and disaster, samsara of violence, distress, pain, fear and that underlying sense that something about this is not what it seems to be… learning to live with that uncertainty.

Mind is powered and driven by TV news – forgetting that it’s just a presentation, a performance in the studio. Hair-styling, cosmetics, the newsreader is an actor reading from a script. TV news is a created product based on an event manipulated to get it to fit into media format. TV news producers create a scenario of righteous anger, Sodom and Gomorrah retributional justice; it’s all ‘their’ fault, not our fault, blame and guilt… complicity. The tendency to contract into self, ‘I’ caused it to be ‘wrong’ – no, I don’t want to think about this anymore, don’t want to dwell on anything sinister…

People living in war-ravaged countries (such as Iraq for example) know that when a traumatic event takes place everything changes. After the disaster, our surroundings are seen in a different way; in the aftermath of this truly catastrophic circumstance we come to realise that the smoke was actually dust. What we believed in before this happened disintegrates, a basic truth now included in our worldview… nothing is permanent – history taking place before our eyes. Fourteen years after the experience, some ease can be found in simply knowing the ‘terrorists’ created a shockwave that unknowingly opened a window of awareness to world attention.

Dependent on the eye and forms, visual-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. With what one has mentally proliferated as the source, perception and notions resulting from mental proliferation beset a man with respect to past, future, and present forms cognizble through the eye (Majjhima Nikaya, I, 111–112).

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg#/media/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg
[See also earlier posts:
9/11 2014,
9/11 2013
9/11 2012]
Related source: ‘Working with Perception’ by Ajahn Sucitto


22 thoughts on “9/11/2015: perception

  1. One of those days that we will, for the rest of our lives, remember where we were, what we were doing, who we were with, what the weather was like, what we ate (or not), how we felt, how what we felt was that day’s crisis suddenly disappeared from our radar (or melted into the background) and how a deep sense of shock and foreboding took hold. I don’t need to be reminded.. it will always fall on the day after my birthday…

    • Ah… happy birthday yesterday, a sad context for you. Maybe as the years go by we can find a way to accept 9/11, understand and forgive, in full knowledge of the truth…

    • Thanks Suzanne for choosing the expression ‘a way with words’, it says more than what is here, an underlying truth. It explains also how such a truth can be hidden in plain sight…

    • Thanks for dropping by Sonnische. Sometimes I think what’s happening in Western consumerist society is the opposite of what the Buddha was teaching – that’s how it seems, living here in Asia, so different…

  2. I enjoyed your discussion of the television news– all make-up and studio. It’s like the moment is hi-jacked and coated in so much window-dressing we can no longer see what it was. The inability to penetrate the actual events seems linked to this… The entirety of the experience is a fabrication… perhaps this will help us to recognize– through the pain and distrust– that what we are fearing and distrusting is somehow a put-up job… This whole mode of perceiving is missing the point…


    • Thanks Michael, perception is a misleading thing. Television is the best example – thinking of the Truman Show and how nice it is that the whole thing is a performance, a show being staged for our benefit. Great to sit with the audience, colour, lights and rewarding applause. The only thing is sometimes there’s a glimpse of something curious beyond the pool of the spotlight, something moving in the shadows, is it lighting equipment or cables being jerked across the floor? And you wonder what’s actually going; how does the performance work? Where am I? Another example is the invisible Kuroko in Japanese drama. After some time you don’t notice they’re there, even though you can see they are. It’s an essential part of the illusion. It doesn’t bear thinking about that 9/11 was/is a performance, even so there are all the characteristics… and the natural innate capacity to have awareness includes this.

    • …‘Unborn living, living dead. Bullets strike the helmet’s head…’ Thanks for this memory of 1968, Vietnam War, nearly 50 years ago! Wiki describes it as ‘concern the way news of the war was being presented in the living rooms of ordinary people.’ It’s when we started to be aware of the media’s presentation of news, rather than the actuality of it…

      • I think it’s more universal than we all think. Our full nature is beyond comprehension, and human default is to consistently choose small frames of reference. This is the fundamental ignoring – ignoring the more that is in any moment as well as is oneself.

      • Yes, you could say it’s a characteristic of being human. We have the software to ‘search’ but never ‘find’ the truth because of the fascination with searching. I like your example of the default ‘to consistenly choose small frames of reference’ and ‘ignoring the more…’

      • I’ve been thinking along similar lines. Ignorance (ignoring) seems to have a direction to it; it’s not random – has this driven quality, a belief that what’s wrong is right. Could be an aspect of wisdom, consistently in error and reinforcing itself as it develops. The search is misguided but has a kind of energy resembling wisdom.

      • Essentially, that is the teaching of Tathatagarba: buddha nature germinally implicit which, through processive explorations and expansions of self-revealing consciousness reveals the innate germinal seed-nature (buddha nature). The implicit and perfect and subjective is realized as equally explicit.

      • Thanks for the Tathatagarba, I just read the wiki article. Interesting to consider this, implicit/explicit. I usually don’t go there, having been introduced to Buddhism from the Theravada entry point and the ‘no self’ teaching. The ‘innate germinal seed-nature’ expresses it well, that it leads to ‘self’ is a leap I feel inclined towards and that’s noted…

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