Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Truly no limits

I love this quote from Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche:

The essence of [Buddhism] can be reduced to a single point: The mind is the source of all experience, and by changing the direction of the mind, we can change the quality of everything we experience. When you transform your mind, everything you experience is transformed.
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There are truly no limits to the creativity of your mind.
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To the extent that you can acknowledge the true power of your mind, you can begin to exercise more control over your experience.
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If our perceptions really are mental constructs conditioned by past experiences and present expectations, then what we focus on and how we focus become important factors in determining our experience. And the more deeply we believe something is true, the more likely it will become true in terms of our experience.
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What happens when you begin to recognize your experiences as your own projections? What happens when you begin to lose your fear of the people around you and conditions you used to dread? Well, from one point of view -- nothing. From another point of view -- everything.
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From a Buddhist perspective, the description of reality provided by quantum mechanics offers a degree of freedom to which most people are not accustomed, and that may at first seem strange and even a little frightening.
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It is a state that literally includes all possibilities, beyond space and time.
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While doing so may open up possibilities we might never before have imagined, it’s still hard to give up the familiar habit of being a victim.

What could he be talking about here? Is he just saying: your thoughts color your perceptions, and so you have a little wiggle room in how you experience reality? And what does he mean by "being a victim?"

One possibility is to consider that "your experience" or "your reality" do not differ from just "reality." Let's rewrite his words and see how that goes.

The essence of [Buddhism] can be reduced to a single point: The mind is the source of all reality, and by changing the direction of the mind, we can change the quality of everything in reality. When you transform your mind, everything in reality is transformed.
...
There are truly no limits to the creativity of your mind.
...
To the extent that you can acknowledge the true power of your mind, you can begin to exercise more control over reality.
...
If our perceptions really are mental constructs conditioned by past experiences and present expectations, then what we focus on and how we focus become important factors in determining reality. And the more deeply we believe something is true, the more likely it will become true in terms of reality.
...
What happens when you begin to recognize reality as your own projections? What happens when you begin to lose your fear of the people around you and conditions you used to dread? Well, from one point of view -- nothing. From another point of view -- everything.

Does that sound a little too radical? Well, didn't he say it would be something we find "strange", "frightening," and might have "never before imagined"?

Let's consider some other options.

One is that your experience changes, even though things stay exactly the same. You see a red cup, even though it's still blue. No, I don't think he wants us to do that.

Or maybe he's just saying: you'll have a little more flexibility in how you see things. It will still be a blue cup, but now it will be a pretty blue cup. Everything will remain as-is, but you'll be free to feel differently about it. But is that strange, frightening, and something you've never imagined? Does that describe "truly no limits" to the creativity of mind? I don't think so.

The final possibility is that your experience changes in the following way. You experience a red cup. You experience other people calling it a red cup. You experience instruments measuring it as red.

In this case, in what sense is the cup not "actually" red? What is the difference between "your experience" and "reality"?

Perhaps it helps to know that in (Mahayana) Buddhism, the central doctrine is śunyatā, or emptiness. It means, roughly, that there is no way things "actually" are.

You might be wondering: if this is so, why haven't you seen other people taking advantage of this? Well, if this metaphysics is correct, the question becomes: why haven't you allowed a reality in which other people are taking advantage of it? To scientifically determine whether or not it's true, you would have to do an A-B test and replace your metaphysical beliefs and see what happens. Of course, it takes something like meditation to genuinely access that deep level of your mind.

So I think there's only one honest reading. But I can't accept it, because I refuse to give up the familiar habit of being a victim. That and I refuse to believe that those crazy "law of attraction" ideas might have a sliver of truth.

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