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Another key teaching in Zen Buddhism concerns duality: ways in which we separate I-You, day-night, life-death, thought-action, this and that — suggesting instead (as I understand it) that each of the parts are One. Night turns into day only because our organizing mind describes it thus. What actually occurs is the gradual and seemless change in light as the earth and stars move. Makes sense, non?

Perceiving You and Me as One is more difficult to comprehend (for me), yet watching a mother and infant communicate by touch, smell, gesture, and sounds demonstrates that they’re intimately connected: in fact, while in the womb, the child was one-with the mother, even as it developed a separate operating system.

What brought this on, you ask? During last night’s sitting at Fernwood Zendo it occurred to me that such meditation instructions as “counting your breath” and “notice sensations arise” are examples of a dualistic way of seeing. There’s the breath and there’s the one counting. There’s the pain in the leg and the one noticing it come and go.

Ever so often, it seems, “I” move past this-and-that and locate presence at the centre of the breath. During such moment there’s no breather and no observer, only breath. “No objects, no subjects, only this,” writes Ken Wilber,

“No entering this state, no leaving it; is absolutely and eternally and always the case: the simple feeling of being, the basic immediacy of any and all states, … prior to the split between inside and outside, prior to seer and seen, prior to the rise of the worlds, ever-present as pure Presence, the simple feeling of being … I-I is the box the universe comes in.”

Does this sound familiar at all?

source: Wilber, K. (2000). Sex, ecology, spirituality: the spirit of evolution. 2nd ed. Selections reprinted in: The collected works of Ken Wilber, vol. 6. Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, p. 318. © 1999 Ken Wilber. 


2 responses »

  1. Life is full of both dualities and interconnections. It simply depends on how we look at the world around us – distinct pieces or parts of a whole. Einstein put it this way:

    “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

    • Aware of your preference for the scientific view, I’m glad you’ve come upon Dr. Einstein’s beautiful words. Did you know that while a clerk in the Vienna Patent Office, he was also a Zen student? (kidding, but could well have been). Thank you, Nicole.


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