Totality Too - TOTALITY REVISITED – by Jim Ferguson 2001
As I now revisit my original statements of Totality, last updated some years ago, starting this day, May 6, 2001 – I cannot help but wonder at how one’s perceptions develop – certainly how mine have, at least.
Today is also the celebration of Lord Gautama Buddha’s birthday, generally held to be circa mid-April each year, but linked to the lunar cycle – this being some 2,530+ anniversary of that profound existence.
Today, again merely by co-incidence, happens to be the day when I feel I have advanced one more, small step towards enlightenment in the classical sense, and all thanks to my new teacher, who entered my life path just four months ago.
As a Buddhist saying goes, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". I sincerely believe that, I have found a new teacher. Notwithstanding that, if we truly live in each moment, everything and everyone is our teacher, I hold that there are also special teachers who we can recognize as such.
When one has become to feel complacent, comfortable in where they find themselves, it is easy to succumb to a false sense of contentment, as I had. My new teacher, in such a brief period, has managed to compel me, once again to question this satisfactory state, and to re-awaken my pursuit of Truth, the meaning of life and so on.
I do not claim to be the owner or originator of these concepts, since I believe these lessons to be nothing more or less than ultimate truth and therefore have existed long before I entered this world and will remain long after I depart.
If one holds to the belief that we attract our self-reflection to us in our relationships, that we echo ourselves in all our dealings, or that we attract what we need to our Life Path, then she has entered my life to remind me of my quest and I as a lesson for her also. In defining meaning in what we say, of saying what we mean, and of realizing the value of silence, I have been rewarded in having my new special friend join my life path at this time.
I have another very special friend too, who has been a reflection of my aspirations for some years also and also one to examine these concepts, whether she was aware of this or not, whose discussions and her own insights have helped me evaluate my own thoughts. She needs no name since I have shared her importance to me personally.
My many other friends and associates – every one who has joined my life path and travelled it with me over the years – have also given me lessons and I value each and every one immensely for their contributions and friendships (whether perceived or not).
Religion – faith – belief: whatever it may be called is a construct we all conjur at some stage to help us rationalise our existence. It usually arises from the exposure we have to the society values and icons we may discover in our life path. However they manifest, they are merely different aspects of the same construct and are intrinsically equal!
During the past few years, I have revisited my earlier, less-intensive, study of Buddhism, and studied the teachings of several schools and lineages, finally settling on the Zen-style of study. I do not say that I feel Buddhism is a better philosophy than any other – it has simply helped me develop my own perception – confirming my own Totality, and empowering me to refine and complete it, which is now the subject of this document.
Charlotte Joko Beck, the founder of the Everyday Zen school has adopted a version of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths, which I also hold to be valid, and I want to include that here:
Caught in the self-centred dream – only suffering; -- (Life is suffering)
Holding to self-centred thoughts – exactly the dream; -- (Caused by anger, ignorance and greed)
Each moment, Life as it is – the only teacher; -- (There is a remedy - )
Being just this moment - compassion’s way. -- (the 8-fold path)
Although the 8-fold path is detailed formally as Right – view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration, it can be more easily defined simply as love, compassion and empathy, or simply love alone.
We must strive to avoid harm to all other sentient beings, and I also maintain that that same love should be applied to Nature’s entire realm equally also.
The native American Indians of the USA have a saying:
Humankind has not woven the web of life;
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web – we do to ourselves;
All things are bound together – all things connect.
I hold this view as Truth and to be immutable also.
I have now appended "Lead" to my definition of Totality:
Totality = the Meaning of Life = Truth = Love = Love + Laugh + Learn + Lead
The first three L’s are those elements through which we can discover and experience Truth for ourselves – the fourth L is what we then do with this awareness to help others.
Truth, in its purest form is immutable and transcends all the efforts of self-interested groups to try to mould it to their own view. Sadly, this is why Learning is a key element of Totality, to wipe away the deceptions and falsehoods which shroud Truth from so many. Sadly, many groups’ self-interests have concealed Truth from many for centuries.
Elements of Truth can be found in the lessons of the entire world’s recognised prophets and philosophers and no doubt by countless others not (yet) recognised. From Socrates (and before) to Mother Teresa (and beyond) we have been presented with statements of Truth and all we need to learn is here for us to discover – should we choose to.
Every perception we make in this life is bounded by the Reality in which we have been placed – whether the perceptions are perceived as physical, dream or illusory – since they really are all the same. At the same time though, the questions and answers formulated out of this reality, are valid for the whole of Truth – not simply just this reality.
What do I mean?
In this reality we now share, we experience a Universe comprising a myriad of enormous and sub-atomic marvels in which we, also, exist. We are born, live, age and die and so follow countless billions of others, both before and after us. But this Universe is nothing more than a construct of energy vibrations emanating from that same One of which we are all a part. The closest we can come to glimpsing that true One-ness is by allowing our mind to look inwards for a moment.
I call the perceived reality which we are a element of, the ThisNow reality, which is nothing more than a small part of Truth, which can also be called The One or One-ness – however there really are no words, or even concepts, to truly describe One-ness, since any label merely acts to try to encapsulate it within ThisNow boundaries, which is, of course, impossible. So, from this point on, when referring to things of this existence, I shall use the term ThisNow and when referring to elements beyond ThisNow, I shall simply use the terms Truth or One-ness.
I believe we receive glimpses of what Truth really is many times in our lives, while meditating, dreaming, sexual intercourse, resting and even working. Such glimpses last but an instant and as soon as the ThisNow influences claw back that realization, it disappears – it may best be described (though imperfectly) as that momentary bliss/joy and combined vacuous/non-attachment/release/freedom we experience in sexual climax and meditative samadhi.
ThisNow is composed of nothing more than an energy, manifested out of One-ness, and any person or thing equally, that we label as something or someone and which has its own planned term of existence within ThisNow. In human form, with the added "gift" of cognitive thought, we may also append a further label of "identity", such as me – Jim – given to me by my parents as a reward for entering ThisNow. We automatically append an "I" also, to create a separation from it all – to separate "I" from "other than I".
Even the past, present and future of ThisNow does not exist outside of ThisNow, and there are probably an infinite number of ThisNow’s within Truth, but that is irrelevant.
This "I" which I have been given, serves as the pivot or key to my awareness and acceptance of ThisNow and actually serves as the binder and focus of everything we then do from birth, until awakened otherwise. This concentric "I" is so real to us, that it echoes society’s first perception of the heavens relationship to earth – that everything revolved around this earth, not this one planet sharing a universal motion too complex to map even in three dimensions, as it truly exists.
From the moment of our birth, we become focused solely upon our own personal needs and wants, the satisfaction of everything to our desire, regardless of the needs of others. And this, more or less, is how we then progress through ThisNow until we die. Even when we join with a partner, the motives are derived out of desire first, then evolving into more fundamental and beneficial purposes later.
How we perceive ThisNow is also geared to that concentric view from the centre "I", emanating outwards in rings of awareness and attachment, like an arrow’s paper target. The highest value ring at the centre is "I", then each ring from the centre is apportioned an ever-decreasing value of attachment or awareness of ThisNow.
For example, the flea on the dog’s back, still has its "I" centre, may perceive other fleas in the inner rings at differing levels of attachment, but could perceive the sum total of it’s ThisNow, the last ring, as nothing more than the entire surface area of the dog. It may not even be aware of changing dogs, were it to jump from one to another.
Similarly, in our own unique version of ThisNow, we see only what has been accorded us in our ThisNow – some people living in under-developed parts of this planet, may not be aware of other continents or even of the limits of their own continent. Some people have never experienced snow, others desert, others mountains and so on. Does this therefore make these less real? No. Nor should we limit our understanding of ThisNow to just that which our senses and science may detect – for it is multi-dimensional.
How we experience the various aspects of our ThisNow also affect our perceptions. Seeing snow-covered mountain in a picture is certainly not the same as standing in the snow on that mountain. The height of mountains may not be gauged from looking down from an aircraft flying overhead, yet can be felt climbing up their steep sides.
So, even, just two people in close company will be simultaneously perceiving ThisNow differently, just because it is impossible for them to be occupying the same space and aspect at the same time – so one must see a slightly altered view always.
When it comes our time to leave ThisNow, because we have been so soundly rooted to it, by this centrally-aligned "I", we will automatically strive to fight such departure and cling to the very last threads of this being. This is soooooo wrong!
Our true self, if there were such an entity, lies outside of ThisNow, in the mind-space, which transcends all other possible ThisNows and is both an emptiness and One-ness, of which what we perceive of as our own Mind, is but a small part.
Just as when we die, our body becomes a part of the ecology of ThisNow, so too does our "I" – our name, for it has also been born out of ThisNow. What does go on, though, and profoundly, is the mind – that observing, thinking, loving entity which is non-judging and impartial of all things. The actual separation of this mind from ThisNow is described in the Buddhist scriptures, called the dissolution of the elements, and frees it to return, un-encumbered into One-ness. It is only the "I" in ThisNow that ultimately judges.
There is no right or wrong, good or bad – the society into which we are absorbed formulates such definitions. The fundamental response in all our dealings should simply be Be Kind – treat others as you would like to be treated. This is the second ring of Love.
The inner-most first ring is so we can truly and unconditionally love ourself. If we don’t love ourself, it is impossible to share love outwardly through those rings. When we have truly accomplished true, complete, unconditional Love for all existence, all the inner rings simply dissolve into the furthermost ring encompassing all into the One – this is true enlightenment! This transcends ThisNow and will merge ThisNow with One-ness, since any/all boundaries will simply cease to be. Wow, have I got a long way to go..!
The Buddha, in his own search for enlightenment first tried to gain it through self-sacrifice and deprivation, the opposite of his earlier life as a prince – learning that neither path offered any more or less than suffering. What the Buddha did come to realize was that it is the middle path, that without extremes of view, thought or emotion is that which truly frees us from the grip of ThisNow. Here we have the essence of enlightenment - instead of being an active player in ThisNow’s life games, we should become the observer – let us do what is necessary for survival, but not become entangled in the wonderings and speculations which we constantly apply to ourselves.
We should instead, work on cleansing our own perception of ThisNow, then actively striving to help all others in their daily survival, hopefully allowing them to develop that same realization of Truth for themselves. How?
By example!! The only real teacher is example-led experience – hence another element or key of the meaning of life is Leading others. One cannot force a teaching upon another, but one can be led, since when one sees the benefits of a certain way, they are far more likely to adopt the same for themselves.
Though far from enlightened myself, I continually endeavour to "stay in the moment" as often as possible, and I hope that this is reflected positively in how I present to those I interact with. If this in turn can act as a favourable reflection for others, then I am happy to serve as such an example.
None of us are perfect in terms of enlightenment. Which means we all have the potential to become so. This does not mean that we are otherwise imperfect, for we are all exactly what and who we are meant to be in this moment and so are perfect from that perspective.
But that also does not imply that we must remain the same throughout our journey through ThisNow. The fact we have been given the power to choose, to think, to discern, should tell us that we should continually strive to attain the best for us and others and to realize Truth from within ThisNow.
While we each have our own life path through ThisNow to experience, we are not meant to travel it as a solitary soul. Just as all energy is composed of a positive and a negative, as the simplest depiction of any thing in ThisNow requires two dimensions (at the very least, and really three or even four), so too every one is meant to share ThisNow in union with another. We cannot enter ThisNow without two people’s union making a new body, and as we have two eyes, two ears and so on, we are meant to share our life path’s. A hint of that is in the associations we make with others during our path, those which grow into meaningful associations, also bring with them additional emotional (physio-electrical-chemical-neural) reactions, all aimed at reinforcing the beneficial nature of forming such connections.
It is natural for all of us to seek companionship and friendship with others and there should be no barriers to where such relationships may lead, since they are gateways to the experience of Truth – as portals in ThisNow, through which we can truly glimpse Truth in all its purity, beauty and majesty. A journey together has twice the chance of arrival as one taken alone..!
The term "soul-mate", or "other-half", or similar references to one life-path companion has more to do more with the person whose own life path is, for that period of time, aligned with, overlaid, or running parallel with our own. Since nothing in ThisNow should be seen as perpetual or permanent (since it is an impossible concept given the nature of ThisNow), such relationships should not then be seen as requiring permanency either – should they evolve as such, so be it, but there should not be any expectation that such must be so). The act of sharing a part of one’s existence should be enough – for as in many other aspects of ThisNow, it is certainly not the quantity, but surely the quality of the sharing that is more valuable.
Similarly such "soul-mates" should not really have an exclusivity to just one relationship – since, as we are really connected anyway, we intrinsically have a bonding between everyone simultaneously. Therefore, it is what we share with another that represents that bonding, not the sharing itself, and since everything is free of judgmental labelling in Truth, whatever is shared between the two, is part of their life paths moving ever so inextricably towards the goal of enlightenment.
What is the reason for our experiencing ThisNow..?
Does it matter..! We are here and that is sufficient. If we can truly live the role of Observer, or of Teacher, then it matters not why we are here. If we are here in the role of Student, then we know why we are here - to discover Truth.
Enlightenment by whatever definition one selects, means ultimate awareness. The awareness to which this refers is Truth and this is manifested as Love – the pure exhortation of un-restrained and un-limited compassion, empathy and care for all of Nature’s gifts of and to ThisNow and beyond.
The beauty of a colour or a sound, the perfection in a snow-drop or a flower, the symmetry of a ripple in a still pond of a pebble dropped. The marvel of bio-engineering found in all living organisms, and the wonder of the ever-evolving Universe – all are examples of the majestic beauty of how Truth can manifest.
It should also humble us when we see the totally insignificant part that each of us plays in its unfolding – but still we see our own part as so important and crucial. This is the "I".
From Learning, we can begin to Laugh – to enjoy and celebrate the beauty when, just as the lotus rises out of the swamp, we come to eliminate the suffering which ThisNow manifests to the ignorant, and expose Truth in all its magnificence.
Why is ThisNow separate from Truth..? It isn’t – it is a part of it!
Does a fish see the water it swims in – or do we see the air through which we move? We don’t. Even in a darkened room with a stream of light beaming through, the specks floating before us are not the air itself, but particles of ThisNow floating in that medium.
If we were to simply be in Truth, WE wouldn’t exist..! There is no I or we or you per se!
Two movies, which graced our screens in recent years, were "The Truman Show" and "Matrix". Both depicted the stars as totally accepting of their worlds, completely oblivious of the "real" world that had produced their own perceived "reality". Also, in each case, their world was also clearly centered around their respective "I" personas. The separateness of "the rest" from their "I" served to reinforce their perceptions, and they pursued their life paths seeking always to satisfy the needs of their "I". The Matrix’s star was a seeker of Truth, but what he was presented with was a profound shock when he was first exposed to it. A poignant phrase in that movie was "why do my eyes hurt? – because you haven’t used them until now!". Perhaps the most profound statement from that movie was simply "there is no spoon!"
So it must be also for the majority of ThisNow’s souls when they die and are suddenly presented with the Truth. I suspect that it is this shock which, for many, throws them immediately back into a ThisNow, since they were not prepared for the realization. They are then challenged to prepare themselves for the next unveiling, which is then repeated and repeated until they finally welcome the return to One-ness without fear or longing for the ThisNow they have now left. This is my understanding of reincarnation. There is therefore no such thing as salvation, redemption, forgiveness, hell, purgatory, heaven, nirvana, or even karma in the influential sense – simply ill-preparedness for the return.
I qualify this slightly though. The possibility exists, I feel, that at the moment of death, if the person begins judging their life, or becomes drawn to some unresolved aspect of their past, it is feasible that such thoughts could act as the bait and hook, for pulling them back to a ThisNow, where they will be given another opportunity to resolve that matter. This may not be the same scenario, but an environment where the issue can be resolved.
This is why some people come into ThisNow already with some challenge, such as infirmity or incapacity, while others may acquire similar in the very early stages of the life – and do not even get the chance to create such "karmic" inputs – they come with them. The same can be said for those "born into wealth" and so on. Some are born simply to quickly die, giving them another chance to escape ThisNow.
Equally, since there is also the duality of everything – a negative is balanced by a positive – should a person at the death-time become pre-occupied about a particularly pleasant memory, this could also be the catalyst for them being distracted into another ThisNow. The fact is, if they fail to recognise the separation for what it is and welcoming the transition, it is so easy for the "I" to fight for continued self-preservation in the apparition of ThisNow, despite the added fact that that identity will still be lost in the process (but it doesn’t know that!).
The popular concept of ghosts – those souls who could not separate from Life to "pass over" echoes this idea – except that, in my opinion, the move from ThisNow to Truth is exponentially more profound than that simple idea, and the energy which may be generated from such transition, could well be the same energy and of the same order of magnitude that feeds ThisNow itself.
Sadly, in consideration of those two movies, as they left their perceived realities into a "more real" reality in each case, what I perceived in both, was that they were still being deceived and were simply captives in their ThisNow, still in the mirage of that primary world – but then, there wouldn’t be a sequel to the movie, would there?
Questioning the elements of ThisNow, as they are presented to us, is the only way to effectively remain in the moment, and thus have the chance to glimpse, or even grab hold of, Truth. Such challenges need to be focused on how they influence our life path and why, and not on their own relative presence itself, since that is a matter of their own journey or part of ThisNow.
Above all, whenever such a challenge is mounted, it should be introspective, avoiding any potential harm to the subject of the challenge itself, but then the challenge should be ruthless, for without that, we can never expect to realize Truth, for it will fight to the death to prevent such revelation – such is the nature of ThisNow.
The three "poisons" of Buddhist philosophy – anger, ignorance and greed (attachment) are the enemies we must fight to gain release from ThisNow. Love, wisdom and generosity are the weapons with which to wage that war. But above all, our most effective weapon, from which these tools derive, is awareness/mindfulness of each and every moment. The "Now" of ThisNow is the gateway to Truth.
Keats said "Truth is Beauty and there is Beauty in Truth" and this immutable too… we must embrace it, enjoy it and share it with everything that constitutes ThisNow.
---- as at May 13, 2001 ----