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Let There Be Light

The Matrix & Light Metaphors In Nondual Spiritual Traditions


Several years ago, I was delighted by a rumor that Tibetan lama Mingyur Rinpoche was a great fan of the movie Matrix -- and that he had, at some point, made an explicit comparison between the portrayal (in the stopping-the-bullets scene) of Neo’s “enlightenment” and the first Bodhisattva Bhumi (in which one manifests a direct realization of emptiness).

So was doubly-delighted to stumble upon this account of someone who was actually there in person, and so could confirm this rumor as fact:

“Mingyur Rinpoche, a rising star of the exile-born lamas (and now my main meditation teacher), offered very helpful elaborations on the practice, and also gave the transmission of the ancient, ear-whispered commentaries on the Matrix (“When Neo sees the electricity and stops the bullets, that’s a very good description of arriving at the first Bhumi“).”

(Maybe this is the real solution to the gun-control issue? Kidding .... )

Anyway, in the referenced scene, Neo-qua-Sleeping-Beauty, after having pricked his finger on a samsaric spindle (or was it having his heart pierced by a half-dozen bullets?) is -- after the destined one-hundred seconds -- brought out of his death-sleep by the kiss of a handsome princess.

Thus resurrected, he quite literally “sees through” the illusion of the matrix: what used to appear as solid is revealed as shimmering light; what previously appeared as the angular, three-dimensional hallway now pulses in warp-speed fashion; what used to be impossibly difficult (fighting the agents) is suddenly effortless. And then, having fully realized his not-two-ness with all-that-is, he fearlessly dives into and merges with the body of his arch-nemesis -- Agent Smith -- fully obliterating/liberating that dis-eased energy, as it were, “from within.”

~ * ~

Interlude: The Physics Of Light

A cliff-notes version of how physicists talk about “light” --

* Colloquially, the word “light” points to a range of electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the human eye.

* Electromagnetic energy is currently believed -- by a majority of physicists -- to have a paradoxical dual nature, as both particle and wave: Described classically, it results from electric and magnetic fields which propagate through space, forming electromagnetic waves. In terms of quantum mechanics, light consists of “photons” -- particles or packets (discrete quanta) of energy -- which move at the speed of light.

* The “speed of light” -- which in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is held to be a constant (c) -- is 186,282 miles per second.

* Einstein’s famous formula -- E=mc-2 -- describes the transformation of energy (e) into mass (m) -- i.e. points to their fundamental equivalence, in relation to the speed of light.

* Implications of this formula include: As the velocity of a material object approaches the speed of light, its mass becomes infinite, i.e. infinite energy is required for it to actually reach the speed of light. As a result, no material object is able to accelerate to the speed of light. The term “Singularity” points to this seeming barrier of the speed of light.

* As velocity increases toward the speed of light, time and space “distort” -- as they adjust to keep the speed of light constant. So for instance, in what is known as “time dilation,” the faster you go, the more time seems to slow down; and -- the spatial equivalent -- moving objects appear (from an external perspective) to shrink.

* However: the mathematics of the Theory of Relativity does not exclude the possibility of supra-light speeds, under special circumstances. For instance: the existence of particles (tachyons) that travel faster than light at all times -- rather than having to accelerate from lesser speeds to reach the speed of light.

* Very interesting: if we were to imagine a spaceship traveling at supra-light speeds (via say, the Starship Enterprise’s warp-drive -- its faster-than-light propulsion system): as this spaceship accelerates -- moves faster and faster at supra-light speeds -- it would actually lose more and more mass, i.e. become lighter and lighter, until at infinite velocity, its mass would become zero. [In other words, at supra-light speeds -- beyond the Singularity -- the relationship between velocity and mass is the inverse of what it is at less-than-light-speeds.]

~ * ~

Back to Neo and Mingyur Rinpoche. Here Rinpoche hints at what a direct realization of emptiness/impermanence (i.e. the first Bhumi) offers, en route to eventually “realizing that death is not real” -- i.e. becoming established in/as the Unborn, Dharmakaya, Buddha-Nature.

Is the first Bhumi -- the direct realization of emptiness -- perhaps something akin to a metaphoric Singularity? Somehow, we reach the speed of light .... But how would this be possible, since -- according to the laws of physics -- our mass would have to become infinite?

Continued On Page Two


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