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Multi-Verse (page two)

A Braiding Of Stories: Buddhist, Taoist & Physics


Continued From Page One

So at this point I’m thinking: “whaoa .... how cool is that!”

But then, in the spirit of Turning The Light Around, begin also to wonder: what if we (including the physicists) weren’t actually looking outward, but instead looking inward? What if the universe thus described were not somehow creating and containing us; but rather it was we who were creating and containing it?

Or, at least, how might this new picture of reality being offered by contemporary physicists function as a metaphor for the workings of mind and Consciousness?

Let’s see ..... what might be, for instance, the “inner version” of the “edge of the cosmos” -- the two-dimensional “film” on which (according to contemporary physicists) is inscribed the holographic information corresponding to our three-dimensional world?

How about: the “film” of alaya-vijanana -- the substrate-consciousness or store-consciousness which, in Buddhism, is understood to contain the karmic seeds (aka vasanas, samskaras) which condition our experience of the the world? In this Buddhist story, it is through this “film” that the Light of our True Nature (similar to the light of a movie projector) flows, to then project what we perceive as our three-dimensional “self and world” (i.e. the dependent and imaginary natures). Strangely similar to the physicist’s story, yes?

It’s basically the same scenario described in Fish-Bowl: Plato’s Cave With A Twist. We tend to believe that we (as human bodyminds) are “in the universe” -- but in Reality, we (as Pure Awareness, via an infinity of perceptual/cognitive viewpoints) are projecting the universe (in a way not unlike Dogen’s moon reflected in a multitude of dewdrops).

The encoded information which determines the specific contours of our holographic universe (our experience of self and world) is, in this turning-the-light-around view, contained not on a film at the edge of the “external cosmos” -- but rather at the edge of the “internal cosmos”: the deepest level of mind, beyond which exists (not some unknown abyss, but rather) only the Light of Pure Awareness (which, necessarily, remains unseen in the context of wholly “objective” i.e. outward-looking scientific inquiries).

~ * ~

But back to the Taoist frog parable. This story has come generally to represent the ignorance of limited vision: of seeing only a very small slice of a much larger picture, by not being able to imagine anything beyond one’s immediate environment. (In other words, it points to the kind of ignorance physicists again and again seek to ameliorate.)

This interpretation seems entirely reasonable. And yet, perhaps there’s another way of understanding it? Naoto Matsumoto, for instance, suggests that Zhuangzi’s metaphor of a frog in a well is intended to point, primarily, to the 360-degree sides of the well as the screen upon which the hologram we call “my world” is projected. In other words, that this was Zhuangzi’s version of Plato’s allegory of the cave!

In what perhaps is a bit of an etymological stretch (?), but an interesting one nevertheless, Matsumoto invokes verse five of the Daode Jing, and in particular the line -- “Between heaven and earth, isn’t it a bellows?” -- to suggest that Laozi (the founder of Taoism) also conceived of the holographic nature of the ten-thousand-things; and that “bellows” was his word for “hologram.” In a very real sense, then, life is a movie; and the contents of our “world” are no more substantial than the illusory, dreamlike characters appearing on the movie-screen.

But back to Zhuangzi’s parable of the frog in the well. About this story, Mr. Matsumoto writes:

“The frog thinks that the wall of the well is the limit of the world, and has never imagined that there is a vast stretch of water called the ocean.

Traditionally, the proverb "The frog in a well knows nothing about the great ocean" has been used to scoff at a person who thinks that he knows all or is the best, because of the lack of knowledge and experience outside his small region.

Do we have the right to laugh at the frog after more than two thousand years' misinterpretation with plenty of confidence?

The frog is a man. The wall of the well is a screen. He is surrounded by a 360˚ screen and projects a life size movie.

When you consider that the concept of holography was not available in his day, Chuang Tzu seemed to come up with the best analogy possible.”

In this interpretation of the story, then, the frog’s limitation is the result not so much of an inability to see beyond his well -- i.e. further in the same external direction -- but rather of his/her inability (like the figures in Plato’s cave allegory) to “turn the light around” or “take the backward step” -- to realizing the True Source of the projections: the “ocean” of Pure Awareness.

(My sense is that this actually was Zhuangzi’s original intended meaning .... and that the alternate, less-to-the-point, persistently dualistic interpretations arose as the parable became more commonly known, as part of Chinese cultural lore. But who knows?)

Continued On Page Three


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