Reply To: Dr Mark Vernon's talk, A Revolution in Attention

  • Don Salmon

    May 22, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Lucy:

    I’m an outlier here – I love Iain’s work but I don’t think it applies literally in a kind of one to one way. There are many ways of “self-ing” and I suspect they involve the whole body as well as vast realms of non-physical realities that neurologists know nothing of. I suppose if one must, you might way the verbal self is related to the LH, but there is definitely a different kind of ego-self in the RH (if you examine Jill Bolte’s writings, you’ll see a sense of separate self VERY much present even in her silent mind. Spirituality is not so simple as we like to make it these days)

    As far as the Self in Buddhism, I fear that words get in our way as well. In fact, there are numerous of the most ancient Pali writings in which the Atman is described using exactly the same terms as the Upanishads, and is considered a core Reality.

    Besides that, there is simply no question in Tibetan Buddhism that all 4 major schools, Nyingma and the others whose spelling I don’t recall) accept continuity of consciousness from life to life.

    There’s also no question that nobody in any contemplative tradition – Christian, Jewish, Taoist, etc – accepts the reality of an inherently existing separate “self.”

    I think really, most of the problems modern people have talking about individuality in spiritual contexts is that we have an underlying physicalist view which prevents us from seeing clearly. I remember quite vivid details from other lives, but those lives were not “Don.” I’m not Don either in that sense.

    Sri Aurobindo, in his chapter in the Life Divine, on the Eternal and the Individual, describes this better than I’ve ever seen anywhere. When we hear the word “individual” our ordinary minds almost always make this into a thing, something separate. But it is THE DIVINE only, the only existent.

    Now, people who only vaguely know Asian philosophy as “illusionist” or “world denying’ think that somehow denies multiplicity. But it is the Divine radiantly, playfully, ecstatically appearing in an individualized form, never separate from the cosmic nor from the transcendent. I don’t know if Rodney is here, but I’m sure he’ll recognize this as the Trinity.

    The same Trinitarian view is in Tibetan Buddhism in discussion of the Dharmakaya.

    You see how impossible words are! This is why except here on the McGilchrist channel, I’m practicing writing for teenagers. Let’s see if I can close this with simpler words.

    The birds are chirping, and the trees outside my window are very very subtly shifting in the wind. I hear Jan in the other room doing Qigong, and I also hear the sound of my Time Machine backup humming.

    There is hearing, seeing, thinking, feeling. There is a radiant, joyful Presence and awareness of all this. As the mind gets quieter and the heart starts to open, it feels directly like Presence/Awareness hearing-seeing-thinking-feeling-itself, but an itSelf which is boundless, infinite, timeless, yet dynamically alive.

    Still too complicated! I’ll keep trying:>))