Impermanence and the Bliss of Self-Realization

June 22nd, 2006 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized

RUAHtibetI’ve always enjoyed finding new ways to communicate the nature of being, transcendent of any materialist explanation or subject/object duality. Materialist would have us believe the origin of consciousness is exclusively the product of neurochemistry and complexity. Nearly every argument made to support this position falls within what David Chalmers calls the ‘Easy Problem of Consciousness‘. Obviously, when we poke a molecular here, or tweak a neurotransmitter there, a change in consciousness results. Ask anyone whose taken a psychoactive and they will confirm this for you. But it still begs the question of why, how, and where from is there this experience of consciousness in the first place. This question, is the essence of the ‘Hard Problem of Consciousness‘.

This all ties in very neatly with eastern concepts of ego-loss, impermanence and the bliss of self-realization. From the Buddhist tradition it is meditation on various aspects of impermanence that results in ‘enlightenment’, and from a yogic perspective, the bliss of self-realization is achieved the very same way. Moving beyond the dogma of these traditions, both eastern and western, you can find that they are all basically saying the same thing.

As I’ve gotten older and had more experiences of my own, I no longer validate thoses experiences much on the basis of what others say, traditional or avant garde. I know what I have experienced countless times, and it is from this experiential perspective that I write the following:

As I explore the subtle changes in each moment, endless varieties of bliss are revealed to me. The richness of these experiences is too vast to ever articulate it justly. But what I have learned over the past few years since mastering this process, is that beyond the mind and body, attachments, ego fixations, and other cognitive constructs known as the “self”, lies a freedom of consciousness that is overwhelmingly blissful, confirming, and reassuring to our deepest being. From these experiences I know there is no such thing as “death” as we might understand it. There is no oblivion, or void outside of what we make it. Existence itself is already perfection incarnate, and any concept we harbor in conflict with this basic reality, is our own “make-wrong”, “karma”, or whatever you want to call it. When we let go of our attachments, and surrender to the experience of each moment, the true universe reveals itself to us. This universe is utter perfection beyond our wildest imaginings. Any notion/experience I’ve ever had that doesn’t align with this always turned out to be one of my own impermanent creations. When “I” get out of the way, this bliss of self-realization reveals itself again long enough for to run into my next “make-wrong”, etc.

So what have these experiences taught me about the nature and source of consciousness? Firstly, that consciousness transcends and precedes materialist descriptions of reality. That consciousness is beyond mere matter, energy, space or time. That consciousness always existed and always will exist, that there is only death of form through change and transmutation, while consciousness remains an ever present reality. This is another way of understanding “being in the now”. Time as we know it is a highly dependent process of space-matter-energy, and like everything physicists have described, even the most basic constants of the universe appear to be transmuting.

From USA Today:

A new study in the journal Physical Review Letters suggests that over the lifetime of the cosmos, some fundamental things may not be so fundamental.The study, led by physicists Wim Ubachs and Elmar Reinhold of the Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, suggests that “mu,” the mass ratio of two atomic particles — the proton and the electron — “could have decreased in the past 12 billion years.”

At that’s an interesting notion to physicists, who rely on this fundamental constant to understand the structure of the atoms inside stars, planets and people. In more technical terms, mu sets the scale of the “strong” nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces in the universe (gravity, electromagnetism and the weak force that governs radioactivity are the others.) The strong force binds the sub-atomic particles called quarks to one another inside protons. As fundamental stuff goes, that’s pretty fundamental.

So even science examining its own understand of so-called “contant’s” is discovering that nothing is constant. So why is it that the more we become aware of how un-constant everything is, the more we experience this bliss of the clear light? Perhaps because only then do we realize that the source, the very essence of consciousness is beyond all of that. Some might argue that its all really just a trick of the brain. That somehow by doing diferent types of mediation or drugs, the body and brain reward us with various pleasure chemicals which in turn equate to this “bliss”. That would be true, until one discovers the bliss we are all describing is experientially eternal, and sustainable precisely because it has no attachement to any particular flood of neurotransmitter activity. However, my favorite way of looking at this, is when we as conscious entities experience the perfection of the universe, our all too remaining human selves as part of this perfect universe respond to this perfection in its own uniquely human way with built-in, totally natural and evolved pleasure reward system. And why not? It all seems highly consistent with a perfect universe’s way of expressing itself!

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11 Responses

  • Gyrus says:

    I do think there’s a problem with the expression “mere matter, energy, space or time”. We’re hamstrung by inheriting the terms of the debate from western rationalism. We’re so used to the image of the scientist dismissing ecstatic states of consciousness with the judgement that it’s “just neurons in the brain firing wildly” that we miss how this judgement reveals an attitude that is actually down on matter as much as it is down on consciousness. “Mere” and “just” in the mouths of materialists show that not only do they believe only matter exists, they don’t think even that is much cop. As Alan Watts observed, no modern city looks like it was built by a culture that valued matter above all.

    So if we’re concerned to save some sort of love for our existence – which I think is Paul’s ultimate motive – we turn to “consciousness”, set up in opposition to matter. And the terms of the debate that we’ve inherited tend to channel this excellent motive towards perspectives that can drift to the kind of world-denying views of the East that I have a real problem with. (I don’t think Paul goes this way, I just think the danger’s there.)

    The universe as “perfect” (when experienced through “elevated” consciousness), us as “imperfect” – it just reminds me of Christianity too much. The scientist / humanist flip-side, seeing humans as the only bastions of order and beauty in a senseless universe, is of course just as bad.

    The imperfect and perfect are related. As Lenny Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything / That is how the light gets in.” I definitely tend towards a view of the universe that has more in common with the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic than any refined kind of Brahminic vision of orderly perfection.

  • Paul says:

    I believe my thoughts here are the same thing every non-western, non-Christian sage has been saying for millennia. It forms the basis of Yoga and Buddhism.

    My post was about transcending said dualities. Saying the universe is perfect, includes *everything*, so there is no “imperfection”. Any so-called perceived “imperfections” are products of the mind – illusions, samsara maya, karma, make-wrong, take your pick. Imperfection doesn’t exist, except in the mind. When you get totally into momentary experience, which is really all we ever have, you realize everything is already perfect.

    There is no mind-body duality either, because the only way I have ever discovered to get into the moment is through deep bodily experience. From the bodies perspective, there is only this moment. Only in the mind can we wander to and fro, back in forth in “time”, but all of this wandering still happens right NOW, in the moment. By cultivating body awareness through yoga or other effective forms of meditation brings you into the present moment. When you realize that all that ever really exists is THIS MOMENT, then there are no comparisons with some kind of imaginary standard your gleaning from some past experience or future expectation of how it should be, could be, or would be. Without comparisons, everything is perfect already.

    And that is cause for celebration, rejoice, hope, and more than you could have ever asked for. Any suffering I have experienced since this discovery is the result of my own make-wrong. When I am able to bring myself fully back into the present moment, the bliss of self-realization ignites me further.

    So no, this idea that there must be polarities; that there must be evil for every good, nothing for every something, imperfection for every perfection, is the product of a false dualism

  • Jason Schaumburg says:

    As for Paul’s post, I found it quite moving, although I have to admit my first rection was envy. Its been a while since I moved through “endless varieties of bliss.” One or at most two varieties is about all I can mange these days. Such is life.

    Since I was a child I have had this odd pressing question lurking in the back of my mind that is difficult to articulate but basically is this: is everything going to be OK or is it not? I think that it grew out of my first awareness of death and the worry that somehow that made life fundamentally tragic. Since then the issue has gotten more subtle but is ultimately related to this quiestion of whether I can afford to relax and feel secure in the fact that the universe is unfolding in such a way that its all going to be alright in the end and perhaps more to the point, that I am not going to fuck it up somehow. If its all going to work out in the end, then all of the varieties of pleasure and pain, gain and loss can be accepted in stride as a kind of play. But there is in me this nagging sence of insecurity, like I have forgotten some important detail and that the fate of the universe somehow hangs in the balance.

    When you say that the universe is perfect, I get the impression that you are assured that things are alright and that we can afford to relax, go with the flow and let the universe unflod as it will.

    I have to admit, though, that I haven’t had that experience and as much as I think that is the case on an intellectual level, I have to accept that I don’t live my life that way or feel that in my bones.

    I will say that having you say it is so is very reassuring, and I thank you for that.

    -Jason Schaumberg

  • nowist says:

    liked the post paul. a lot of synchroncity with what i’ve been reading and thinking about recently, well in fact over many years.
    i also find it a recurring “truth” about the primary nature of consciousness. it generally all comes down to that. good to see you’re fond of the now and realise that it “is” the present moment in which all truth and beauty lies.

    eventhorizon. i’m amazed to see you still visiting this site so frequently and good to see you’re still as open, friendly and encouraging as ever.
    still have you ever thought of going out once in a while? i’m sure there must be a local cynics meeting near you.
    for somebody who seems quite intent on smashing anything, anybody says on this site you are here an awful lot. also the first to comment. curious.

    peace and joy to everyone here

  • MCP2012 says:

    Paul: Interesting post as always. Basic Buddhist/Taoist insights. There is such good stuff comin’ down the pike, as you and Rev. Tom well-know. You know me, I always like to try for inter-theoretic, not reduction, but integration or assimilation. And I think Saul-Paul Sirag’s stuff, as well as Gregg Rosenberg’s stuff come into play here. Saul-Paul is so cutting-edge that his stuff has yet to be fully integrated with other good stuff out there. But your msg in this post is spot-on.

    And just think, folks: The theme(s) of Tipler’s *Physics of Immortality* and Mike Perry’s *Forever For All*, as well as Dave Darling’s *Equations of Eternity*—even if Tipler’s physics is off a bit—are also spot on. Even Hans Moravec thinks that death ain’t really the END. I think individual consciousness goes into a (meta)cosmic escrow account (so to speak) for a while after physical death. But pretty soon death will be meaningless. We’re on the way soon to full-fledged personality archiving (search for William Sims Bainbridge’s stuff on this).

    Anyway, if folks would just concentrate on being fully human, which is a necessary precursor to the transhuman and superhuman, we could have an anarcho-eudaimonistic eutopia right now. Instead we have 5 Americans and 2 Haitians trying to blow-up the fuckin’ Sears Tower in Chicago. Let’s all go beyond religion, beyond faith, to conscious awareness…hey, wow, what a concept…! (wink)

    Well, I’m off to home…

    Live long & prosper, all…

    Ciao for now.

  • nowist says:

    go on paul!
    i’m all for tolerance and accepting the situation as it is rather than how you want it to be. to me this is the essence of living in the present moment. still just because you can accept a situation doesn’t mean you have to leave it if it can easily be changed.
    i visit FH for inspiration, joy and beauty and yet found myself walking away pissed off and annoyed. (perhaps EH achieved his mini-mission).

    anyway back to the original post (perhaps we can do that more in future?) i was wondering if you’ve read any eckhart tolle? i’ve just finished ‘a new earth’ and it is clearly written with very central themes of living in the moment, getting the ego out of the way so you can experience reality as it is.

    i now read books of this kind for reminders, to add depth to my understanding but like you i “know’ the actual nature of the universe. by know i mean that intuitive, deep down knowledge which can only come from direct experience and not by thinking, reading or doing. the ego cannot “know” because it is the magor obstacle to knowing. i went from depression to joy, atheism to awareness of universal consciousness in what seemed like a heartbeat.

    this epiphany, awakening, lifting of the veil happened perhaps because my ego had stopped looking. out of desperation it had handed over control to my higher self.
    in response to jason. if you’ve not experienced what paul (and myself have) don’t worry, it can’t be sought in the way a geographical place can. really the best way to access some of the bliss paul is talking about is simply to live in the now, accept it, love it completely.
    that was the nature of my revelation. i realised that everything was happening now, even on a very basic level of in once instant, somebody is born, somebody dies, somebody falls in love, falls asleep. the wind blows, the sun rises and sets, the earth and the universe turns.

    but you wanted to know if everything is going to be ok? well what immediately followed that stream of awareness was a voice which was so clear and confident that i couldn’t doubt it. it said
    “everything is alright, forever.”
    i’ve carried that message with me over the years and though i can tell you it, you have to experience it to determine its truth and validity.

    i hope you do. everyone enjoy their now!

  • Upwinger says:

    Great post Paul — glad to see you back.

  • astrayan-II says:

    I tend to think that if there was a grand enlightenment, we’d all be stampeding towards it. Various explanations have been offered for why we don’t : we’re karmicly not ready for it, seeds fallen on stoney ground, idiotic, too wrapped up in materialism, etc

    The reason we are not stampeding towards enlightenment becomes self evident when one hears of a book called Zen at War.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0834804050/103-1178924-4690252?v=glance&n=283155

    Alerted to the way Zen Buddhists are just as capable of endorsing acts of pure, unspeakable *******, one considers that maybe that type of enlightenment counts for nothing. Perhaps one is better suited to avoiding enlightenment and getting on with something entirely petty or banal.

    I tend to believe that consciousness is related to physicality because when one imagines one’s arm lifting, on the basis of consciousness, it tends to lift. Try this excercise now: lift your arm IF you are conscious. There you go! Proof that consciousness is physical. No safety goggles required.

    I would tend not to believe that consciousness would enter into an artificial computive device on it own accord. No matter how complicated, this device would not become conscious until you made it adaptive, and made it compete for survival at great cost, and fear loss. People find ecstatic states wonderful, because they stand in contrast to plentiful indefinite pain, fear and anguish.

    I shall now put my hand over a stove element and observe the pain of the universe. Ouch… starting to hurt now… the universe must be in pain. I detect some imperfection in the universe. Yes, definitely, there is so much pain in the universe, there must be some flaw in its fabric.

    After this experiment, I’ve concluded that pleasure is an aberration, and that consciouness arrived in animals so that we could feel the pain of the universe, and plot petty political vendettas.

    I think we will have to leave the hard problem of consciousness to a really big supercomputer. I don’t know why I posted this. I’m probably off topic.

  • Devon says:

    good stuff paul…although I must disagree the universe is amazing but it’s not the epitome of perfection, it’s goverened by sound scientific studies, inotherwords there is no soul to the universe it just so happens it works out the way it does, all do to the physical side of things. I like the idea of living for the moment and how the body is always in present while our brains drift through past, present, and future thinking…good stuff.

  • nowist says:

    as to astrayan’s and devon’s comments. there really is no way to argue with you. your respective beliefs about the nature of consciousness, the perfection of the universe or the presence of pain will always find suitable amounts of evidence to back them up.

    as will contrary beliefs. still in the nature of debate there is strong scientific evidence to consciousness preceding matter and an implicate order being present. try david bohm’s ‘wholeness and the implicate order’ a classic physics text which refers to quantum entanglement as “proof” that the universe is hologramatic in nature.

    the existence of pain does not (to my mind) indicate imperfectness. i consider the taoist yin yang symbol to be a fine representation of this. dark and light exist though are balanced and surely one definition of perfection is balance?

    also it is once again a question of dualities, good and bad. black and white. pain and pleasure. the egoic mind creates seperatness, creates dualities, though it really has no idea about the universe being one complete, interconnected system.

    another illustration of the nature of pain is what one person finds imobilising, intolerable pain another finds minimal even pleasurable.
    just think about the tolerance of pain both physical and mental and how it differs from one person to the next.

    the non-physical nature of consciousness is a tricky one. but if we can all agree that consciousness “is” then all we must agree upon is when it came into existence. when there was a suitable degree of material complexity, (the reductionist, materialist view) or prior to the material universe (yes this is the classic god/consciousness created the universe story).
    i’ve held both views in my time but now err towards the primary, fundamental nature of consciousness.

    this was a severe shock to a lapsed dogmatic atheist though because it came through my senses (and despite what we may say about the validity of logical deduction based on sense data it is still filtered through the beliefs, predjudices and reality tunnels of those “infalliable” scientists.) yes the revelatory experience is a subjective one though then again so is all experience, even rational, scientific experience.

    if you’re still convinced by sound scientific principles then perhaps you’ve not read any or have not fully understood the implications of quantum mechanics. take the uncertainty principle, shroedinger’s cat or the problem of infinite regress. these all indicate that the universe/consciousness is unknowable, dependant upon the observer and lots of other bonkers shit.

    loads of quantum quotes here: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics

  • Paul says:

    I have little time on the internet these days, so I’ll have to make these responses quick:

    Devon: Hey buddy! Long time no see. 🙂 It’s all about the context in which you choose to see the world. If you choose to see the world exclusively through science, which is a woefully incomplete, then all you will get is a lopsidded and even “painful” perspective. This is just more make wrong keeping people out of the present moment of REAL, tangible, palpable experience. The arogance of scientists (not science) is that they pretend it has monopoloy understanding of all things, including consciousness. Even the smartest cognitive scientists still have little clue why consciousness is around in the first place. Any claim to the contrary is utter bilge from what I can see.

    This monopolisitic claim to all knowledge is reminescent of the Catholic Inquisition don’t you think? You should definitely read “The New Inquisition: The Citadel of Science” by Robert Anton Wilson.

    MCP2012: I failed to find any article on Mike Anissimov’s blog that claims to have refuted my ‘Super Free Will’ article.

    Nowist: Thanks for the commentary – couldn’t have responded better myself.

    Astrayan II – If I understand what you’re saying, I believe I disagree with you. A common mistake Westerners make about “enlightenment” is that it is some kind of end state or completion. From most Eastern persepctives however there is no end to enlightment – only endless varieties of enlightend bliss moving ever “upward”. We make the mistake that there is some grand finale or “grand enlightment” as you call it because of our own limited perspective. When you climb up the “holy mountain” what you realize that having this increased perspective simply shows you have far you’ve come, and how far you still have to go.

    In other words, being asleep relative to these elevated states of consciousness not a bad thing, only what is in this very moment. It it what it is, and the very next moment, every moment, we have the chance to awaken to the perfection of all things.



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