Read more from the Being Truly Human September 2015 Newsletter
An article written by Phiroz Mehta for the May 1982 issue of The Middle Way, reproduced by kind permission of the Buddhist Society
The ORIGIN, a unitary Whole, is primordial Undifferentiated Creative Energy (not to be understood as any of the forms of energy known to Science). It is infinite, self-replenishing, inexhaustible, indestructible. The ORIGIN is also Pure Awareness, and Fundamental Substance (quite immaterial). These three named potencies — Energy, Awareness, Substance — designate the One single ORIGIN, just as John Michael Smith (and each name has its distinctive meaning) identifies one single person.
The unitary Whole rests in vibrant quiescence — vibrant because alive; quiescent because all its potencies are in equilibrium, in unconstrained freedom and perfect order. This equilibrium is rocked by a stir of Transcendence in Eternity — the primal Act — Karma. Thereupon, undifferentiated Creative Energy differentiates and simultaneously Pure Awareness proliferates complementarily and interactively. Grades of Awareness-Being emerge, interfused in each other and fully inter-related to one another, preserving the unity of the One Total Reality. These grades, beyond all ordinary sense-perception, have distinctive powers which function universally.
One of these grades is Mind, that cosmic archetypal expression of Energy Awareness which plays the directive role when the Cosmos, of which our observable universe is only a fragment, comes into being.
The primal transcendental Karma has no cause-effect sequence in it, no beginning-proceeding-ending, no birth-death. It is free, blissful Creativity in Eternity. It has no form, no measurability, no limitations. It is a discontinuous, creative pulse, non-repetitive, i.e. not giving rise to the same creation as any other pulse. There is constant, incredibly swift renewal, transmutatively not transformatively. There is a new Totality with every pulse (Karma’s transcendental functioning), which is the meaning of “the complete working out” of Karma. Where Eternity is concerned, there is only immediacy, neither time nor succession. So too in our worldly, mortal sphere, but in terms of time and succession. Because it happens with extreme rapidity, our sluggish consciousness is unable to be aware of the complete working out of karma from moment to moment.
We may call this pulse of Creation the Life-Death pulse in which Life and Death are simultaneous. But here Death is the transmuter, not the ender. Preferably then we should call the pulse of Creation the “Life/other-Life” pulse.
By this Action in Eternity, the immaterial Fundamental Substance, compressed into a single pin-point, bursts open explosively and becomes our universe of space-time-mass-energy (the forms of energy known to Science), displaying infinite variety — the One as the Many, the countless Many as the indivisible One. This universe, the apparatus through which the ORIGIN manifests itself, is wholly perishable. Marvellous though it may be, it is merely “one garment of the Lord”. We humans, as multitudes of existential beings (rūpa to viññāna), are similarly the wholly perishable apparatus, the numerous ‘garments’ of the One Imperishable attā or ātman (the Transcendent non-being) — do not say ‘Self; in English, ‘self, quite sensibly, means just the perishable psycho-physical organism. All beings, identifiable entities, are absorbed at death into the One all-pervasive non-being and are completely divested of separate identity — like rivers entering or raindrops falling into the ocean. The One non-being emanates, or presses out of itself, numerous existential beings, all of whom are new beings.
Consider the procreative process. Each parent produces a gamete (a mature reproductive cell). The process of development of a gamete, male or female, differs from that of a non-reproductive cell, for it involves the rearrangement of the genetic material inherited by each parent from their parents. The union of the male and female gametes produces a zygote, which becomes the new individual, different from the parents and from any person that ever was, is, or will be. He is a new creation, with new possibilities of mental development dependent on his environment and physical development. This is not a transference or carrying over of karma or character from a pre-existent person and is incompatible with any theory of re-incarnation.
Furthermore, our psychical life of thought and feeling depends upon the interaction of parts of the highly complex nervous system and the influence of the endocrines. At death, the brain and central nervous system, and with them the whole life-record of thought and feeling, are obliterated. We die completely — the one act no one can avoid performing completely! The Buddha did teach that all five khandhā, rūpa to viññāna are anicca. They all perish. Perhaps this is why in the brahmavihāra meditation we are told not to direct mettā or karuṇā to a dead person; it is the existential being who is in suffering and needs compassion, not The ORIGIN which subsumes him and is embodied in him.
When Fundamental Substance bursts open, the influence of the formative, order-producing power of Mind releases a Cosmos with a streak of Chaos running through it. Chaos supplies the challenge and impetus for striving, inquiry, experimentation, understanding and coming to fruition through progressive change by obedience to Law. Only a part of this Cosmos (the macroscopic) operates in terms of cause and effect, not the sub-atomic realm, in relation to which the traditional concepts of cause and effect, and of space and time, are meaningless in modern particle physics. The Cosmos is constrained by Law that guides and ultimately presents it, liberated, back to ORIGIN. We do not know the karmic law in its fullness. That aspect of it which we call cause and effect is the lord of process on the large scale, and even that is dimly understood and inadequately expounded.
The emergence and functioning of Cosmos introduces the context of existence with which we are familiar, namely, the finite, temporal and mortal. This is fully subsumed in the context of Transcendence, namely, the Infinite, Eternal and Immortal — the not-born, not-become, not-made, not-compounded, as affirmed by the Buddha. By the primal Act — the stir of Transcendence in Eternity — the ORIGIN, by constructing Itself, ejects an involutionary swirl and the grades of Awareness-Being emerge. When at the same instant Fundamental Substance bursts open and Cosmos is released, then beginning-proceeding-ending; birth-death; conflict, confusion and ignorance; all duality and multiplicity and evil make their appearance.
As involution proceeds, Energy continues to concretize and Awareness to be imprisoned in greater and greater degree, till the most dense and unenlightened state is reached in the mineral kingdom — complete earthiness. But consider the diamond, flashing with the promise of perfection of the ORIGIN, for even the concretest, least awakened state in the Cosmos is the embodied ORIGIN, brought into being by its own primal Act (Karma). Earth, however, is the mother of Life and the evolutionary process: through plant and animal there is lessening density of structure, growing refinement and sensitivity, exquisite complexity rooted in and based upon simple principles, and deeper awakening of consciousness.
There is an important implication here. The context of the Infinite/Eternal/ Immortal is wholly interfused with the context of the finite/temporal/mortal. What is even more important is that each and every finite particular in the entire Cosmos, from an atom to a galaxy, a virus to a perfected Holy One, is permeated through and through by the whole of Infinity, by all of Eternity. We cannot slice up Infinity or Eternity and appropriate bits for our finite selves any more than we can carve out slabs of space and screw our nameplates on them.
So we can see that statements like ‘my’ immortal spirit or ātman or soul are incorrect statements. Nevertheless, the Immortal proves its immortality through the mortal who has utterly purified himself; i.e. Deathlessness manifests unobstructedly through the death of all grasping and of every vestige of the consciousness and activity of separate selfhood.
Here, Death is the purifier and liberator by being the destroyer of unskill and evil.
Science, having extensively investigated matter and the forms of energy we know, has shown that matter is electrical in origin and that mass and energy are interconvertible. So the age-old separating wall between the “immaterial” and the “material” has become so brick-bare that we can perceive unitary wholeness freely without encountering this wall. The world-view of modern scientists inclines increasingly towards a unitary wholeness; e.g. “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement” (Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p. 11, by Professor David Bohm.)
The erstwhile “immutable Laws of Nature” which hold on the macroscopic scale are not obeyed in the sub-atomic realm. Uncertainty and probability prevail here and have shaken the “fixed order of things”. Strict causality is one of the major casualties. We must revise our understanding of the Law of Karma.
Change — the constant universal phenomenon — may be:
Continued in part 2
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