Epilogue: The Vast, Empty, Sky-Like Nature of Our Mind
If the example which our behavior exhibits today was the template that would imprint how the next generation, and therefore the future of humanity, will behave, what would you do differently? What will make us change and what kind of change will actually make the difference we urgently need? Just today, on November 26, 2019, another extinction report filled the headlines:
Why You Should Care About the Current Wave of Mass Extinctions
Yes, the extinction crisis we are witnessing is only the beginning of a wave of mass ecocide of non-human life on Earth, a process that could wipe out a million species of plants and animals from our planet in the short term (read: decades). About 15 thousand scientific studies (!) support this terrifying conclusion, as it can be read in the assessment report produced by the independent UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
What we are witnessing today is just the final stage of a process that began about 70 thousand years ago, when some unknown change in the neural wiring of human brains unleashed the so-called “cognitive revolution…” Thanks to its unmatched communication and organizational skills, Homo sapiens set out to colonize and invade the entire planet, causing the annihilation of other species — often on such a grand scale that it [Sapiens] became the #1 Ecological Serial Killer of the Planet.
With the advent of agriculture and monotheistic religions some 10 thousand years ago, the anthropocentric view of the planet was sacralized (made sacred) and institutionalized: since then we have convinced ourselves that we are not part of nature anymore, we are of a superior level; and that animals and plants were created for our own use and consumption.
In brief, there have been three pulses of ecocides directly caused by the sapiens’ inexorable expansion: the first provoked by hunter-gatherers during the epic process of colonizing the entire planet on foot and through sea vessels; the second prompted by agriculture; and the third being the current one we are living through right now. As a result, while 10 thousand years ago wildlife was 99 percent of the whole planet’s biomass, today it is only 1 percent; the rest being humans and their “commodity” domestic animals and plants. The problem is that we are now under a UN ultimatum: Just last year, top scientists informed us that we are left with another 12 years if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe on the planet.
Gianluca Serra (PhD) has been engaged in frontline wildlife conservation as a civil servant
and practitioner during the past two decades internationally, on four continents.
Is there any question that our uniquely human “cognitive revolution” is at the center of our looming catastrophe? This is precisely what we have been exploring in Where do we go from here? As Dr. Serra notes; we have convinced ourselves that we are not part of nature anymore, that we are of a superior level; and that animals and plants were created for our own use and consumption. The simple fact is; we are nature but we think we are not. The word that best describes this is delusional:
Having false or unrealistic beliefs or opinions
Maintaining fixed false beliefs even when confronted with facts, usually as a result of mental illness
Something took place at the very root of the “cognitive revolution,’ that brought us the crisis we now face. We began to misuse our amazing capacity to imagine. We reified the images we created, meaning we began treating our abstractions as real things, independent from the creative process of thought, and forgot we were doing this. A delusion is playing a trick on ourselves, like a magician, and not realizing that we are doing it.
The falseness that can creep into the play of thought is shown in the etymology of the words illusion, delusion, and collusion, all of which have as their Latin root ludere, “to play.” Illusion implies playing false with perception; delusion, playing false with thought; and collusion, playing false together in order to support each other’s illusion and delusions.
David Bohm, Ph.D. and F. David Peat, Ph.D.
Science, Order and Creativity
Compounding the trick ‘playing falsely’ with our capacity to imagine, the process becomes automatic. We normalize the trick which then permeates everything we do.
We can understand thought as a conditioned reflex. Take, for example, Pavlov and his dog. The dog has a natural reflex; it salivates when it sees food. If you ring a bell every time it sees food, the dog will associate the bell with the memory of perceiving food. Eventually it will skip the stage of perceiving food and salivate when the bell rings. I suggest that thought works in a similar way.
We don't really understand the nature of our thought process; we're not aware of how it works and how it's really disrupting, not only our society and our individual lives but also the way the brain and nervous system operate, making us unhealthy or perhaps even someway damaging the system.
To center our thought on something illusory, which is assumed to have supreme importance, is going to disrupt the whole process and it will not only make thought about yourself wrong, it will make thought about everything wrong so that thought becomes a dangerous and destructive instrument all around.
When thinking and thought become more and more automatic perception becomes less and less intelligent.
I am suggesting that the very means by which we try to solve our problems is the problem. The source of our problems is within the structure of thought itself.
Physicist David Bohm
Interview with Michael Mendizza
If, as David suggests, our misuse of memory makes what we think about ourselves wrong, it will make what we think about culture wrong and even what we think about our life and death wrong.
We have made life into a hideous thing. Life has become a battle, which is an obvious fact, constant fight, fight, fight. We have divorced that living from death. We separate death as something horrible, something to be frightened about. And to us this living, which is misery, we accept. If we didn’t accept this existence as misery, then life and death are the same movement. Like love, death, and living are one. One must totally die to know what love is. And to go into this question of what is death, what lies beyond death, whether there is reincarnation, whether there is resurrection; all that, becomes rather meaningless if you do not know how to live. If you, the human being, knows how to live, in this world, without conflict, then death has quite a different meaning.
Australian Broadcasting Company, 1970
We live in an abstracted virtual-reality that we mistake for reality. This predisposition is so common that we don’t consider this delusional; rather, we believe that our lack of sanity is sanity and anyone who disagrees with us must be crazy. The world is on fire, we nod, and go about our business as if it really doesn’t matter. We are so absorbed in our self-generated images that we fail to notice or experience the mind in which all these images are floating. On critical examination there is a present flash of memory exploding, like a firework, in the vast empty sky we call mind, and then another flash, and another. We think we are the images created by these explosions. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe our true nature as the empty sky in which these exploding images happen. Thoughts and mental images, all the memories we accumulate, are like clouds appearing and disappearing in this vast, borderless sky-like mind or pure awareness. When the clouds evaporate, who and what we really are remains.
People much wiser than I are quite certain that this essence, this subtle energy or consciousness, isn’t material. This subtle force is not generated by the body, rather somehow infuses the body. The insight that we are the sky and not the clouds alters, and fundamentally, how the river of interdependent forces express moment by moment as our life. And perhaps more deeply, more fundamentally, this sky-like pure attention and awareness may be beyond death as we envision it from our limited, conditioned point of view.
When we look at death from within the conditioned, relative-reality thought creates, death is indeed frightening. When we look at death from our true nature, which I imagine as pure energy and attention, now completely free from all the images that thought creates, what is there to fear? With that realization we become empty of fear, fearless. Identification with the clouds that autobiographical memory create is the source of most of our fears. Identify with the sky-like nature of pure awareness and that fear does not exist. This includes, of course, our fear of the mystery we call death.
As a paper bag cannot catch the wind, our limited, conditioned, thought-based conditioning is incapable of holding the infinite sky-like mind our thoughts and fears appear and disappear in. This realization of our true nature dissolves the self-centered ego as we known it, time disappears and we are planted firmly, here, now, in the eternal present – except when another thought catches our attention and whisks us away into another virtual-reality. Then, like Rip Van Winkle sobering up we say; “Ah, yes, here we are again, awake from the dream.”
It takes a quality of attention that is not enchanted to see the trick we are playing. Unless we get this straight, everything we do will be infected and warped by the trick. Very simply, enchantment in our self-generated virtual reality is so complete that there remains very little or no attention to experience the natural-order-of-the-mind, to use a David Bohm phrase, our vast sky-like nature with its unlimited intelligence and awareness. Waking up from the dream we discover that we are not the dream. Contrary to appearances, we discover that we are never, ever the same, not for a fraction of a second. As the movement of water creates the form we call a river, the form we call me is created by the constant movement of interdependent forces, what Buddhists call interdependent originations.
Interdependent origination (Sanskrit, pratityasamutpada) is the law of causality. Nothing has independent, permanent, or absolute existence. Everything is part of a limitless web of interconnections that undergoes a continual process of transformation. Every appearance arises from complex causes and conditions, and in turn combines with others to produce countless effects. By understanding the causal chain, the course of existence can be altered by eliminating their causes.
Whatever there might be beyond this form, created by the movement of countless interdependent forces, I doubt if it places great importance on the scrapbook we call personal memories, what we think we are. Assuming there is a soul, a birth-less and death-less essence that abides, I place my bets on the sky-like nature of pure attention and awareness, and not my petty judgements and prejudices that float like clouds in that sky. What ends with physical death is our embedment, identification and near compete enchantment with the clouds, not the sky.
In my discussions with Samdhong Rinpoche, a scholar and trusted colleague of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose tradition has looked at the nature of these subtle states perhaps more rationally than any other culture, he describes a curious probability; all of us share the same vast sky-like essence, and yet, simultaneously, we retain that unique quality of ‘Michael-ness,” which I assume is the hidden magic that DNA holds as it migrates, protected by its seed-shell, the physical body, from generation to generation.
Well now, that certainly changes the meaning of death. The body is a seed-shell carrying DNA from body to body, retaining its sky-like essence and also adapting the seed-shell to survive and thrive in the present environment. Rather than personal salvation, our focus becomes: what are the specific qualities and capacities that will enable our seed-shell to sprout and blossom fully in the current environment, because survival of DNA depends on that, not our social identity. And each of us share this most fundamental responsibility, which translates directly into the model we offer to our children, who, with their absorbent mind, become that model with unquestioned acceptance.
With this in mind, it becomes obvious that the living environment, where water and the oceans is our bloodstream and the sky our breath, is being chocked, clogged and poisoned by each new human being purchasing and dumping a lifetime of plastic soap containers, packaging for literally billions of items that themselves are toxic, demanding that millions of tons of poisonous chemicals be poured and sprayed over the soil, year after year. The living biosphere cannot sustain more of the same, the continued expansion of human population. We are, as you know, at the tipping point, and have been for decades.
Reducing human population is not an option. Depopulation has officially been on the books since December 1974 with Kissinger’s classified National Security Study Memorandum, NSSM 200, Implications of Worldwide Population Growth, For U.S. Security and Overseas Interests - the World Health Organization, UN and US Government agreed on the need for massive population reduction and Kissinger had a plan: Create Conditions for Fertility Decline, and Research to Improve Fertility Control Technology. This was followed by the Carter Report 2000 and other more contemporary resolutions.
Create Conditions for Fertility Decline, and Research to Improve Fertility Control Technology describes fairly accurately what Monsanto’s Roundup, a broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide, is designed to do. The world is awash in glyphosate. It has become the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in the history of the world. A study in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe published in 2016 reveals that Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974 (The same year as Kissinger’s National Security Study Memorandum.) Worldwide, 9.4 million tons of the chemical have been sprayed onto the world’s fields. The basic function of glyphosate is to interfere with reproduction.
A study published in the Journal of Toxicology in Vitro found that, even at very low levels, Monsanto's Roundup destroys testosterone and ultimately leads to male infertility. The findings add to the more than 25 other diseases known to be linked to Roundup, which include DNA damage, birth defects, liver dysfunction, and cancer. One part per million (ppm) to 10,000 ppm revealed undeniable cell toxicity caused by Roundup.
Glyphosate is only one of the Fertility Control Technologies. Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a University of California microbiologist, discovered that wild corn in remote parts of Mexico is contaminated with lab altered DNA (GMO). Chapela revealed that a spermicidal corn developed by a U.S. company is now being tested in Mexico. Males who unknowingly eat the corn produce non-viable sperm and are unable to reproduce. Chapela described how spermicide could easily end up in your cornflakes. In the future, I suspect the mad rush for global mandatory vaccinations and genetically modified foods will be included in a depopulation agenda. http://www.metroactive.com/bohemian/10.06.10/greenzone-1040.html
Why touch on depopulation? Well, it is a soft way to open our hearts and minds to increasing possibility of species extinction, something my daughter Carly Elizabeth will face. The glaciers are melting, methane is bubbling in Siberia, Venice is flooded, the plastic continents the size of Texas floating in the ocean are getting bigger, both of them. Today, November 25, 2019, researchers say: The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has reached a record high, according to a report released Monday by the World Meteorological Organization. “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration… Our bodies are marinating in 9.4 million tons of Roundup by design. Mandatory vaccines are trampling the Nuremberg Code of Ethics. We are faced with continued corporate, political and media denial that Climate Change even exists.
Depopulation by 50% to 90%, as some recommend, implies some hope for repopulation. Extinction is the end. What kind of life will Carly, now five-years-old, have facing all this and much more? According to top scientists we have ten years to turn this around if we are going to avoid climate catastrophe.
How do I model a state of being that will awaken and expand in her the capacity to live a full, authentic, even miraculous human life, full of beauty and passion, to break the destructive spell we call Civilization and rediscover who and what she really is – transcendent-nature, and by so doing tip the scales from death back to life
in this next, most threatened generation ever?
The End Game
Realizing there exists this vast, intelligent sky-like nature of the mind that remains hidden by the self-generated clouds compulsive thoughts produce, we discover that our identification with the clouds is a distraction, like mental fog or smog that prevents our direct experience of the ecstasy, beauty and miraculous gift this unique human experience - is. Our astonishing capacity to imagine is a critical part of this gift, one that nature invested billions of years to experience, but one that we have failed to understand and master. As David Bohm, Krishnamurti, Joseph Chilton Pearce and others have shared; because we don’t really know ourselves, how thought and memory function, we lose track of what we are imagining and misuse this capacity in disastrous ways. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, absentminded wizard or Victor Frankenstein come to mind, casting spells that turnout upside down. In truth, we are the cause of our problems and our wondrous technologies, being grounded in this misuse, only compound our deepening crisis.
Realizing and identifying with the vast, sky like nature of the mind renders imagination a tool rather than the source of action and relationship. As it is, we assume that the tool, a hammer for example, is intelligent source that defines who we are and how we behave. And what do we do? Hammer everything, which is what we have been doing for centuries.
The way out of this frightening, even suicidal house of mirrors is to turn on the light of attention and discovery that we have created all those scary images we see in the mirrors. Cultivating a quality of attention that is not completely under the spell we weave is the first and most essential step. This freedom from identifying with the known, a Krishnamurti phrase, invites patterns of perceptions, insights, qualities of relationship, along with causal-creative states that have been hidden and excluded by this conditioning.
The challenge we face is understanding the double-edge nature of imagination. Using it one way will kill us. Using it another will save us. To be fully human is to discover, unfold and develop imagination. But, as David Orr notes, it is not imagination but imagination of a certain kind that we need. We must find ways to awaken awareness of the true, sky-like nature of the human mind, with its vast intelligence, in ourselves and in our children. Imagination is necessary to do that, but we must go much further. You and I must lift our attention out of the dark and scary swamp that Fox Not-News, Facebook, Twitter and even the deep conditioning we experience in most schools, so called religious, political and nationalistic conditioning. Only by being free ourselves can we nurture that freedom in our children. Lifting our awareness, and therefore our identity out of the swamp called culture nudges us closer to the realization of what the Buddhist tradition calls our true Buddha nature.
When we say Buddha, we naturally think of the Indian prince Gautama Siddhartha who reached enlightenment in the sixth century B.C., and who taught the spiritual path followed by millions all over Asia, known today as Buddhism. Buddha, however, has a much deeper meaning. It means a person, any person, who has completely awakened from ignorance and opened to his or her vast potential of wisdom. A Buddha is one who has brought a final end to suffering and frustration, and discovered a lasting and deathless happiness and peace.
Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to clouds. Some days the sky is completely obscured by clouds. We should always try and remember: the clouds are not the sky, and do not “belong” to it. They only hang there and pass by in their slightly ridiculous and non-dependent fashion. And they can never stain or mark the sky in any way.
So, where exactly is this Buddha nature? It is in the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly open, free, and limitless, it is fun, so simple and so natural that it can never be complicated, corrupted, or stained, so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity.
To talk of this nature of mind as sky-like, of course, is only a metaphor that helps us to begin to imagine it’s all embracing boundlessness; for the Buddha nature has a quality the sky cannot have, that of the radiant clarity of awareness. As it is said: It is simply your flawless, present awareness, cognizant and empty, naked and awake.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Beyond the basics of deep nurturing and complete physical and psychotically safety, we need to open, develop and expand the capacity to imagine in every child, and as we do, help our children realize that this powerful capacity is a tool and not the master or intelligence. We must model ways that awaken a deep knowing that we are not what we think we are, that we embody the infinitely vast force that created the universe and all of nature, not as an idea or another concept, but as a direct experience, and let this deep knowing guide us in wasy that enhance the wellbeing of every living thing. Pure attention opens the door.