We started with a review of the exercise from last week's paper. See here.
We then watched Part 2 of the film, which can be seen on YouTube here. There are two themes. The first is language and its role in communicating knowledge, and the second is the universe. This week’s paper focused on language: A subsequent paper will consider the universe and our place in it.
Comments and questions included:
- The film beautifully depicted the role of the left hemisphere in splitting things up, analysing and creating abstractions as described by Iain McGilchrist.
- All the abstract words like ‘freedom’ mean nothing in isolation. Freedom from what? So that kind of thinking is not very useful.
- The question “do I think?” raised a further question. “I remember being told ‘we don’t think thoughts – they think us’. What does this mean?”. One possible answer was that there are two things we call thinking. One is uncontrolled manas – thoughts just arising in a continuous stream in the mind from outside (the senses) or within (memory). It is clear that we don’t deliberately think them – they just happen, ‘they think us’. The other is when the mind is still and an idea or answer to something arises in that stillness, apparently from outside. Here again it is not under our conscious control – we are not thinking anything, the ideas just arrive, they are ‘thinking us’.
- The passage from Sri Chinmoy about special spiritual words being ‘surcharged with a meaning or condition or consciousness’ prompted the question “does this just refer to our mantra?”. The group felt it applied to all the different mantras that had been used for many hundreds of years. Perhaps the ‘Jesus prayer’ also falls into this category?
- “We have been taught that everything is illusion, we don’t really exist. But some people say that in that case life is pointless. There is no point in trying to learn, trying to do the right thing, or trying to make the right decisions. We might as well give up any idea of improving our being because it is all a waste of time and effort”. Several group members mentioned surrender to the Will of the Master. One person said that if we are just quiet and observe, we can see that all the things we think we are disappear and we are just watching ‘this human creature’ interacting with all the others in one unified drama. We don’t actually need to make decisions: we can just watch what is going on. It’s really very nice. This is not so difficult and just needs practice. The original questioner then asked “does this mean that we are the Observer?” The reply was that the teaching says that eventually, at a higher level of Consciousness, the Observer itself merges with all that is observed. But this seems to be a state that for us, occurs only rarely. In meditation, when the Observer disappears, all we experience is nothingness. But there is also a state of ‘everythingness’. As we have seen from the paper, this is not really describable and it is perhaps better not to try to talk about it unless one happens to be in that state at the time.