One Presence, Many Perspectives
(It takes two to vibrate)
by Peter Francis Dziuban
That just about sums up the Science and Nonduality Conference for 2010.
Whose conference was it, really? The One who was really present, the One whose show it truly was, definitely showed up! There weren’t really many of “us” all experiencing Presence at a conference called SAND. It’s the other way around. Presence was “doing its thing”—which appeared as a lot of people at a conference.
That was the most noticeable (and beautiful) thing about SAND —a pervading Love or Oneness, despite the many perspectives being offered.
*“The Science and Nonduality Conference was created to provide an arena where various aspects of nonduality can be explored, discussed, and experienced. Part seminar, part festival, part conference, this event explores how science combines with meditation, philosophy, art, music, dance, and entheogens to point the way to nondual experience. Also to aid in integrating nonduality into daily life and to deepen the understanding of a fundamental nondual reality.”
At times there were differences of opinion (between science and nonduality, and even within each group), but for the most part they were mutually respected. SAND is growing (and it’s to be expected that the very bringing together of such seemingly diverse groups results in lots of viewpoints. That’s the whole idea. That also makes it a word-fest. There were so many perspectives at the conference, at times it seemed “all over the place.” But it was as if no one really cared because the Love underlying all the words was so full, so simple and beautiful.
The instant there’s an attempt to express Presence in words, it opens the door for differences of meaning. Particularly when it comes to the “c” word (consciousness), the differences really kick in—not only between science and nonduality, but even among nondualists. Perhaps at upcoming conferences there could be more emphasis on meaning or definitions. Maybe even a panel discussion. This has come up before, but it’s an ongoing issue, and at a very basic level it would really help—especially for those who are new.
Without getting overly intellectual or conceptual, what might help is just a simple, “Whaddya’ mean specifically, when you use the word ‘consciousness’?” It keeps everyone on the same page and prevents misunderstandings—all of which helps to minimize the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome.
A few concrete examples: At conferences, emotions and enthusiasm can run high, so it’s easy to be enthusiastic when there may not always be a valid reason for enthusiasm. One of the more well-known speakers was A.H. Almaas, who gave a sobering (but honest) assessment in his closing talk. He pointed out that scientific terms such as nonlocality and interconnectivity (which refer to atomic particles) are sometimes hazily linked with nonduality. In other words, Almaas is being very specific by what he means when using such terms. Linking those terms together implies some sort of relationship, a sort of intersection between science and nonduality. But does such a thing really exist?
Anything in the so-called realm of interconnectivity or nonlocality involves energy, which is essentially vibration. However, it takes two to vibrate. Non-duality ain’t two. When you stop to consider it, non-duality really is another way of saying non-vibration! What’s more, all vibration occurs in time. Almaas aptly pointed out that a basic notion of nonduality is that it is “outside” of time. So if you agree with what Almaas means by nonduality, then energy, interconnectivity and nonlocality aren’t really part of nonduality—though it may appear as if they are.
Meanwhile, isn’t it great that Love goes right on being Love. Presence goes right on being Presence.
Now for the “c” word. One well-known scientist, Robert Lanza, spoke about his new theory (and book of the same name), called Biocentrism. This is oversimplifying, but basically he’s addressing the issue of which came first—the universe or consciousness. Traditional materialist science says it was the universe that came first, and that life and consciousness then gradually evolved on earth. Lanza’s theory is pointing to the reverse; there’s enough evidence to consider the possibility that consciousness, life (bio) came first, and everything else is centered around it.
Some scientists are now willing to equate matter with what is called “consciousness.” What Lanza and perhaps (some of the other scientists) mean by the word “consciousness” is what many nondualists would call “body-mind.”
Whaddya’ mean by consciousness or body-mind? It is an experience that is inseparable from the five sensations (or mentations), as well as thoughts, emotions, and other phenomena. But that kind of phenomenal experience is very different from what some nondualists take pure consciousness or awareness to mean.
If you push it further, anything said to be in the matter/mind realm is finite. It involves time, constant change, form, energy, cause and effect, observer and observed, etc. Even if something is understood to be only a mental form instead of a physical form, the very fact that it can be observed as a mental form means it’s finite. It is not formless, timeless, changeless, infinite—which is how consciousness is often defined in nonduality (same as Being). So, again, they’re very different things. Needless to say, some nondualists might have a hard time calling this “consciousness” or awareness.
Maybe the topic of “which came first” is going down a wrong path—asking cause/effect type questions based on an old “model” that is fast becoming obsolete. And here’s where a nondual perspective can offer science new insights. Some nondualists would say Awareness, Being, is timeless, thus not in the realm of cause and effect. From this perspective, it’s clear that neither the universe nor “body-mind” came “first”—but that both seem to arise simultaneously. And this seems to hold true from a deep investigation of direct experience.
The arising universe is like a coin with two sides. Look at the coin from one side and it seems to be material. Look at it from the other side and it can just as readily be called mental. But both sides of the coin are there simultaneously—so “first” is a moot point—both are equally valid if one is talking about finity. And again, either way, material or mental, it’s all finite (call it the coin of finity). Only when “seeing” from an Infinite perspective of nonduality, is one completely “off the coin” of finite arisings, and able to see both sides for what they are. Imagine trying to see both sides of a coin clearly when looking from only one of the sides, from finite mind or finite matter. Can’t do it.
This is not to imply that there’s anything “incorrect” with finity or body-mind. It’s not only a big part of everyday experience—it IS everyday experience! It’s also the workplace of science—so it’s simply a matter of recognizing and appreciating the difference in perspectives.
Meanwhile, Love goes right on being Love.
Then, from a strict Advaitan perspective, one might say, “Wait a minute. Being is not an arising. And to Being, when is it the case that Being is not all that is being? Never. So, to Being, do finite arisings whether called material or mental, really even occur? No. To NOW, does not-NOW ever occur? So does time and its finite arisings ever really occur?
And from the perspective of some nondual Buddhist Emptiness teachings, one wouldn’t even necessarily agree there is something called “Being” or “Awareness” as if it were some underlying permanent state.
It’s fine (in fact, unavoidable) to have the many perspectives—but let’s all put clarity to work for us. The beauty of whaddya’ mean? is that it’s an asking for further clarity, it’s remaining open—rather than a rush to judgment in disagreement. It forces a closer looking by everyone, to see what common ground there really may be—or not. And if not, well, at least we know. So the quest for a common ground continues…regardless, Love goes right on being Love.
*excerpt from the SAND website.
Peter Francis Dziuban is the author of CONSCIOUSNESS IS ALL – Now Life Is Completely New. He was a speaker at the recent SAND 2010 conference. Peter also lectures and holds meetings regularly on nonduality and the Infinite, and is available for personal consultations.
For more info please visit: Consciousness Is All