Thursday, April 08, 2004

Matter and Consciousness, Part 2

My Zen teacher had a problem with the movie What the #$*! Do We Know? because one of two spiritual scholars associated with it is a 30,000 year old channeled mystic. I asked him, and anyone else in my sangha that's online, "how about spontaneous appearance of relics from Kashapya and Ananda? what does that do for you? anybody?" and shared my already written thoughts on that. No one responded. Oh, except for my buddy The Twerp (he's always messing with me). He said I channelled him with that question.

I really liked the movie and want to see it again. The movie used fiction to demonstrate the science in a nifty way. Nine out of ten viewers agree, Marlee Matlin was awesome. While there are some problematic things in it, when I googled the scientists and "junk science", the only problematic science was that found in the fictional part of the film, the notion that water responds to words and prayer. (Oh my gosh, the author is coming to Portland.) While it can be delightful to see a movie which appears to validate wisdom passed down through the ages, I think it's important not to accept it at face value and investigate the science, since it does rely on science to make its point.

I really liked the stuff about the brain, and the notion that we become addicted to emotions. To me, the science of peptides associating with certain thoughts that trigger certain emotions fits right in with my experience of Buddhist practice. People generally are subject to negative habits of emotion, but it is possible to change these deeply worn grooves through the creation of the habit of meditation and of loving-kindness. The movie appears to make the point that consciousness can effect the physical world, and asks us "how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?"

The rabbit hole it leads me toward is this notion of matter and consciousness. Suppose we do rule out charlatanism in the case of the Buddhist Relics, and suppose our thoughts do have a measurable effect on our own bodies, even on water? What if it really is the case that enlightened masters reached out to us from beyond this time and space and gave us the gift of relics to revere? How is that so different from a 30,000 year old disembodied mystic channeling himself through a middle-aged woman? By going down the rabbit hole, I keep myself open to the possibilities, but at the same time, I'm a pretty smart girl, just as Alice is. For the most part, I figure there might be an easier explanation, but there also might be things I just don't know about the mind and the universe.

There was a time in my life and my Buddhist practice that I paid close attention to my dreams. I shared with friends a frightening dream where I was killed, and I knew it had something to do with my being a prostitute and with money the killers were searching for. To my surprise, they took seriously my joke about it being a past life, and so did my other Zen teacher. Was it a past life, or rather, death? More on this human body, consciousness, and the notion of self and past selves coming soon.

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