Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back to grammar school: the ghost of you and me.

Who's that in there?
I began posting to Dharma Space some years ago, recognizing the task before me was an impossible one: trying to convey with words and images what can never be adequately accomplished in such a way. I chose this joisting at windmills for a very good reason: because I was (and am) persuaded that if I could influence just a few, with seeds of doubt that challenged preconceived dogmatic stances held by the majority, there was the possibility of making a substantial, positive difference in how we think about, and relate to, one another.

If youve  spent any significant time reading and mulling over what I post here then you’ll know that I dont wed myself to any particular spiritual venue but instead take wisdom from wherever I’ve found it. My task is then to digest and synthesize these pearls and recast them in a way that a contemporary reader can grasp. I consider this an obligation since there are those who may not have been exposed to the breadth and variety of spiritual practices that I have. So my methods are, by design, an attempt to simplify something that can be a bit daunting. Consequently I employ frames of reference understood by an audience that are more than likely far removed from my subject matter. Such is the case in todays post.

Very often we learn something within a given context (like grammar) and don’t apply it to a different context. It’s a bit like becoming accustomed to a person in one context and then finding them in another. When that happens (if youre like me) you may find yourself saying,  “I think I know that person but for the life of me I can’t recall from where.” Our memories are constructed in such a way that we file data under particular headings and when we encounter something familiar, but out of context, we are disoriented until we can remember the file heading. Then we say, “Oh yes, that’s where I know them from.” Today’s post is one of those I can’t recall from where, déjà vu re-positionings, only I’m going to fill in the blanks for you. And the context takes you back to grammar school.

I wasn’t very interested in or good at grammar. All of those conjugations, parts of speech and diagramming left me cold. But there was one part of this discipline I did find intriguing: subjects and objects. The rule was, as you may recall, an object was a noun—a person, animal, place, thing or an abstract idea. And in similar fashion a subject was what (or whom) the sentence was about. 

To determine the subject of a sentence, the rule was to first isolate the verb and then make a question by placing “who?’ or “what?” before it—the answer to that question was the subject. Not so hard until you write a sentence like, “I see myself.” Now that was a thorny conundrum because it had to be based on the presumption that the subject and the object were one and the same thing.

The clear and obvious conclusion was that if I looked in a mirror, what I would see was the objective part of me. But what part of me was doing the seeing? Was it not the subjective me? Later on (long after grammar school) I learned about this word “sentience:” awarenessa state of elementary or undifferentiated consciousnesswhich just happens to be universally distributed among all sentient beings in an indiscriminate, unconditional way. Then I wondered: can an object lacking sentience be “aware?” Unless there was something else to learn, regarding stones and other objects lacking sentience, it seemed fairly clear that the subjective part of me was the one seeing that objective me in the mirror. And furthermore objects lacking sentience can’t be aware of anything, much less themselves.

I must confess that putting these disparate pieces together was a moment of enlightening amazement. Obviously, inside of me and every other sentient being, was an unseen faculty of consciousness that should properly called the subjective me, that was exactly like every other sentient being, was the seer seeing objects, including sentient objects, but not necessarily sentient ones. All objects are discriminately unique and different yet subjectively there are no differences because sentience is a state of elementary or undifferentiated consciousness.

Ah Ha, I thought: I’m two people perfectly fused into a single being. Remove the sentient part and I’d turn into a stone, or remove the non-sentient part and I’d turn into a ghost. One part of me (the objective part) is 100% differentiated, unique and set apart from every other object and the subjective part is 100% undifferentiated, just the same as every other subject. This latter is the basis of unity (what brings us all together) and the prior is the basis for discrimination (what pits us all against each other). And neither the objective nor the subjective me (or you) could possibly exist apart from the other. Now that is pretty cool: ghost and a non-ghost, at the same time!
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