Sunday, July 27, 2014

The virtual and real side of you and me.

Our two sides.
We live in a wondrous time of the merger of science and the realm beyond matter. For the most part we attribute this merger to science, and it is true that we most welcome science based theories that lead to the edge of the beyond. Science has become our friendly rational doorway to the ineffable. Every day, whenever I post to my blog, Google Analytics provides a tool that allows me to observe the nature of topics that attract the most interest and spread the quickest and most far reaching throughout virtual cyberspace. What I have learned through this capability is that the idea of relativity and virtual reality has the greatest appeal. So with that in mind, my post for today deals with this matter of virtual and non-virtual reality.

Ordinarily people don’t think that virtual reality applies to our conditional world, but what the most cutting edge science is telling us is that our ordinary lives are in fact virtual and conform to the principle of relativity. Of course in our everyday realm, it messes with our head to consider that ordinary and the extraordinary are one and the same thing different only in terms of descriptions.

To define anything we must do so by comparing one thing to something different from whatever we are defining. This point was made by many wise people among them being the Buddha who lived, by most accounts, between 563 BCE and 483 BCE, Śāntideva, the founder of the Avaivartika Sangha in the 6th century CE, Nagarjuna who lived during the period of 150–250 CE and most recently Albert Einstein who was born 14 March 1879 and died 18 April 1955. Three of these were mystics and of course one was a theoretical physicist. This idea of defining by comparison has come to be known as relativity within the physical realm and dependent origination in the mystical realm. But words aside, they mean the same thing, which brings me to the topic for today.

If you look up the notion of virtual reality you’ll learn that it is a form of reality considered to not be real. This of course begs the question of what is real. You can’t define one thing except in relationship to the opposite of the thing. Thus we only know what “up” is by comparing it to “down.” Motion is only relevant when considered against non-motion (kinetic vs. potential energy). And virtual reality is only meaningful once you define non-virtual reality (reality itself).

The ancient understanding of reality is, that which is never born, does not die, does not move, is the same everywhere found, and doesn’t change. Anything that doesn’t comply with that understanding is considered to be virtual (or unreal). An illustration of this understanding, which everyone can grasp, is watching a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images, with or without accompanying sound. We, of course, know this as television where we observe images changing. None of us ever thinks that these changing images are anything other than virtual but what we fail to consider is that our entire conditional world is no different from this medium: all of it is moving, changing with a beginning and an ending. Yet nobody thinks of our conditional world as virtual. Instead we consider it real and think of our bodily selves as real, and this misunderstanding causes undo hardship and suffering.

Another, even more relevant example, is what can happen when we communicate with someone through virtual cyberspace of the Internet. Discussions occur and many times people become quite upset over ideas (which are virtual) they find disagreeable. In such a case we have a virtual being (you and me) conducting a virtual conversation and becoming agitated over virtual ideas. That is what could be called a “virtual triple whammy.” In Buddha-speak that is what is known as duḥkha: translated as suffering, anxiety, stress, or a state of mind of unsatisfactoriness.

The relevant question is, shouldn’t we be more concerned with matters that are real instead of getting stressed over matters that are virtual? That rhetorical question brings to mind the words of Jesus, who said:  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 

In the final analysis, these two: the virtual and the real are glued irrevocably into One single entity. One of these (the virtual) appears clearly before us and we take it to be real, and the other (the real) is hidden within our virtual sand-being, buried under our feet and remains the unseen solid rock upon which we stand.

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