Illusions: Outside Inner Space

As a man thinketh, so is he.
-- Proverbs 23:7

I listened to a Tibetan Lama speak in Berkeley several years ago. Something he said stuck with me:

"Life is a dream.  If you're not enjoying your life, dream a new dream."

He spoke through an interpreter, so I wasn't sure if I should take the translation literally.  He seemed to suggest that we were not only living a dream, but that we could control it.

This man desired to live in pure consciousness without the confines of the physical universe.  He referred to the physical world as a "stain" on his dream.  Such a concept intrigued me.  I could imagine how he might be able to freely change his dream, but the physical world would be less malleable - a stain that persisted throughout his changing dreams.  He taught that the physical world is impure -- as is anything that has a beginning and an end.  Consciousness is pure, in contrast, because it has always existed and always will. There is a general sense in Buddhist philosophy that God is universal consciousness that we are all part of and that the physical world is far less interesting as it is impermanent.

The spheres are the same size
The dream, our plane of illusion, is described within various traditions.  The Sanskrit word is Maya -- translated generally as "not that."  As we examine the illusion, it's easy to see that it is self-generated.  It's  largely an output of ego, perspective, perception and time.  Since it's self-generated, we are able to control it, for example, by simply changing our perspective or our attitude.  We can get very good at controlling the illusion if we simply maintain awareness of what our minds tell us and learn to shift it.  

However, that damned stain -- the physical world -- must be accounted for, as well, and it is often more difficult to manage.  We've changed the channel on our illusion, but the physical world hasn't budged and our embodied consciousness keeps bumping into it.   The rational mind sees the hard facts of the physical universe and spends much of its time trying to shape it. 

The illusion is structured such that it might even be defined in mathematical terms as something that might look like:

                                  Integral I  dt
 Sentient Illusion  =   -------------------
                                Slow Constant


Sentient Illusion = illusion within the sentient context - the modeling of our environment from sensory input
I = the "I" experiences (ego, perspective, perception, expectations, etc.),
t = absolute value of present time - time where our thoughts are at the moment of illusion,
and the Slow Constant = the realized density of physical world

The Sentient Illusion is the component of the illusion we experience through sentient awareness.  There are others. There are the remarkable subtle illusions that hide in the subconscious and the collective unconscious.  There's also the Grand Illusion that is probably more accurately described as a veil.  Some say that everything we experience is an illusion, to such an extent that we are living within a holographic matrix that has no true form.  While outside the scope of this examination, I hope to address these ideas soon.

Taking any of the component functions to zero reduces the Sentient Illusion -- taking them all to zero, eliminates the Sentient Illusion and brings us to an enlightened state.  Enlightened awareness transcends ego, perspective, perception, or time beyond the present.

The primary point is that most of us experience the physical realm as a multifaceted illusion of ego, perspective, perception, time and probably other dimensions.  It can become very complex because things like ego, perspective, and perception are inter-dependant.  It becomes even more complex when we take ourselves out of isolation and account for the fact that we are dealing not only with our own illusions, but the illusions of everyone with whom we interact.

The Slow Constant is not a true constant.  The physical world is changing, but at a rate so much slower than consciousness that it appears somewhat constant to our perception.  It's that damned stain, again!  Fortunately, for those who desire pure consciousness, it's less permanent.

We can see beyond illusions, dissolve them, manifest them.  We can manage them to make ourselves happier, for example, as the lama suggested.  As such, "pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional" depending upon our perspectives, perceptions, etc.  Otherwise, the illusions confuse us and create misunderstandings and disharmony.  Without a view of true nature, nearly everything we encounter is altered by illusion.  What we experience reflects our internal frame of reference.

Consider communications, for example.  How much difference exists between what is said by one and what is heard by another?  This is a big one!  Our state of mind relies on resonance with another's state in order for any coherence of thought transfer to exist.

We are what we think.  
All that we are arises with our thoughts. 
With our thoughts we make the world.
                                     -- The Dhammapada (Buddha)


  1. Here's the entire passage from the Dhammapada:

    We are what we think.
    All that we are arises with our thoughts.
    With our thoughts we make the world.
    Speak or act with an impure mind
    And trouble will follow you
    As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
    We are what we think.
    All that we are arises with our thoughts.
    With our thoughts we make the world.
    Speak or act with a pure mind
    And happiness will follow you
    As your shadow, unshakable.
    "Look how he abused me and hurt me,
    How he threw me down and robbed me."
    Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.
    "Look how he abused me and hurt me,
    How he threw me down and robbed me."
    Abandon such thoughts, and live in love.
    In this world
    Hate never yet dispelled hate.
    Only love dispels hate.
    This is the law,
    Ancient and inexhaustible.
    You too shall pass away.
    Knowing this, how can you quarrel?
    How easily the wind overturns a frail tree.
    Seek happiness in the senses,
    Indulge in food and sleep,
    And you too will be uprooted.
    The wind cannot overturn a mountain.
    Temptation cannot touch the man
    Who is awake, strong and humble,
    Who masters himself and minds the dharma.
    If a man's thoughts are muddy,
    If he is reckless and full of deceit,
    How can he wear the yellow robe?
    Whoever is master of his own nature,
    Bright, clear and true,
    He may indeed wear the yellow robe.
    Mistaking the false for the true,
    And the true for the false,
    You overlook the heart
    And fill yourself with desire.
    See the false as false,
    The true as true.
    Look into your heart.
    Follow your nature.
    An unreflecting mind is a poor roof.
    Passion, like the rain, floods the house.
    But if the roof is strong, there is shelter.
    Whoever follows impure thoughts
    Suffers in this world and the next.
    In both worlds he suffers
    And how greatly
    When he sees the wrong he has done.
    But whoever follows the dharma
    Is joyful here and joyful there.
    In both worlds he rejoices
    And how greatly
    When he sees the good he has done.
    For great is the harvest in this world,
    And greater still in the next.
    However many holy words you read,
    However many you speak,
    What good will they do you
    If you do not act upon them?
    Are you a shepherd
    Who counts another man's sheep,
    Never sharing the way?
    Read as few words as you like,
    And speak fewer.
    But act upon the dharma.
    Give up the old ways -
    Passion, enmity, folly.
    Know the truth and find peace.
    Share the way.

  2. ‎"The light of consciousness passes through the film of memory and throws pictures on your brain."

  3. "In the dream state where there is no object, mind on its own creates everything; and it also creates everything seen when awake as well. There is little difference between the two states." Samkara