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I've reprinted the original letter from yesterday's issue, followed by nine reader responses. Thank you for your letters. Feel free to send more.
I have been a fan of the ND highlights for over three years now, and while I am still learning much about advaita, I never fail to enjoy the daily excerpts and wisdom.
I had to pass this along, mainly because I didnt know how to answer him appropriately:
My son, who just turned six, and I went fishing for the first time in awhile over the weekend. It was a perfect day, and we were catching them as fast as we throw our line in. It was great to get him away from Wii, I phones etc to spend some time outdoors. Out of the blue, he turned to me and asked, "Dad, is all of this real, or is it a dream?"
Wow, did that hit home. I am of course weighed down by so much intellectual baggage to answer him with a quick definitive "yes or no". But I did say I wasnt sure, and that it was a great question. And, dont stop asking it.
How would you have tacked that one, responding to a six year old who may be wise beyond his years? :)
yes, s.l. thank you for the most appropriate,
Increase your doubtfulness, my friend.
Keep questioning all things
Persist doubting everything.
Until all incertitude
Is wiped out and obliterated
Without a slightest trace
By the ever-present, mysterious,
Timeless and boundless
Once recognized doubtless
Self evident truth
Whole, complete and all containing
Needs no further proof.
Give him a one-dollar bill, ask him to slowly raise it up with both hands from his mouth to nose to eyes and hold it there firmly against his face -- ask him what happened to whatever he was seeing in front of him -- lead him to understand that what he sees in an image in his mind, what he hears of your voice is a sense of sound in his mind, what his fingers feel of the dollar bill and his face are senses of touch in his mind -- then obviously his mind is real, whether full of images or full of partial darkness -- ask him to imagine raising both hands and patting his head -- then have him actually do it -- get him laughing at the mystery of it -- let him keep the one-dollar bill -- allow him to change the inquiry games and invent new ones -- give each game a name.
Ask him to tell you his dreams.
In a sense, his son is acting as his
own (disowned, as per conditioning)
prior-to-conditioning, young self.
It is also an example of the 'second
chance' afforded by the experience of
raising children.. We then have a chance
to review our own assumptions, and even
to try them out on our own children but
in a conscious, sharing way.
One good answer to his son would be this:
"Son, I have been studying that question
for many years. What my studies have revealed
is that nobody really knows, whether 'this'
is 'real' or a dream."
"But I can say that pursuing that question,
is a very important activity. I myself
prioritize it as 'always pertinent'. It is
one of the most important questions, and
it is one that can really save you a lot
of trouble in your life, if you do pursue
it as an ongoing activity."
So much for the answer to the child.
>I am of course weighed down by so much intellectual baggage to answer him with a quick definitive "yes or no". But I did say I wasnt sure, and that it was a great question. And, dont stop asking it.
> How would you have tacked that one, responding to a six year old who may be wise beyond his years? :)
If we can say that we do not know
the 'real' answer, we can at least
attempt to define our terms:
- what does 'real' mean?
- if something is not real,
can it exist anyway?
- we may agree on what a 'dream' is,
but can we in any way, agree to any
definition of 'real'?
Our conditioned priorities throw us into
a dilemma; we categorize things as 'real',
as a matter of convenience. But this habit
bleeds over into our 'theology', how we
frame the world we experience. Our framework
must by nature (given any framework at all)
needs the central gravity of what is 'real',
whether it is really real, or not.
In other words; we are thrown into a public/
private closet of unceasing hallucinations,
which we try to slow down and catalogue in
some useful way. It is our awareness of the
hallucinatory nature of 'reality', which
sets us apart from those who do not, for
whatever reasons, question the veracity of
To say 'we hallucinate' is NOT the same
as saying we are 'delusional'. The delusional
person cannot approximate the great job the
rest of us do, as we define and regiment our
hallucinations. We can pick and choose our
favorite religion or philosophy, complete with
famed and named experts, founders, etc.
Then it turns out, that our hallucinations mainly
serve to alert us to the absence of anything
which is NOT a hallucination. We struggle to
maintain membership in the 'similar believer's
clubs', trying not to appear 'atypical', and
so to avoid social opprobrium. But such practices
become the whole of the 'path of consensus',
which is the universal human 'spiritual practice'.
And breaking away from that 'path', can have
unwanted consequences. Breaking away, living
outside of consensus society, is certainly
possible. But the real question arises when
we try to examine just how 'outside' we
really are. Do such definitions matter? Yes,
for some of us, they do.*
Understanding the unremitting nature of hallucination,
opens the way to simply relax and gradually learn
about the 'real' message about consciousness, which
consciousness itself delivers, by its existence.
* Not to worry, though. One may fall back
on, or 'take refuge', in the Buddha Dharma.
Such 'one size fits all' formulas exist, and
of all of them, Buddhism is probably the
most evolved and fine-tuned to fit our 'real'
- what does 'real' mean?
:) everythingl is as real as we are. our life, moment-to-moment, is our ongoing answer.
definitions, borders, rules
they confine, restrict, direct.
but the wind
knows nothing of this
and the sky
cannot be bound.
if you trap the wind
let your spirit
with the ocean
yosy the fool
My reply would have been, "It IS real, but, unlike it appears, all THIS (spreading my arms to the Beauty) is one, humongous, wonderful, living thing. Nothing is really separate from anything else, it's all One---all parts of a much greater Whole."
Note: Buddha said/implied that the world is LIKE a dream, not that it WAS a dream (as so many claim). LIKE in the sense that in a dream all the symbols and meanings and pieces seem real when in fact all those "pieces" are just mental fluff. What you are sitting on is real. The "chair" (the mental symbol and meaning of it) isn't.
I have a saying which I often share with readers to help clarify this, "If it requires thoughts to exist, it isn't real."
Not wise beyond his
years, simply the innate wisdom hasn't been succesfully buried
"Son, you are quite right. This is not real in the way that most folks act like it is. They had a moment of fear that they covered up and forgot, and now they have made up an arrangement of thoughts to hide from that fear. We can help some of them by being completely open to their deep feelings. It is fun to let their fear pass through us. It is simple and refreshing like this summer breeze. There is no need to limit our Love by pretending, as most folks do. There have always been people on earth who are free from the dream. Some awaken at some point in their life and others never fell asleep and pretended. It is a Joy to share this great Freedom with you now. Playing here together, we can always know the Freedom and love any who have forgotten it. This helps them remember the Freedom and remember who they truly are."
Dear Jerry - Had to write this after reading ND highlights #4293. When my six-year-old son and I were out hiking one day, he spontaneously turned to me and said, "Mom, do you know what I think life is? I think it's a dream in the mind of God." I nearly fell over. I had not encountered Advaita/non-dual teachings at that point, but the comment really struck me and I've remembered it for these 20 years. We were not a religious or even particularly spiritual family, so I always took his comment as a spontaneous expression of Truth through the unadulterated mind of a child. Thanks for your delightful group, Beth
P: Well, not to through
cold water on a father's
wonder about his son's philosophical inquiry, it
probably meant nothing more than 'I can't believe
we are catching these many fish.' That the father
took the question philosophically says more about
the father than the son.
If the child was posing a philosophical question, it
was probably because he overheard that question
in past conversations his father had with others.
It will be very remarkable indeed, if the son of
a Christian preacher would have asked that.
We call real those of our perceptions that others
can verify. What is real has predictable consequences
that dreams lack. We call our life a dream as a metaphor
for its evanescent quality.
The correct answer (and there IS only one correct answer...) is "In the immortal words of Albert Einstein; 'Uhhhhhh, I dunno...'" (It's essential to quote Albert, as this gives the answer the authority it requires. One must be firm with children.)
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