Ruminations on realization


Western interpretations of Eastern philosophy have used many different terms to refer to the enlightenment process. Such terms include liberation, awakening, realization, etc. In this post I want to briefly speculate on what it could possibly mean to have such an enlightenment.

My speculation runs as follows: I can predict my own intentional actions with a substantial amount more precision than almost everything in the environment. Early on in the developmental process for modern humans, social drives will reinforce the use of cognitive capacities to predict egocentric intentional actions(changes) over the changes of the environment, as predicted by evolutionary theory. Upon realization(liberation, enlightenment, etc) the weight of priority changes, allowing the body-mind system to spend equal if not disproportionate amounts of time “predicting” the world around them.

This is a fundamental psychical change which will be manifested in real brain terms, with the primary impact upon the inhibitory and excitatory circuits of the frontal, executive system.

Because of the shift of intentional prediction towards the environment, phenomenal effects of godhood(or Buddhahood) will likely be present. It is crucial that this feeling of godhood is realized within a non-Western context, otherwise it can easily lead to the grandiose delusions typical of schizophrenia. I believe that the proper context is a Brahman-esque interpretation of God.

Thus, enlightenment could be said to be the realization that you are Brahman, or at least a relative aspect of Brahman. This realization that your Self is God implicitly includes the conception that everyone else in the world is also God. Thus, upon liberation, one realizes his/her Godlike nature and simultaneously realizes that such ideas are essentially meaningless because if you are God, then everyone else is as well. This doesn’t diminish the impact of the initial realization, but the relative context alleviates the probability of the grandiose schizoid behaviors typical of young Western adolescents realizing they are the next Messiah. In other words, the knowledge of such a Godhead transcends the dualistic nature of our egotistic minds.

It is this contextual knowledge that allows one to live the “watercourse way” of the Tao and simultaneously be of this world in such a way as to impart the fruits of compassion and loving-kindness. Cognitive capacities devoted to processing egocentric reference frameworks slowly give way to more allocentric ones. Again, this is where the feeling of god/Buddha-hood stems from, because your intentional prediction faculties are more devoted to predicting what is going on outside the boundary of your skin. The implicit relativities of self/other, inside/outside, etc would either gradually or immediately drop out of perceptual awareness, depending on the nature of the realization.

More ruminations on what it means to be liberated

Upon “transcendence”, who would be left to be liberated? Upon realization, is there any logical medium left for there to be a realization? Who enjoys the fruits the enlightenment, after enlightenment? If I understand the Buddhist concept of non-self correctly, then I have not understood it, because there would be no “I” left to understand after realization.

What do I mean by this? I conclude that one “achieves” enlightenment upon realization of how empty such concepts are to begin with. Again, it is the necessary properties of language and minds that force this confusing paradox upon us. One should probably not struggle too much trying to understand what enlightenment means and to what degree the brain is actually “changed” or “different” when one could instead spend time listening to a sound, smelling a smell, or feeling a feeling. In the words of Alan Watts, this is it.

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Filed under Philosophy

3 responses to “Ruminations on realization

  1. Thomas

    Just wanted to say that i found this article to be an interesting read that reflected some of the thoughts I have been having recently about what it means to be a Buddhist. Keep up the good work!


  2. This arguement is predicated on the concept of “svabhava” or intrinsic selfhood or in the western tradition “substance”, something that Buddhists would have a hard time accepting :)

  3. woops hit the submit button by bad!

    So to continue…

    >Buddhist concept of non-self

    The concept of anatman (bdag med in Tibetan) or no-self does not entail there is utterly no self what so ever. As you rightly pointed out, if there is no-self what is it that experiences enlightenment.

    I would suggest that what it no-self means is that there is no intrinsic or inherent self. No “self” “person” or “i” that exists from its own side or is created by its own power. Thus self does exist, just not inherently – hence the concept of dependent-arising, which I’m sure you already understand.

    So, I content that the experience of enlightenement is the experience of all phenemoena as merely continguent on causing and conditions, parts and whiles, and an imputing consciousness.

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