A SNAKE DEVOURS ITS TAIL: THE MEETING OF SPRITUAL AND SCEINTIFIC RESEARCH
Featuring an extract from ‘The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu’ by Wong Kiew Kit
It is a strange experience. Some of us live our lives and never question the nature and substance of that which calls us to live within it every day. Our eyes see the same hands and feet from the same perspective that we somehow came to understand was our own, yet no one can specify exactly when they became aware of themselves. We seem to look at each other for assurance that what is going on is real, forever seeking superficial methods of sensory control; or control of the lack thereof.
We are not told, but tell ourselves, that the coincidental, serendipitous, and completely unexplainable occurrences that take place around the world every day are merely a part of our sober lives as workers and family members. There is no truth that we can all appreciate together that will end our worries as we watch TV. There is you, your direction, and the unfathomable that lies beyond.
For thousands of years in our recorded history, the human unit, in a minute number of cases, has attempted a voyage towards directly experiencing the energy of the Cosmos. We have called them many names, but the only thing that separated and separates them from their contemporaries was a will to experience directly, not abstractly, what lay behind the veil of reality.
Siddhārtha Gautama, or who some call Gautama Buddha, was so perturbed by the illness and suffering of age that we saw when venturing away from the sanctuary of his family palace, that he made it his mission in life to understand the universe and achieve enlightenment.
For me, there are no pre selected souls or reincarnated Buddhas. There is experience, choice, will, and result. By this, with positive focus and correct attitude, anyone can obtain a direct understanding of the nature of reality and the Cosmos beyond.
We need to stop thinking that the great people that have graced this planet are somehow unreachably different to us, expecting that someone will solve our problems for us. In oneness, we are the Cosmos; we are a part of every one of the supposedly different people who have made great positive change. We all know that we can achieve vast amounts more than we do, hence our non participation in actually doing something to help the people and planet around us, even on the most basic levels.
Ask yourself whether you ignore a feeling in your heart to do something truly exciting. Is there a dream of yourself that you pass away an unachievable?
Then ask yourself this: In a worldwide structure of control, which has proven its evil time after time after time, warred, tortured, and brutalised for thousands of years, do you not think that it may be advantageous for its economic stability and social foundations that its people do not question the nature of reality? When you walk through a city and see the addicted and inflicted, ask yourself what you are taking to be real. Raise your eyes from the street in front of you and the same heavenly bodies that watched over the greatest souls to walk our earth now watch over you. Lower them again, and you will see that the streets in front of you are only a glimpse in the short cycle of another civilisation, which the Sun or Moon has watched come into and depart from existence countless numbers of times. Your sensible and supposedly rational thoughts connect you to the streets, houses, and shops around you, if fact they are derived directly from the minds that designed and built them, and the goings on therein. Your heart connects you to the world beyond that; our planet, its contemporaries, and its great surrounding expanse. Ask yourself what it real.
The following is taken from ‘The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu’ by Wong Kiew Kit.
‘The wisdom found in Buddhist teaching is awe inspiring. Buddhist wisdom, originally acquired through meditation where different aspects of reality are directly perceived, is recorded in the huge body of Buddhist scriptures collectively known as the Tripitaka, which is the largest collection of religious works in the world, consisting of over 7000 volumes. It comprises three sections: sutras, which are the teachings of the Buddha in his own words; vinaya, which is a collection of monastic rules and related stories; and sastras, which are the treaties and commentaries written by Buddhist masters.
If you imagine that these extensive volumes of Buddhist scriptures involve persuasion and moralization, teaching people to be pious or religious, you are mistaken. The scriptures explain, if you can understand its classical language and profound concepts, ideas that physicists, cosmologists, psychologists and other scientists and philosophers are currently investigating, such as time and space, matter and energy, subatomic activities, the multi dimensional universe, shadow matter, and different levels of consciousness. This is not surprising if we remember that Buddhism, like science and philosophy, investigates what reality is. It is beyond the scope of this book to describe in detail the Buddhist wisdom regarding these aspects of reality, but we shall address ourselves to the question of what ultimate reality is, and its related question of why the so-called external objective world is an illusion, as such an understanding is relevant to the highest attainment of Shaolin Kung Fu.
What is Ultimate Reality?
The following theme line from the well-known but little understood Heart Sutra, one of the most important and beautiful works in Buddhism, serves as a good introduction to cosmic reality:
Form is emptiness; and emptiness is form.
Many people will find this line puzzling. They are equally bewildered by basic Buddhist teachings such as that the phenomenal world is an illusion, and ultimate reality is tranquil and undifferentiated. Interestingly, modern science provides a clear explanation for this Buddhist teaching.
In our ordinary consciousness, an opponent is real. If he or she attacks you and if you fail to defend yourself there is no illusion about your being hit. But suppose we look at the same situation from the very high level of consciousness of an enlightened being like a Buddha or Bodhisattva who sees reality as it ultimately is and not as it is grossly modified by a set of conditions. You may not have reached the level of a Bodhisattva, but here is where modern science can help us. Suppose you were able to look through a gigantic, super-powerful electron microscope. What would you see? Your opponent would have disappeared. What you thought was the form of a person would turn out to be almost emptiness; you would see patterns of subatomic particles as far apart as specks of stars in outer space. If you looked at yourself you would be equally astonished; your body too would have disappeared!
If the microscope were more powerful, like the wisdom-eye of a Bodhisattva, you would realise that the so called subatomic particles are actually not particles; they are concentrations of energy without any definite boundary. You may be reminded of Neil Bohr’s Principle of Complimentarity – that an electron can be a wave or a particle.
But more importantly, you would suddenly be awakened to the great cosmic truth that as there is no boundary separating one subatomic particle from another, there is also no boundary separating you from your opponent or anything else. In other words, the whole universe is actually a continuous spread of energy or consciousness, without any differentiation. You would be awakened to the greatest truth of all – the discovery that great masters of all religions and mystical disciplines have made – that the physical body in which, owing to your ignorance, you have imprisoned yourself, is an illusion, and that your personal mind is actually the Universal Mind. This feeling of liberation gives us tremendous calm and blessedness. The ecstatic exclamations of great masters such as ‘I dissolve myself in the infinite grace of God’, ‘There is no difference in the cosmos and me’, and ‘My own nature is the Buddha nature’ become meaningful.
This is Zen, which in this content means a glimpse of cosmic reality in its transcendental aspect, and which is called wu in Chinese and kensho or satori in Japanese, and is best translated as ‘awakening’ in English. An awakening is not enlightenment; it is nevertheless a confirmation that you are on the way to enlightenment if you persist in your cultivation. Awakening is a cosmic glimpse, whereas enlightenment is a total, direct becoming of the Cosmos, where all dualism disappears, where there is no difference between the knower and the known. When you attain enlightenment, you are not extinguished, as is sometimes misconceived; you become – are – the Cosmos. What endeavour can be grander, more noble than cultivating this attainment? Enlightenment is called by various names in Buddhism, such as nirvana, bodhi, Buddhahood and Zen.
Zen, therefore, has a few related meanings. It can mean both a cosmic glimpse and the total cosmic realisation. It can also refer to meditation, the essential way to both the cosmic glimpse and the cosmic realisation. It is also a shortened form for Zen Buddhism, the school of Buddhism especially devoted to the attainment of Zen in all its three meanings.
After you have come out of Zen, you may ask whether your opponent, you or anything else is real. The Zen answer is yes and no, either yes or no, neither yes nor no. If you think this is crazy, be assured that sensible, serious scientists today would give similar answers if you ask them whether a virtual particle, or a ‘real’ particle like a photon or electron, or even a tangible object like a cat, or a huge heavenly body like the moon, really exists. After the scientific revolution brought about by such great scientists as Einstein, Max Planck, Neil Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, modern scientists have accepted, many centuries after the Buddha, that our so-called objective external world is actually a creation of the mind. The American physicist, Professor David Mermim, has seriously declared that ‘we now know the moon is demonstrably not there when nobody looks’.
When Buddhist masters say that the external world is an illusion, they do not mean that it is imaginary, but that it is only relatively, not absolutely, real. A bacterium inside your opponent, or a sentient being from another realm of existence, will see that person very differently from the way you do, because you, the bacterium and the extraterrestrial being experience him or her under different conditions. Even if you slightly change your conditions, such as wearing a pair of glasses with strange lenses, the same opponent will appear differently. But if you, the bacterium and the extraterrestrial being were enlightened, or at least awakened, you would all see things the same way, for all would have perceived ultimate reality, i.e. cosmic reality without any conditions.
What is ultimate reality like? Masters of all religions and mystical disciplines have insisted that it is inexplicable. This does not mean that they do not want to tell people, or that they themselves did not know. But if you want to know what it is, you have to experience it yourself, just as in Shaolin Kung Fu, if you want to know what internal force is you have to acquire it to find out. In a simpler, more prosaic example, if you want to know the taste of a mango, you have to taste it; no amount of description can exactly convey its taste to you. Yet, to help people, to give them some, albeit imperfect idea of ultimate reality, Buddhist masters have described it as tranquil, undifferentiated and void.
The word ‘void’ may be misleading. Void or emptiness, known as sunyata in Sanskrit and kong in Chinese, which is the hallmark of Mayahana teaching, does not mean absolute nothingness; it means devoid or emptied of phenomena or appearances. Hence, phenomena like houses, cars, trees, the sky, the moon and stars are appearances; they are not ultimately real. Their appearances depend on a set of conditions, such as the range of light the observer is able to see, and the way each person’s consciousness as well as the collective consciousness of the group are accustomed to operate. If conditions change, the appearances change. For example, instead of viewing the sky in our ordinary light, a Harvard astronomer viewed it using ultra-violet rays; he found not one but three suns and the moon almost disappeared.’