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Reflections

Some personal reflections on existence.


What is my approach to life?

The following are the clearest statements that I could come up with
to explain both my spiritual and political approach to life:

I will not initiate violence against anyone and
desire that no one will initiate violence against me.

I will not threaten to use violence to get anyone to do what I want and
desire that no one will use violence to get me to do what they want.


I use the word "desire" because I can not control the actions of others. I can only "desire" that others do not initiate or threaten violence against me. If someone does initiate or threaten to use violence against me then I will do what is warranted to cease that violence or negate the threat of violence.

-- Brian William Drisko, 28-Nov-2010 1235 bwd@advaitism.com


I extend the above "me" to family, friends, community, and even nation, but the verification that any violence is occurring or threatened gets more difficult the further the perception is away from being first hand. The perception of threatened violence isn't even reliable first hand since we are all shaped by our experiences and have the ability to interpret circumstances as threatening that are not. When defending oneself or others, it is very important to try to ensure that the violence or threat of violence is real lest one end up initiating violence or a threat of violence themselves.

-- Brian William Drisko, 28-Nov-2010 1308 bwd@advaitism.com


The above is also a very passive philosophy of life. It says what I "will not do" to others and what I desire that others "will not do" to me. You might ask: "Don't we have an obligation to do something positive for others?". Maybe. I personally feel an obligation to do something positive for others. Being charitable both at home and to those I don't personally know is a major aspect of my life. However, I do not believe that I have the right to force others to be charitable. Being charitable is something that comes from the heart. You can not force another to be charitable. I do not believe that any of us has the right to force another to be charitable. Getting your fellow man to be charitable is a matter of cultural and spiritual leadership, education, and persuasion. It is not a matter of taking from one by force to give to another.

-- Brian William Drisko, 28-Nov-2010 1806 bwd@advaitism.com


Star Trek Transporter and Non-Duality (The illusion of the "I")

It was in 1968 that it first occurred to me that the concept of "I" (the self) might only be an illusion. I was in high school and the original Star Trek series was in its final year of airing. It was all because of the paradoxes created by the "Teleporter" on Star Trek!

Though we may be hundreds to thousands of years away from building such a device, there are no rules of physics broken by the function of the teleporter. Thus, it is truly an article of the "future science" variety of science fiction rather than of "fantasy" where activity actually violates the known laws of physics.

(Please don't bring up the quantum impossibility of ever knowing the exact location and momentum of any particle such that it would be impossible to record that information. Life is messy. We don't need to be so exact in recording the location and momentum of every particle in the human body to be close enough. Quantum uncertainty rarely has a significant damaging impact at the macroscopic level at which living processes operate. If we are off by a billionth of one percent in the exact reading or placement of each atom, it isn't going to matter at all. The composition of living cells is just so macroscopic relative to the quantum level.)

My high school buddy, Peter Bradley, and I would hang out at the bus stop across from our high school on many a cold New England night waiting for my bus to take me home. Peter didn't live far from the school so he would just walk home. We'd get so involved in conversations about things like this that we'd just let a number of the buses pass by that ran every 30 minutes. Though we were both freezing standing at the bus stop, we'd often wait until the very last bus at 1 AM before I'd finally board and head home.

We both agreed that the Star Trek concept of dematerialization and rematerialization being based on having your actual molecules disassembled, transmitted, and then reassembled was flawed. To transmit the actual molecules of which you are made seemed both inefficient and unnecessary. The amount of energy in molecules is so huge that this would probably be an extremely high energy dangerous operation. On the other hand, the technology to transmit just information via radio waves already exists and has existed for over a century. It would seem much simpler to just scan the location and momentum of every atom of the person at the source location, transmit that "information" to the destination, and then recreate the person at the destination location just using atoms already available at the destination location.

But wait! Then you won't be building "me" out of the same atoms of which I was composed! That was the start of the paradox.

One atom of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. is pretty much the same as the next. There is no difference. Do you really think that "you" are "you" because of the particular carbon atoms of which you are made? That somehow "you" would not still be "you" if you were made out of different carbon atoms than you are made now? If so, then I have news for you. Between the processes of eating, drinking, breathing, and elimination, every carbon atom is swapped out of your body and replaced with a new one at least every eight years. There are very few atoms in your body today that were there a decade ago and pretty much none of the atoms that you are made of now will still be part of you a decade from now. So do you really think what makes "you" who "you are" are the particular unique atoms of which you are composed?

If you see things the way we did, then you can see that who "we are" is not the specific atoms of which we are composed. If we exchange our existing carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., atoms for other carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. atoms, then we are still who we are. After all, we are making that exchange all the time every day as we eat, drink, breath, and eliminate.

So when teleporting a person to a destination, why not just use the needed atoms already located at the destination for the reassembly process? If you can substitute one carbon atom for another, then "you" should still be "you"!

So, just what are "you"? Are you the pattern of all the atoms in your body? When it comes to the pattern of your atoms, you are pretty unique. The start of your pattern began at conception when the DNA of your mother and father came together to create your DNA combination. That itself might not be unique if you have an identical twin sibling as that twin would have a DNA pattern identical to you. But from the moment of conception, there is no one that has the same vantage point in the universe as you. Everything that starts happening to you affects the pattern of your atoms, especially in your brain, your memories, but also elsewhere. You end up with a pattern of atoms that is uniquely you. So is this what you are? Are you this pattern of atoms? If so, then we'll just have you step into the teleporter and record that pattern of atoms that define just who "you are". We'll transmit the information about that pattern using radio waves. At the destination teleporter we'll use the information about your pattern to create a new you out of the atoms available at the destination location. The new you will be an exact replica of you with the exact same pattern of atoms as you. If you are defined by the unique pattern of your atoms, then that should surely be "you" at the destination teleporter!

But now we have another problem. You had stepped into the teleporter at the source location and we have recorded the pattern of all your atoms. We are done recording, transmitting, and assembling a new exact copy of you at the destination teleporter. But the original "you" is still standing in the teleporter at the source waiting for something to happen. What are we going to do with the original "you"?

We could take you out back and have you shot, but that would be a little too obvious. I've got it! Instead, we could vaporize you right in the teleporter at the source as soon as the pattern of your atoms has been recorded! That will certainly provide for a good illusion that you have vanished from one location and appeared in another location. You've been teleported! Nobody will know the difference. Not even the original "you" that has vanished from the source location, nor the new copy of "you" that has appeared at the destination location!

For the sake of compassion, let's say we don't vaporize you after the pattern of your atoms has been recorded and a new "you" has been assembled at the destination. Exactly what is it that we have done?

Both the original "you" at the teleporter source and the copy of "you" at the teleporter destination have the exact same pattern of atoms right up to the moment of teleportation. After that, you each have your own unique vantage point in the universe and start having new perceptions and making new memories that are quite different. But which one is "you"? Obviously if there is a "you" at all, the one at the teleporter source must be you. That "you" is going about its life as it always had just as if it had never entered the teleporter. But why isn't the "you" at the destination also "you"? We already concluded that one atom of carbon is as good as the next and that it was really the pattern of the atoms that defines you. At one point at the completion of the teleportation process both of "you" had the exact same pattern of atoms. Your unique patterns did not diverge until that point. Both of "you" will certainly consider yourselves to be "you". One will view the world as having been teleported from source to destination. The other will perceive the world as having entered a broken teleporter and then having stepped out without having been teleported.

For me that was enough to start questioning just what is this thing that we call "I"?

I accidentally stumbled upon the illusion of "I" backwards. Many people like the approach of non-duality, but have a real hard time logically trying to understand the illusion of the "I". For most of my life my problem has been the reverse of that. It felt like an "I" existed, but logically I could not figure out where to find the "I". Logically it seemed to me that the "I" was nothing more than a self-defining illusion.

For decades I assumed there was just something wrong with my facts or my logic. I just assumed that I would eventually figure out this feeling that the "I" exists despite the facts and logic showing me that "I" was nothing more than an illusion.

It mas movies like "The Matrix" (just the first one) and "The Thirteenth Floor" that reawakened my interest in this topic. "The Matrix" provided some really good concepts to consider regarding reality, illusion and delusion. The weakness of the plot of "The Matrix" was that escape was sort of possible, and that escape was just into another world much like the original world, only less comfortable. There are many ways that movie can be interpreted as a model of non-duality and awakening, but I think it went off track. I thought "The Thirteenth Floor" had a much more consistent plot about reality and illusion. The punch line was actually beyond the end of the movie, but I'm not sure how many noticed it. At the end of the movie I asked myself: "Are they actually in reality now, or is this just another level of illusion?" Then the screen faded out the same way that old tube televisions used to by first collapsing to a bright dot in the center of the screen and then blank out. It wasn't until then that the obvious hit me. Of course the final scene of the movie was also just an illusion! All movies are an illusion, just a play put on for our entertainment! Even the characters in the movie who appeared to have reached the ultimate level of reality are not. They are just characters on the screen of the movie. Even the reality the characters found themselves in at the end of the movie was not real. I, the person in the audience watching the movie, is the one that is in the ultimate level of reality.

Or am I?

So then the final question becomes obvious: "Am I too just the next level of the illusion and there are still levels above this?" To the viewers that got the end of "The Thirteenth Floor" (probably just those of us that predate instant on TVs), I think this movie ended with a much more provocative question than the ending of "The Matrix".

When I started reading books like Tony Parsons' "The Open Secret", Nathan Gill's "Already Awake", and Alan Watts "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are", they struck a cord. From the perspective of these writers, it was no surprise why I could never find the "I". There is no "I" to find!

The "I" is an illusion that really does not exist. That came as a relief to me. Up until then, I didn't know there were others who gave any thought to "I" being an illusion. Mostly it was the writings of Alan Watts that lead me into Buddhism and then into Advaitism. It wasn't until then that I discovered that many of the major eastern religions including Hinduism and Buddhism have considered the illusion of the self since ancient times. Eastern philosophy has dealt with the illusion of the self and the truth of non-duality for millenia. It was from those readings that I discovered there has been significant growing interest in philosophy and spirituality in the west regarding non-duality and the illusion of the existence of "I".

On a separate path, I've always had an interest in the scientific origin of the universe, a study known as cosmology, and the actual composition of matter and energy, a topic that is the study of physics, especially quantum physics and string theory. These scientific approaches to the universe have determined that the actual behavior of matter and energy is based on the observer. But again the question comes up: who IS the observer in any given situation? This has lead many scientists to themselves examine just what is this "I" that is the observer. Many recent books have been written about the relationship of quantum behavior, non-duality, and the illusion of the self. Movies like "What the BLEEP Do We Know", though not scientifically precise, do present an artistic rendition of the paradoxes presented by quantum physics and the phantom nature of reality. So even my scientific curiosity has lead me to the same non-duality sphere as my spiritual and philosophical quest!

I reached a conclusion years ago that the "I" was an illusion. But I just assumed that there was a mistake in my logic somewhere. I assumed that if I searched enough I would discover the mistake in my logic and would figure out just what this "I" is. Instead, after more than 30 years of searching, I have found that many others have reached this same conclusion and reached that conclusion thousands of years before I had made my own illusory personal appearance on this earth! I am more convinced now more than ever that my original conclusion was correct and that the "I" is an illusion.

What are the ramifications when one knows the "I" is an illusion, but an illusion from which there is no escape? But if there is no "I", then who is there that needs to escape?

The Gateless Gate: Once you go through the gate you will find there was no gate to go through and no YOU to go through the gate!

-- Brian William Drisko, 15-Apr-2011 1907 bwd@advaitism.com


That which I learn is for my entertainment.
It is not for telling you how you should live your life.
If you are interested in what I see I will try my best to explain.

-- Brian William Drisko, 07-Jan-2010 2144 bwd@advaitism.com


You are not it, but in truth it is you.

-- From: Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi

Do you believe in God? I believe only in God.
There is nothing but God; God is all that exists.

We are not God; God is us.
I am not God; God is me.

-- Brian William Drisko, 25-Oct-2008 0845 bwd@advaitism.com


I can't judge anyone for I am everyone.

-- Brian William Drisko, 18-Oct-2008 0000 bwd@advaitism.com


Any benefit that I bring to you, I bring to myself
Any harm that I bring to you, I bring to myself
For there are not two; we are all one essence.

It is also true,
Any benefit that I bring to myself, I bring to you
Any harm that I bring to myself, I bring to you
but that brings little peace without your agreement on this fact.

Thus it is better that I view
what I do for you, I do for myself.

-- Brian William Drisko, 19-Oct-2008 1129 bwd@advaitism.com


You can ignore the following section, but you can see that I was on the right track. Tony Parsons himself explained in a later book that the "Invitation to Awaken" is like the "Gateless Gate". Once you take up the "Invitation" you will find there never was an Invitation and never was anyone to take up the Invitation.

-- Brian William Drisko, 26-Apr-2009 1747 bwd@advaitism.com

I don't quite see the "Invitation" that Tony Parsons speaks of in his book: "Invitation to Awaken, Embracing Our Natural State of Presence". The closest I come to understanding that is it being like receiving an invitation while you are already at the party! Maybe it takes receiving an actual invitation to remind you that you are already at the party, but you are at the party regardless of whether or not you receive the invitation or even whether or not you comprehend or respond to the invitation.

Another reason why I don't personally like the "invitation" interpretation of being is that, to me, an invitation implies a call to action. Receiving an invitation usually means you have been given a choice of action: to accept, to decline, or to ignore the invitation. But in Tony Parsons' own words he says that there are no choices and no actions to be taken.

The book seems to imply a purpose to life, to answer the invitation to return home to our true one self that is all. It seems that Tony Parsons' other words conflict with this as he explains that there is no one, no purpose, no choices, no time and no space. The concept of "As It Is", no duality, no purpose, no choices, no time and no space seem to rule out the implication of existence being an "invitation" to any one, or to no one.

Existence just is "as it is" without any implication of an invitation to do or see any thing. There is no need to awaken as there is no one to awaken, which Tony Parsons points out numerous times in the book.

The illusory Ego or Mind can play with the concepts of Awakening and Enlightenment, which may seem to be enjoyable or to be torture. But it is not the purpose of the existence of any one to become enlightened. There is no one to become enlightened. Enlightenment just is.

-- Brian William Drisko, 20-Oct-2008 0858 bwd@advaitism.com


Maybe I had an advantage in seeing through all this over the seekers of enlightenment. I was never a seeker of enlightenment. I began from the point of a scientific quest. I never thought it was about me to start with. As I walked along a path and saw lizards, birds, insects and even trees, I knew I was like them. I knew we were all part of the universe, but I also knew the purpose of the universe wasn't about any one of us in particular. I never thought my purpose in life was to become enlightened or to "awaken" any more than the purpose in life of the lizard, the bird, the insect or even the tree was to "awaken". My only quest was to find what the purpose of the universe itself was.

I knew the universe had been here for billions of years before I came along, would be here for billions of years after I was gone, and thus the purpose of the universe, if there was one, had little to do with my own limited life (or that of the lizard, bird, insect or tree).

When I realized there already IS enlightenment just AS IT IS, that is the first time it all made sense to me. All the teachings about there being nothing that I needed to do on my part to be "awakened" made total sense to me. There JUST IS enlightenment. There JUST IS being awake. I didn't need to do anything to be a part of this enlightenment any more than did the lizard, the bird, the insect, the tree, or even a rock! That is also how it made sense to me that there always was, is, and always will be enlightenment. There was enlightenment even before there was any intelligence or even any life in this universe, and will still be even after life vanishes from the universe. Life is an interesting part of the universe. Life, intelligence, humans, and even I myself, are just a part of WHAT IS. An interesting aspect of AS IT AS, but not a prerequisite for enlightenment to be.

-- Brian William Drisko, 06-Nov-2009 0213 bwd@advaitism.com


There is a river with people standing on the near shore of the river. As with all rivers, there are two shores: the near shore and the far shore. The people on the near shore see people on a raft in the middle of the river and also see other people on the other shore of the river. They don't see how the people on the raft in the middle of the river got there. They also don't see how people got over to the other side of the river. The people on the raft in the middle of the river are seekers. The people on the other shore of the river are Advaitists.

But is there really any difference between one shore and the other shore? Will the seeker find what he is looking for if what he is looking for is something different?

A Buddhist may be a seeker or a non-seeker but only a non-seeker can be an Advaitist and an Advaitist can only be a non-seeker. However, Enlightenment is always there.

-- Brian William Drisko, 07-Nov-2009 0510 bwd@advaitism.com


Non-duality is not something you need to do.
Non-duality is the way things are.

No matter what you do or don't do, all of existence is still non-dual. You may live a life more at peace if you perceive and understand the non-dual nature of existence. Or you can chose to view existence from the play of duality and suffer the consequences of the world never being quite the way you want or expected.

Non-duality contains everything, including duality. You can live with the peace of understanding the entire non-dual nature of existence, or you can struggle within the duality view of existence. But either way, there is nothing that you HAVE TO DO with your life.

-- Brian William Drisko, 08-Nov-2009 2157 bwd@advaitism.com


Advaitism and Buddhism both have the concept of non-duality at their core. Buddhism, however, seems to approach non-duality in a confusing round about manner teaching that there are things "you" need to do to see the dellusion of duality. Advaitism takes a more straight forward direct approach pointing out that there is NO "you". Therefore, there is no one that needs to do anything since NO "you" exists that CAN DO anything. Buddhism discusses much about what one needs to do to "awaken" though does imply that a personal awakening does not exist. Advaitism has the concept that "there is awakening", but not in the context of a specific individual being awakened or enlightened since no separate "You" exists in Advaitism. In the context of non-duality, everything that exists is awakened or enlightened. Nothing needs to be done or can be done to awaken since there is no separate individual to take any action. Just being is to be "already awake". Starting with this concept is more likely to bring an individual mind to see the concept of non-duality. But there is no need for an individual mind to see this since the real "you" is not an individual mind and "being" is just "as it is". Thus there is no need for any struggle to awaken or achieve enlightenment. It is not necessary or possible to become what you already are.

-- Brian William Drisko, 23-Nov-2009 2335 bwd@advaitism.com


You are a red blood cell. I am a red blood cell. The entire body is "Reality". I am as much of that Reality as you or any other cell of the body. There is nothing to the body or "Reality" other than millions of cells just like us. It seem like our individual life has a purpose and meaning all to itself, but it really doesn't. We function and exist in terms of the whole, though it is difficult for us to see it that way.

-- Brian William Drisko, 24-Nov-2009 1610 bwd@advaitism.com


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