Can YOU see the Moon? - Dhamma Wheel

Can YOU see the Moon?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Can YOU see the Moon?

Postby cherrytigerbarb » Mon May 27, 2013 8:18 am

It's hard to get your head around the idea that we don't see the world the way it really is. The first time I explain it, most people dismiss it out of hand. That's completely understandable. We spend our whole lives seeing things through a heavy veil of concepts. And that's ok. That's how we function in the world. Our concepts are the tools with which we make sense of reality. They enable us to function day to day. What would life be like without them? The world would be a very frightening and confusing place. We would be like new born babies. Everything around us would appear as a mass of shifting colour and sound. We wouldn't be able to delineate between one object and another. Move one foot to the left or right and the entire world changes, none of it having an ounce of meaning. Even our own bodies would appear as being 'out there' instead of appearing as a part of 'me'. Have you ever noticed a baby staring at its hands or feet with fascination? It is only as our concepts begin to take shape that we slowly form the idea that there is a 'me' or 'I' separate and distinct from the world 'out there'. Our concepts quickly be become so hardwired that we don't even notice them. But there are ways to point this out to people. You have to start slowly with a simple example. I like to begin with the question: 'Where does your fist go when you open your hand?', or 'Where does a cup go when you smash it?' In response, they will say something like 'Oh, well now you have the pieces of a broken cup.' As if they were somehow able to know that the pieces once formed a cup, even without ever having seen the cup before it was smashed. You have to explain that 'cup' and 'fist' are concepts, and that they have no existence in reality in and of themselves. That is how they appear and disappear so readily with no change to the sum total of what's there. (Fist or no-fist, in both cases there is a hand). Eventually they might sort of 'get it', but only for a moment, and only for the example being given. They don't immediately see the enormous implications to what's being explained. I'm not even sure that it's possible to convey the 'astounding truth of reality' with mere explanation. It could be that the only way for people to truly 'see' is through their own investigation. All I can do is try. But it can be exasperating to point to the moon, and watch as the person stares at my finger. Can YOU see the moon?
"The foolish reject what they see, not what they think. The wise reject what they think, not what they see." - Huang Po.

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Re: Can YOU see the Moon?

Postby SamKR » Mon May 27, 2013 6:35 pm

Hello cherrytigerbarb,

It's indeed complicated to understand and explain. When someone asks "Can you see the moon?" the answers "yes" and "no" both do not do justice with what is really is (suchness). The polarity of existence and non-existence is what supports the world. I resort to the Buddha's words in suttas like and :

"Whatever is seen or heard or sensed
and fastened onto as true by others,
One who is Such — among the self-fettered —
wouldn't further claim to be true or even false.

"Having seen well in advance that arrow
where generations are fastened & hung
— 'I know, I see, that's just how it is!' —
there's nothing of the Tathagata fastened."
Last edited by SamKR on Mon May 27, 2013 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Can YOU see the Moon?

Postby daverupa » Mon May 27, 2013 6:37 pm

I'm not sure which aspect of the Dhamma you're aiming for.

Concepts obtain; they arise at the mind sense gate. But I'm not sure where you're going after this: concepts change, sure; they aren't permanent, sure. This seems to be a good time to indicate to the general person how all experience was & is this way - which is to say, impermanent - but you seem instead to point to concepts as being unreal in some way, which to me feels like heading off into metaphysics. I don't think it's useful to broach ontology, in part because of the difficulties you mention; the discussion can stay broadly phenomenological, which is much easier for the average person to get a handle on.

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Re: Can YOU see the Moon?

Postby cherrytigerbarb » Tue May 28, 2013 5:36 am

"The foolish reject what they see, not what they think. The wise reject what they think, not what they see." - Huang Po.

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Re: Can YOU see the Moon?

Postby pegembara » Tue May 28, 2013 10:30 am

There is no moon.

Munindra frequently reminded his students that thinking and meditation are not the same.

He would inquire, “Do you want to think or do you want to meditate?” He made the
distinction by speaking of two worlds: one of concept, the other of reality. “Mostly you’re living in the world of thoughts,” he said. “Dhamma and meditation practice is living in the world of experience.” “Life is so short—what we can actually experience from moment to moment is so brief and fleeting—that to spend time being lost in thoughts and ideas about what is happening is insane, leading us away from the Truth.

Form is like a glob of foam;
feeling, a bubble;
perception, a mirage;
fabrications, a banana tree;
consciousness, a magic trick —
this has been taught
by the Kinsman of the Sun.
However you observe them,
appropriately examine them,
they're empty, void
to whoever sees them

Phena Sutta
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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