Dualities

assume-the-position_fade_whiteWhen did hot and cold come to exist on earth? Did they appear suddenly on our planet? Or did they arise gradually?

How about long and short?

Large and small.

Young and old.

Good and bad.

Right and wrong.

Does right and wrong rely on humans for its existence?

How about weeds and non-weeds? If there were no humans, would there still be weeds?

These dualities and thousands like them are all ideas. They are concepts. Notions. They are created by and confined to human minds. Before humans existed, human ideas did not exist, and therefore, before humans existed, dualities such as hot and cold did not exist. These dualities require a discriminating human mind trained by generations to discriminate in this uniquely human way. A bird does not label a mountain “old,” just as the mountain does not call the bird “small.”

If I could step outside of my humanness and observe my own thoughts and feelings and also the sum of all human thinking and feeling from the past, present, and future, I would be watching from a perspective where things like “high and low” and “in and out” do not exist. So too, from this place, all human gain and all human loss would be seen as merely another pair of human labels that fritter about inside human minds. And during those precious moments when the duality of gain and loss collapses – nothing I have or don’t have, had or didn’t have, will have or won’t have – nothing I have done or haven’t done – nothing I will do or won’t do – nothing seen or not seen, heard or not heard, felt or not felt – is able to hurt me.

9 Comments

  • Spike The Cat Posted September 28, 2010 11:03 am

    The Cat would like to make a couple of points. First, the very concepts identified like ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ or ‘old and young’ are better captured, not as ideas but as points on a continuum. Second, the continuum existed but it, like specific points along it, subjective qualities.

    It’s like the old ‘tree falls in a forest’ bit. Yes, it makes a sound (a physical event) but No, it doesn’t make a sound (a subjective experience).

    The sentiment about not being hurt …. well, if that tree lands on you, it’s gonna hurt.

    The Cat apologizes for his crude embracing of empiricism and pragmatism and still loves Mr. T.

  • Tommy Angelo Posted September 28, 2010 12:34 pm

    Dear Spike the Cat,

    “The Cat would like to make a couple of points. First, the very concepts identified like ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ or ‘old and young’ are better captured, not as ideas but as points on a continuum. Second, the continuum existed but it, like specific points along it, subjective qualities.
    “It’s like the old ‘tree falls in a forest’ bit. Yes, it makes a sound (a physical event) but No, it doesn’t make a sound (a subjective experience).”

    I’m glad you pointed out that distinction! In the post, I was talking only about subjective experience.

    “The sentiment about not being hurt …. well, if that tree lands on you, it’s gonna hurt.”

    We’ll just have to disagree on that. 🙂

    “The Cat … still loves Mr. T.”

    And I’ll still gladly clean your catbox. 🙂

  • Razboynik Posted September 28, 2010 4:12 pm

    Time is another human concept that would die with humanity.
    If humans were immortal, how would their perception of time change?
    If you are a Buddhist, does that make you immortal?

  • palsport Posted September 29, 2010 2:27 pm

    Tommy to Spike The Cat:
    “And I’ll still gladly clean your catbox. :-)”

    Tommy,
    Suggesting that Mr. Cat’s box is dirty and needs cleaning is presumptive, and implies a duality of clean/unclean which is a human qualification, although I am sure it is quite nasty. I have cats.

    Everything else in your great post is truish though, except that the terms big and small have been around since the Beginning, before man. Otherwise the origin of the Universe would just be known as The Bang. And that would sound funny.

    • Tommy Angelo Posted September 29, 2010 6:26 pm

      “Otherwise the origin of the Universe would just be known as The Bang. And that would sound funny.”

      Except no one would hear it.

  • palsport Posted September 29, 2010 7:09 pm

    No one did hear it, because (a) no one was around at the time, (b) there is no sound in the vacuum of space, and (c) [insert Stephen Hawking joke here (example: Steve is so smart, yet shriveled!)].

  • Dr silverrose Posted September 29, 2010 8:32 pm

    Question ( a real one). Has Tommy ever read Plato? These questions and many others like it come up over and over in the dialogues, written over 2300 years ago. These are profound questions, but by no means are they new.
    . I’d recommend that anybody interested in these ideas read Plato’s Meno, Protagoras, Gorgias, and Phaedo ( for starters).

  • Tommy Angelo Posted September 30, 2010 6:33 am

    “Question ( a real one). Has Tommy ever read Plato?”

    No.

    “These are profound questions, but by no means are they new.”

    Agreed. I’m just recycling them.

  • Gary Posted November 29, 2010 2:39 pm

    As always a pleasure to read your posts Tommy, these themes remind me very much of the Diamond Sutra which I will continue reading tomorrow as I started reading it a week or so ago and did my favourite trick of putting a very good read down and never picking it up again… Tomorrow I’ll continue.

    One interesting thing that I read and re read that really made the point was me, was this (paraphrased from memory)

    The human that aspires to great spiritual wisdom should make his mind insensible to phenomena, to sight, to smell, to taste, to touch, to sound, and to discrimination.

    The most profound insight I’ve had so far from the buddhist texts I’ve read is that everything in the world ‘as I see and perceive it’ is just a manifestion of my own mind, I can not see the world as I am confinded to my own arbitrary rendering of it through my own senses. Likewise concepts I have in my mind are my own, therefore to like something or someone, to me mad at something or someone, is to be like or be mad with myself, for these qualities are inferences of my own mind. In this way I am continually creating my own reality. This is not ‘virtual reality’ – or wishful thinking, but as real as the air I breathe.

    I think this puts a big burden of responsibility on me to ensure I am always creating the world that is congruent with who and what I want to be and likewise a peaceful and happy place to exist.

    Your speaking of discriminations and the dualities inherent in these discriminations reminded me of this. I hope one day to become a winning poker player by transferring these thoughts into my game. My biggest weakness is my ego I am sure, despite the frequent times I spend thinking of ways to diminish it, I still find myself getting agravated when I am card dead, or when someone starts stealing my chips in a tournament when I can not defend them as I do not have a hand to counter shove… then again the correct view is probabally to realise that I can defend them by not falling into the trap of emotional play and staying present to the moment. A fold saves my stack and is only painful when I am operating through my ego. And of course ultimately this is all so trivial that it should not even bother me in the slightest.

    I sense I am rambling.. so will stop, and get back to the reason for me posting! To thank you for such a thought provoking post. I also really liked the first post, about operating outside of reserves, as I said there, this is something I need to start doing!

    By the way – a followup to the 8fold path would be great, sure you have lots more spiritual insight you could translate to the felt 🙂

    Thanks, and peace to you!

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