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Date Posted: 22:19
Author: Eponymous-25Jul02
Subject: Re: The value of a currency note
In reply to: Anonymous-25Jul02 's message, "Re: The value of a currency note" on 22:16

"Now this type of man [Berkeley's assailant] cannot understand what Buddha means when he says the world is a mirage."

Just what the Buddha said (much less what he meant) really isn't clear, because all we have are supposedly original sayings filtered through centuries of purported hearsay, interpretation and commentary, not to mention the contingencies of historical bookkeeping. (The same goes of course for Jesus, Lao Tzu, etc.)

As to the question at hand: A pure Buddhist would probably insist that one remain agnostic on the issue of what the "true" reality is. The same goes for questions of: whether the cosmos is eternal; whether the world is infinite; or whether the soul is identical to the body. The questions, Buddha might have said, are ill-posed. This in mind, grandly to declaim about "ultimate" reality is actually quite un-Buddhist in character (although I know that many Buddhists engage in this nefarious activity!).

Take the supposed argument from the tract above that "in the night when you dream, dream becomes real,” and thus, by analogy, the world outside our dreams can be thought no more or less real than the world inside them. This bare claim has little going for it in the way of reason, contemplation or common sense; it's also a false analogy. [n.1] And it is, as mentioned, very un-Buddhist-like metaphysical speculation.

More than all of that, though, the claim itself defeats the very idea that meditation provides privileged access to Reality-with-a-capital-'R'. How's that? Replace 'dream' with 'meditation', and the point should become clear. [n.2]

1. I myself have never managed to mistake a dream for reality, and while dreaming have recognized a dream as such whenever the question occurred to me (which is, of course, rarely).
2. This substitution demonstrates that the claim that ‘I have experienced reality in the bliss of my meditation’ has no more logical relevance than the claim that ‘I have experienced reality in my dream.’

A personal anecdote: I have had many experiences that were qualitatively indistinguishable from what others characterize as epiphany. In one such episode I was swept away a blissful grasp of the body-mind identity - intense as anything I’ve experienced while meditating.

Now, was this “epiphany” evidence that reductive materialism is true? Far from it: I don’t even think my “understanding” was even real. But it doesn’t matter: The point is, if one wants to suggest that meditative epiphanies should be taken at face-value, it seems to me that one really must articulate a principled way of distinguishing one’s own “real” experience from the illusory experience of dreams, and from “false” epiphanies like mine.

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