Integrating Science and Spirit. In the 2nd century CE two great scholar-masters, Nagarjuna in the East and Plotinus in the West, began the Non-Dual Revolution in our Great Wisdom Tradition that is only just now unifying the wisdom traditions of East and West. This non-dual View understands the ontological interdependence—the prior unity—of all arising phenomena with their primordial matrix source. There is no essential separation, no intrinsic duality of knowing subject and appearing objects. Mind and body, spirit and matter are an unbounded unified nondual whole.
As the developmental dialectic of human emotional spiritual evolution proceeds, and the cognitive estrangement of global modern and postmodern scientific materialism recedes, a “new science of consciousness” has emerged. This new science has discovered an integral noetic (subject/object unity) paradigm that integrates our subjective cognition—the “soft,” interior “first person” personal experience, and the transpersonal contemplative technologies of the spiritual paths of our Great Wisdom Tradition—with objective cognition, the “hard,” exterior “third person” data of the neurosciences. We need hard neuroscience to explicate the hardware of brain, and a soft, contemplative science of consciousness to penetrate the software of mind. An integral science of mind must utilize this “doublet” of both objective (and interobjective) and subjective (and intersubjective) methodologies as we evolve, individually and collectively, toward our next lifestage.
Neuroscientists utilizing functional MRI technology with the Dalai Lama’s highly trained meditators have discovered an astonishing plasticity of the brain’s emotional circuits. This discovery has demonstrated that negative human emotions (fear/anger) may be healed and positive emotions (compassion/joy) generated through meditative mind training. Moreover, these temporary positive “state” changes may become, through the practice of the Path, permanent personality “trait” changes as brief glimpses and experiences become stable consciousness structures. Contrary to the dreary neurogenetic determinism of the old paradigm of the social sciences, negative emotions are not “hardwired” into the brain. We are not evil. Nor does there exist a fixed individual “happiness set point” selected by our genes. We are free to choose “basic goodness”—happiness itself—this presence of the whole that is always already present (The Dalai Lama’s Mind & Life Series, Vol. 10)…
Choosing Reality. Thus it is, the non-dual View and the compassionate, “be here now’ practice of the Path can transform the mind, and this changes the self-centered behavior that cloaks the wisdom of kindness as it spontaneously arises from our primordially present wisdom mind. An effective lifeworld practice frees us from destructive negative emotions, and from blind faith in the fundamentalist protoreligion of scientific materialism—the cult of scientism—with its naïve and catastrophic reduction of all-embracing non-dual Spirit to mere consumable matter. This new science of consciousness is an urgent juncture in the integration, then unification of Science and Spirit, and the emergence of a truly integral noetic science of mind, nature, ethics and spirituality…
The “Hard Problem,” and the Really Hard Problem of Consciousness. This incipient integral science of mind has cast new light upon the perennial “Mind-Body Problem.” This is the “Hard Problem” for Western cognitive science, the neurosciences and contemporary philosophy of mind. The problem may be expressed as the “explanatory gap” between exterior objective physical brain and interior subjective awareness states, in short, the gap between body and mind. Can the many dimensions of mind actually be reduced to merely objective physical/chemical “emergent properties” of brain processes, as the old dualistic scientific materialist paradigm insists? Will scientists and philosophers ever see that this material realist belief presupposes the very consciousness necessary to formulate a denial of consciousness? The new integral paradigm relaxes this “taboo of subjectivity” inherent in the metaphysical dogma of the prevailing material realism paradigm and acknowledges the urgency of an integral science that explores the subjective aspect of mind, particularly the emotions—the prepersonal and personal negative emotions (anger/aggression) that destroy us, and the transpersonal emotions (compassion/joy) that heal us.
Our view of this apparent problem of subjectivity determines the root relation of knowing subject to our perceived objects—the epistemological question as to how and what we can know, and the “ontological problem” as to the ultimate reality of appearing phenomena, our essential or ultimate mode of being here. “No small matter is at stake. The question concerns the very way in which human life is to be lived” (Plato). Note that this perpetual dualism between mind/body, subject/object, self/other, finite appearance/infinite Reality, matter/spirit, humanity/God arises only at the outer and inner levels (concept and belief) of the Four Views that are the four levels of understanding and explanation. The post-materialist, transconceptual innermost secret and the nondual understanding views phenomenal reality as conventionally or relatively real, but its ultimate nature or essence is known to be an ontologically prior, interdependent yet non-reified unity of light and emptiness with no essential, permanent, intrinsic or absolute existence (Shunyata, Tao). We live in two worlds at once! These conceptual categories, these two realms of being—Relative and Ultimate, ‘Small Mind” and “Big Mind”—appear throughout our Great Wisdom Tradition as variations on the perennial duality of the essential unity of the “Two Truths” and these four levels of understanding.
There is a subtler aspect to this problem of subjectivity. The really hard problem for human beings is the healing and unification of this primordial split, the apparent duality between these Two Truths that are our two worlds of experience. The objective, finite existence of our bodymind and its actions (ethics) in the relative conventional world of cause and effect (karma) must be reconciled and reconnected to our perfectly subjective infinite sourceground, the vast, acausal, atemporal unbounded whole, our non-dual supreme identity in whom this all arises and participates. But how?
Zen Mind, Wisdom Mind: A Most Unusual Paradox. An enduring commitment to the nondual View and to the relative Path lifts the apparent obstruction—the negative emotions of the separate ego-I—and reveals the fully awake, always present presence of the supreme source, then gradually, then suddenly yields the stable Result, the fruit that is primordial wisdom mind. This is the realization of the prior essential unity of the Two Truths, these two modes of being the unbounded whole. “This result is no different at the pinnacle of enlightenment than it is at the primordial base” (Adzom Rinpoche). The spontaneous compassionate expression of this realization in the world is ultimate happiness itself. What to do?
Here is the crazy, miraculous paradox: not only do we realize happiness by not seeking happiness—by “letting it be as it is”—but we utilize the ignorance of “Small Mind” to realize “Big Mind,” our perfect wisdom mind! It is only through transformation of the negative emotions—the ignorance—inherent in being in the realm of relative spacetime reality, that we realize the “crazy wisdom” that is the radical freedom and happiness inherent in the all-inclusive embrace of ultimate reality, the conceptually unstructured beautiful prior unity of this present moment now. Great joy!
View, Path and Result. The View provides both conceptual and nondual insight, and an increased tolerance for the cognitive dissonance (contradiction, paradox, anxiety) of the Path. The Path provides the method, that ascendingly subtler strata of teaching, practice and courage necessary to deconstruct the selfish, destructive ego-I. Together these two awaken always present wisdom mind that develops, then completes the Result, the fruition of enlightenment that is radical Happiness Itself. On the path to wholeness “development is envelopment” (Plotinus) at ever subtler, more inclusive levels of Spirit embrace.
From the view and understanding of the outer and inner levels or dimensions of the Four Views this process of the path requires intention and effort—courage, discipline and perseverance. However, from the view and understanding of the timeless innermost secret and nondual dimensions, “It is already accomplished from the very beginning” (Garab Dorje). No problem at all. Now, there is nothing left to do. So all that we do is selfless, authentic and kind.
When we forget ourselves we are actually the true activity of the big mind or reality itself. When we realize this fact, there is no problem whatever in this world. The purpose of our practice is to be aware of this fact… It may be too perfect for us, just now, because we are so much attached to our own feeling, to our individual existence… When we reach this understanding, we find the true meaning of our life.
—Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind