Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Notes on 'Wholeness and the implicate order: Ch.1 Fragmentation and Wholeness '.

In this chapter Bohm asserts very strongly the need for a whole view in which knowledge and experience are as one. Without this perspective, thought is fragmented and hence the world. It's not a common view among Western scientists, at least not one generally espoused. I had read that Bohm was influenced by Krishnamurti and this is evident if you look at the end of the Appendix, in which he pays glowing tribute to the approach of Krishnamurti and distinguishes approaches and attitudes to measurable and immeasurable that he has encountered between West and East (especially India). The appendix might have been put at the beginning because the perspective offered seems to flow from the observations there.

Overall, I think the views offer valuable coherence and I want to learn more, but there seems to be a denial of the transcendent potential of human beings; that the absolute reality can be attained:

Actually, there are no direct and positive things that man can do to get in touch with the immeasurable, for this must be immensely beyond anything that man can grasp with his mind or accomplish with his hands or instruments.
I find this ultimately pessimistic, unnecessarily so. I guess if someone comes from a Western background it can be difficult to not equate a human being with the biological organism, but the biological organism cannot of itself transcend. In insisting on wholeness of the thinking and content, to include the biological [conditioned] self, and nothing beyond would imply being stuck. Actually, isn't this argument in itself relativistic?

My conviction is that the first journey is to explore what it is to be human and that alone - if carried out properly - will refute the above statement. Indeed the Buddha taught a different way of viewing, a subtle way, which contrasts the conditioned sphere as subject to dukkha (suffering/unsatisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence/flux), anatta (not-self), with lokuttara dhamma - reality that transcends the conditioned, as recorded in Udana VIII.3: Nibbana Sutta

There is, bhikkhus, a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned. If, bhikkhus, there were no not-born, not-brought-to-being, not-made, not-conditioned, no escape would be discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned. But since there is a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned, therefore an escape is discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned.

In the appendix, there's similarly another bone of contention:

It is of course impossible to go back to a state of wholeness that may have been present before the split between East and West developed...

Personally, as someone who is half Caucasian and half Oriental, I would like to suggest this is possible, particularly if you are mixed race (East/West) and have appropriate karmic background and a supportive environment in which to develop ... as it happens, my research and professional work is in science and technology, whilst my personal interests are in religion and philosophy. :-)

And a bit further on he adds another 'of course':

Of course, we have to be cognisant of the teachings of the past, both Western and Eastern, but to imitate these teachings or to try to conform to them would have little value.
Is that so? The Buddha often used the exhortation of "Ehipassiko!" as an invitation to "Come and see!" which meant following Magga, the path leading ultimately to nibbana. I think if you were to ask a Bhikkhu (monk), they would say that the Buddha's teaching is as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago and the vinaya and suttas contain instructions that if followed can be found effective guidance for the Path.

There's a lot of attention to the divided nature of the world and critical issues, with implications for how one lives within society and not separate from it. That's evident even in monastic societies, e.g. the Buddhist Sangha and lay supporters are operating in a kind of ecosystem, supporting each other in complementary ways. However, at the same time, a bhikkhu formally renounces the world, society and all its endless comings and goings.

Something I found odd is that there's no discussion of ethics or values tied in with actions. Maybe I've missed something. But then, that aspect is not pronounced even in some Eastern traditions, with more emphasis on carrying out rituals and duty. However, it is fundamental to the Buddhist perspective - indeed, karma in the Buddhist sense is ethical, as the previous quote from the Dhammapada shows.

Nevertheless, I find it apt that he attributes great importance to how we cultivate views, how we think. I considered this issue as a prelude to some writing in the past and even took a quick look, as it happens, at the word 'rational,' but I had a narrower impression in my mind of its definition, viz as being fundamentally an activity of the brain, adding as a footnote the example of soldiers thinking/considering their battle plans. I was undoubtedly strongly influenced by lessons I received at school, which at the time of writing was not so long ago. However, Bohm conveys a deeper sense of 'measure' with a very nice discussion of how it underlies many words that have developed rather separate meanings. So I see my view was unnecessarily limited and perhaps a more accurate translation for the soldier's deliberations might be weighing up!

I considered these issues in a long series of reflections that eventually led to a book. The process of authoring that book was perhaps unusual - I would occasionally jot down on scraps of paper reflections and realisations. I had no intention at the start to write a book - I had only the will to write and reflect. Then later on there was the wish to order the notes; still later on the observation that there was sufficient to compose a book. It might appear that here was a book made up of tiny disparate fragments and thus fundamentally fragmented. But perhaps these fragments came out from the same whole and reflect that whole - unable to represent that whole in even a number of reflective writings, this was a process of unfolding over time. I wonder if merely the intention to understand was what Bohm refers to as the formative cause in this process, where the book is implicit from the intentions, or we might say that in the book there was the flow of conditions that had cause in intentions.

1 comment:

basho said...

hi paul-

you may find it of interest to read some of the original conversations between d. bohm and j. k. they are contained in a book titled "The Ending of Time". there are some versions of the conversations on the web.
see: www.patanjali.ch/library/Conversations-End_of_Time/c_01.html