|Forest Sangha Newsletter||April 1994|
Let's begin with the description of a child's early development. From contemporary psychology:
Ref: Maurer, Daphne and Charles. World of the New-born (231 WM), Oxford University Press, 1987.
Ref: Shaffer, David R. Developmental Psychology Theory, Reseach and Applications (238 DP), Brooks-Cole Publishing Co.,Monterey, 1985.
Ref: Gregory, Richard L., The Oxford Companion To The Mind (429 OM) Oxford University Press.
For the newborn there is no baby, no world, no beginning, no ending, no coming, and no going.
Researchers are saying that when we watch a baby being born into the world this is not what is happening for the baby. For the newborn there is no baby, no world, no beginning, no ending, no coming, and no going. There are only meaningless sensations and the potential to form some interpretation of those sensations. It will take eight months, generally, to create the 'baby' and the 'world' as a basic interpretation. If we take a summary of these observations and align them with the steps of rebirth as described by the Buddha, we find an amazing similarity. The points listed thus far would read:
Compare this to the Buddha's steps of rebirth as noted in the Samyutta-Nikaya XII, 2: Out of ignorance rises formations: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, thinking; name (mentality) and form (materiality); the sense bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind); the arising together of sense consciousness, sense base and sense object (eg. seeing, the eye, and object of seeing); feeling; craving; clinging; being; birth; ageing and death.
|The similarity increases if we add a more general view. Once again from recent textbooks:|
It is important to note that this formed interpretation, 'a world', is 'only some among many possible patterns that could have formed.' It is not an absolute reality, only a perceptual viewpoint.
It was mentioned briefly above that at birth the 'self' is not there. Researchers since the 1930's have noted this and it is also in the Buddhist Canon: 'The self has a character that is different from the physiological organism proper. The self.., is not there at birth but arises in the process of social development. Mead 1934'(468 DP)
Once again the likeness grows as we examine this development of 'self':
|Reducing what has been stated we find that the child identifies the actual physical form of the body first. Second, based on that form, a mental description arises. Finally, a much more abstract sense of a self, as formless perceiver (knowing, awareness), develops.|
This is also what the Buddha says:
As developments progress:
A problem also noted by the Buddha.
Recent investigators are quick to point out that this structuring is a dependent arising:
This interdependence is a major element of the Buddha's teaching:
A development of particular importance in this correlation is the sense of permanence.
More simply, in order to have permanence a child needs to remember that even though the sensations of this moment are slightly different from the last they still resemble the last sensations. Instead of focusing on the subtleties of difference present in each moment, the mind starts to remember and relate the similarities. These similarities carry a sense of continuity or permanence.
For the Buddha it was of primary importance to see through this developed perception:
Ultimately, what are these modern observations pointing to?
Ref: Tart, Charles T. Altered States of Conscious: A Book of Readings. John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, 1969 (237 AS)
Again an echo of past teaching:
Most of us 'construct' a personal view of a self, in a body, as part of an external world, and this carries with it certain side effects. We do not see these 'constructions' as mere interpretations; instead, we believe these views. We believe that 'someone' is 'born'. We believe the notion of permanence. These are notions that can bring great anxiety. What is born must be seen to die at some point. 'Permanence', as a general rule, is at odds with existence, endlessly frustrating. We constantly hope to gain stability or security in the face of certain change.
Why should any of this be of importance? For one simple reason. We do not need to be entrenched in our views, forever bound, nor do we have to suffer the side-effects. We can learn to use these perceptions skilfully without the agony of believing them to be absolute; letting go of conditioned inhibitions, fears and defences, and moving to an increasing state of rest.
We can become aware of our present patterning process and, once aware of it, we can see the delusions of our old patterning.
And how do we do this?
In more detail:
No matter how esoteric the scriptures become, the Buddha was very clear on one point: we should seek the truths of our life through observing our own experience and live in accordance with those truths. In the interests of healthy inquiry, the correlations noted here are worth some attention. It would be enough to end here but for one other intriguing parallel, which, as I mentioned at the outset, gives a possible meaning to one of is great mysteries... to be continued.