Friday, 22 July 2011

Demolishing the Stairway to Heaven

A particularly courageous gentleman who is trying his hardest to find out whether there is a self even as we speak reminded me of a classic objection to no-self and the work of Ruthless Truth today.

Here it is:

"You claim that no-self is the highest realisation, when this is patently not true. There are higher realisations beyond it. No-self is not enlightenment, only the first step on the path."

I would like to address this objection in detail.

There is a simple reason why no-one in RT claims that no-self is the highest realisation. Here it is: truth is not hierarchical. It doesn't come in levels.

Let me repeat that: Truth Doesn't Come In Levels.

Truth can be discovered. You can discover how X works, or what Y really is, or whether Z actually exists or not. When you conceptualise that truth into a model, the model may have varying degrees of accuracy (never 100%, because the model is a separate thing from the truth to which it points), but the truth doesn't care about that. The truth just is.

The truth about X is as true as the truth about Y and the truth about Z. None is inherently deeper or more profound than the other - that only happens when an observer decides to rank them hierarchically according to their own beliefs about the truth.

This is what happens with the above objection. People imagine a hierarchical progression of insight, with True Enlightenment (cosmic wisdom, infinite serenity and bliss, unity consciousness etc.) at the end, and a ladder of increasing understanding in between them and it. To them, no-self is at best the first step on that ladder.

The problem with this is that the whole thing is a mental fiction. Truth doesn't work that way. Sure, when we teach things, we structure them into little truths that build up into bigger ones, but this is a teaching aid designed to fit the way our brains build connections and absorb information. It's a reflection of how we build conceptual structures and develop concrete skills, but it has nothing to do with actually seeing what is true in the first place.

No-self is not the final realisation. Nor is it the first realisation. It's just one of an infinite number of possible realisations. We at Ruthless Truth happen to value it particularly highly because its long-term effects on how people see the world are vast and ultimately positive. But on the level of reality itself, it is no greater or lesser a realisation than "water is liquid at room temperature".

And unlike the aforementioned True Enlightenment, it's an actual permanent realisation, immediately available in real life, rather than a story people tell themselves about an imagined state they have never personally experienced.

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Anonymous said...

"Truth doesn't come in levels."

I've just creamed, mate. Seriously. That. That's a line worth reading.

Ciaran said...

Christ, Alexei, you have some serious gun.

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