I have been reminded of deep time this last week, from attending the archeology film festival, reading an article about the life and death of the solar system, to watching some snippets from Cosmos online. It is a revisiting of an interest I have had since childhood in these themes which are, in some ways, next door to Big Mind.
Deep time, the long now, infinite causes and effects, evolutionary spirituality, the universe story, the epic of evolution, the great story… all of these are in many ways one step away from Big Mind, they can lead us into it from the form and emptiness sides.
From the form side, contemplating the evolution of the universe and our place in it, almost requires shifting into Big Mind to hold it all… And from the emptiness side, realizing the utter impermanence of it all is an invitation to a shift into emptiness, the void, which is what is left when everything else is gone.
To really grasp for instance the universe story requires a shift into Big Mind, and to really grasp the impermanence of it all requires finding ourselves as the void. At least to some extent. It requires dipping into it, tasting it. And is an invitation to explore it further.
I am actually surprised not more Buddhist teachers use the universe story (and deep time, the long now, etc.) in that way… as a nudge, an invitation into Big Mind and finding ourselves as the void. It seems like a perfect teaching vehicle.
I would have jumped on it right away if I was in their position, and I guess many will in the future… maybe through a combination of multimedia and experiential activities such as the practices to reconnect and the Big Mind process.
Here is section of something I wrote a while ago on Evolutionary Buddhism for the Evolutionary Spirituality Wiki. If anyone reading this would like to continue the work on this article, go ahead! That’s what wikis are for.
Buddhism and the Great Story
There are strong parallels between Buddhism and The Great Story.
- The largest whole is seen as beyond and embracing all polarities, including existence and nonexistence, spirit and matter, mind and body, nature and culture. In Buddhist terms, this is Buddha Mind in its aspects of formlessness and form.
- The world of phenomena is a seamless process from which we can discern subsystems such as galaxies, solar systems, the Earth, individuals and so on. This is the view of the whole (Absolute). From the view of the parts, we can say that the world is radically interconnected (Relative).
- The world of phenomena is flux, always new, different, fresh.
- Everything within the world of phenomena has infinite causes and infinite effects.
- From the view of the largest whole (Absolute), there is only the doing and no individual or separate doer within this whole. From the view of the parts (Relative), there is the appearance of a doer – although radically interconnected with the larger whole.
And there are aspects of the Great Story which appear compatible with Buddhism.
- The universe is evolving towards greater complexity.
- Humans are the universe becoming aware of itself.
Big Mind process
Among the newer practices is the Big Mind process which comes out of a combination of Zen and Western psychotherapy. Through a series of questions, similar to a guided meditation, we are invited to explore how the mind functions on personal and transcendent levels, including Big Mind – that which is beyond and includes all polarities. It allow us a taste of this largest whole, temporarily functioning through and as a human self.