It is notoriously difficult to explain how the world we live in is a product of processes rather than objects. Since before the time of the Buddha and Heraclitus there have been individuals who have been sensitive to the concept and have tried to explain it. For example recently these ideas have been explored by James Whitehead and David Bohm among others.
DEPENDENT ORIGINATION , CONDITIONED CO-PRODUCTION
This core teaching the Buddha is difficult to fully understand at first glance, the full profundity of the doctrine takes time to unfold in the mind. The difficulty is that the teaching is describing processes which are invisible not objects. Though it does incorporate cause and effect, of necessity, it is much more subtle and fully comprehensive.
For example take the surf around a desert island:
this being, that becomes…………………follow the surf. It is there as a result of the island having formed.
From the arising of this, that arises………follow the surf, the island is a process continually arising that creates surf; the surf itself is a process that continues
From the cessation of this, that ceases……..the island is overwhelmed by the rise in sea level, there is no surf now.
This not being, that does not become………….the island never formed, or has yet to form. there has never been surf.
The Buddha often used this fourfold structure to hang teachings on, it’s easier to follow and remember if there is a structure, especially as the teachings were never written down at the time.
For example: the Four Noble Truths leading to the elimination of suffering mirror the above:
Modern ideas about our universe are developing rapidly, and normally data are presented to show the emergence of it from the Big Bang plotted against time. This figure is credited to Steven Hawking. It shows an origin of the universe followed by a complex process evolving over time.
In the context of the above diagram the graph plotted below is of the quantum fluctuations including the situation prior to the emergence of a universe. The y axis shows ENERGY LEVEL or TEMPERATURE which is a reflection of the energy level, there is no scale but it goes from infinitely large to infinitely small. At the high region there is a situation with a combination of high energy and high organization. This is beyond our comprehension at present, some have called it the Generator Of Diversity or GOD.
On the x axis is plotted the ENTROPY or degree of organization; highly organized to start with but with increasing disorder with time . An example is dropping an egg on the floor and smashing it, decreasing the organization. This increasing entropy prevents the evolutionary process of a universe being reversible, one cannot put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. Also indicated on this axis is the PROPORTION OF MATTER to ENERGY present running from there initially being 100% energy at the left hand side, to there being 100% matter on the right hand side of the diagram.
Definition of Universe:
A (nearly) self-contained entity emerging out of quantum fluctuations through which energy flows continually creating structure which evolves, so creating a process which humans experience as time. The example Heraclitus used was a river, the energy producing its transient structure being the potential energy of the water lifted to the watershed through evaporation from the surface of the sea. Note also that a river is also a product of an evolutionary process over a long period of time.
A diagram of the steady state from which universes emerge and evolve. The big bang is not a unique event but a stage in the evolution of a universe. The energy flux driving the events shown in the diagram exists throughout whether at high or low absolute energy levels continually creating all energy and all matter. The origin of this flux is unknown, perhaps the equivalent of Vishnu.
The open triangle 1 4 5 8 represents the path of the evolution of a representative universe.
1 Big bang, the dimensions of the universe emerge. For arguments sake let it be our universe with the creation of 3 dimensions of space and also time. There is a set of infinite possibilities that can arise during this process of individualization of a potential universe at this stage, the choice of dimensions and the setting of the constants, the initial mass/energy ratio and its configuration are influential. How many potential dimensions are possible is unclear. Perhaps axis is a better term to use. As well as the space and time we recognise and related axes one can imagine one might consider including spiritual axes:
2 Evolution of universe as diagram above. Emergence of forces and matter from the original energetic state
3 Life may or may not evolve. (See 6).
4 Let us assume that this universe continues to expand and becomes colder and colder. Matter and energy may be lost (or gained) through evaporation of black holes or quantum effects at temperatures approaching absolute zero. The universe may stay like this for a very long time but will eventually evaporate..
5 The universe may exchange mass or energy with other universes and lose entropy relatively rapidly.
6 Niches exist where life can emerge.with a combination of low entropy and relatively low temperatures. Complex self-replicating structures can arise with a flow through of energy being used to sustain an evolutionary process, in a way being miniature universes . These are virtually self-contained , but linked systems driven by the energy of chemical reactions (archaebacteria), of the sun (plants) or energy generated by the metabolism of food (animals) can evolve. In some situations this can lead to form, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness (the 5 Buddhist skandhas). Consciousness, as defined here, is the awareness of one’s presence in the universe, of other conscious entities and of a kind of spiritual dimension one is part of. The spiritual dimension will be discussed in a subsequent post but to paraphrase, the arising of a Buddha in a universe (which is a rare event) is Awareness becoming aware of Itself.
7 Living intelligence may give rise to machine intelligence which has a wider range of conditions over which it can function.
8 In some cases a universe will rapidly collapse, the material in it reverting to the primordial state so completing the cycle. The energy from the collapsing process being used to eliminate the entropy and regain the ordered high energy state but with loss of information. It should be noted that self awareness allows living creatures to influence their environment and the direction of its evolution consciously.
G B Clements May2013