Friday, December 18, 2015

Roy Melvyn - Interview

Interviewer: My guest today is Roy Melvyn, an internationally recognized author of more than 25 books on Eastern philosophy and spirituality. His latest book is Behind the Mind: The Short Discourses of Wu Hsin.
Roy is joining us via satellite from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Hi, Roy; welcome to the show.
RM: Thanks for having me.

I: One of the things I observe about your spiritual ideas is that you don’t use words like trinity, karma, atma, etc. Is that intentional or is there another reason for this?
RM: I try to frame my ideas avoiding all the buzzwords used in religious philosophy. So I don’t refer to Holy Spirit or karma or atma etc. My apologies to the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Christians, and all the others.

I prefer to speak about what-is in a manner similar to what has been used for thousands of years. I feel that this approach makes it more widely accessible.
I: What do you see as a place for religion in one’s life?
RM: As I see it, religion works well for those willing to bind themselves to a belief system. Beliefs are not facts. In my experience, the fewer beliefs we hold, the more clarity we gain.

I: Yet, millions read and quote scripture every day.
RM: Yes, but citing scripture in support of a belief system is like drinking water from a lake on a map. There’s no life and living in it. It’s the concession that one cannot call on direct experience in support of one’s viewpoint. Rather, it is a falling back onto “so and so said” or “such and such says”. These are used as the support of the unsubstantiated belief system.

I: So, we have to see through our beliefs in order to have a clear picture of reality?
RM: Yes, there can be no chick unless the eggshell is broken.

I: You have been reported to say that you accept the idea of karma but not of personal karma. Can you explain?
RM: Actions have consequences. That’s perfectly logical. Karma refers to consequences of previous actions.

However, personal karma would require a person, and I can’t find one.
There is a psychosomatic system that is receiving sensations and thoughts and reacts to these………. and there is a narrative built around them with an actor entity at its center. But there’s nothing solid that supports this notion of the actor.
I see the functioning within this world; an animal hunts, a fish swims. There is this functioning, but no one, no entity per se, doing it.
As such, there’s no one to ascribe karma to.
I: That’s quite a controversial point of view. Would the same apply to the idea of past lives?
RM: If there’s no entity, whose past lives are we talking about?

I: Yet, many people claim to be quite clear about their past lives. How would you respond?
RM: I would ask a single question: “How do you know that these past lives are yours?”
Even if there were some cosmic pool of past lives, simply because these impressions come to you doesn’t mean that they are yours any more than a bird’s song coming to you makes it yours.

Granted, it’s a very attractive system of beliefs, but there’s nothing verifiable in it.
I: I take it, then, you would also dismiss any idea of the personal search?
RM: The details about one’s efforts and experiences toward awakening is nothing more than an embellishment of the narrative.

Searches are a rejection of what-is in pursuit of some idealized what-I-would-prefer. Most are seeking the power and control that this idealized outcome would seemingly grant them.
I’m not denigrating seeking. It is a natural response to life that arises in humans and is one of many things that distinguishes us from goats.
Often, when it is seen through, it stops and is replaced with acceptance.
I: If I’ve followed you, the idea of being a person is just that, an idea. Is that a fair summation?
RM: The notion of a centralized self does not correspond to anything found in the brain, which lacks a central command center. It’s even been shown that when we make a decision the actual activity happens seconds before we are aware of it. The mind claims to have made a decision only after it’s been made, in an act of post hoc rationalization.

There are complex interactions between a body and the rest of the world, arising and falling away for no one in particular.
It can be said that the self is like the sum total of the waves on the surface of the ocean: there is no identity, no “thing” that endures because each wave, like each experience, is short-lived. But there is a continuity.
This continuity is a timeless, empty Knowingness.
To frame it another way, the body requires more rest than the mind. The body sleeps for eight hours a day. The mind sleeps for six hours a day. That which knows these, that which teaches a fish to swim, never sleeps. That is the Knowingness.
I: Is that the same as what you refer to as the Conscious Life Energy?
RM: Yes, as you can’t have cloth without thread, there can be no appearances in the absence of consciousness and there can be no life in the absence of an energy that enlivens what are essentially inert forms. An individual is one such appearance.

Only when an observation post is established outside of the structure of the individual can this be seen clearly.
Failing to do this while hoping for clarity is like trying to draw water from a three meter well with a pail tied to a two meter rope.
I: That being the case, how is transcendence achieved?
RM: Prior the appearance of a world, everything exists en potentia. When this potentiality actualizes, as it must, it results in a world of objects. The consciousness objectifies itself as its instrument, a body in a world. When the brain in the body is sufficiently developed, self consciousness arises and the so-called problems begin.

As such, returning to the state prior to the arising of the self consciousness is desired. However, this means transcending basic brain process. Understanding that the so-called entity is itself a creation of the brain, who is to do this?
What occurs is a spontaneous seeing of the true state of affairs, that all there is, is the functioning and the observation of said functioning. That’s it; the seeing is the transcendence.
I: Would I be right to assume, then, that you also don’t subscribe to the notion of free will?
RM: Free will is as real as the person it applies to. The idea of volition only serves to support the idea of the person.

I: Within this context, what are your views on death, the fear of death, and reincarnation?
RM: Death is believed to be the end of continuity. The prospect of death is so traumatic because we cannot bear the idea of there being no body to identify with. When the body-identification is dropped, the only response to the prospect of death can be “Who cares?”

Regarding reincarnation, one is again obliged to ask “What reincarnates?” Clearly, it is not the person. At best, it could be argued that it is an energy pattern, a modality of viewpoint and behavior.
I: Would you at least concede the existence of heaven and hell?
RM: I could, but even if I did, they would be empty, solitary places. As an exterior destination, who or what is it that goes there?

It is easier to postulate that each of us carries conceptual heaven and hell inside us and we oscillate between the two moment by moment.
I: OK, let’s shift gears. You talk about the brain quite a bit as one key to all this. Can you explain?
RM: The world as one knows it is a deconstruction, then reconstruction by the brain, of data provided by the senses. The brain provides what could be called a “best fit” for the data.

The brain creates and then we receive what the brain creates, taking it for reality.
As such, the world one knows can only be a personal world. If one had different senses, such as echo-location or heat sensing, or if one could see a broader color spectrum or could vary the speed of perceived time, the world would appear vastly different.
I: So, the ego interacts with the brain’s representations and responds?
RM: Ego or self-consciousness should be seen as an advanced tool that evolved to help the brain regulate the body in humans.

At about the age of two years, the frontal lobes of the infant brain are sufficiently developed so that the self-consciousness which has been latent can arise.
I: You state that the world we see is, at best, an approximation. Could you expand on this?
RM: The human retina transmits to the brain approximately 10 million bits of information per second, roughly the capacity of an ethernet connection. It has been calculated that our other senses record an additional one million bits of information per second. That gives our senses a total bandwidth of 11 million bits per second. Yet of this massive flow of information, no more than about 40 bits per second actually reaches us.

In other words, we are conscious of only a minute slice of all the information coming into the brain for processing.
The brain attempts to bring relevance and coherence to this mass of data. It does so by creating the frame of reference “this brain in this body in this world” with “me” as its focal point.
One normally says that we see through the eyes. However, the data from the eyes is processed by the brain and filtered by the mind. In this regard, seeing through the mind is closer to the way the process works.
I: My takeaway from this is that the world is what the brain says it is. In that case, my world and your world may have points of commonality, but they are hardly the same world.
RM: Yes, there is my world, your world, and the world, reality.

The brain is a multitude of separate processing subsystems that come together to create a unified experience.
All of our experience is to some extent a simulation of reality, because we don’t have any direct contact with reality. All sensations are processed and transduced into electrical impulses, that then propagate across the neural nets of our brains, which become the basis of the representations of the external world.
The mind is constantly reconstructing these representations and often there’s a whole bunch of tricks that are going on. There’s filling in missing information, or creating experiences which are not exactly matched to reality. In that sense we are simulating an external world.
Perception, therefore, is a story; that we integrate information into meaningful models of the world, that includes previous experiences which we use to bring to bear upon our perception.
The world appears to happen to us: that is all we can know about it. The entire world appears in you and not you in it.
I: Let’s return to inner work: do you see a place for yoga practice in all this?
RM: Yoga literally means yoking or union. The need for union presupposes separation. Therefore, investigation into the validity of the seeming separation is the highest form of yoga.

Yoga as originally devised by Patanjali was a series of processes for losing one’s self. In the West, it has become a means of self improvement. Not that there is anything wrong with physical disciplines; they have their place. However, the yoga of gaining is a far cry from the yoga of losing.
I: Roy, why don’t you ever speak about love?
RM: Love is one of those “hot” words that I avoid. It carries with it so many charged, yet misguided images, that I chose to leave it alone.

For most people, at its root, love means fulfilling one’s wants. That is why marital love often turns to marital hatred when the wants fulfillment ceases.
I: But what about love of God?
RM: If God is everywhere, then God is in your neighbor as much as in yourself. Yet, hating your neighbor or envying him or seeking advantage over him is an everyday occurrence. Where’s the love of God in that?

I: To wrap up, Roy, what do you see to be the solution to the world’s problems?
RM: You saved the big one for last, didn’t you?

The world’s problems are always framed by the reference point. A man in China will see the world’s problems to be markedly different from that of an American, or a tribesman in Papua New Guinea.
When the view shifts from the personal to the universal, all the problems are not solved, but dissolved. It is understood that everything is as it is intended to be.
Perfection is discerned in the instant that one releases all notions of what it’s supposed to look like.
There is never a problem in the outside world. All problems are in the mind.
The mind is like the moon, it only shines by reflected light. When the attention remains fixed on the light source, the mind and its machinations becomes immaterial.
I: Without problems, therefore, happiness should be easy, shouldn’t it?
RM: In a sense, yes.

However, it has been ingrained into us that happiness is found in situations, people and objects. That’s why we’re out chasing them.
But even a cursory examination reveals that any happiness from these sources is fleeting. That new car is only a source of happiness until you discover that first ding on its body.
The true happiness is inherently within; it is not subject to conditions.
I: Fascinating. Thank you Roy Melvyn. 

His new book is Beyond the Mind: The Short Discourses of Wu Hsin.

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