Wednesday, August 1, 2012


As the knowledge of Dharma grows within one self, should one be more humble or would one be more egoistic? If one gets egoistic, showing off the knowledge and qualifications of the Dharma to all, "I have such and such Diplomas, Bachelors, Masters, PhD. in such and such University of Buddhism..." one has only gained a bookish understanding of the Dharma. And this is not what the Dharma was intended to do.

One who really internalise the Dharma would feel more and more humble as the ego is peeled apart. Much like the situation in Astronomy.

Initially, we think the Sun revolves around the earth. And all the other planets do that too. There was even a complicated way of keeping track of the way the planets move just to satisfy our ego that we are in the centre of the world: the epicycle model, cycles within cycles.

Then as Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model, with simpler orbits for all planets, our sun became the centre of the Solar System. Well, it took some time for the people of the West to accept this, partly the fault of religion, partly because we cling to the ego too very much.

Then later on, our solar system is debunked to a lower status again, to be part of the many arms of our Milky Way Galaxy. Then we discovered our universe is bigger than just the Milky Way, the universe contains over 100 billion galaxies! By now, it would be absurd to think that the Milky Way is the centre amongst all these Galaxies. This principle that we learned in Science is named the Copernicus principle, saying that it is unlikely that we are occupying a special state in the Universe.

Looking at the size of our observable Universe compared to the size of the Earth, we can see how astronomers are constantly telling us that we do not matter in the cosmic grand design of things. The only reason we might be special is that we are the sentient beings that can question why and how we are here and be awed by all these discoveries.

Similarly, in Buddhism. The parallel of the Greeks thinking that Earth is the centre of the universe is akin to a person thinking that all the world is about him or her. He or she thinks about I, me, mine all the time. "Who's thinking about me?", "Who's out to harm me?", "Who's out to make me happy for today?" The addiction to facebook and other social networking sites are a lot about feeding this ego too, if one keeps on looking at one's profile and refreshing to get notification, likes and comments. This stage can be very dangerous, I know because I was there. It's dangerous as one interpret whatever happens to oneself is because someone else loves or hate us. It's giving our remote control to other people. One can get insane or mentally depressed if one continues to feed the ego and concentrate on the bad things that happens to oneself.

Then one derails from this thinking, mindfully observing that it is much easier to just stop assuming that everyone thinks about you all the time. One can get happier too. This is like the Copernican heliocentric revolution. One lives and let live. One can work for the welfare and benefit of  their family and friends. One gets lives a happier live as one approach the truth.

The discovery that the Solar System is not at the centre of the Milky Way would be parallel to a person being able to renounce his home and go forth into homelessness. One would surround oneself with spiritual friends and work for the welfare of all sentient beings as one's own ego reduces and one's can see that one's happiness is nothing compared to the happiness of all sentient beings.

The final step (here so far, there's more if we want to) of Milky Way is not the centre of the Universe is the final step of one attaining enlightenment. Dispelling the concept of self forever, and knowing true happiness. One can then share the experience of how to reach there and inspire the others in following the path.

I get the feeling that some New Age religion already has something similar to this. Well, this article is more about the parallels of Physics and Buddhism, and motivating our practise. Nothing more.

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