Meta Enlightenment

I. Foreword

By Alex Bunard, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

According to many of the signs one can observe when traveling around the globe, we now live in a world that's obsessed with quantity. From the omnipresent McDonalds restaurants ("billions and billions served...") to the jam-packed highways and airports, people crowd and rush to live in metropolitan areas. However, only several generations ago, things were notably different. It appears that the most prominent shift has happened in transforming the nature of human striving from the desire for acquiring quality to the urgent desire for amassing the quantity for quantity's sake. That is why our society is described as 'acquisitive society'.

This obsession with measuring and comparing seems to be the outcome of our love affair with the practices of western scientific endeavor and its outcome -- the technology that promises to ameliorate material things. For some inexplicable reason, today's educators feel that it is much more important to instill in their students the cravings for such trivia as "what is the length that the ray of light traverses in a nanosecond", than to help them learn how to lead their lives to their full potential. A person's full potential is something that, of course, cannot be measured, and as such, it immediately gets snubbed by the technocrats.

The subject of this book is not something that could be measured and quantified. The reader will not be, upon completing this book, improved or embellished in any conceivable manner. This book is strictly concerned with the quality of living. Such quality could be illustrated using a simple analogy:

Granted, this analogy is not by any means elegant, nor does it, by any stretch of imagination, possess even the slightest measure of literary value. It is presented here only in order to illustrate the difference between the quantity of life and the quality of life. In normal, everyday circumstances, most of us would equate the quality of our lives with the quantifiable aspects of it. Usually, we would consider that we are leading a quality life if we can avail ourselves of numerous material, tangible objects (including our partners, our children, our parents, and of course, many other animate and inanimate things). In other words, we spend our lives obeying the "more is better" dictum. To have three meals a day is better than having two meals a day (which is better than having one meal a day, which, in turn, is better than having no meals at all). This "iron logic" is then applied to everything else. Whatever happens in our lives gets to be carefully measured and anxiously compared to something else. If it cannot be captured in such a fashion and cannot be easily measured, then it's largely ignored. So, we would definitely agree that having 50 more years of living ahead of us is plainly better than having 30 more years left. Even if, somehow, we were to know that the 30 remaining years would be filled with more content and satisfaction than the option of having 50 years left, we'd still be forced to agree that 50 years is almost twice as much as 30 years, therefore that's gotta be a better deal.

As far as the story about our two heroes (who suffered many misfortunes of a harsh climate) goes, they both ended their lives in the same way. The first man, who was lamenting the demise of their only hope and was reproaching the other man for enjoying himself mindlessly, was definitely right -- the fleeting enjoyment in the several splashes of water didn't spare his friend from the terrible death of dying from thirst and starvation. Arguably, nothing was gained from his grasping of the last drops of water. In the same vein, nothing was lost for the man who refused, in disgust, to participate in this, as he put it, "orgy". The application of our everyday yardstick for measuring what is desirable in life didn't reveal any differences between the two friends. And yet, somehow, we intuitively know that the man who plunged himself without hesitation into the coolness of the disappearing water had experienced real quality in his life. The other man, who knew that all is in vain, had only a shallow, abstract satisfaction in knowing that he was right. This points to nothing else than the fact that the enjoyment, the satisfaction and the quality of life cannot be measured, nor compared to anything else. To experience better quality in our lives does not really mean that we have gained anything. This book talks about this quality, as explained in the preceding paragraphs. It is, therefore, important to keep in mind that such a quality is not something that could be observed from the outside -- it is strictly subjective. As such, it may hold very little interest to some people.

Throughout this book, the reader will undoubtedly notice that the author is drawing heavily and liberally on the material found in the Chinese Ch'an and Japanese Zen Buddhist lore. A word of disclaimer is in order here: the author is not, nor has he ever been, in any way associated nor affiliated with any of the schools or institutions of Ch'an or Zen Buddhism. Furthermore, the author is not, nor has he ever been, associated with any other schools or institution of religious or other so-called cognitive practices. Also, the author has never had any contacts nor associations with any religious individuals, regardless of their walks of life. Acting as a free individual, the author has merely embraced the opportunity, offered to him early on in his formative years, to undergo a comprehensive and a rather long course of thorough education in science, art, philosophy, logic, music, languages, and social study. That study, coupled with a number of years of careful observations of the waxing and waning of everyday flow of life, has resulted in the thoughts presented in this book. And of course, this study continues indefinitely, following the endless and joyous path of growth and maturation.

Extending this disclaimer further, the author would like to add the following forewarnings: some of the thinking patterns exposed in this book may indicate the presence of the underlying methodology or some sort of a technique of spiritual practice in general. While this may actually be the case (albeit unbeknownst to the author), it was certainly not his original intention. It is very important to stress here that the author is clearly against advocating any method or technique to be applied with regards to the presented material. It also goes without saying that the author is not implying here that various methods and techniques (the existing ones as well as the ones that are yet to be discovered) are a priory worthless; merely, it is the author's contention that it would be more harmful than beneficial to strive to adopt any technique or methodology when trying to deal with the issues discussed in this book. Quite on the contrary, probably the best way to handle the material contained in here is to approach it with an unconcerned demeanor, without expecting any gain as well as without fearing any disruption in the readers' value systems. The fact is that even if readers do succeed in absorbing and understanding the book in its entirety, nothing would improve for those readers whatsoever. Similarly, failing to perceive any rhyme or reason to this book would not signal any loss, in any respect, for the readers. If someone would begin to study a book on how to improve his/her work or organizational habits, for example, not finishing the study properly could end up in undesirable states. Also, by digesting such book thoroughly, the reader will definitely reap tangible benefits in his/her subsequent actions. Nothing like that could ever apply to the material that the reader is about to encounter here. It is the author's wish that the book be consumed and viewed as an exercise in unconstrained and unconcerned thinking and experiencing.

Finally, there is nothing that has been presented in this book that could be considered new. It is merely a collection, or a compilation, of some of the ideas on change and eternity as it affects us humans. These ideas have been gathered and put together by the author, which is an exercise that may perhaps lend a slightly unique flavor to the whole book. This personal perspective may result in a renewed interest in some of the time-honored spiritual systems and disciplines. If something like that happens, even if only in a single, isolated case, the author will consider that his efforts have not been in vain.

Next -- Introduction

All original material in these web pages copyright © Alex Bunard.