"(We) now know that ancient alchemy was concerned more with psychological and spiritual changes than chemical ones. In an old text it is said that there occurs a point in the transformation process where the (spiritual operator) "falls into the black sun" and experiences "a palpable absence of light" --- an interesting psychological anticipation of 'black holes'".
THE DARKNESS OF GOD: A Personal Report on Consciousness Transformation
On July 21, 2004 theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking presented a paper titled "Black Holes and The Information Paradox" to the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland.
Hawking informed the distinguished scientists gathered before him, as well as the rest of the world, after arguing for almost 30 years to all comers that black holes destroy everything that falls into them, that he was wrong. According to Hawking's new postulate, it seems black holes DO allow information to escape after all. As black holes gradually dissolve, he told the conference, whatever once entered them will eventually escape also --- albeit changed out of all recognition.
I've always loved astronomy, stars, planets, the cosmos and the like. In the process of that interest I have been fortunate to meet a number of major scientists in those and related fields. For example, as early in my life as ten years old or so Meeting Dr. Lincoln La Paz, the famed astronomer, mathematician, and meteorite hunter --- not once, but several times. Above all, however, I have always held a particular fondness for theoretical physicists and the stuff they discuss. Having met Albert Einstein when I was barely into my teens and then in later years having read Stephen Hawking's A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME and since followed his illustrious career, I have harbored an interest to meet him --- but for reasons other than exclusively theoretical physics or black holes.
The idea of black holes was surely not a foreign concept to me. I grasped immediately what was being promulgated about them the first time I heard the term. Matter of fact, the idea seemed vaguely familiar. After reading A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME and Hawking's theories about same, I felt more and more that there was a direct similarity with crossing over the event horizon into a black hole and that of Enlightenment or coming in contact with someone on an Enlightenment basis like the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Even though I was conceptually able to corollate the experience to being like crossing over an event horizon, the similarity of doing so presented a problem because of the end result of Hawking's "outcome" after the crossing. In A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME Hawking stated black holes destroy everything that falls into them and in the process did not allow information to escape. That aspect of his theory ran totally counter intuitively to what my experience had been toward Awakening and being in the presence of the Maharshi --- which inturn would nullify any similarity I might draw. However, for whatever reason I still felt I was right, so much so I always thought it would be fun to meet with Hawking and compare notes.
An opportunity arose in 2003. It seems Hawking was going to be at the University of California, Davis in March of that year. I approached a friend of mine who just happened to be a person high enough up within the scientific community of the U.C. system that I was sure she would be attending some function or the other surrounding Hawking. When I requested if I could be among her party she told me that at the last minute she just happened to be attending unescorted and would be delighted if I joined her.
Now, I am not much good in large groups, being much better one-on-one or not at all. Typically, in a large group or social gathering I am able to pass through unseen and unnoticed, without making waves or ripples. However, being the guest of a well respected science-related invitee gave me an opportunity to wend my way through the line with a more official-like status as she slowly progressed through the gathering inorder to express her regards and admiration to the scientist. I was just to the right of her at that given moment and a hand-width to the right of me was another distinguished professor or scientist. When the person I was with was given a nod of acknowledgment she courteously stepped back as did I. Instinctively Hawking turned his eye contact from her toward the man to my right who had already begun unnecessarily gushing a loud, thick layer of praise. In the process, without changing his head position much, if at all, and with me in the middle, Hawking's turning eye gaze made a sweeping cross-path contact with mine. It remains difficult to gage if that sweeping eye contact was as little as a half a yoctosecond or stretched into minutes. To me, that instant, if it was an instant, was like being hit with a hammer. The hollow ring sound of the stopped time was broken only by the continuing ultra slow motion movement of being turned away because of my underarm contact with the person I was with as well as Hawking's handler slightly tapping him as though he had fallen asleep. There was no meeting or greeting between us. No words were exchanged nor any Samsara or conventional-plane recognition or acknowledgement transpired in either direction. However, acknowledgement or not, in that brief history of time something changed.
Many, many years before any of the above events, while Hawking was most likely still in diapers and I was not long out of them, my mother died. No sooner had she been laid to rest than my father, who had been on a non-stop binge since her death, possibly before, hastily left the care of my two brothers in the hands of others, with each being sent their separate ways to relatives or guardians. I had been farmed out to a foster couple well before my mother died and they in turn, without my father's approval, took me to India for several months, staying at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. See:
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
Upon my return from India I ended up staying with my grandmother. Not long after that she became concerned with what she saw as my askew perspective on things. She said I kept saying things like I could see but that there was no me, that it seemed like the whole back of my head was gone but I could still feel it, that I was both dirt and sky. In turn, because of her concerns and not able to reach my father she contacted dad's brother to see if he had any idea where my father was. Almost immediately my Uncle came out to assist, the first of several trips before he actually remained on a permanent basis.
After being around me for awhile and reassuring himself it was not medical in nature my uncle began developing a strong intuitive feeling there was a possible spiritual aspect to my actions. He decided to take me to see Swami Prabhavananda of the Southern California Vedanta Society and then Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship, not because he knew them or was familiar with their works, but for no other reason than both were of the highest profile in the Eastern spiritual movement that had taken root on the west coast following World War II.
I was never privy to the results of those meetings. However, a few years later my dad began showing up again on and off and after listening to my uncle and grandmother's concerns, although he was sure they were an exaggeration, he suggested my uncle take me to a man he knew by the name of Franklin Merrell-Wolff who was known to have had a spiritual epiphany --- a meeting that ended with somewhat staggering results.
The downstream outflow from those early spiritual encounters led to study-practice under the Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, doing hard time in a Zen Monastery high in the mountains along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, more study-practice under the anonymous American Zen master Alfred Pulyan, and eventually Full Attainment as outlined in Dark Luminosity --- all of which, cumulatively, leads back to Stephen Hawking and black holes.
If you remember from the above, following the events as described, in that brief history of time something changed. When Hawking was at Davis in March of 2003 he was still publicly advocating his 30 year opinion that black holes destroy everything that falls into them. Just one short year after Davis, in July of 2004, at the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation, Hawking miraculously had changed his mind, saying now that as black holes gradually dissolve, whatever once entered them will eventually escape also --- albeit changed out of all recognition.
His first thesis went counter-intuitive to my analogy that Enlightenment was like falling over the event horizon into a black hole because Hawking said everything was destroyed by doing so. When he changed his mind, saying whatever once entered them will eventually escape also, albeit changed out of all recognition, I was relieved as well as pleased. After 30 years of his old theory Hawking's newly devised theory on black holes, that seemingly just poped into his mind out of nowhere after Davis, now aligned perfectly with my own long held view. As you may recall from my grandmother's concerns, when I returned from India and darshan under Sri Ramana (she did not know about Ramana, only that I had been to India) she said I had an askew perspective on things --- that is, my perspective had changed out of all recognition.
STEVE JOBS: INDIA, BUDDHISM, AND ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT
STEPHEN HAWKING 1966 DOCTORAL THESIS
TIME TRAVEL: MEETING YOURSELF
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
THE MOBIUS STRIP
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
ON THE RAZOR'S
OPENING QUOTE SOURCE:
THE DARKNESS OF GOD: A Personal Report on Consciousness Transformation through Close Encounter with Death, The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vol. 28, no. 2 (1988), pp. 105-121, by John Wren-Lewis
The following is from the words of Sri Ramana Maharshi as found in the book "Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga" and reads as follows:
This flow of power from the Guru can be received by anyone whose attention is focused on the Self or on the form of the Guru; distance is no impediment to its efficacy. This attention is often called Sat-sanga, which literally means ‘association with being’. Sri Ramana wholeheartedly encouraged this practice and frequently said that it was the most efficient way of bringing about a direct experience of the Self. Traditionally it involves being in the physical presence of one who has realized the Self, but Sri Ramana gave it a much wider definition. He said that the most important element in Sat-sang was the mental connection with the Guru; Sat-sang takes place not only in his presence but whenever and wherever one thinks of him.(source)
According to Ramana's quotes above, if ignorance is wiped out the confusion will cease to exist and the true knowledge will be unfolded. By remaining in contact with realized sages (i.e., sitting before Ramana for example) until its removal is completed, be it quick or gradual, the Eternal Self is revealed. See Zen and the Transmission of Spiritual Power, especially the section on Aparka Marg, a method in which Realization FALLS upon the Self.
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI
When an "eye contact" sequence similar to the one described above befalls someone, it should be noted that the in-depth quality of that phenomenon is not always universally experienced by everyone under every circumstance. To reach a true significance it has to be reciprocal at some level.
To wit, as found in the all important Majjhima Nikaya MN 26 Sutra, when the Buddha was walking along the road to Benares following his post-Enlightenment pause he was approached by a wandering ascetic, an Ajivika, a person of certain spiritual accord himself. According to the custom of the time the ascetic, one Upaka by name, greeted him and asked who his teacher was or what doctrine he followed. In contrast to the usually quoted "To know is not to know, not to know is to know" the Buddha himself told the wanderling that he was "the Victor and Conqueror of the World, superior to gods and men, an All-Enlightened One beholden to no teacher." The wandering ascetic, although apparently a highly spiritual person in his own right known as a Parityajya Vrajati could see NO hint of anything of the Buddha's nature and wandered off as wanderlings are oft to do, mumbling under his breath something like, "If it were only so!"
Interestingly enough, Upaka was not the only one to walk away from the Buddha, under virtually the same circumstances. In the Madhupindika Sutta, known as The Ball of Honey or Honeyball Sutra a man, Dandapani the Sakyan, was out roaming in the woods and ran across the Buddha sitting under a tree. He exchanged courteous greetings with him then asked "What is the contemplative's doctrine? What does he proclaim?" The Buddha's response was not to dissimilar to the samething he told Upaka, and Dandapani, "upon hearing his response shaking his head, wagging his tongue, raising his eyebrows so that his forehead was wrinkled in three furrows -- left, leaning on his stick."
Hard to imagine a person could actually come in contact eye-to-eye on a potentially reciprocal basis with the Buddha himself and NOT be impacted personally or memorably in some fashion or the other by the level of his Attainment. See:
THE RAZOR'S EDGE: THE EYE CONTACT SEQUENCES
WHEN INFINITIES COLLIDE
People often think that Full Attainment or the Enlightenment experience as found in the ancient classical tradition DOES in fact, destroy everything, usually from a mistaken understanding of what is known in Zen as "no-mind" and "no-thought." People take the two terms as meaning there is no longer mind and no longer thought, that is, in the process they are destroyed --- hence, no information could be exchanged.
Nowhere in ANY major Ch'an (Zen) text is the term or even the concept of "no-mind" or "no-thought" explained or even conceived of as being a permanent incapacitation of the thinking faculty or permanent cessation of all conceptual activity.
The locus classicus for the concept of no-thought is the Platform Sutra, and in regards to no-thought says in so many words:
"No-thought" means "no-thought within thought." Non-abiding is man's original nature. Thoughts do not stop from moment to moment. The prior thought is succeeded in each moment by the subsequent thought, and thoughts continue one after another without cease. If, for one thought-moment, there is a break, the dharma-body separates from the physical body, and in the midst of successive thoughts there will be no attachment to any kind of matter. If, for one thought-moment, there is abiding, then there will be abiding in all successive thoughts, and this is called clinging. If, in regard to all matters there is no abiding from thought-moment to thought-moment, then there is no clinging. Non-abiding is the basis.
As we can see, after the break in thought, successive thoughts continue to flow, but one no longer abides in, or clings to, these thoughts. Nowhere is there mention of any kind of disappearance of, or absence of thought. "No-thought" refers to nothing other than an absence of abiding, or clinging. Other seminal Ch'an texts, such as the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, characterize no-thought in precisely the same manner.(source)