Thought, reality and the spiritual search

Omkaradatta's picture

Average: 4 (1 vote)

I recently read a quotation posted in a guru's profile on this website that has just been incredibly helpful to me. Surprisingly enough, the "guru" in question is actually a Western scientist. The quote goes something like this:

"The mind cannot tell the difference between its (mental) models and reality, because the models are transparent (invisible)."

This is the problem, in an nutshell. The mind puts thought and "thinking about" (which includes our hopes, dreams and goals) on a level playing field with reality, with the here and now. In truth, here and now is the ONLY reality, and all the rest consists of thoughts in our heads. We confuse map with territory, actually believe in our multitude of ideas and notions. Although nothing is stopping us from thinking them (nor should it), they are all false.

The above quotation was the final piece of the puzzle for me... you could almost hear the 'click' in my head as it fell into place. It's now possible for me to view things from either a spiritual or a scientific perspective, and I'm very grateful for that, although it goes no deeper than merely touching on the problem.

I've 'seen' with crystal clarity that expecting, anticipating and seeking blocks all deeper experience. Am I suggesting we should end the spiritual search? Not unless we're ready, but this notion of mental models and reality can help us be much more selective with where/what we search for.

Ultimately, there is nothing to seek, as all seeking prevents finding. But if we seek anything, maybe it should be freedom from confusion, seeing the false as false. The truth (this here/now we really are) is wordless and silent, although words like alive, vibrant, peaceful, uplifted and free do say something. We can only find out for ourselves.

kalgo's picture


There are many eastern techniques that are based on this fact.

Vipassana meditation, among other things, is based on this fact that the mind cannot tell the difference between sensory input and imagining (playbacking of simulated sensory input). Goenka speaks lengthly about it.

See also the first comment in your blog post

kalgo | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 06:30
Omkaradatta's picture

Cool to hear it... and...

... and it seems to me the fact that we can't tell our dreams from reality (while dreaming) might suggest this as well. If so, it opens up all kinds of interesting avenues as far as how 'lucid dreaming' (and dream research as a whole) could aid in the spiritual search.

P.S. perhaps the 'human spirit' is simply a lack of confusion? I.E. we are God, but don't know it ;-).

Omkaradatta | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 06:51
Omkaradatta's picture

Blogging updated

I updated this blogging, as it looked kind of funny/disjointed (I spit it out really fast). Possibly more changes/additions in the works, as it strikes me as worthwhile to accept and even promote scientific findings that could actually contribute to human happiness (what a concept :-p).

Omkaradatta | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 08:23
lilian's picture

Be careful!

In our excitement to explain spiritual phenomena by using science, when possible, we tacitly acknowledge science as the stamp of truth while it is not so.

Even spiritual people are conditioned by society to unconsciously regard science as the undoubted authority of truth while science itself finds every now and then that it was wrong (Quantum Mechanics VS. Newton Mechanics etc.).

lilian | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 11:29
Omkaradatta's picture

Science vs. scientism...

"Science" is actually the scientific method... as my guru put it, "trust, test, taste". Proper spirituality is science! ;-). What we normally call science is actually the belief that only traditional scientists have anything true to say about reality (a.k.a. scientism).

Too many people unfortunately adhere to this view, but I don't see how spreading a scientific finding that actually has something to add would affect this one way or the other.

Omkaradatta | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 12:12
Phroggy's picture

Science is subjective

As a part of creation, science is a focus of Consciousness that actually creates rather than discovers.

Phroggy | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 18:11
Phroggy's picture

I dunno if I agree with the

I dunno if I agree with the quote or not, cause I may not understand it. Seems to me the mind can ONLY see it's reconstructed models of what it perceives, and never reality itself. That would seem to make reality transparent rather than the model.

Phroggy | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 08:51
Omkaradatta's picture

Depends how you define 'mind', mebbe...

Remember, this is a scientific quote, in the context of science (he probably actually said the brain, not the mind).

We 'see' things through the filter of mind/ego, and it's the inability to tell the difference between thought and reality that enables the whole thing. Part of this filter is the narrowing of focus... e.g. normally being 'outwardly' focused (while creating a false sense of inner/outer in the first place). Another example would be losing touch with everything else while 'lost' in thought'. There are probably many others.

Omkaradatta | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 09:55
david's picture

how then you can jerk off?

Leave theories aside and just experience it by yourself, close your eyes, take a very frightening event from the near past and simulate it and see what happens to you.

Or let's put it in a simpler way - unless it were true how could you jerk off?

david | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 11:06
Phroggy's picture

In case you were replying to

In case you were replying to my post, yes, I understand mind can create a model and respond to it as though it were real. I was talking about something else.

Phroggy | Sat, 09/06/2008 - 18:17
genep's picture

mind is reality

"The mind cannot tell the difference between its (mental) models and reality, because the models are transparent (invisible)." : like >99% of the Universe.

the Mind is the totality-of-thoughts, the macrocosm. The mind cannot tell the difference between anything because it is everything (the totality of thoughts) -- that is why Physics tells us: "the observer determines the observation" that Advaita explains: "the observer is the Observation" which makes separation illusion, alias fiction, alias Maya.

-- gp

genep | Sun, 03/15/2009 - 21:06