Thus have I heard:
The end of the world can never
Be reached by walking. However,
Without having reached the world’s end
There is no release from suffering.
I declare that it is in this fathom—
long carcass, with its perceptions
and thoughts, that there is the world, the
origin of the world, the cessation of the
world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.
(Anguttara Nikaya 4:45)
This radical statement, attributed to the Buddha in the Pali canon, constitutes no less than a Copernican revolution in thought, with far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the human condition. It redefines “the world” in a way that flies in the face of both the scientific and the religious traditions of the West, but is remarkably well suited to the postmodern views emerging along the cutting edges of the new cognitive and neurological sciences.
We are used to hearing from scientists that “the world” is made of material substances that have coalesced into clumps following their creation and dispersal by the Big Bang. These have gradually become more heavy and diverse, and, on this planet at least, have evolved into living organisms of increasing complexity. Neural systems then develop among some of these organisms, generating patterns of electrical and chemical activity that manifest in the phenomenon we call consciousness. This unique physical process generates a node of subjective experience, allowing each conscious creature to be “aware” of the material environment it inhabits.
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