Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

unicorn narwhaleI love this cartoon. It seems the perfect argument for skepticism. Of course, Buddhists have warned about illusion for centuries. There is, for instance, no meaningful separation between me and you, although you sit at your desk and I at mine. At least according to Buddhism. Think of your arm, for instance: it’s you, right? But if tragedy befalls, and you should lose your arm, do you lose ‘you’?

And if I lose both my arms, my legs? And what about a heart transplant? Or a clone? Is a clone — exactly like me — ‘me’? What is this whole ‘me’ thing, anyway? Am I the narwhal I appear, or the unicorn pedaling grumpily out of sight?

Physics, with its  discussion of science fiction’s beloved Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, tells us that only in the observation/measurement of something does it really exist. Kind of what Buddhists say: we make the outside world ‘real’ through our belief in it, our sensory ‘measurements.’ We label the carbon life forms that comprise me by name. But when I change my name, I don’t really change. And even though all my cells are replaced completely every so many years, I’m still ‘me.’

Some religions believe in a soul. Others, in a divine life force. Buddhists believe in ‘Buddha nature.’ But it’s not unique to the individual — each living entity (animal, vegetable, maybe even mineral) possesses it. And it’s no more visible than the unicorn. And just as hard to believe in, for many. 🙂

Personally? I kind of like this explanation of narwhals. The disgruntled look on the unicorn’s face is classic. And it reminds me: there’s so little I should take at face value. I need to look for the unicorn. Just beneath the surface ~

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