To the Buddhist, oneness exists throughout the universe.
There is oneness in all things. It is in you too.
To prove it, let me ask you a question:
Do you see the sun in yourself?
You must see the sun in yourself. Because without the sun there would be no heat on Earth. Without heat on earth there would be no living beings. And you are a living being. So you must see the sun in yourself.
Let me ask you another question.
Do you see me, in you?
You must see me in you. Because without me, without this 1-sixth-billionth of the population of Earth, the world would not be the same place. You and I occupy the same world, and influence the same reality. What I have done directly influences what you have done. Right now this writing is affecting your existence. Do you see me in you? You must. Because we are one.
Oneness is the universe. And the universe is one.
To the Buddhist, oneness marks everything.
All influences all. All goes round and comes back around. Hence why good and bad karma exist.
We are one with the universe and with our environment
The idea of oneness is at the heart of all Buddhist wisdom.
Do you believe in protecting the environment?
To the Buddhist, oneness exists between the person and their environment on both the micro and macro levels.
This is a self empowering belief. Because when we understand that we are the environment we take responsibility for both ourselves, our local environment, and the environment at large.
One of the key Buddhist wisdoms is the idea of aggregates.
The self is the combination of the five aggregates (skandhas):
- mental formations
This combination off aggregates is temporary (impermanent). These aggregates arise through the universe and only exist with the individual for a short time. They are not us or a concrete self but a combination of elements that came together to give rise to our temporary existence.
Thus, we are one with the universe because what we are is the result of karmic effects that were born externally to us. These aggregates come from the environment (externally) and are maintained by the environment (hence why when you move to a different environment you feel like a different person). So we are literally one with the universe because the universe created and continually sustains us.
- The aggregates create our sense of self.
- We, as that self, then act in specific ways.
- Those actions then influence the environment.
- Because we are the result of the environment, when we influence the environment we actually influence ourselves.
Therefore, if you have ever wondered whether you should work from within or without: both. Because they are both the same.
Oneness is not unique to Buddhism, either. For instance, oneness is also important in Taoist meditation techniques.
Love is the recognition of oneness in a world of duality--Eckhart Tolle Click To Tweet
Is Buddhist Oneness Real?
So does oneness exist or not? We know a great deal about this from some pretty amazing research on how meditation works.
While spiritualists believe that the self is the illusion, scientists aren’t clear whether the self is the illusion or whether the state of oneness is.
Which is real?
- Are we one with everything
- or are we a separate individual?
Scientific research shows that both the state of oneness and the state of individuality (the self) are both created by the brain.
Both the sense of self and the sense of oneness are in fact delusions.
Scientists at New York University studied the affect of meditation on the brain using fMRIs (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) .
Research scientist Zoran Josipovic has been studying Buddhist meditators with fMRI since 2008. He hopes to find the scientific explanation for Buddhist nonduality and to understand how meditation works.
The fMRI scanner tracks blood flow within the brain while the monks meditate. In particular the scanner looks at the brain’s default network, which governs self-regulation.
The studies show that meditation leads to deep relaxation that change neural networks, and this lessens the barrier between the individual and the outside world. This in turn leads to the sense of oneness.
The brain contains an extrinsic network and an intrinsic network. The former is active when we are engaging in external tasks, and the latter is active during contemplation. It is rare that both of these networks are active simultaneously.
Buddhist monks, however, are able to keep both the extrinsic network and intrinsic network active at the same time. This leads to harmony between ourselves and the environment, which creates the sense of oneness.
What this shows us is that whether we feel separate to the universe or one with it, the reason lies in our brains. If the extrinsic network and intrinsic network function individually, we will sense ourselves as separate to the world. If they function in harmony, we will see ourselves as one with the world.
The experience of oneness happens in the brain
Both your idea of your self and your idea of oneness are created by your brain’s “default network”. And this part of the brain may even have been involved when Buddha achieved enlightenment.
The default network is a part of the brain which controls self-reflective thoughts—the part that creates the thoughts that tell us who and what we are, as well as other self-focused thoughts.
The extrinsic part of the brain is the part which is activated when we perform everyday activities, like making a cup of tea, or sports, like playing tennis.
Buddhist monks (and other advanced meditators) are able to activate both of these neural networks at the same time, which scientists believe causes the sense of oneness.
It was two thousand five hundred years ago that Budda discovered how to be one with the universe, by using mediation.
Buddha achieved enlightenment (and you can too) and found complete oneness.
When we are bored or under-stimulated, we experience the opposite of what Buddhist monks experience: we become self-centred, cut off from the world, overly concerned with our thoughts… Anxiety, depression and stress are the complete opposite of oneness.
When we are happy and peaceful we feel as though we are one with the universe.
- Duality, our sense of our selves as separate to the outside world, causes suffering.
- Non-duality and oneness, on the other hand, are the keys to happiness and serenity.
- And both of oneness and duality are delusions of the mind. They are states the mind switched between.
How To Achieve Oneness And Nonduality
1. Take a few breaths and focus on your breathing
Take a few mindful breaths (take a look at this guide to breathing meditation if you have not done this before).
When you practice mindful breathing you will experience moments in which you feel as though are nothing but pure energy, moments in which you achieve oneness with the universe.
Those moments won’t have lasted long,though. Soon your dualistic way of thinking will return.
The mind clings on to the idea of self, and so it is hard to remain one with the universe for very long.
Take another twenty breaths in through your nose and try to focus your mind again.
You will notice that at times it’s almost as though you become the breath, but then your sense of yourself returns. You’ll likely notice too that when your sense of self returns, your connection to the outside world is severed. In other words, you are divided between the “I” and the “Them,”—between yourself and the rest of the world.
The more you meditate the more relaxed you will become. This will heighten harmony between your brain’s extrinsic and intrinsic network, leading to the sense of oneness with the universe.
2. Practice Bhakti Meditation
If you would like to know what it feels like, right now, to be one with the universe, practice Bhakti meditation for the next ten minutes. Seriously. You will achieve oneness.
But it is difficult to be one with the universe for an extended period of time because your mind is so damn determined to make you feel like you are unique.
Your mind will actively make you return you square one. And square one is you. In other words, your mind will constantly make you think about yourself.
So how do you stop thinking about yourself?
3. Achieve lasting oneness
Thanks for reading.
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