This evening I'd like to talk to you about seeing.
Seeing is the ability to tell what really is. There are many different forms of seeing. Some forms of seeing involve apprehending that which is occurring in the world. Other forms of seeing are more esoteric, and they involve the perception of perception itself. Without seeing, it's very difficult to practice self-discovery. You're quite blind. Most people of course, think of seeing as the thing that we do with our eyesight. We're using the word "seeing" not in that sense at all, but as a metaphor, almost a mixed metaphor, for knowing. Perhaps "knowing" is a better word. It's a little bit of both.
Everything that we apprehend goes through a selective screening process. This screening process involves the senses, our mental state, desire, conditioning. Each one of us perceives life, at least initially, when we begin self-discovery, through the senses. We hear something, we feel it with our bodies, we taste it, we recognize it through our eyes, we view life in terms of physical orientation. We've grown up in a world of sights and sounds, textures. When we think of something, we measure it. Is it tall, short, what color is it, what does it sound like? The way we try to understand something is by apprehending it in the mode of physical awareness. This is not necessarily the best way to understand something, but it's a way that we've been taught.
Conditioning is responsible for what our life is. The totality of your life at this time is dependent upon what's happened to you. What's happened to you is your awareness now. Your current awareness is a reflection of everything that has occurred to you since the time you were born. Your awareness is a reflection of the people you've known; the experiences your body has undergone; the language and structure of the language or languages that you speak; the way others have treated you; the way you've been accepted by others; the exposure you've had to media, be it print or television or radio; the recollections of others because the experience that others have had upon you is formed largely from the recollection of others. Your parents, in other words, treated you growing up as their parents treated them, as their parents treated them, and so on and so forth. So what we have are reflections of reflections of reflections. These images are literally programmed into us from the time we are born. The strongest factor in conditioning is sex, in the sense that the first thing that a person is really taught is whether they are male or female. When you are taught that you are male, you will be taught what that means. And the definitions will vary a little bit, according to who's teaching you, the country, the family, and so on. But the world will teach you what it means to be male. The world will teach you what it means to be female. Both experiences will be programmed into you.
We see what we have been taught to see. We perceive what we have been taught to perceive. Nothing is as it appears to be, at all - except that perception makes it so.
If we could think of it in terms of writing a computer program, when we write a program, initially we're dealing with nothing. We have a blackboard with nothing on it whatsoever. Now what we're going to do is make a series of pathways, a series of choices, be they binary or otherwise, to create a structure. But initially there's absolutely nothing, there's the thin air. Now we're going to create yin and yang. We're going to create yes and no. We're going to create plus and minus, or zero and plus, or however we want to do it. There are only two choices available in duality - one side or the other side. Everything is formed from that.
The I Ching, of course, is a study in duality and what lies beyond duality. The idea is that there are two oppositions, or complements if you prefer, and varying shades in between. And when we have these complements or oppositions, change occurs. Change can only exist in time. Without time there is no change. Change can only exist with a background of that which is changeless, otherwise it has no definition. We can say that the stars are moving because we have a relative context. They have a background; we're perceiving the movement or perhaps a foreground. If there's no background or there's no foreground, if there is no opposition, if there are no complements, then there is no change because there's no subject and object.
The Chinese used the symbol of tai chi, the undifferentiated reality. No separation, no left and right. Before perception, before a perceiver, existence was - is. And that's all. This is the consciousness that we refer to as nirvana, God, eternity. There's no way to measure it because there's no one there to measure it. Everything is part of one web, one matrix of existence, beyond discussion. This is our true self in its undifferentiated form. From this we have come forth, and to this we return. In this we exist constantly. The dreams of existence that we call time, space, matter, subject, object, yin, yang - everything flows forth from this tai chi, this nirvana, this endless reality, this God.
We see what we have been taught to see. We perceive what we have been taught to perceive. Nothing is as it appears to be, at all - except that perception makes it so. Perception is conditioning. One of the questions that we have to raise for ourselves at some point is: does anything have an absolute identity or reality or is everything purely subjective? And the chances are that we could have both answers, but let's delay on that for a little bit and come back to male and female.