Posted by: Sarah Lidsey | June 15, 2010

Cultivating Wisdom

One of the things that drew me deeper into my healing journey was my interest in evolution which I quickly saw was the entry point for me into a deep journey of enquiry about the nature of consciousness. 

My own ‘high school’ education left me misguidedly thinking that modern science started with Sir Isaac Newton in the 18th century, and that Quantum science only really developed as the 20th Century dawned, catalyzed by the discoveries of Albert Einstein and the subsequent movement of the quantum physicists who formulated complicated theories, including the mapping of 11 dimensions of reality.  However, as I have listened to the sages of ancient philosophy, specifically those versed in the Buddhist understanding of the nature of existence, I have discovered that there were scholars centuries ago who deeply understood the universal principles that I grew up thinking were new and radical, indicators of the advanced nature of modern thinking.  Last month in attending the Dalai Lama’s teaching on both Nagarjuna’s ‘A Commentary on the Awakening Mind’, and Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’, I understood definitively that the critical faculty of each one of us limits or extends our ability to see beyond the confines of the form, whether it is an elephant or an atom.  His Holiness talked of how the ancient scholars of science, philosophy, and religion from the Buddhist tradition, recorded the possibilities of existence reaching beyond the structure of the physical where enquiry might stop at, say, an atomic particle, and applied their findings to our internal world of experience, to consciousness itself.  Through critical enquiry, they analyzed the world of our experience and used their findings to record how those seeking happiness could let go of conditioned afflictions, like anger, jealousy, and hatred that cause suffering and then use that knowledge to develop a state of omniscience that could be used to serve all sentient beings, combining wisdom and compassion in a Boddhisattva way of life.

Our Western 21st century minds, guided by the philosopher scientists of our day, the quantum physicists, look foremostly to the quantifiable structures of being.  We enquire from a place centered on an external reality and these realities are informed or colored by our beliefs and our inevitable distortions of the truth. Without an understanding of the importance of the internal unseen dimensions of being our true nature seems destined to be screened from us.  Like the goldfish, swimming in the confines of its pond, that believes that there is nothing beyond the water in which it lives – because it never thinks to look up to perceive the world surrounding its direct physical habitat – western science seems restricted by the confines and approach of its enquiry.  Looked at from another viewpoint, our collective expectation of life might expand and we could consider other possibilities, ones that grow from the understanding that ‘all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence’ and that everything is inter-dependent on everything else, or in Buddhist terms, gain an understanding of dependent origination.  The understanding that Buddhist scholars have come to is that even before the Big Bang there were particles in relationship with other particles.  In other words that there was no finite beginning, and that similarly there can be no finite end.  In understanding this, the reality of the infinite nature of existence is possible, whether it is in form or not. This knowing takes us beyond our present horizons, and, as the Buddhist philosophers before us have shown, could helping us to find ways of relating that serve us all.

Last month in New York, the Dalai Lama reminded us of the very nature of phenomenon.  He is well informed about quantum physics, and he noted that in exploring this, present day quantum theorists enter into a very refined enquiry that leads naturally to where they cannot find any reality that is based on physical perception.  Their enquiry has taken them far, to a point where they cannot pinpoint anything that is real – they have difficulty pinpointing what exists.  They haven’t been able to formulate the next quantum theory and at present they seem to have stopped here, chasing around the nature of existence from an already extant view point.  I wonder if that is because the framework that they work within doesn’t allow a very different reality construct to exist, paradoxically one that has been understood for centuries.  I am reminded of The Statement of Highest Tantra –

‘All is emptiness. Emptiness is form and form is emptiness.                                                                                                                 Neither real nor unreal, both existing and non-existing,                                                                                                                             By nature, self-luminous and self-liberating’ 

Perhaps in these lines lie the answers to the puzzle they are trying to decode for us. It is my belief that our western minds have not yet made the leap into the realms of consciousness charted by the ancient peoples of Asia – we, whose collective reality is dependent on the findings of ‘modern’ science seem unable to embrace the fact that there is infinite action in the internal realms of consciousness existing outside the limited goldfish bowl that we are diligently exploring.  We’ve put a toe in, accepting as fact, for instance, that merely by observing an object we can change its path – that consciousness affects form – but as a collective we are still limited in our understanding of the nature of reality. 

It seems to me that we are waiting to be given permission to embrace the possibility that there may be a reality beyond physical form, beyond the string or the quark, the boson or the photon, and until that is given our perception cannot take us there.  Perhaps once we grasp the deep and ultimate truth of dependent origination, we will stop behaving in ways that point to a collective misunderstanding that we are all separation beings, and start caring for each other as if it were caring for ourselves.  Only to the degree that we can let go of our current limiting, isolating belief structure, and cultivate an appreciation of the ultimate nature of reality and an understanding of the infinite nature of mind, to that degree can we embrace the true nature of being.  As His Holiness said, Wisdom is the key.

‘Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life’.  Dalai Lama

©2010 Sarah Lidsey. All rights reserved.



  1. I feel so dumb thinking my intelligence would help me find the meaning of life in this world.

    It’s taken me the past six months of Buddhist meditation to realize there’s “Nothing” to it . . .

    And, that I actually look forward to “Driving on Empty.”

    I hope to go to India soon and see the ground the Buddha walked. Until then, I’ll allow my mind to see it through such writings as those presented here.

    Thank you.

    michael j
    Conshohocken, PA USA

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