We could see true evolution as the evolution of truth or, if we accept as we have discussed (in the article: The Creation) that information has a semi-autonomy from the material world, as the relationship between a greater Mind and the physical universe. We can see the possibility of an influence of purity and coherence flowing out from the Mind – the mind of the Buddha in terms of affairs of the heart or the mind of God (in our conventional use of the word) in terms of the natural, material world. The victories of strength or intelligence that are the factors in natural selection are only temporary triumphs. Longer term the emergence of a cooperative rather than competitive intelligence hold sway. The flow of the world back into the Mind, of the personal view or feeling of a selfish sensuality overcoming truth, we could then see as a possible mechanism and source of impurity. In this way we see greed and hatred as going against the very flow of evolution. Or we could say that they are the inner test that the evolving mind wrestles with.
In terms of the mechanism of such a Mind, I am not suggesting that our minds influence DNA but that the information coded there can be seen as part of a greater Mind. This mind holds information at all kinds of levels which may not influence each other directly. They exist within a hierarchy and the information can be active or latent.
To place this view of evolution within the Buddha's teaching, I would understand the term nāma-rūpa in the cycle of dependent origination to mean literally name and form (rather than the translation often suggested of mentality and materiality.) This is the dynamic interplay between information and the form in which it is expressed. The Buddha states that during life, sense consciousness is dependent on name and form. This is the drawing of information out of the world by which we survive in the present moment. This would be the conventional materialist understanding of the mind emerging out of life and furthering life. But the Buddha also states that name and form is dependent on consciousness – that the mind is the forerunner, initiating all of our existence. This is the way in which our existence is created through the reading of information from the past, the following of the truth of nature already embedded in the world. The mind is that truth, the truth of the past generating the truth of the present moment and feeding this into consciousness. This mutual causation between name-and-form and consciousness is the cycle of saṃsāra. The past reaching into the present and the present into the past and the two spinning around each other to generate the future.
The path of liberation is the generation of emptiness rather than form within the mind through wisdom. Name or information does not take material form within the mind when it is not tied up with physical feeling. The mind remains empty in its essence taking the greater Mind also in this direction – that of Knowing rather than Being. The mind discovers that it need not Be anything at all, escaping future birth, if it remains wise. It can become part of the greater Mind that remains detached from the material world. This position of detachment is exemplified within the world by the life of the monk. The monk becomes the person able to remain in this position, supported there by the faithful in order to feed wisdom into the world.
This goal we seek, not through holding a metaphysical view, or through taking a mere view to constitute an existential shift. We seek the goal by noticing the suffering of becoming anything at all and by letting go. The goal is simply the result of this letting go taken to perfection, it is not some kind of metaphysical construction of mind. This letting go is the natural result of seeing with wisdom the suffering of material existence; in contrast the wise, knowing nature of the mind can become a tangible experience that we learn to trust.
In the present moment, the mind is not in the body – the body is in the wise mind. This is the reality and an appreciation we can return to through the practice of mindfulness. This is like a state of innocence and freedom if we can maintain it through wisdom. While if we cannot, then over time the results of our unwise mental activity accumulate in the body, our body remembers, our body and its associated feelings. This is like the mind going out into the world and our body and feelings experiencing the result.
This is not the only source of our contact with the world. Our mind contacts the world in two ways. The above kind of contact is called designation contact. Secondly, contact occurs through what the Buddha calls impingement contact which is things coming at us and contacting the body and feelings (or ‘mental body’) first of all, and then come up into the mind. This kind of contact can then get mixed up with our memories. Feelings from the past and present come together and merge. If we get drawn into this, our minds become locked into time, within an inner vortex. When designations are placed on the objects of the world this is clear, we see mental action and result. When designation turns around towards our feelings then we get drawn into the vortex. It is the case that impingement contact cannot be avoided, designation contact however can be avoided. When the mind can patiently endure, these thoughts need not get drawn in to feelings of impingement.
Also, what we notice subjectively is that in the present moment our thoughts (our designations) are not necessarily located anywhere in the body. These thoughts come from nowhere inside and need not result in bodily feelings. Thus we can have outer designation without contact. This thought is free of contact, it is like free thought rather than thought bound to the world. These are the qualities of wisdom. A wisdom truly sublime.
(If you find this article inspiring, please have a look also at Embodied Spirituality.)
I offer this for your reflection.