It's All a Matter of Perspective
So I received the picture above in a Facebook post yesterday and I thought, "that's a good image to share as a vision of Buddhist thought", but the more I looked at it the more I wanted to say about it. This seemingly simple, fun picture is really a profound image of human delusion and the cause of dukkha. I'm not even going to get into the delusion we build up by thinking the cylinder is the ultimate depictation of this object - discounting the molecular, atomic, quantum and even other diminsional ways of looking at it. Just considering the picture as it is, what does it say to us about our projection of delusion?
Consider one person looking at the projected square and another looking at the projected circle. Both would say that their view was correct - and might even get into a violent disagreement over what was "real" - when in fact both are simply different projections of the same object. I think this simple leson is what the poster wanted to convey - "Things (ideas, etc) change depending on how you look at them". This is an important concept but it's really just the tip of the iceberg.
Beyond the fact that square or circle is just a modern interpretation of the Buddhist parable of the blind men and the elephant is that fact that neither of the views is correct. Clinging to either shape as 'real' is simply perpetuating a delusion that has nothing to do with reality. We want simplicity and clarity. We want the easy answer. We want a circle or a square - but mind you not both! So we project our delusion and call it reality.
We do the same thing in our lives. We want money or a new house or a good career for our children and we project these desires into the world and call them reality. Even when we obtain some or all of these things they don't make us happy, because deep down we know that they are just delusions. This is the truth of the Buddha's teaching on illusion - not that things in the world don't have a real existence but that we don't encounter things as they are in the world but only as they appear in our projection of our desires.
We want a strong father figure so we project a God who reaches down into every area of our lives and call him real. We want clear answers to what is right and wrong so we cling to a guide written thousands of years ago - whether the Bible, the Koran or the Sutras - and call them the unchanging, infallible and inviolate. We want peace and so we go to war to force our form of government on everyone else. These are all delusions, projections of our desires on the world. They have no more reality than the shadow square and circle on the walls.
The truth of the Dharma - not the Sutras that we chant but the true Dharma - is that it calls us to turn our backs on the shadows and look directly into the true form of reality, accepting it for what it is AND working to make it a more compassionate place of flourishing for all beings. Our religion is not the enemy of science; our religion is science. We are called to investigate reality and accept it - whether it goes along with our mythology or not. But we are also called to be a guiding light to science - not for what scientists may learn, but for how that knowledge will be used.
This is the "matter of perspective". Do we stay with our projected reality and see only shadows or do we reject the very act of projecting our delusions and bask in the glow of reality? For me there is only one answer.