Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Take the breath as a monad, a microcosm.

For each of us, the whole world reverberates within the fathom-long frame of our bodies. The "all" resonates in six keys on the sounding boards of our six senses.

But the whole of our resonate flesh also, in turn, reverberates in the breath.

Each breath gathers into one monad a microcosm of the world.

Each breath rings in subtle synchrony with what I'm tasting, what I'm seeing, what I'm feeling, what I'm hoping, what I'm thinking, where I'm sitting.

Can I see it? Can I read in my breath the whole world respiring?


  1. What is a monad? The Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monad) suggests that it has several meanings in Western metaphysics, all of which seem to be antithetical to Buddhism.

    What is the "all"? Is this a Buddhist concept? Or is this monism, which Buddhism has traditionally rejected?

    What does it mean that the *whole* world reverberates within our bodies? Does that include stars that are billions of light-years away? How do you know?

    The ideas in this posting seems to me likely to derive from 19th Century German Idealism, probably by way of Ken Wilber or someone like that, and don't have anything obvious to do with Buddhism.

    I want to point this out because a lot of people are mixing monist/idealist concepts into Buddhism nowadays without realizing that is what they are doing. It might or might not work to mix those things together -- but it ought to be done knowingly and openly.

    Best wishes,


  2. Meaningness,

    Good questions. My own perspective doesn't have much to do with monism, idealism, or Ken Wilbur.

    With respect to "monad," I just mean the term as synonymous with something like "microcosm."

    For the rest, I've got two pretty straightforwardly canonical things in mind:

    1. By the "all," I have in mind the Buddha's description in the Sabba Sutta from the Samyuttanikaya:

    "I will teach you the all. Listen to what I say. What is the all? The eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and scents, the tongue and tastes, the body and tactile objects, the mind and thoughts. This is called the all."

    Here, the "all" designates the "whole" of one's experiential reality.

    If I can see with my eye a star twinkling a billion light-years away, then this would be included as well.

    2. With respect to the breath as microcosm, I have in mind basic practices like anapanasati in which one investigates "all" aspects of one's experience through the gateway of the breath.

    As the world reverberates in my six senses, each of these senses reverberates in my breath as well. Cultivating sensitivity to the breath, then, can allow us to read the whole of nature's book through the subtle changes in one's own breathing.

    A careful and systematic investigation of one's breath is one way to carefully and systematically investigate the whole world.

    My best,