The golden chain of spirituality

“As long as we follow a spiritual approach promising salvation, miracles, liberation, then we are bound by the “golden chain of spirituality.” Such a chain might be beautiful to wear, with its inlaid jewels and intricate carvings, but nevertheless, it imprisons us. People think they can wear the golden chain for decoration without being imprisoned by it, but they are deceiving themselves. As long as one’s approach to spirituality is based upon enriching ego, then it is spiritual materialism, a suicidal process rather than a creative one. All the promises we have heard are pure seduction. We expect the teachings to solve all our problems; we expect to be provided with magical means to deal with our depressions, our aggressions, our sexual hangups. But to our surprise we begin to realize that this is not going to happen. It is very disappointing to realize that we must work on ourselves and our suffering rather than depend upon a savior or the magical power of yogic techniques. It is disappointing to realize that we have to give up our expectations rather than build on the basis of our preconceptions. We must allow ourselves to be disappointed, which means the surrendering of me-ness, my achievement. We would like to watch ourselves attain enlightenment, watch our disciples celebrating, worshiping, throwing flowers at us, with miracles and earthquakes occurring and gods and angels singing and so forth. This never happens. The attainment of enlightenment from ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment. Treading the spiritual path is painful. It is a constant unmasking, peeling off of layer after layer of masks. It involves insult after insult.”

Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

What insights from science could blur the boundary between self and the rest of Nature, or even the boundary between life and death?

Feynman’s quote about trees being and becoming air as they grow and recycle is in the right vein.  Contemplate the past and fate of the molecules in each lungful of air or mouthful of water.  How many of the molecules that make up “me” are part of “you” or your dog, or your mortal enemy, tomorrow?  Of the molecules that made “me” uniquely me (the DNA in an egg from my mother and sperm from my father), how many are the same in you, or a monkey, or any animal, the plants I eat as a vegetarian, or the bacteria in my gut?  When I die, what will “my” molecules become (if buried on land, or cremated, or “buried” at sea)?

Similarly, what are the origins and fates of the ideas and culture that make “me” me?  Who taught me what I know and believe?  What will become of the memes I have created?

And maybe most profoundly, what makes “me” alive and what happens to “me” or at least my consciousness when I die?