1.15.2008

Train of Thought

"...time is the fire in which we burn" (This is actually a quote from an American poet named Delmore Schwartz, not just from a Star Trek movie.)

My thoughts originated with remembering this quote. I'm not sure why, but it came to mind.
I started thinking about time and self and burning/flame and I was reminded of something someone (probably my brother) once told me about Buddhist beliefs -- that a flame on a candle is never exactly the same from moment to moment and so are we, in Buddhist beliefs.
I Googled it and found:
Following The Buddha's Footsteps - In which a list of three concepts caught my eye: nothing is lost in the universe [this holds with physics concepts of energy and mass remaining constant, always changing one for the other], everything changes, the law of cause and effect (aka karma).
But it didn't talk about what I was looking for, about the flame. Then I found:
Yahoo Answers: Is there a form of Buddhism in which you don't have to believe in Reincarnation? - In which a very well written fellow explains that although we don't know, Buddhism believes that all parts of the self (including the body) are, in effect, recycled. He uses the example of a candle lit by an extinguishing candle.
[Hmm, fascinating. When I went back to look at this site again in order to describe it, I found a paragraph that I had skipped before. Darn speedreading. Well, I'll put it where it belongs, at the end.]
Not satisfied, I looked further and found this:
BuddhaMind: Activities: Lotsa Fire - I liked two of the quotes: "Where does the flame go to when it is blown out?" "If you light one candle from another could you say they are both the same flame?"

And, going back to the second site I found this paragraph, which is what I was looking for all along:
Consciousness is not a soul or the "self" as is often thought of by non-Buddhists. The consciousness is often compared to the flame of a candle and the candle to our lives. Each moment the flame renews itself and although it appears to be the same object from moment to moment, the flame is always changing and in fact, the molecules that make up the flame are different from moment to moment. So the flame you see now (the consciousness you possess now) is not composed of the same stuff as the flame (consciousness) that you will see in just a moment.
- courtesy of mehereintheeast at Yahoo Answers

I must say, of all the religions, Buddhism has got more things right than most. The most important precept seeming to be: Don't believe anything because you're told, find out for yourself.

[Max, Janiece, Brenda, correct me if I got any of this wrong...]

3 comments:

Stacey said...

I've always beleived that we are never constant; either moving forward or backward. I think the flame analogy is a great explanation. I think that might be why it is also popular at weddings, ie taking 2 candles to light 1 being analogous to two lives working together as one.

Good Luck on your test tomorrow!

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, you've touched on the reason I was drawn to Buddhism in the first place (aside from my mother, I mean).

Find out for yourself. Don't assume because some great teacher (or prophet, or whack-job, or whatever) said a thing that it's true. You have a responsibility to yourself to find the truth instead of taking someone else's word for it.

Harder work, yes. More satisfying, yes.

And good luck tomorrow!

brenda013 said...

The true spiritual rule is ALWAYS look inside of yourself for the answer.
On the candle analogy to consciousness: a bit wonky. A candle is a physical thing with molecules, so you cannot use the ever-changing molecules of the candle flame as what is true for consciousness, which is not physical.
As I understand it, consciousness is never fixed. If it became fixed or the same, it would cease to be consciousness. Consciousness comes from relationship, which implies reciprocal exchange and movement.
Woah! Let me get off my soapbox. It is a little high up here.