Two Worlds of Experience

In Wake up to you Life, Ken describes it thusly on page 379, "Experience is a mystery... The names we give to objects are not the experience of the object, whether it be a thought, feeling or sensation.Language abbreviates and condenses experience for the purpose of communication. Because connection is a basic human need, we readily forget or neglect the world of our own experience (limited and conditioned by habituated patterns) and take the world defined by communication, the world apparently shared, as what is real."

Two Worlds of Experience (HSW03) (from Heart Sutra Workshop03 00:33:56.1 - 00:42:36.6)

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Now whether you do it with a table or a chair or a chariot, which is a very traditional thing, you know--a glass, a cup--things seem solid. You know a book (Ken bangs the book on a table) seems solid. But we have to be careful here, because Buddhism is not talking about the world of things.

We have two worlds: The world I think I experience and the world I actually experience.

The world of objects, careers, family, responsibilities is this the world I actually experience or the world I think I experience?

How many vote for think? How many vote for actual?

Student: Do we have a choice? (Great laughter) We picked a winner.

Ken: If you think that's practicing the middle way, think again. (giggling)

The sensations, thoughts and feelings I talked about earlier--are they the world you actually experience or the world you think you experience?

Student: Closer to actual.

Ken: Yeah. In the world that we actually experience there are only three things: sensations, thoughts and feelings. That's it! There isn't any drum, there isn't any bell, there isn't any paper. There isn't any paper--there's white, rectangle, seeing. This is what the Sarvastivadins were getting at with their dharmas.

The world that we think we experience is a shorthand which we use to communicate. There is a very interesting difference between these two worlds.

I know this is California and we talk about sharing experience, right? So anybody have a good lunch today?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: What'd you have for lunch?

Student: Falafel.

Ken: Falafel, I'm not going to ask you to share that experience, I hate falafel. (Laughter) Anybody else? Who had a good lunch? (giggling)

Student: I had salad.

Ken: Oh, very nice. What kind of salad?

Student: Greens and tomato and avocado and walnuts.

Ken: Sounds good what kind of dressing?

Student: Like a Chinese chicken salad.

Ken: Oh, excellent. Did you enjoy it?

Student: Very much.

Ken: Could you share that experience with me, please?

Student: I don't think so.

Ken: Are you being selfish?

Student: No.

Ken: Why do you say I don't think so?

Student: Because it happened already.

Ken: Well, can you recall it?

Student: Oh, okay, you want me to share the product I experienced?

Ken: Well, do you have a memory of it?

Student: I do.

Ken: And when you have that memory can you sort of feel the textures and the tastes and all of that?

Student: Exactly.

Ken: Could you share that experience with me?

Student: I could try.

Ken: Please. I mean I had a salad but I didn't have that salad. I didn't have the walnuts.

Student: Would you like words about my experience?

Ken: No, I want to share the experience. I'm not interested in words. I want the experience.

Student: I can share with you tomorrow. (Laughter)

Ken: How would you do that?

Student: I would make you a salad.

Ken: Oh, so now we're going to eat out of the same salad? This is getting a little intimate but we'll go with it.

Student: Out of the same large salad.

Ken: Yeah, yeah, okay. Two separate plates here, you know we're not cohabiting yet. (giggles) So when I eat that salad I will have an experience and you're going to have an experience. I want to share your experience! I know my experience but I want to share yours.

Student: I'll...that same one.

Ken: Well, are you going to share it or not?

Student: If I could I would!

Ken: What do you mean if you could?

Student: My experience is going to be different experience from yours. My experience--you won't be able to experience the same thing.

Ken: I can't experience your experience?

Student: No.

Ken: You can't share your experience?

Student: No.

Ken: Is this because you're being selfish?

Student: No.

Ken: Well I don't understand. How did this phrase, "share experience", come about if you can't share experience? I mean I moved to California because I heard that everybody (laughter) shared experiences. And now you're telling me I was lied to. (greater laughter) Is that right?

Student: Yes.

Ken: So in this world there's no possibility of sharing experience?

Student: No.

Ken: Wow! Okay forget about sharing, can I buy it?

Student: No matter what you pay you will not experience what I experience.

Ken: Wow! So no buying, no trading, no exchange, no sharing, none of that stuff! It's interesting isn't it? In this world there is no form of exchange possible. Your experience is your experience and that's it.

In this world, we buy and trade and exchange all over the place.But in this world, it's not possible at all. This is the world that Buddhism is talking about and that's often not understood.