The Buddha once gave a discourse to a group of many monks. Unlike his other discourses, this one contained no words. Instead, he held up a golden flower and smiled at his followers and disciples. An uneasy silence pervaded the assemblage, but not one monk dared break the quiet. Gradually the silence emanating from the Buddha expanded into a peace and a stillness that calmed all the noisy minds of those who had come for spiritual enlightenment. Finally one monk, whose name is recorded as Mahakasyapa, smiled back at the Teacher. The Buddha surveyed his circle of disciples and then surrendered the flower to Mahakasyapa. In that moment the lineage of Zen Buddhism was created.

- Ancient Buddhist legend

The Domain of Realm-2

Realm-2 and the Soul

"Stroke consciousness"

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Mario Schoenmaker

When we read this little story, we may have different reactions. On the one hand, we may think, "So what?!" or try to dismiss it in different words. On the other hand we may be struck by one simple fact: an understanding was communicated. This understanding was communicated without the aid of words, argument, reasoning or debate – the aids we consider normal to reaching an understanding. This understanding must have been mighty indeed to give rise to one of the most powerful and enduring of the Buddhist schools.

We ourselves may not have to search very far in our memories to discover that we too have experienced this process of understanding. Perhaps it occurred in an unguarded moment when we watched a beautiful sunset; or, climbing a mountain, we turned around to perceive a totally unexpected viewpoint. Perhaps it was a simple as having an experience that we loved another person, or that they loved us. Human existence is, if we allow it, filled with such direct understandings. These are the perceptions of “Realm-2”.

The term “Realm 2” was introduced in a paper in 20061 to describe a whole realm of experience. We can represent the human psyche - the whole of human experience by a circle:


The human psyche lives in two worlds. Realm-1 is the logical world of the scientific world-view. This is simply the “material” or “physical” world. The realm of “ordinary consciousness”.

Most of the human race inhabits this realm 99% of the time. It is the world of scientific theories, of economics, of politics. The concerns of Realm-1 are the daily concerns of life: material success; career; emotional gratification; needs fulfilment; relationship success - the list goes on and on. Basically it is a “want-driven” consciousness. A “rudimentary” sense of “I” pursues pleasure and flees from pain. This rudimentary identity, we christen the “ego”. Despite the most elaborate intellectual structures our Realm-1 self may weave, Realm-1 is always “me”-centred.

Realm-2 is what our teacher, Rev Mario Schoenmaker, termed the 'spiritual worlds'. For most of us, this part of the human psyche has no “I”. The most common experience of spirit still available occurs within our dream life - how often are we conscious, decision-making beings in our dreams?

Dreams are the lowest expression of spirit however. We encounter the spiritual worlds through great art: the writing of a Tolstoy or a Shakespeare which pulls us beyond our Realm-1 identity to participate in the experiences and sufferings of other beings; perhaps through surrendering to the flood of experience of a powerful piece of music, or the awe and wonder of a magical painting. Life itself provides us with so many opportunities to encounter spirit. The love that wells up, unexpectedly, through certain relationships; sometimes the miracle of a gift - the beauty of a sunset … I am sure you have your own list …

Such experiences seem to somehow take us 'beyond' ourselves - if this is the case, then firstly there is a 'self' (the “ego”) which we can be taken “beyond”; secondly there must be another 'experiencer' which is not the ego, but which is capable of existing - even if just for short periods of time.


In practice, however, the human psyche is not really a whole circle, but a divided one:


1John Rawson. “Harmonising the Spheres.” Paper presented to Alternative Expressions of the Numinous, University of Queensland, August 2006


Realm-2 and the Soul


John Rawson

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