Austin is also a practicing Zen Buddhist. After a number of years of Zen
meditation, Austin claims to have spontaneously experienced what Zen
practice calls "enlightenment" on a subway platform in London. The chief
characteristic of his experience seems to be a loss of the sense of
"self" which is central to human identity, and a corresponding feeling
of union with the outer world. Austin speculates as to what might be
going on in the brain when the "self" module goes offline, and also
discusses the seeing timelessness of the experience in the context of
the brain's internal clock mechanisms. In Austin's own words,
It strikes unexpectedly at 9 am on the surface platform of the London
subway system. (Due to a mistake)...I wind up at a station where I have
never been before....The view is the dingy interior of the station, some
grimy buildings, a bit of open sky. Instantly the entire view acquires
three qualities: Absolute Reality, Intrinsic Rightness, Ultimate
Reflection. With no transition, it is all complete....Yes, there is the
paradox of this extraordinary viewing. But there is no viewer. The scene
is utterly empty, stripped of every last extension of an I-Me-Mine (his
name for ego-self). Vanished in one split second is the familiar
sensation that this person is viewing a city scene. The new viewing
proceeds impersonally, not pausing to register the paradox that there is
no human subject "doing" it. Three insights penetrate the experient,
each conveying Total Understanding at depths far beyond simple
knowledge: This is the eternal state of affairs. There is nothing more
to do. There is nothing whatever to fear.
Austin claims that the experience represented "objective reality" in
that his subjective self did not exist to form biased interpretations.
Austin claims that there is little conflict between Zen Buddhism and
scientific rigor."

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