An Unbroken Sequence: What is Real, Compared to What?

2 min readJan 21, 2022
Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

“A stable, solid body is a mental image superimposed onto a stream of events in the same way that a spinning propeller is seen as a circle. The constant succession of discrete acts of cognition or feeling appears as a monolithic event, just as the rapid change of frames in a film appears as a smooth continuum.”

The Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron, “An Unbroken Sequence”

I get these quotes daily from Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine site based in the West. Most of them are frankly, tripe, hopelessly ridiculous ‘insights’. But this one struck me this morning for the way it encapsulates the concept of reality not being what it appears to be. This is a very basic Buddhist concept, rooted in the idea that our attachment to this world hampers our ability to accept things we cannot see for what they might be. Illusion.

As it happens, its source is two Tibetan monks, one of whom is fairly well known, as he should be after 14 incarnations. The other is an American, formerly Cheryl Green. And this points to a problem I have with much of Western Buddhism.

It’s just way too immature. It’s focused far too much on individual concerns like emotions and desire, possibly because there is so much overlap between Western Buddhist thought and psychotherapy. The quotes I see from self-appointed Buddhist pundits, often with names appropriated from other cultures in an attempt to feel authentic, often end up being empty of meaning.

But then something like the above shows up and gives me an actual insight. Which is why I have not yet unsubscribed from this stuff.


Mastodon:, Writer, nine non-fiction books, two novels, Buddhist, train lover. Amateur cook, lover of life most of the time!