Saturday, January 21, 2012

Commentary on Iran

You and me

There are a few related principles within Buddhism that get tangled up and misconstrued. The ones I want to talk about today are the related principles of suchness vs. delusion, karma, the self and the second of Gautama’s eight-fold path (Right intention).

The Buddha said that our view of life was fraught with delusion that emanated from fear, a misunderstanding of ourselves and the resulting orientation toward greed, anger and further delusion. The cause and effect connections among these matters works like this: We imagine ourselves as isolated and independent egos (self-images) that must compete with others who likewise see themselves in the same way. This dynamic causes fear, the effect of which is desire to bolster ourselves against threat. Consequently we see through protective lenses of delusion. In other words we see what we want to see rather than what truly exists.

For example, as Americans we see ourselves as distinctive and separate individuals and we imagine that Iranians are different and hostile to us. In that state of mind we become fearful which in turn distorts our vision and causes us to begin conducting ourselves in threatening ways, which of course Iranians take stock of and initiate their own defensive postures. That interactive dynamic results from a distorted sense of self manifesting as delusion. However, if we are not isolated individuals but rather united as a genuine not-divided self, then we are truly one with each other. This results in an entirely new way of seeing. No longer are Iranians different and threatening. Now they are just regular people with the same family structures, aspirations, and wishes for peace that we enjoy. “Suchness” is seeing things as they are rather than how we imagine they are when blinded by fear.

So far this makes good common sense. Where this starts to jump the tracks is when suchness is understood as accepting things as they are combined with the idea of karma. Many people then go on to say that we can’t change what karma demands and this is true to an extent. The result of this perspective is fatalism. Nobody escapes the result of their own prior choices but once we individually and collectively pay the price for past wrong choices, we can create a new tomorrow by doing better today. Suchness does not mean that we see harm being done and just accept it. Quite the contrary. When we see clearly (without the distortion of fear-based bias) that we are one then we can work to correct what needs correcting with clarity and this creates favorable karma.

Our intentions are right when we know that we are united and intend to provide wellbeing for others and ourselves. However, if we see either others or ourselves in a distorted fashion we can’t possibly have right intentions. We all treat others pretty much as we treat ourselves. If we hate ourselves we end up hating others. If we love ourselves we can then love others. Of course both of these depends upon how we understand ourselves. If we see ourselves as egos there is nothing to love since it is the nature of an ego to hate and defend. Only an undivided self (our true nature) is capable of love. When Jesus said to do unto others as we want them to do unto us, the presumption was that we care for ourselves and out of that positive capacity we care for others.

The Buddhist right view is this same interconnected view that Jesus worked to establish. We are one, with each other, our source and the world. God loves all unconditionally and we are the dwelling place of God incarnate.
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