Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas message.

We learn a language when we're young, study it for a time in school, use it most of our lives and then forget what we learned. The meaning of the three words, “The, mine and ours,” is worth reviewing because seeing how these are the same and different is revealing. Suppose I said, “The universe is mine or ours.” Clearly such a statement is delusional since the universe is pretty big and to suggest that it belongs to you or me is ridiculous. Everyone can see the silliness of such a thing. But suppose I shortened the span of space and said, “The earth is mine or ours.” Smaller span but still pretty big and still ridiculous. How far down do we need to go before it stops being ridiculous? Or for that matter how much bigger? We could go all the way down to the quantum level or outward to the farthest expanse of space and the essence of the statement won’t change. 

The word “The” is a definite article: something definite or unconditional. “The universe” is not contingent and isn’t altered by our presence and isn’t waiting on anyone to possess it. Both “Mine” and “Ours” are forms of possessive pronouns and both have the same meaning: To possess something. 

“My self” is different in meaning from “The self.” The first implies possession and the second is independent, just as “My shirt” is different from “The shirt.” OK, so what? Is it possible for anyone to possess himself or herself? Heck, we can’t even say what “The self” is so how can it be possessed? In truth, nothing can be possessed since in our true nature there is no real self to possess anything.

We have this idea that we can know our self but when we turn our eyeballs around and look within, nobody’s home. Some time ago I wrote a post after reading Paul Broks book “Into the Silent Land.” Broks asks alarming and provocative questions such as “Am I out there or in here?” when he portrays an imaginary man with a transparent skull, watching in a mirror how his own brain functions. He notices, for us all, that the world exists inside the tissue residing between our ears. And when the tissue is carefully examined, no world, no mind, no self, no soul, no perceptual capacities, nor consciousness—nothing but inanimate meat is found. Unable to locate, what we all take for granted, he suggests that we are neither “in here” nor “out there,” maybe somewhere in between the space between the in and the out, and maybe nowhere at all.

It’s a mystifying perspective yet all of us just continue on down the road without ever truly grasping who it is that’s continuing. Nagarjuna sliced this matter in a variety of ways but one of my favorites is his poem about walking which ends this way... “These moving feet reveal a walker, but did not start him on his way. There was no walker prior to departure. Who was going where?”

The Buddha properly pointed out that at the core of each of us there is no discernible identity and we only begin to fabricate a self image (ego) once we move and take action. Until then there is no observable identity. The actions we take define who we are, not the ideas. Of course what we think is usually followed by action. Without action, either for the good or the bad, we are no one at all. And when we remain still we have a potential for unlimited either. Then we are silent and can dwell in the infinite space of tranquility, wholeness, peace and readiness which lies at the very heart of undifferentiated sentience.

On the other hand when we imagine ourselves as a distinctly unique individual, with definable properties of difference, we become an incomplete ego who must possess and attach to forms in order to identify. That fabrication must possess and makes things mine. Then the universe, and all therein contained, stops being the universe and becomes my universe. This, however, doesnt mean movement necessarily equates to being a possessive ego. So long as we remain aware of our genuine indefinable sentient nature, and not a fabricated ego, our movement can be non possessive and we can continue as nonjudgemental members of an indiscriminate humanity. 

What everyone will discover if pursued is that we exist and don’t exist at the same time. The “walker” only comes along with walking. The thinker only emerges with thinking, digestion only with eating and the self with and through living. The question is, what or who sparks the process of all?

There’s a direct link between what we think and what we do. The Buddha said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” He then went on to say “To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.”  Jesus too pointed out that 
the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person. 

In our world today there is far too much negative rhetoric and far too little positive thought and action. As you open your presents on Christmas day, think about the greatest of gifts: The gift of giving yourself to make the world a far, far better place. 
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