Sunday, October 20, 2013

Echoes of truth

I, and I’m sure many others, have heard the expression that’s just an opinion. At the risk of being flippant, let me suggest that every word ever communicated is precisely that: an opinion. Someone must gather information (hopefully reliable), interpret, digest the significance (if any) and only then offer an opinion. But some may argue, yes but their opinion is truth. This may or may not be the case. Ordinarily such expressions mean what is heard resonates with something within the hearer. If there is coherence between the communicated opinion, and the belief or standard held by the hearer, the conclusion is truth.

We all want to believe that what we hear is truth but far too often it gets rejected before it ever reaches the ear of the hearer. Instead it is blocked by preconceived beliefs or cherished and conflicting opinions of the hearer. In non-politically correct terms, that’s what we know as being closed-minded. Nobody wants to think of him or herself (or labeled by others) as being close-minded. Instead the offered opinion (perhaps even truthful) is DOA (dead on arrival) due to firmly held obstructions and inflexible filters. 

Often times a voiced perspective is never considered at all since the hearer is so protective of their cherished opinion they rarely pause long enough to actually hear. Instead they are planning their rejoinder before even knowing what they are responding to. That is precisely the nature of an ego: fearful their perspectives will become punctured so much so they cant tolerate opposing views. Their hearts are instead inflamed with choosing one view in opposition to their own.

The Lankavatara was allegedly the sutra most revered by Bodhidharma: the father of Zen. The sutra says, the result of such ignorance are minds which “burn with the fires of greed, anger and folly, finding delight in a world of multitudinous forms, their thoughts obsessed with ideas of birth, growth and destruction, not well understanding what is meant by existence and non-existence, and being impressed by erroneous discriminations and speculations since beginningless time, fall into the habit of grasping this and that and thereby becoming attached to them”

The Abhidharma-kośa (a Buddhist text widely respected, and used by schools of Mahayana Buddhism in India, Tibet, and the Far East) lists 51 states of mind or mental factors most important to spiritual practice. Although not intended as inflexible rules, the included factors are seen as supportive of spiritual pursuit. Several of these guides are relevant to the issue of discerning truth. They are:

Common-sense intelligence, consisting of finely tuned discrimination
Giving up attachment to fixed views
Ignorance of (among other matters) karma and lack of the wisdom of emptiness
An inflated sense of superiority (pride)
Wrong views based on emotional afflictions
Closed-mindedness: my view is wrong yet seen as best
Pretense and/or hypocrisy

Taken together these perspectives advance the dispersion of delusion and promote discernment of truth. But most important of all is the recognition that when truth is spoken there must be an echo from within a heart cleansed of tightly held vested interests. The truth will set us free but only when recognized as such. To make them accessible is the task of zazen: clearing away the underbrush to reveal eternal truth.
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