Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Right, wrong and the realm of harmony.

My way or the highway
Two of the most prominent figures in the history of Zen were Nagarjuna and Bodhidharma. Both had meaningful perspectives on the matter of discrimination—not the ordinary way of judgmental opposition, instead the ability to discern differences. By itself perceptual discrimination is unavoidable and without contention. The color white is discriminately different from the color red (although some may argue about the particular nuance of red) just as up is clearly the opposite from down. Seen in that way it is a matter of common sense to perceive differences.

However, when the matter of egoic judgement enters the arena, conflict is sure to arise. Calling someone egotistical is a sure fire way of creating hostility, yet the vast majority of the human race functions in a way to protect their egoic views, without the awareness that most all of the time, hardened views are rooted in the soil of their egos, where defending their views is the same as defending their sense of self. None of us can possibly perceive anything in the same way. We all are looking through lenses of our histories, experiences, personality traits, predispositions, hardened beliefs and mostly driven by a defensive ego, all convinced that their views alone are right at the expense of those who disagree. 

Our world would be a heaven on earth if setting aside our view that only our views are right. Everyone would then see things in the same way with peace, harmony and joy reigning universally. I have never met anyone who pursued a path they were convinced was the wrong path. If they are not wedded to an intractable position to which they have taken claim (e.g., rooted in their egos), and remain open to the lessons life can teach, it is quite possible to learn that what seemed certain in the beginning can be transformed into a perspective contrary to what they initially thought. However, even with an enlightened perspective, the ego will resist the admission of being in error.

Nagarjuna, in explication the Buddha’s understanding of the Self, created what has since become known as “The Two Truth Doctrine,” which says that enlightenment begins by first becoming aware of the difference between ordinary truth (e.g., the realm of right vs. wrong) and sublime truth where unity prevails, but we are only freed from bondage by experiencing this sublime realm. Until that experience occurs, the process remains a fabrication of intellectual discernment: an idea. It is the “experience” of penetrating the constructed and defensive ego to find our essential Self that liberates the human mind from the bondage of “versus” and conflict.

Bodhidharma, in a somewhat different way, spoke about this realm of unification in one of his favorite Sūtras—The Lankavatara: “In this world whose nature is like a dream, there is place for praise and blame, but in the ultimate Reality of Dharmakāya (our pure, indiscriminate state of essence) which is far beyond the senses and the ‘discriminating mind,’ what is there to praise?”

Much of these ancient words and concepts appear abstruse and incomprehensible to modern man, but the core principle elaborated here is that the ego is a fabricated idea we all take for who we are, not realizing that an ego is a fantasy defined by particular characteristics including greed (and associated manners such as avarice, stinginess and possessiveness); anger (and associated manners such as rage, brooding, vengeance and revenge), and finally delusion; remaining oblivious to our true essence, and taking on egotistical behaviors such as those just listed.

When we compare the states of conflict in the world to the realm where “versus” ceases to exist, it convincingly illustrates that truly, at the core level of our essential Selves, the solution to all conflicts must begin and end by removing the impediments that blind us to our true natures where hardened ideologies cease to exist, anger is non-existent, “my way or the highway” is replaced with unity and unveiling our inner essence where the common coin of harmonious joy for all prevails.
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