Thursday, March 16, 2017

Surrendering from inflexible positions.

Sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet is regarded as t...
Moving mountains.
The Buddha said we all suffer because we attach ourselves to ephemeral things: here today, gone tomorrow. Attachment to inflexible points of view seriously constrains our ease and compassionate responsiveness to life. We all encounter people who are absolutely convinced that their way is the only way of viewing reality regardless of the fit between such views and wise judgments. Often times the zealot is held in high esteem as a champion of justice who’s self-appointed mission is to defend a particular perspective. Human history spills over with the blood of those on opposing sides of impacted positions.  Glaring examples stand out, ranging from the crusades of 10th and 11th centuries, to the blood baths and wholesale slaughter of both Muslims and Hindus when the British set the Indian Sub-Continent  free. Examples continue down to the present day in Washington and around the world between opposing factions clinging to positions of self-righteousness. In the meantime the people everywhere suffer with no new relief and ripple effects of their unwillingness to compromise are felt across the earth.  All of this suffering is over alternate and inflexible points of view.

Such examples are easier to see in others than they are within our own ranks. Take, for example, opposing points of view within the ranks of Buddhists regarding form and emptiness or self and Self. These disputes have been sustained for centuries within the Buddhist community. One side says there is nothing but form; emptiness is a myth. The opposing side says form and emptiness are the essential partnership upon which dependent origination rests. One side says the self does not exist and can quote scripture to prove their position. The opposing side says yes the 
“ego self does not exist but there is a higher Self, as another example of dependent origination, and can quote scripture to prove their position. Extremists within all religious conclaves rule the days.

The Buddha’s wisdom says to speculate about nothing yet trust life and the eternal presence of your own mind. That is a formidable challenge when one feels passion arise. It is not easy to release ourselves from deep convictions, yet suffering occurs if we don’t. Others argue that suffering occurs if we do. Likewise Jesus said we need to let go of inflexible ideologies. In the book of John he is quoted as having said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Of course, that statement doesn’t track so well in English and may be one of the all time greats of misunderstanding and for justifying self-immolation. What it means (as written in Greek) is there is no greater love than to surrender your ideas: a very Zen-like prescription. The English word here “life,” in the Greek, is “psuche” which means an expression of the mind. If the Washington politicians read Greek (instead of balance sheets) we might all be in a better place. The ultimate criterion is this: what position best establishes compassion for all and moves away from egocentricity. It is best to always be clear that we are connected in an interdependent web with all of life where there can be no my way or the highway simply because there is no me without a you—the prime example of dependent origination.

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