Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My way or the highway.

If it isn’t patently clear by now, “my way” IS the highway to somebody else, who considers “our way” the flip side of “their way”. Wouldn’t it be great if there were an absolute way where there were neither “my way” nor the other way around? This idea of a universally embraced absolute with everyone on the same page is a fool’s paradise. This dilemma has never been more apparent than now, and the factions are growing further and further apart. Why is this division increasing? The Buddha had the answer more than 2,500 years ago, and at the core of the answer lies the thorny matter of how to define oneself. 

The ordinary way of defining oneself is in terms of an ego (e.g., the idea, or image, of who we think we are). From that perspective, the possessive nature of “I” is “mine,” which is of course not “yours.” That’s a problem since mine is clearly different from yours (and the opposite). And never the twain shall meet. That being the case, what is the solution? The extraordinary way of enlightenment where possessiveness disappears since in an enlightened state of mind “I” fuses with “not I,” and the difference between you and me disappears.

From the perspective of “I,” ideologues are the chains that bind us, and dogma becomes the order of the day. Rules, regulations, and laws ensure the walls that divide us. On the other hand, when we become enlightened, dogmas also disappear. Everything is in a state of continuous change and what worked yesterday, does not work today. Conditions change moment by moment and without rules, the unenlightened are disoriented and lost.

However, once a person becomes enlightened, change segues into the wisdom of “expedient means”. Then the challenge shifts from inflexible rules to flexible adaptation, taking into account circumstance as they emerge. To one who has not reached that state of mind, expedient means translate as being dishonest or disingenuous. Since their standards of morality are wedded to the rules of that which is measurable and never changes. The very idea of defying objectivity is a poison pill to the unenlightened, and anyone who dances to a different tune is not to be taken seriously or to be trusted. However, according to Chán Master Sheng Yen, “When knowledge and views are established, knowing is the root of ignorance. When knowledge and views do not exist, seeing itself is nirvana”. Another Zen Master expressed the difference this way: “Before we understand, we depend on instruction. After we understand, instruction is irrelevant. The dharmas taught by the Tathagata (e.g., The Buddha) sometimes teach existence and sometimes teach non-existence. They are all medicines suited to the illness. There is no single teaching. But in understanding such flexible teachings, if we should become attached to existence or to non-existence, we will be stricken by the illness of dharma-attachment (inflexible truth). Teachings are only teachings. None of them are real.”Chi-fo (aka Feng-seng). In the end, morality is not a one-size-fits-all. Instead, it is governed by that which benefits one and all, except of course those who are clearly wedded to ignorance and work to ensure everyone must be sacrificed on the altar of their ego-enhancement
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