Tuesday, July 25, 2006

All Events are Created Equal

Human beings are born into the world of duality. Is/isn't, up/down, left/right, before/after. Also, agreeable/disagreeable. And so on.

Because of that, the events that arise in our lives get to be treated in the same dualistic way. Meaning, each event gets evaluated according to some set of criteria. Thus, this event may be perceived as being desirable, that event as being undesirable, and so on. This process of evaluation never ends.

Buddhists and Events

If a person engages in the Buddhist practice, and if he perseveres, there comes a time when the events in that person's life begin to gain certain uniformity. It is quite difficult to explain what this uniformity is about, or how does it feel like, but the thing is that the ups and downs from the non-Buddhist life now tend to smooth out a bit.

There comes a point where you realize that all events are created equal. If you then persevere and keep going, you will get to the point where you can almost plainly see that it's how everything is. No event is better or more precious than any other event. And vice versa -- no event is to be avoided, to be shoved under the rug.

Events, the way we perceive them, are what reality is. It is our life. Buddhist practitioners are peculiar because they have given up coping with life. They realize that they are the life, and that it would be therefore impossible to cope with something that you already are.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fear of the Known

"I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones." -John Cage
Fear is the first cousin of ignorance. In Buddhism, ignorance (avidya) is the Primus Movens of all human suffering. To abandon suffering one must abandon ignorance. And to abandon ignorance, one must go through its first cousin -- fear -- and figure out how to deal with it (i.e. fear).

But the question is: fear of what? The knee-jerk common wisdom answer is: fear of the unknown. People seem to be afraid of the unknown.

Now, if we stop and think about it, is that really how things are? Are we really afraid of the unknown? I mean, the unknown is just that -- unknown. Not being known, or knowable, what is there to be afraid of?

On the other hand, there are countless known things that we have pretty solid reasons to be afraid of. Such as the known possibility of getting very sick, getting injured, and of course, the fear of a very well known thing -- death and dying.

That's why John Cage said that he is afraid of the old ideas. He is afraid of the things that are already known. And he is afraid of them because he knows how horrible those known things are.

Something new and still unknown could actually be good. No need to be afraid of it yet, until we see what's it actually shaping up to be.

So realizing this, Buddhist practitioners work on dealing with the known fears. One of the known fears is that you may lose a much loved someone, or something. How are you going to cope with that fear?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

To Take It or Not to Take It Personally?

Buddhist practice is solely concerned with human condition. And the most prevalent characteristic of human condition is that we tend to take events that happen to us very personally.

This is the cause for many a suffering. Being extremely sensitive personally is not a fun way to go through life.

So what do Buddhist practitioners do to get out of that hole? They basically have a choice of two courses of action:
  1. Don't take things that concern them personally
  2. Take those things personally, but in addition, take everything else that occurs personally as well
In truth, both the above courses of action boil down to the same thing. If a practitioner choses the 'don't take it personally' path, that will liberate him from the bondage of being confined inside the prison of his body and mind. But if another practitioner takes another recommended course of action and starts taking everything personally, he will also be completely liberated from the prison. By taking onto himself all the other people's travails, he will become fully aware of the self, an will consequently forget all about the self.

Thus, he will be freed.