Basic Kindness In All Things

Dear Scott, I read your page from time to time and draw a great deal of insight from it. But a question perplexes me, and it has nothing to do with me and my search. Years ago I read a book by a modern Zen master, subtitled “Seeking Truth in a World of Chaos”. Since then, the overall chaos in the world seems to have multiplied!

As the father of boys, I am acutely conscious of the many temptations and delusions that seek to entrap us in the world. Chief among these are lust, greed and violence. These are not abstract. They are well represented in all of the media and in many respectable occupations. And I do not write from the viewpoint of one who has gone beyond all these things. I am not the Tathagata.

These are demonstrated [demon-strated!] every day in such appalling and meaningless acts as the dreadful rash of school-yard massacres that have broken out in “the land of the free” and also by, on smaller and larger scales, so many countless acts of cruelty, terrorism and war that occur everywhere.

Meanwhile in the US, powerful and influential people seem to believe that the “culture of violence” that has been allowed to flourish in the States – mainly because of greed, the Almighty Dollar! – has no relationship with the dreadful things that are occuring there. What a morass of greed, hatred and delusion – one begetting the other in a truly vicious circle. And yet, so much double-talk, obfuscation, and mischief, all in the name of so-called freedom.

The question I am asking is, where is the voice that questions all of this, that can actually penetrate this dreadful fog of delusion and ignorance, and actually represent the viewpoint, the teaching, of enlightenment, of God-realisation, which you yourself seem to articulate so well. The question that is burning to be asked is: what is freedom, what is liberty, if it means just the ability to destroy yourself and others and to create misery in the world?

There is a clear and obvious conflict between what is generally understood to be freedom in the modern world, and the true freedom of which yourself and all the sages speak. The US Constitution speaks of “freedom to pursue happiness” in such a way that this is elevated to Holy Writ, while meaning, in practice, “please yourself”. There needs to be a very profound debate about the nature of freedom and liberty and what, in the universe, it means.

Meanwhile our native religion, Christianity, has patently failed to provide any real critique of this dreadful state of affairs, because it has been nailed to a cross of bureaucratic dogma and absurd beliefs, arising from the triumph of the wrong factions within the Christian church in the very early days. By monopolizing the debate in the Western mind, and polarising the entire issue between “belief” and “non-belief”, Christianity has in most cases utterly lost its cogency in this crucial debate and simply become one voice among many.

In the US, at least, putative Christians seem deeply enmeshed in the culture of violence, hatred and ignorance, which they themselves embody and proliferate. The conservative Christian voice generally supports capital punishment and free gun ownership, although how they believe Christ would support these, I will never know.

So the question is, where are the Bodhisattvas? Where are those who have turned their back on Nirvana, to wade back out into the ghettos and pool-halls, video game parlours and high-schools, to make people ask, question, seek and find that ultimate liberty which few in our world are even aware of?

Where is the voice that speaks for enightenment – in Congress, on the radio and in other media? Where, in this hour of manifest cultural crisis, can this voice make itself heard?

Of course this voice exists through you, which is why I write in the first place; but I don’t see any penetration of this intelligence into public affairs, into politics and the media. And that is what is needed.

You seem to have done a pretty good job of answering some of your own questions. But I don’t really look to the media, politics, public affairs or even religion for any kind of serious indicator of what might be possible. My experience is that most people who frequent those arenas, because of the motives (the desire to acquire and maintain power and control, security, stability, fame, personal recognition and so on) that tend to drive them, almost always seem to be among the last to truly understand. As you point out, genuine freedom has little to do with “being able to do what I want when I want to.” In fact, that is a formula that feeds the pretense that we are separate and in competition, and guarantees all kinds of worry and sorrow. Spiritual freedom simply means freedom from the bondage of self. When we stop pursuing naive and narrow self-interests, when we stop completely, we discover something profoundly subtle, tender, and beautiful. Most of us don’t normally notice that something because of our obsessive clinging, craving, resisting, and trying to escape from the numbing, confusing, worrisome, and often painful mess we’ve made. The nature of that “something” is one of basic friendliness toward all people and all things, and the good news is that it is what we truly are.

So I don’t really think of it in terms of what this group or that group of people are doing. And it doesn’t really help to blame anyone — the root of the problem is ignorance, which means the lack of a clear and functioning understanding of how it is — how things work. The only real solution that I can see is to be the solution, that is, for you and I to give ourselves absolutely and unconditionally to the truth of freedom, to the truth of basic friendliness, to the truth of basic happiness. Then we actually have something worthwhile to offer. When we let go of all personal desires and preferences, all likes and dislikes, and when we give ourselves without reservation to basic kindness, a joy and a peace that knows no boundaries immediately reveals itself throughout the entire universe. That means basic kindness and friendliness toward our bodies, our minds, and everyone else’s bodies and minds. In this, the world is transformed, without a single “thing” changing. That’s the mystery of it; that’s the beauty of it!

There is no personal salvation or enlightenment. Give up, completely, on trying to chastise or correct or improve yourself or the world, politically, spiritually, or in any other way, and that which has been awake and free all along will be discovered everywhere.

-Your own Self-

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