Thursday, December 23, 2004

sometimes its good to be 'wrong'

Finally in Montana (and online)! Glad to be back in the states, seeing where my sticking points on patience and concentration are to be found. Living in my little cocoon in England I sometimes don't get pressed on issues that I need to be pressed on to grow; and however pleasant it may be, it grows stagnant before long.

It's easy to have joy,
When everything good is going on.
But the man who's worthwhile,
Is the man with a smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.

(adapted from S.N. Goenka - Vipassana teacher)

Being wrong about something isn't as bad as our crazy society would make it seem to be. In fact, according to Buddhism, we're all wrong about 99.99% of everything we experience in everyday life. If we're ever right about something, we can feel it, and it feels weird. Being right about something means seeing that things DONT come from their own side - not just on faith (obviously), but also not just on an intellectual level - but directly.

Also, there is a tradition in Buddhism - the same as existed in ancient Greece and Palestine and in other parts of the world - where you train yourself to be extremely careful of ever judging another person's understanding or who they might 'really' be. In Greece there were the stories of the gods taking human form and wandering around. People who took them in and treated them kindly were greatly rewarded; but anyone who looked down on them as poor homeless beggars ended up in a heap of trouble.

Similarly, in Buddhism you're taught that anyone in your life could be a high bodhisattva (or being en route to enlightenment for the sake of all beings). Even annoying, seemingly stupid, ignorant, and so forth people in your life might just be teaching you in some way or another. While this doesn't mean you should sit down with a note-book and reverently interview the people who annoy you in life, it also means you shouldn't jump to judge their every action as coming from an intrinsically annoying place.

It also doesn't mean that if a person is about to do something harmful, either to himself or to someone else, you shouldn't intervene because they might be a super-wise bodhisattva. Basically the main idea is just to treat everyone you meet with great respect and treat them like a teacher, whether they are teaching you how to meditate, how to be patient, or how to help someone in need.

Point is - rather than labeling someone as 'wrong' or as 'right' or anything else, you learn that it was just an action of that person which was 'wrong' or 'right' and that even that is only the case on the level we're living at now. That annoying person who does everything wrong in your life might actually be a bodhisattva, or a Greek god, to be respected and treated well (even as you help them and fix anything they set wrong in your world).

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