If one does not occasionally display that his talk and his walk are in alignment, he might just find himself the object of justifiable skepticism. The first post on this page did acknowledge a short-lived freak-out of self-pity into which I allowed myself to descend when my dog Bernadette passed away a couple of weeks ago. I hastily decided that I no longer wanted to write for public consumption and in my next to last post on Two Voices In One Transmission, I wallowed in the melodrama of it all. It’s cool. I’m only human and I was able to see the self-defeating aspect of such an unnecessary proposal before the dark cloud of my own conjuring grew into a supercell. Self-made crisis averted. But not before showing those who read my ramblings that the erstwhile self-styled oracle of wisdom is just as susceptible to the narcissistic meltdowns of a bruised ego as anyone.
Many of my posts take an almost instructional tone, advising readers to engage in meditative self-analysis so that they may root out their own destructive tendencies and inaccurate views. In essence, I urge everyone to become their own therapist. Since I am not qualified to teach meditation techniques, I rarely discuss the various types and their corresponding postures, breathing, mantras, etc. My predilections in this area are of the Zen and Mahayana Buddhist variety, but that’s nothing more than a matter of preference born of my own very personal spiritual outlook. There’s really no right or wrong method. However, I still think that sometimes the words I write could have the potential to inspire readers to investigate my theories if they weren’t so vague and devoid of practical specifics.
For instance, I often state that humanity suffers from the emotional backlash resulting from a mistaken view of reality. The Buddhist view of destructive states of mind places afflictive emotions and wrong views into three main categories that are often referred to as the “Three Poisons”, namely attachment, aversion and ignorance. All specific negative emotions and tendencies such as anger, envy, hatred, pride and greed arise from these three main afflictions. Which category some of them fall into is self-evident: pride and greed are forms of attachment, anger and hatred are forms of aversion. But in a sense, all of them fall under the rubric of ignorance because it is the view of ourselves as inherently existing entities that underlies all neuroses.
When I feel sorry for myself and go fishing for sympathy with sweeping statements about my unfair lot in life, clearly I am succumbing to the egoic view of myself as a separate and independent being. It happens. I never claimed to be enlightened. But that’s a rather obvious example and it doesn’t illustrate the more subtle expressions of ignorance that are quietly implicit in my loftier and more confident psycho-spiritual diatribes.
Here are some quotes from a post I composed just this past weekend: “Similarly, if we choose to retreat into our own little worlds of family and romance and entertainment in an effort to wait out the storm, we are also acting out of ignorance. Attachment to a person, thing, activity or idea is a destructive tendency, just as destructive as angry aversion.” “When you meet aggression with social circle tribalism (family, friends, lovers), all you have done is compounded the false view of separateness.” Do you see a common thread in those two passages that might betray the existence of the very tendencies within me that I took it upon myself to criticize in others? Don’t look for it in the main point I was making. What I said was accurate overall. But it’s in how I chose to say it that my own neuroses can be discerned. The life I lead is of my own conscious choosing. I have avoided marriage and in recent years, even relationships, in order to have the time and motivation to attend to my spiritual growth. Many people with whom I used to socialize are no longer in my life because I willfully neglected to foster those friendships for various reasons. I tell you this only to make clear that I am in no way a victim of circumstance. Yet, in those words I retyped here, the reality that at least on a subconscious level, I do indeed consider myself a victim is implicit. I could have chosen any number of examples to make the same point, yet I specifically focused on family, friends and lovers in both of those statements, all things that I am personally lacking. No offense to my friends, of course: you see, in the putrid swamp of self-pity, one cannot acknowledge the existence of those who love him.
To some, it may seem that I am being overly and perhaps frustratingly analytical. Yet, uncovering, facing and acknowledging such subtle instances of ego dominance is precisely what I am talking about when I say things like, “It’s time for each of us who care about the state of the world to take a daunting journey into our own psyches, uncovering every gross and subtle misconception and prejudice that resides there.”
Much like the drunks will tell you, acknowledging your problem is the first step, but it’s not the solution. I aspire not just to lessen the expression of narcissistic and misguided views, but to eradicate them from my psyche by transforming their underlying energy from negative and ignorant to positive and realistic. This cannot be done by simply scratching the surface and making a concerted effort to be less of a dick. In fact, it’s beyond the purview of “effort”. Words are woefully inadequate to clarify what is meant by “non-conceptual awareness”, but basically, since words and concepts are the creation of ego-based intellect, if one wishes to see reality as it is, he or she must learn to abide in pure being without adding judgments and hopes and wishes to the experience. Nobody can retain that state of mind indefinitely, but through regular practice, you’ll find that your experience of daily life gradually becomes fuller, more accepting and less egotistical. I’ve still got a long way to go in this endeavor. We all do. Love unabashedly and speak sparingly while skillfully guiding your own evolution. At the core of each of us is a Buddha. Go find her.