Friday, 23 October 2009

On Doing Better (BT)

Source: This is based on a talk by ... . See Disclaimer Below.

Over the summer, the Chinese government held a 4-day conference in China inviting Buddhist leaders from all over the world, everyone apart from, of course, the Dalai Lama. It was a huge event, and in typical Chinese style very well organized, but also very strictly regulated. Each speaker was invited to address the audience for 6 minutes only, and then bells would ring and signs would go up telling them that their time was up!

For the Buddhist leaders invited, you can imagine the dilemma they faced in whether going to such an event was a betrayal of their values, or whether one should have faith and trust even where there had been a history of animosity. Why would the Chinese government organize such an event? Is it the hand of friendship and with the good intention of bringing Buddhist communities together and engendering harmony and unity, or might there be a hidden agenda, and if so, what?

As with all dilemmas, part of the problem is in not knowing all that we would like to know. So, how does one come to a decision? What is our guiding principle? How can one tell right action from wrong? I’d be interested to know what you think on these questions.

But the Buddhist philosophy seems to be one of forgiveness and trust and of trying to overlook the incongruity of one’s former enemy extending a welcoming hand. So many from around the world attended, and it was a very successful conference. It was followed by a 3-day meeting in Taiwan where the atmosphere was much lighter and more friendly, the stiffness of China replaced by great enthusiasm and chanting.

But whatever action we take, whether it turns out right or wrong, should we concern ourselves with that? It is after all the past. Perhaps we should. Or perhaps we can go beyond the duality of right and wrong? But either way, we should not be guilty about our mistakes. We should learn from them. Nobody is perfect. We can each do more. With strength and diligence, we can make an effort to be a good human being. Mindfulness is not just in meditation, nor for attaining a miracle one day of enlightenment. It is a continuous state of being in our effort to be a good human being. From birth, we should engage in this effort until death. Nobody is perfect, but with mindfulness we can all do better.

Along with devotion or concentration, and compassion or loving kindness, it is these three things we should pay attention to. Devotion, Mindfulness and Compassion. In so doing, we are always learning. Even if we should die tomorrow, we should still try to learn something today.

Disclaimer: This is merely written up by me, and any errors are mine. The purpose is spiritual & philosophical. I'd appreciate your comments on the ideas and questions raised and your own understanding.

Carrie said: Hi Okei, You have raised some interesting questions in your blog...
okei said: Thanks Carrie! I think there are two main questions... how does one make decisions?, and can we go beyond right and wrong? And perhaps the answer is within the blog, namely within ourselves, in mindfulness... okei :^)
Erica said: This is as tricky one, isn't it? I'm always of the mind that we and others can always do better. I am always giving people, second, thirth, fourth....chances. Devotion, Mindfulness and Compassion - yea those are the things - yet they are not always returned in kind. And how we handle those situations I think helps define who we are. And I think 'especially' because we could die tomorrow - it a good reason to learn something today! hmmmmm - I think the only way we can make decisions is my following our hearts and our instincts. Can we go beyond right and wrong? Yea - I think so - I tend to see things in shades of gray.
okei said: Erica, thanks for the change of perspective! Of whether we trust that the other will do better and "let go" of past opinions of them. To be guided by bitterness and resentment is no good, nor by perfect innocence or history will repeat itself. It's a difficult balance of magical trust without innocence.
And that's a beautiful attitude you have to learning! :^)
Can we go beyond gray even... no judgement, just in the now?
I think this reminds me of the question of whether "intent is all that matters" versus "the ends justify the means".
Erica said: A difficult balance indeed! I am actually striving for a sort of innocence - innocence is freedom - when we are not jaded by fear or preconceived notions. Yet I don't want to be naive either LOL How's that for a paradox?
okei said: Yes! I think it's worth striving for!!! :^)
Erica said: Can we go past gray? Hmmmm - I think some can - but it would be dishonest for me to say that I can. I always try to suspend judgement - yet I cannot completely do it.
Intent matters - intentions do not, IMO. There is a very subtle yet distinct difference.... And yes (geez - you're making my head spin lol) - sometimes the ends do justify the means....
okei said: "A goal without a plan is a wish" Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Erica said: Yes - in a sense - intent is the wish - intention is the specific plan of action to bring about the wish. Hence the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
True intent is the desire from within to manifest a certain change or event. To me this is pure - from the heart - power. When we focus our intent or something - it will manifest - our thoughts do shape our reality. That is the way of magic. It's when we try to intervene and force something to come about - our egos tend to mess it up. This isn't to say we just sit about and wish without any action though - but the action needs only be a level of awareness and openness for the possibilities when they present themselves - and the ability to seize those opportunities - without fear. Because (I use the word magic) will invariably give us what we need - although it may not always be what we think we want or present itself in the way we might imagine if we were to set out with an goal/intention. I find it best to focus my intent to the direction I want to go and allow the magic to handle the details.
okei said:
I haven't read this link yet, but the worry that comes to me is that we cannot know the ends. When making a decision, we don't know how things will turn out. Imagining some positive outcome and doing what we can to get there is to ignore all the other outcomes which could also manifest. I love positive but it seems in danger of being "too positive" in its approach.
Checking out the alternatives, there seems to be deontology which bases morality on the acts themselves which seems all wrong, and virtue ethics on the intentions which appeals most to me because it is the most "in the now" and you are "in control". Does there have to be a contradiction between intentions and intents... ? Not if "virtuous activity ultimately produces the best consequences", but then that would be the definition of virtuous in my opinion, so we're in a bit of a circle.
To use the example of mind... do we have the intent of pure mind, or should we have the intention of purifying the mind? Or both are equally good moral objectives and there is no difference, or the fourth option which appeals most to me this minute, .... both!
Erica said: Intentions are of the mind - our logic saying this is the best way to get from point A to point B. Intent comes from our hearts, our spirit, our essence. No there doesn't have to be a contradiction between intent and intentions - but it is awfully rare that there isn't. And I am not 100% certain that the virtuous activity always produces the best consequences - but I will concede that is the case most of the time.

That being said - purifying the mind is indeed a good objective - that is honing and taming the ego. We can never completely let go of the ego - we need it to stay sane and be able to function in this place we collectively call reality. But a well trained ego is not to be confused with an intent that comes from within - from the heart - from the spirit - beyond the mind all together.
okei said: I have a vague intention of learning Chinese one day. It is pure "air" and nothing driving it, no passion or plan. So to use this as an example... If I really decide that I want to learn Chinese, I need to take that intention and hold in my mind and make it an intent, light a "fire" of desire to actually do it. Then maybe, the direction set by the intent, some plan will materialize.
So what I've described is a kind of cycling between intention and intent.
Erica said: Wanting to learn Chinese is indeed an example of an intention. But in my opinion there is no way to turn that into intent. Learning something specific like a new language - is strictly 'of the mind' - it's a 'want' and not a 'need' - and intent comes from the heart - it fulfills need and not desire. Lighting a fire of desire to actually do it doesn't turn it into intent - it just simply gives you the motivating incentive to take the action to get it done. Now I know what's coming next - and that is - "give me an example of intent" :-)
Many years ago I had this gut feeling that 'something' was missing. I was spiritually suppressed and there was this deep longing in my soul to connect with something even though at that time I had no notion as to what that something was. I began my questing for knowledge - and at this point it was strictly an intellectual endeavor. But as I found myself focusing on that quest - all kinds of strange occurrences began happening. It would take me a really long time to describe all the details - but the gist of it is - I put my intent 'out there' that I was in need of spiritual guidance. And I received it - in all sorts or strange and magical ways. There was no specific intention to follow a specific path or learn or do a specific thing. And the path I ended up on was way different than the one I would have imagined for myself. But I followed the signs and things manifested the way they needed to -albeit a far cry from what I expected.
My level of understanding is far from perfect and I still lapse into my old ways from time to time. In fact I was 'dead' for a few years - up until about 5 months ago actually. I made a conscious effort to open myself back up again - which in turn lead to a whole string of strange occurrences that lead me back onto my path where I left off. Again what ended up happening is far different then what I thought would happen. That is the power of intent - a longing of our inner selves that projects our need and magic/the universe/whatever you want to call it responds and shows us the way - if we only have the eyes to see it - and keep our own selves out of the way to allow it to manifest.
There - how was that for talking in circles? :-)
okei said: No, you described it brilliantly. It's interesting you're using the term "power" to describe this intent because power which I equate with passion is something which has been on my mind the past couple of weeks as what allows us to raise above ourselves in some way, and I've been struggling without success so far to find what the Buddhists have to say about it. I'll just leave a link to my post about it on BT in case anyone is interested.
Roddy said: Discover True Self. The purification of the mind will happen naturally when this is the intent. 
okei said: I had a dream immediately after this conversation, of which I can remember nothing apart from some vague idea of intent being a "broadcast from within" that one cannot help but notice its presence... like Harry Potter, that when he is among a group of people, anyone might sense his presence among that group so the group can never hope to go incognito. [actually this isn't true in Harry Potter, it's true though for the dementors or Lord Voldemort that wherever they go they have a chill around them that can be sensed, whereas Harry Potter can and often does go around incognito, under his invisibility cloak, but who said dreams were logical? But I think the idea stands, in summary that intent is a broadcast and lends a "presence".]

I said in the above blog of the three things that mattered: devotion/concentration, mindfulness and loving kindness, but I had the idea that although these three are separate things, they should be seen as one. The mindfulness is compassionate, it does not frown at undesirable thoughts, feelings, sensations disturbing the peace, but as in meditation, it smiles its awareness. So it is compassionate mindfulness, and this mindfulness, lest it drift into boredom or daydreaming or doubt is concentrated... in every moment concentrated so there is no room for doubt and sharp like the edge of a blade so there is no room either for boredom or daydreaming. So all three in one and we have concentrated compassionate mindfulness, and that is the desired state in every moment. :^)
Roddy said: Yes.. it is not easy to always be mindful. It takes being in the immediate present, without fear of what the next moment, or the next day, may bring.

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