Friday, January 15, 2010

The Craving of Human Failures and Faults

Well, winter is working it's "magic" on me. Feeling effectively irritated, on the edge of sickness, and already dreaming of gardening, green leaves, and streets not mucked up with dirty ice and snow. My blogroll seems to have it's share of cranky commentaries as well, so I guess I'm in good company. The topics that have been most prevalent in the Buddhist blogosphere over the past week, with the exception of the earthquake in Haiti, are striking me differently than in the past for some reason. Maybe it's the cloudy weather and hazy body, or maybe it's the exhaustion with focusing on decrepit pundits, horseshit political situations, and anything that has to do with the Christian Right.

Pat Robertson says the Haitian earthquake was the result of a pact with the devil. It's such a damned stupid narrative that I can barely give it a sentence worth of attention. Ann Coulter says us Buddhists are trying to become our "own gods." Yawn. Brit Hume and the Tiger Woods 9 Iron Band continues to re-emerge as if it were an 80's hair metal band in search of a flammable, second rate rock club to play in.

What I find interesting is how attractive focusing on this kind of stuff is for most of us. The desire to find fault, to focus on fault, and to ferret out every last ounce of fault in any given situation seems so powerful at times that I wonder if it's hardwired in us. It makes me think of the Second Noble Truth - the origin of suffering is our cravings - and here, the craving is to get to the bottom of it all, to have a complete catalog of the ways in which people have screwed up, wronged others, wronged us, etc. It seems different than recognizing a pattern of social injustice and then doing what you can to restore justice.

I've been reflecting lately on how pervasive the lack of trust is in this world we live in. The very fact that legal codes fill entire libraries should be a testament to how far down the rabbit hole we've gone. And with trust goes vision, great vision, the kind of vision needed to envision a more compassionate, loving society. I'm not interested in providing scientific evidence for this - who the hell needs a pile of research to see how destructive a lack of trust, as well as a belief in something larger than yourself (be it God, buddhanature, or simply the dynamic working of the planet). It's all rather tiring, this endless effort expended to try and prove everything before we can believe in it, don't you think? Even though I love research, love studying and learning, I've fallen out of love with having to back up, to provide tangible proof for every last idea I have.

I'm kind of convinced that this endless pursuit of evidence is tied to a lack of trust. And when you think about craving of anything, that's what is behind it. Illuminating the idiocy of Ann Coulter's view of Buddhism might provide an opportunity to "right the record," but at the end of the day, it also feels like continuing to spin around in the sinkhole of samsara. And when this pattern repeats itself over and over again - taking to task every right wing Christian saying something you don't like - then you have to wonder where trust is in all of this. (And I include myself in this statement because even though I haven't written a ton beyond some posts on Brit Hume, my mind's finger wags pretty damn often when it comes to the Christian Right.)

If you examine the establishment news media, as well as much of the alternative sources, what you see is a mirroring of our human craving for anything that will fill the void of trust we have in the world and in our lives. Every fallen politician, every murder, every rape, every greedy corporation - all are the carcasses that we come to graze on, while we tell each other without saying it: "See. This is why we can't trust anything!"

Yasutani Roshi wrote,"The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there." I've found it interesting how often the blog posts that focus on some kind of fault finding, even if that fault finding is absolutely necessary for righting social injustices, that these are the posts that generate the most discussion. It seems very much in the realm of "We are here," and those other people "are out there." Don't you think?

I guess a lot this comes down for me to the question "what is most important?" And/or "how can I use this one precious life in the most beneficial way?" Sometimes, for me, this means being decisively critical of destructive behavior. But more and more I feel compelled to discern as much as possible, and to choose only those situations where it seems like whatever I say or do might have some kind of impact. However, beyond that, there's just this nagging sense of something being way off when my focus is too heavily on what's "wrong" in the world. When I feel the desire to tear into some public figure or group of people who are acting stupid, or causing trouble - not because I want to help rectify the situation for everyone involved, but because I want to point out how fucked so-and-so's views are, so that it's clear who's "compassionate and caring" and who's "cunning and callous".

Daido Loori translated the sixth precept as "See the perfection—do not speak of others errors and faults" and the seventh precept as "Realize self and other as one—do not elevate the self and put down others." Now, as some of you know, the Buddhist precepts are not black and white, right or wrong kind of propositions. In fact, approaching them in such a way is doing so out of a lack of trust. When every error that is made, either by yourself or by others, is run through the ringer of the precepts to see if it passes or fails what is written, there's not much trust in the inherent perfection, the buddhanature if you will that pervades our lives beneath the noisy surface. And at the same time, I think every act that we do out of a lack of this deep trust is a violation of the precepts.

So, maybe there's a place for calling out Pat Robertson's comments on the earthquake in Haiti, but I feel more compelled to send any material support I can and dedicate my meditation practice to the people suffering there. And maybe continuing to parse the words of Ann Coulter, Brit Hume, Rush Limbaugh, or whomever serves in a small way to correct the balance of information out there, but I feel more compelled to stay quiet for the most part, to conserve my energy for something else, if only just to keep the next breath coming.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I've been having vague feelings of misgiving along these lines all this week. The tension between accepting the world as it is and not trying to remake it in my own image and yet trying to alleviate suffering in the world (which certainly involves changing it)is very difficult.

Algernon said...

Yes, very good post. (I have been on retreat so I am late reading and responding.)

Not trusting in the wholeness of life, it is easy to find the anxiety that leads, among other things, to fault-finding. I was gratified when you brought in the sixth and seventh precepts, because these two came to mind as I read the first half of the post.