Experience vs. Ideology

 

Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother and
even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in its midst.
That which extends throughout the universe, I regard as my body
and that which directs the universe, I regard as my nature.
All people are my brothers and sisters and
all things are my companions.

The Western Inscription,
Chang Tsai, 11th century, China.

I use this quote at the end of my emails, and whenever I see it there is a mixture of joy and cringing.

Joy – from connecting with this in my own immediate experience. Cringing – from realizing that this too – as everything else – can be made into an ideology, and thus bring suffering in different ways.

It is a reminder that all statements can be used in at least three ways…

Reflections & Reminders
They can be used to reflect our own intimate experience, and a reminder to connect with this aspect of our experience. In this way, it is beautiful and brings intimacy and joy.

Dogma
Any statement can also be made into an ideology and a dogma. Here, it is dead and brings suffering in various ways. Believing in any thought or statement makes it into an ideology, which inevitably brings suffering…

It enhances the experience of separation between myself and others. I get it – they don’t. Or they get it and I don’t. This sense of separation brings suffering.

It brings suffering when existence does not align with the dogma – in this case when I or others don’t seem to experience it or live from it. It can also bring suffering if we try to pretend to have the experience, when it is not really there.

Any of these discrepancies can bring up arrogance, righteousness, guilt, shame, a sense of inferiority or superiority, anger, fear. Arrogance and righteousness when I get it and they don’t. Guilt and shame when they get it and I don’t. Anger when any of us should get it and don’t. Fear when I get it and know I can/will loose it. Depression or cynicism when I habitually suppress any of these.

Within this context of believing in a thought, we tend to fuel them (through circular and habitual mental patterns) or try to push them away. In either case, we also tend to blindly act on them in subtle or obvious ways.

In all these ways, it brings suffering for myself and others.

Guideline
An statement can also be taken as a guideline. An invitation to explore it with curiosity and nonattachment to any particular outcome. Is there a way that this is true for me – in my experience? How is it true for me? If I engage in a particular form of practice that can make this come alive in my direct and intimate experience (and while continually letting go of attachment to any particular outcome)?

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