Sangharakshita, Peace Is A Fire 1979
I have been noticing an increasingly strengthening belief in Mettabhavana (The practise of loving, kindly attention to each and every moment) and find walking meditation engaging and beneficial, this has not always been so.Two practises I couldn’t see the point in, found challenging, but now, ironically, see as central to spiritual practise, and growth.
The above aphorism is pointing us to, challenging us to see, that it is our existing views that are creating our suffering and uthus, Buddhism being an antidote to suffering, undermining those views is paramount to liberation.
Things that challenge us, upset us, give rise to negative thoughts are, if we choose them to be, our greatest teachers. They let us know that we hold to a particular view strongly. This isn’t to say that the view is necessarily right or wrong, or, in terms of Buddhism, skilful or unskilful. Challenges show us what our ego holds onto, what our sense of self builds itself around, some of which maybe conventionally helpful and some of which is not. Either way, from the Buddhist perspective, they are illusory and support the illusory nature of the self.
Seeing challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles is a spiritual practise. The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying that the ‘Chinese government’ are his greatest teachers, I wonder if the ‘Chinese government’ see it the same way.
When challenged we are being asked to ‘pay attention’, that there is something here that ultimately causes us suffering. That there is an opportunity to see what is holding us back from true happiness.
In some cases we might just need to loosen our view, to hold it more lightly, provisionally and in so doing avoid polarising views and the inevitable tension that arises between them both internally and externally. Sometimes and probably ultimately, we are being asked to see through our view altogether.
These views have come from conditioning. I wonder how much of what is said is really true. How much has really been thought through and actually experienced. Do we really believe the truth in what we think or are we regurgitating something we heard, have been taught, or told? In a way, if we did really believe what we think, if we really had thought it through, experienced it in life experience as true, then we wouldn’t feel challenged in quite the same way.
I am wondering if it is the uncertainty, or maybe even the knowing, that our view is at best partial and that we have been selling it as absolute truth that gives us discomfort. It is knowing that we have been untrue to our actual experience that really irks, although we will often project that out onto the challenge. Again, I wonder, is it a sense of having lied to ourselves, gone against reality in some way, that is the ultimate cause of suffering.
In time, I think we begin to see that what we hold to be true is largely just our point of view. A view that is constantly changing and has very limited substance. In seeing this we let go of rigidity and absolutes and see language and communication more in terms of poetry. Indeed, Sangharakshita has suggested that the dharma is best viewed in this way i.e. an imperfect attempt to point towards something beyond its literary expression.
So challenges can help burn up and liberate us from our wrong views. Peace really is a Fire!