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my precious opinions

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Recently a friend and I parted awkwardly, something akin to storming off and slamming a door. For me it was about something i didn’t “like” about the way we were getting along. Not a big deal in the great scheme of things but a Big Deal for my small mind in that moment. I though that I was right, of course. And that something/someone had to change: not me of course.

With the Eightfold Path the Buddha offers basic instructions on how we can end suffering (a.k.a. unhappiness, anxiety, fear). One of the eight, Right View, says, in essence, that all views are wrong views*. Does this mean we’re not to have any opinions, make no assumptions, assert no point of view? Probably not — after all, he espoused plenty himself over the 40 years as a wandering teacher. The way I understand it, the Buddha draws our attention to ways we create obstacles when we approach any situation — including this piece of writing — with fixed views. In the classic Shobogenzo, 16th century Japanese Zen master Dogen addresses this head-on. He

contrasts the infinity of reality with the restriction of discriminatory thought. Throughout … he demonstrates shifting of perspective, to focus on existence, emptiness, emptiness in existence, existence in emptiness, and their fundamental unity.

I barely grasp a fraction of what he’s saying, but get the hint. If I’m attached to an opinion, chances are it’ll get in the way of clearly seeing all matters, be they objective or subjective.

source: “The scripture of mountains and waters” in Cleary, T. (1986). (trans). Shobogenzo: Zen essays of Dogen. University of Hawai’i Press, p. 87. *I’m grateful to David Brazier for this line in (2001) The feeling Buddha: a Buddhist psychology of character, adversity, and passion. London: Robinson, p. 131. 

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4 responses »

  1. this post resonated with me p… i am reminded of Eckart Tolle’s note that when one is in the place of wanting to be right, it is the ego talking. I am also reminded that if i am going to be right, then the other person has to be wrong. I struggle with this – watching how i judge, how i want to contradict, to be right. the consequences are not constructive to building connection and relationship.

    even though i dont’ totally understand the quote you have included here, the essence struggles through – my interpretation is that there is no one right way and – what is, isn’t. what isn’t actually is… hmmm such a dilemma!

    thanks

    Reply
  2. An image comes into my mind when I read this…being a photographer I get things visually sometimes…

    I see myself standing in the middle of a field – 360 degrees all around me I am surrounded by the environment I am in. If I look straight ahead I see one view…turn just one degree and another view meets my eyes …turn another degree – another perspective. What is outside of me hasn’t changed, just the place I am seeing it from. And I find myself wondering – why limit myself to just one of these views when the reality on offer is a 360 degree panorama? And, is there a way I can look at this so that I see the whole scene all at once? Is this what is meant by ‘all views are wrong’? Because they only allow a tiny portion of the whole to be seen? Hmmm… food for thought!

    Reply
  3. and…i find that when i can ‘look at the whole scene at once’, the perspective changes from ‘i am in the field’ to ‘the field is in me’….

    Reply
  4. our egos want to be right, be attractive, be wise, be anything that ‘others’ may view as a desirable trait and thus we then also believe to be ‘true’ . my mind swirls with the complexity of basically working ‘against’ my ego, which is very powerful indeed. I am supposed to get wise with age…but I am always learning and feel naive about so many things…See, there again is the ‘supposed to’ words! silent, ego…I need a break from you!

    Reply

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