Saturday, October 8, 2011

Are You Deluded?

Are You Deluded?
by Scott Bradley


Are you deluded? Of course you are. But is not my place to say so, of course. And if you are not deluded, I beseech you on behalf of the rest of us to please reveal yourself and teach us.

What does it mean to be deluded? It is to believe what is not so. What is not so and is believed is a delusion. Yet delusions are not the true problem, if we may presume to say there is a problem. The real problem is that we embrace them. Life requires of us that we accept in trust a great many presuppositions which we cannot demonstrate as 'valid'. To be deluded is to believe this is not so. It does not mean that we do not live with these presuppositions, but that we do not anchor ourselves to them as if they were an infallible holding ground.

We are all castles made of sand, built on a foundation of sand. Let us not delude ourselves. Let us rather be the tenuous becoming we are and find freedom therein.

The cure for delusion is not enlightenment. The cure for untruth is not truth. The end of wrong is not right. This is not to say that there is no enlightenment, truth, or right. It is just that they are mutually arising with their opposites and these give birth to each other.

Let us assume there is such a thing as enlightenment. If there is, then it cannot be approached as one more thing within the web of dualism. It cannot be understood as the opposite of anything.

"Only when you get to the state where there is neither delusion nor enlightenment," writes Foyan, "are you finally comfortable..." (Zen Essence; Cleary). Such a state would, of course, be 'enlightenment'. But this is an enlightenment which lies beyond dualistic negation. It is as delusional to grasp 'truth' as it is to grasp 'untruth'.

Foyan continues: "During the twenty-four hours of the day, what is there deluding you? You should make a truthful assessment of yourself." We are encouraged to recognize our delusions. That is all. That is enough. To attempt to replace them with 'truth' is just to swap one delusion for another.

'Tenuous' is a word which Graham uses in his Chuang Tzu to translate what is more often translated as 'empty'. Together they begin to suggest that state in which one cannot say 'this' or 'that', being or non-being, something or nothing. The Zhuangzian vision is of realizing and frolicking within this essentially tenuous emptiness that we are. It does not consist in finding answers, realizing Absolute Truth, or swapping out one set of beliefs for another. "Our homeland of not even anything, the vast wilds of open nowhere" is an expression of this free and tenuous wandering.

Zen, I believe, arrives here too, but by way of a more philosophically circuitous path. After we have waded through the Buddha-swamps of zazen, mu, buddha-nature, and enlightenment, we finally arrive at nowhere. But Zen has its methods and long tradition of working things through, and thus recommends itself as an 'effective means'.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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