Minding the Essential, Part I
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
"Wu-tsu said, 'Sakyamuni [Buddha] and Maitreya [Some Future Buddha] are servants of another. Tell me, who is that other?'"The 'answer' to this particular koan seems obvious enough, but for that reason I suppose it would be wrong. In any case, it is Wu-men's responding verse which most interests me:
(Case 45; Mumonkan; Aitken)
Don't draw another's bow;I understand the first two lines as an exhortation to follow one's own path, and not that of another. The most essential fact of this endeavor of personal liberation is precisely that it is a personal endeavor. It happens in and through you alone, if it happens at all. This does not mean that we must necessarily start from scratch and come up with our own unique interpretation of the world, but that whatever interpretation we might follow, its realization in us must always be uniquely ours. The work is our individual work.
don't ride another's horse;
don't discuss another's faults;
don't explore another's affairs.
The final two lines take this exhortation to another level. They point to the degree to which this self-endeavor, this interiorization of our awareness, must be free all exteriorization. It is never about others. And the degree to which we focus on others is the degree to which we have failed to focus on ourselves.
These are not exhortations to be 'good', sagacious or wise. That would be superficial, indeed. They concern what is perhaps the most obvious preoccupation of the egoic self — others. And if we wish to understand the egoic self with a view to transcending it, it is here that we will find it plainly revealed.
There is no 'problem' which is not my problem. If I have a problem with you, the problem is me. It is as simple as that. And if that problem is to be transcended, it will happen within me.
If I am 'unjustly attacked', that has nothing to do with the attacker, and everything to do with me. I speak not of the substance of the attack, whether factually correct or not, but of my response to it.
The most difficult 'fault of others' to deal with is their fault of finding fault in me. Yet it is precisely for this reason that this is the most powerful opportunity to understand and illuminate the extent of my egoic bondage.
To "explore another's affairs" is to simply ignore my own. I may tell myself that I am being objective and only wish to be 'helpful', but this is only self-deceit. I am lying to myself. I have taken the easy way, the ego-affirming way, the normal way.
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