Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Delusion of Delusion

Scott Bradley


Mu Soeng (Trust in Mind) refers to David Weber (One Taste), a "transpersonal psychologist", in making a case for a distinction between "translation" and "transformation". The former might fall under the rubric of "self-cultivation", while the later refers to getting thoroughly zapped, also known as 'enlightenment'. He suggests that the former is "delusional" while the latter is the real thing. Or maybe he says it can be delusional — I'm not sure and I don't want to put him in the wrong; I just want to address the issue.

If there is indeed an utterly transformational experience in which "self" is so transcended as to no longer be motivationally involved in one's activities, then yes indeed that would be the real thing and anything else would be the same old thing. But is being self-involved necessarily delusional? The delusion, of course, is the belief that one is and has a "self-being" (real) self. In this sense, the answer is yes; it is by definition delusional to act on the basis of self. But what about the self-involved self-cultivators who know they are delusional; are they in some sense less delusional?

The old adage that you are not altogether nuts if you know you are nuts, no matter how nuts you are, applies here. This might be compared to awakening to the dreaming, where awakening from the dreaming corresponds to 'enlightenment'. My point here is this: There is a legitimate place for gradual self-cultivation even though this remains in the sphere of self-involvement and thus takes place in the world of dreaming, and even though the possibility of not-dreaming is entertained.

But is there a sense in which all these distinctions are delusional? I just happen to have Buddha here and he says: Yes. So, there you have it. It is certainly a delusional activity to chase after a hypothetical transformational experience which you have obviously not yourself experienced and thus have no basis for believing is even real or possible. “But the Buddha says . . . Mary says, and her body, though dead for a thousand years, has yet to decompose . . . Guru X says, and he can materialize gold from nothing . . . Guru Y says, and she exudes an incredible holy aura of peace . . .” Believe what you will, but I think Zhuangzi would say this is most definitely depending on (believing in) what is unsure, and thus both delusional and self-fettering.

But Zhuangzi also says that it's okay to be delusional, for the very reason that he doesn't seem to think we can ever be anything but. And this is why his vision of freedom is one of playing and wandering within the dream. The mitigation of our delusional sense of being resides in understanding that we are delusional and having fun being delusional.

Buddha says he wants the last word: “In any case, it is delusional to believe there is any distinction between delusion and non-delusion.” There you have it.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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