Sunday, October 2, 2011

Knowing Thyself

Knowing Thyself
by Scott Bradley

"Just correct your attention and quiet your mind from the time you arise in the morning, and whatever you say or do, review it carefully and see where it comes from and what makes it all happen." — Yuanwu

This is some very practical advise and relatively easy to follow. It is essentially an invitation to know one's self. It does not tell us to change ourselves, but simply to be aware of ourselves. Yet in that awareness, change happens.

One might easily take it otherwise, however. We might think we are to see our foolish self and to go to war against it. But this would just be more foolishness. Who exactly would be declaring war? What would be the motivating impulse in such an endeavor? We would most likely do precisely these things, of course. We would probably have a sense of our bondage to the egoic self and in a spirit of self-deprecation, try and smother it. Great. Become aware of this.

Commenting on this passage, Cleary writes, "Mind watching may itself become an unproductive and confusing activity without the detachment necessary to objectivity." (Zen Essence) Yet detachment is the whole point of the activity. It is a way of growing and deepening that detachment. If it is "unproductive" perhaps that is because one engages in this introspective exercise with a view to 'production', to self-improvement. But that is not detachment. Become aware of this.

The way in which this detachment expresses itself is probably specific to the individual who experiences it. For me, it frequently just makes me chuckle. Why did I just imagine that scenario? I just want to be somebody! What bondage! What a mess! What a laugh! If you've been reading these posts for any time at all, you know that I see laughing at oneself as great medicine, and an expression of growing self-awareness and detachment.

The antithesis of this kind of detachment is seriousness. There is a place for seriousness, needless to say. But the seriousness that is rooted in the discrimination of good and bad just results in war against oneself and others. No one measures up.

Detachment, I believe, is directly proportional to the degree to which we accept and affirm our own mess and that of others.

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

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