Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So What??

Scott Bradley

The flip-side of "no conditions to meet" and "all is well", which I see as suggestive of the all-embracing nature of Reality wherein nothing manifest is in any way other than Dao and, therefore, nothing is either presently 'lost' nor can ever possibly be so, is the expression, "So what?"

As I read descriptions of awakening experiences in various traditions and their modern-day equivalents, I often find myself asking, "So what?" It is not that the experiences are not genuine and worthy of 'pursuit', but that there is often an underlying belief or suggestion that without them one is somehow 'lost', or less than human. "So what?" recognizes that, though there is a more satisfying expression of one's humanity to realize, there is nothing soteriological about the process; there is nothing lost, and therefore, nothing to save.

"So what?" returns the mind to what is, for me at least, fundamental to the Daoist perspective that, in awakening, what one awakens to is the reality that one need not awaken to be Dao. The "Thou art That" of Hinduism and the ultimate realization that samsara is also nirvana of Buddhism basically make this same observation. Realization is of what is already the case, realized or not. Anything else is dualism.

"So what?" cuts through the religious inclinations which are a part that discriminating mind of which awakening is a transcendence. Among these inclinations is the introduction of purpose into the Universe; we are 'meant' to have a particular experience; this is the 'reason' for our existence. I am, of course, in no position to decide the validity or invalidity of this opinion, but, in the absence of knowing, I have chosen as my "skillful means" one which does not superimpose human aspirations upon Reality. This is essential Daoism. I may be 'wrong', but the virtue of this approach is that it does not matter; "right view" (one of the prescriptions of Buddhism) or "unorthodox view', all remains well.

Also among these religious inclinations is what I call seriousness. We are, of course, well served by a seriousness with respect to growth which permeates our being. Mumon, in his commentary on the first koan of the Mumonkan tells students to "make your whole body one great inquiry." But this endeavor must also be informed by the freedom inherent in the understanding that it is also of no great consequence. So-called enlightenment, in a very real sense, is of no greater importance than getting a raise. So what? The dead child lived as long and as full a life as Methuselah. Can you break your discriminating mind here?

Seriousness often leads to sectarianism and judgmentalism. There are the elite and the polloi, the right- and the wrong-minded. And when we torture ourselves, we usually wish to share the experience; contending with wrong in myself, I find and contend with it in others. Understanding the relative nature of every perspective, we are free to diligently pursue our own without condemning that of others.

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

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