Either Ignorance or Wisdom. Period.

There are only two kinds of perception – right perception having wisdom as its root and wrong perception, needless to say, with ignorance in it. And that makes a whole darn difference in the way we relate with the world. Words are just impossible to make you understand the vast distinction of it. And mind you, the “world” is to mean everything that comes from our senses of experience, that is to say, each and every moment. In other words, where wisdom is present in the mind, a person looks at the world entirely different from one who doesn’t have the same in his mind. How different is different? Simply different. And that is all that matters in life, irrespective what one has or doesn’t have, whether in the present, future or past. Totally irrelevant. Period.

It may sound to many that a mind that has wisdom seem to denote a characteristic of inactive, passive or dumbness since it has no reference of past, present or future, except what’s in the mind each moment. But it is far from it as wisdom leads. Wisdom has the joy and freeing factor in everything it does, minusing the guilt, fear or shame.  And obviously one will misinterpret that without the meaning of guilt in our action, we will practically do anything that has the meaning of wrongness. It will be surprising to know that anything that is defined wrong has guilt in it, not the other way, which also means ignorance as its base. As a matter of fact, “wrong” can only occur in the midst of ignorance.  Whether the action is done at that moment or the judgment that comes thereafter, anything that is defined in the meaning of wrongness has ignorance in it, for wisdom does not see it as wrong but simply action done in ignorance.

Can what has happened be otherwise? Obviously, no. Life becomes simple when we only need to acknowledge that we are either wise, or simply ignorant, in all our thoughts, speech or action. Do we have a choice to choose between ignorance and wisdom at each moment? Obviously to be able to choose is already wisdom at work. And to say that too is incorrect, as where there is wisdom; there is merely wise action, without needing to choose at all.  Can we choose wrongly? Yes, when our decision is based on ignorance. Ability to choose is wisdom, but what we choose can be ignorant or wise since it is another consecutive moment. Isn’t that simple? No one, not even you, or me, but ignorance or wisdom working its way. Since it is not me but ignorance or wisdom doing, does it mean I am not responsible for my mind?

Yes and no. I am not responsible for each action that occurred though seemingly done by me; but I am responsible for the cause that leads to the action. In truth, responsibility is not the contending issue as what follows will be my experience, whether I like it or not. My experience matters. If I am motivated by ignorance, making it my cause to the effect that is going to take place, I have to bear with whatever consequential experiences that comes my way, irrelevant whether I am responsible for it or not (as in my action). To take responsibility only makes my journey a little easier, that’s all it takes. Even that, it has to be a wise responsibility as being responsible in an ignorant way only leads to more suffering. We tend to wisely think that taking responsibility means we stop targeting outwards, but what happens then is that the inwards become the target and that compounds the already suffering mind.

More appropriately, “taking responsibility” is taking the step towards observing and investigating what really happened in the mind, as in the cause, that perpetuates suffering; and that itself is developing wisdom so that each end is joyful instead of painful. Do you see the importance of wisdom?

A Tweak of Attitude Changes Perception

Life is not a problem to be solved;
it is an adventure to be lived.

I came across the above sentence while reading The Heart by John Eldredge. He is indeed a true practitioner at heart. I have for many instances came across such similar statements over and over again but did not see how they relate to my practice until my last encounter with my meditation teacher which took place eight years ago. As I read this word aloud today, I am amused that how a little tweak to my perception made a huge difference to the way I approach the meditation system. And thinking about it, it seems to reconfirm in me that the entire world movement is a constant fear based attitude, seldom from the space of love.

My teacher talked so much about right attitude and being new to his system, I found it a little strange. I had been on another system for at least twenty over years and during that time, meditation is constantly a chore to work on as it is about problem solving and seeing wrongness out there or in here that needs to be fixed. It is about constant looking out for defilements, a word coined in the Buddhist practice to mean taints that intrude the mind. Words such as defilements, taints, intrusions – already defined in me something is wrong somewhere. Probably it is in the translation, I am not sure; but when I started to explore the secret teachings of Jesus, I am surprised the words used were pretty different though both teachings were talking of the same thing – the mind that needs to be transcended. Words like errors, mistakes, missing the mark were frequently used to denote that it is just a misperception on our part overlooking what is obvious. And when we direct it correctly again, what is misperceived becomes right perception, hence freeing us from ignorance.

And that is what attitude is. In fact the journey of joy or fear is all based on attitude. My experience can be viewed as a problem or as something I have not understood. Both will give a different approach in my response. The former makes me try to resolve it from the point of view of fixing what is wrong here and as such it has fear as its base. The latter, an inquiring mind, makes me learn to understand what is going on here which I am not seeing.

The end result of both may be similar. I use the word “may be” simply because from my own personal observation and experience, not many finally arrive at its end. Yes, the issue may be addressed, but the experience that comes out of that can be hardness or softness of mind. But in many cases, due to wrong approach that is fear based, having wisdom as its end is practically nil.

My teacher’s questioning of my experiences, or for that matter, of anyone, is towards understanding. He asks, not to belittle us, but to encourage us to having a right approach towards what we experience. Many a times, when we share our experiences with him during retreats, it is so obvious that the questions that come from us are from the direction of wanting to get a quick fix out of the issue. It is like calling out loud to the teacher to fix the problem instead of seeking clarity to what am I not learning here. And as I watch my mind more and more I seem to understand that it is in our system to fix things up rather than to understand it. Could it be our education system that has moulded us to translate the way we look at anything, which includes religion?

It is a sad state of affair as without seeing the contrast of both, one can be easily led into unnecessary deepening of pain and suffering. The more I understand the mind, the more the teachings of great masters, irrelevant which religion they are labelled onto and irrespective what words or meaning used, becomes clear and direct.

Wisdom Begets Wisdom

Truth can only be recognized by recognizing the false. When false is recognized, truth emerges. It is not two separate experiences. It arises concurrently. To recognize false is wisdom and wisdom itself is already from the space of truth. Hence the spiritual wisdom journey is about recognizing the false and truth reinstates itself.

More than not our perception seems to convince us that what we experience is real and hence true to us. What is true is what we perceived but not what we realized. Seldom do we question the way we perceive experiences. When we wake up to perception we recognize each perception is based from old ideas of the past. Even if our perception is based from right understanding deriving from a realization of the past, yet if we are seeing it from the past, we are not expanding our understanding further. The journey of wisdom is non-conclusive as the more we understand, the more we are able to look at the same experience differently.

In other words, wisdom grows as and when the maturity of our ability to see things differently grows. Wisdom begets wisdom. It is wisdom that facilitates the ability to look at an experience from a vast perspective. And it is wisdom that allows us to go beyond the experience and see what is within it. It is wisdom that enables one to see the mechanics of the causal relationship of each experience.

We can’t do, create or mimic wisdom but we can create conducive environment for wisdom to mature. And all it takes is a journey of self inquiry, not taking what we experience as true but to question and time tested until realization comes to our fold. Questioning is not intercepting an experience with a thought but rather experiencing an experience from the perspective of inquisitiveness and curiousity of how it comes about and what it leads to. It is training the mind to see the cause and effect of things as they are and long exposure to this way of seeing brings maturity to the understanding of the working of the mind and the overcoming of it.

Without inquiry, without meditation, it is impossible to see a way out of the mind. Once one masters the working of the mind, one is able to use the mind skilfully for the benefit of the world. Before that can happen, mindfulness, awareness, observation, recognition, and realization is part and parcel of the inward journey of meditation – to get a closer glimpse of how the mind functions. It is a process to be repeated again and again, and yet again. There is no end to the journey. The question of when is it going to end is out of question – except to know that if it really ends, one will know with certainty. What is certainty but a realization itself, and what is realization but wisdom in progress. Hence it is not up to one to make a conclusion but to keep trusting that the journey is constantly work-in-progress unfolding.

The self needs to be questioned. The self needs to be understood. The self needs to be transcended.