Monday, November 17, 2008

The East...


Lately I've been reconnecting with my Eastern Religious side a lot for a myriad of reasons, and it's been lovely. Let me first point out that it makes no sense for me to call them "Eastern," as what I call "the East" is closer to me via a western route. I had to get that off of my chest. Anyway...

There is a class on campus called Asian Ethics. I'm not in it, but a LOT of my friends are, and I've read all of their textbooks and discussed them all in one class or another. Because not all of my friends in that class are Religion and Philosophy majors, some of them have been coming to me for help in working through concepts. Right now, they're studying Buddhism, so I'm having some great discussions about the tradition that is reminding me of a few years ago (if you look, you can find some funny thought tinkerings from a while back on this blog). Remembering the journeys I've been through and how my focus on Buddhism and Taoism at the time helped me get through all that gave me a warming sense of nostalgia. It's reminded me that today's perils too are fleeting, that everything has a strange way of working itself out. Whether that be via karma, dharma, or the eternal Logos is yet to be determined (same force, different name?).

You'd be surprised how many people have an aversion to the idea of equanamity. It really caught me off guard. A friend was talking to me saying, "If my family member and a complete stranger were both drowning in the water, of COURSE I'd choose my family member! Everyone should!" Granted, I would too, and I completely sympathize with her, but let's take a step back. If I were to view the situation from a God's eye perspective and remove all personal attachment from the situation, would I still be able to choose? No. Everyone, given enough distance, becomes equal. Compassion is that great equalizer which makes every living thing precious and worth deliberation. Ideally, given enough training, one can step outside of their personal desires and attachments and feel equal amounts of empathy for all of mankind, not just the people we've been acquainted with in our short time here on the planet.

Which leads me to a cool thought. Buddhism has a notion of "skandas," which are kinda like little personality packets that hang out in the ether. We are composed not of a "self," but of a collection of skandas which makes us who we are (this is really quick and dirty, just so you know). When we die, our skandas will break apart. My skandas mix with your skandas, they'll all throw a little skanda party, and then they will re-assemble in a different pattern to create a whole new person. We're all living off of each others' karma. Essentially, Buddhist compassion stems from this, I believe. Why should I be nice to you, or to my enemies, or to animals? It's not because I simply should, or because I'll somehow benefit in this life (though that may be true). It's because, in a sense, I AM you! I AM my enemies! I AM the animal! By loving each other, we are loving ourselves. The feeling of being divided from one another is an illusion we create and sustain.

So here's to a week of compassion. A week of extending my notion of "self" to include those around me and treating them as I would be treated. Metaphysics aside, here's to a week of instilling a deeper sense of love in myself and those around me. All you need is love, right Beatles?

By the way, the picture for this post may be pretty, but it doesn't do any justice to that scene. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. Sometimes the everyday becomes extraordinary when you least expect it (I was just walking to dinner and then BAM! Beautiful).

3 comments:

TMAR said...

Stumbled upon your blog, very enjoyable read.

citizen of the world said...

It strikes that you have a whole lifetime of exploration ahead of you. That's cool.

Chris Panza said...

I didn't realize you knew that many people in the class.

Is the harp playing yet, by the way?