Wednesday, September 17, 2008

am i who i think i am?

There are some pages from Being Nobody, Going Nowhere by Ayya Khema that are really speaking to me right now. I would like to type up all three pages but that would be rather cumbersome and possibly infringe on some sort of copyrights. It is difficult to decide which small part to quote but I think this is a good start:

Insight into the constant flux and flow of all phenomena, including ourselves, brings the understanding that there's nothing in this world worth keeping, worth holding on to. Insight releases one from that resistance to other people's viewpoints that can make life so immensely difficult. Other people have other viewpoints. The only answer to that is: "May they live long and happily." Attachment to one's own viewpoint only shows that one hasn't yet grasped impermanence. When one sees constant change in everything, so that one can never really say, "I am this," then a first breakthrough into depth perception happens.

Chapter 9, page 112.
The a large chunk of the sub-chapter The Happiness of Insight, from which this excerpt was taken, discusses how there is no permanent "self." Just like how emotionally we are not always giddy, sad, angry, lonely, the same goes for the how we see ourselves & the viewpoint we have at that moment. In high school I was what you may consider a Republican. I didn't think immigrants from Mexico deserved any sort of rights. I thought ethnicity had nothing to do with a person's current class status. I thought America was the shit and everyone else should back off. My worst folly was that after September 11, 2001, the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was proud that I had already had a prejudice against Muslims before it became a popular prejudice. My aunt had dated someone of that religion who was really bad for her, and so I just ignorantly lumped everyone of that religion together as chauvinist pigs.

But now I am the polar opposite in my viewpoint. I changed. And I am only now starting to not regret thinking what I did in high school. It allows me to better put myself in the shoes of someone else who may think like I used to. My husband has a harder time doing that because he has always, since a child, strongly believed that everyone of every sex, ethnicity, religion and age is equal. He also has always had an analytical mind so that he could see right away that our history effects where we are today, and could see why circumstances of 50, 100, 200 years ago would effect the status of certain ethic groups today. Through him I can better see how what I went through in high school has its positive advantages as well.

So from my own experience of having made radical changes in my viewpoint, I can understand a little easier that our self, our soul, is not defined by our ever changing viewpoint. For all I know, I may read something tomorrow that may sway me to be the most hardcore free market, capitalist in California. I couldn't say that the new Lea is the real Lea, and the high school, college and post-college Lea weren't me. But if I know that the next week or decade I may change again, then what's to say the current viewpoint I hold is Lea. If I do think my viewpoint defines myself, then, as Ayya points out, that means I am a million different Leas all piled atop each other since birth.

Ayya states if you choose "to be that many different people, life becomes even more complicated than if we were none of them. How about choosing to be none of them?"

Ayya best sums up the discussion with this:

This insight is very threatening to our ego concept. Why is that? Because "I" want to be! To be what? To be whom? To be where? For what reason? All are viewpoints, conditioned through our thinking processes. The happiness that arises when one lets go of all that, is the happiness that is embedded in acceptance and peacefulness. Nothing needs to be achieved, accomplished, or changed. All is as it is.

Chapter 9, page 113.
The last two lines link back to the broader Buddhist concept, and are a bit harder to swallow. But it is very relevant to our concept of self as well. It also links back to my post "a perfect misunderstanding."

Lastly, since starting to take up this mode of thinking and not defining myself with my viewpoint, it has made it less difficult to not define others by their viewpoints. And oh my, how easy it is to define others by the viewpoint you don't like. I have a few specific people in my life where I honestly can't have a conversation with them but, because they are family, I must see occasionally. It is definitely a learning exercise trying not to judge and hold that person in contempt. A welcome and needed exercise nonetheless, otherwise I would never interact with anyone I didn't agree with.

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