Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Being good and being spiritual

Oddly enough, sometimes being true to oneself and being good can be 2 different things. :-)

Most human beings, including the spiritual seeker, have a certain common idea of what it means to be good, - to be a good person. A good person is one who is kind and considerate, loving and generous, good-tempered and helpful. When a person is unkind or angry or unhelpful, we don't think of that person as being so good. Is this not true?

These are very deeply entrenched beliefs in the human psyche.

One can describe the spiritual path as one where all beliefs come undone. - Even the most widely held, universally claimed and deeply entrenched ones - such as what it means to be good.

Through my own experience and that of those I am with, I find that most spiritual seekers have a very strong resistance to the dropping of this belief in being good. We equate being spiritual with being very good. How can it be otherwise? We have heard and read of saints and sages and Gods who personify and embody the good virtues listed above. So it comes as a bit of a shock when we are nudged to see that even being good, in the commonly accepted human sense, can be simply another belief. And we are frightened of seeing through this belief. This is very natural. The fear is that if this belief drops away then we will somehow be bad people, or, at the very least our bad side will show up more. We think that our belief in being good is what keeps the bad demons away. We don't want to be bad and we don't want to be seen to be bad. We don't want to hurt ourselves or the other. So we cling to this belief in being good.

Does any of this strike a chord so far?

Now I am not saying that being good is bad. :-) Infact this belief can arise in great innocence, and is very well-intentioned. And who among us would not prefer 'good' behavior to 'bad' behavior? But good and bad are ideas too and all ideas are eventually seen through. So I am simply saying that when we no longer resist seeing this apparently difficult truth, then this belief can be seen through.

When we cling to the belief in being good, we are basically insuring ourselves from finding out our bad side. So the belief in being good is fuelled by a fear of discovering how bad we may actually be. The belief in being good is rooted in fear. And fear is rooted in separation. Only one that believes herself to be separate, is fearful for herself.

So let's take a minute to see how this belief in being good plays out in our lives.

We try to be good. We curb what arises naturally and try to make it conform with our idea of good. We censor our words and actions. We speak lies to avoid uncomfortable truths. We live lies to fend off inconvenient truths. We blame ourselves and others when badness escapes our watch anyways and manifests as anger or unkindness. We feel conflicted inside, over our actions, and the actions of others. We feel like we must be on constant guard. We feel tense and constrained in body and mind. We feel superior to the less good people. We build up our image of virtuosity and feel inflated by it. And then we feel deflated when we slip into the slightest deviation. And on and on.

Curiously the belief never really sets out to achieve what it intends. Does it? Look within yourself. Do you believe in being good as a credo? Has it effectively stopped you from being 'bad'? Of course the mind's comeback is that although it doesn't stop badness, it keeps it in check. Yes? No - that is not my experience and if you are interested, I invite you to discover what is really true for you, beyond what mind says. You may be very surprised by what you discover.

For the spiritual seeker, there is the added issue of spiritual image. How can one be spiritual and bad at the same time? No, no - one must avoid being bad and being seen to be bad. That would not be spiritual at all. So we hold back and pull back and perpetuate this violence upon ourselves and others, all in the service of this belief in being good.

Why do I call it violence? When we resist something using force, it is violence, is it not? And when we force ourselves to act good, it is violence upon ourselves. When we force others to be good as per our ideas of good, we are being violent towards them. I am not saying it is right or wrong. But it is violence. And we can see for ourselves how this violence feels inside us and how it affects the other.

Yet, all the time, despite the extent of our suffering around this belief, we feel a certain sense of relief and validation that at least we are trying to be good, just like everyone around us. There is a safety about this trying, because it brings us membership to the human club. This sustains the belief. No need to blame ourselves for this - this just happens. Our need for safety and affiliation is so strong that we are willing to pay a very very high price for it. Until we are not.

When we are no longer willing to pay this high price, we are willing to look deeply into this belief. We are willing to confront the fear that upholds annd perpetuates this belief and all its suffering. We are willing to see that good and bad are both only ideas based on a certain perspective. We see that when we accept living in fear and suffering, then we feed that fear and suffering in everyone around us. This is a gut-wrenching discovery that brings us to our knees. It turns our world upside-down. For we see that our very attempts to not harm, when frozen into this belief in being good, can generate suffering within and without! When this belief dissolves, humility and gratitude flow. Fear starts to be dislodged and freedom begins to take its place. This is the freedom of one who no longer believes herself to be separate from the flow of life and all that it brings.

The belief in being good drops away. And the wisdom of the moment is free to arise. This is the wisdom of wholeness. It may express itself as love, kindness, compassion, understanding, appreciation, gratitude and peace. But make no mistake, nothing is exempt from this freedom; nothing is denied. So anger may arise too. But it is not held back from fear and so it is free to serve its purpose and pass, in freedom. And when we live in this freedom and act from it, then the freedom radiates out, and everything and everyone around us can be free too. This is to be true to ourselves.

Images arise:

Lord Brahma creating the world and Lord Shiva destroying it,

Jesus Christ on the cross and Jesus Christ dealing with the money-lenders,

Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of compassion and Manjushri wielding the sword.

All in service to the truth.

1 comment:

benjamin said...

Hello Ameeta,

Nice posts really, very clear expression.