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Conflict

 

I knew it would be an awful day the second I woke up. The milk missed my corn flakes and spilt over the table. The news was terrible on the breakfast tv. Looks like Russia and America are threatening to get into armed conflict again. Avalanches in the ski resorts. Rotten world. The mailman was rude, and the neighbours surly. I got into the car and I thought it would never start. And the other road users: Maniacs! They shouldn't be allowed on the roads. And when I got to work everyone was in a foul mood.

But them I started thinking. It was as if some evil magician had cast a spell on people who yesterday were friendly and pleasant, so today they were complete ill-mannered louts!

Mm! Who is this magician? These people were all right yesterday. And the world didn't seem so bad. So what has changed? Who, dare I ask, has changed? Can it be something to do with me? Could I be in a bad mood? No. Of course not!

Well, perhaps a little bit.

There seems to be an issue of conflict in life and the world. To make an enemy, one has to make an opposite or an opposition. We have to make an 'us' and a 'them'. What is all this talk about 'making'? Aren't these people like this? Aren't we nice people and they are bad? Surely we don't make all this up! Surely governments and groups in society don't create in their minds this opposition? No. Of course we and they don't. Or do we?

Let's look at this. Surely conflict is a very important subject. So let's generalise and scan!

What's one of the greatest skills we prize in the West? What about analysis? Mm! Isn't it nice to be described as someone with great analytical ability and discernment? But what is this? Isn't it the ability to create differences? The ability to separate and examine how things are different? Isn't separation and difference something to do with conflict? If others are like us, we can't dislike them too much, can we? And isn't analysis a way of understanding the world?

Consider the wonder of human creation (or any sexual creation.) Two cells crash into each other and then the marvellous process of division occurs. They split, split, and split until a baby is produced with all the wonderful DIFFERENT parts.

And isn't it impossible to even see anything unless we can also see something different. What can you see of a white square against a white background? Nothing. You have to see something different in order to see anything. We need figure and background.

If we have a phobia of something. Let's say this is because of some bad experience or several in the past. If we distinguish the present from the time we had the problem, say as children or babies, aren't we going to feel better about the thing in present time. After all it's harmless. Did we forget we are big adults now and imagined threats to us as little ones, are nothing to us now. By noticing the differences we can improve ourselves.

So there we go. That's how the world is. We learn about it by analysis and by showing discernment. We can be more and more aware of the DIFFERENT bits that make it up.

Or is that how the world IS? Or is there something about us which makes it so?

Don't those Eastern gurus or Western mystics speak of unification? Don't they talk about oneness? Don't we use these words when we talk about resolving conflict?

Isn't there a conflict between unity and difference, though?

People who talk about this issue sometimes talk about polarity and polarising. You know, the world has two poles - the North Pole and the South Pole. They are opposites. When we polarise, we separate things and make opposites. This is also the mental skill of analysis.

So where are we now? It certainly seems there are a lot of opposites in everything we view. And viewing itself presupposes opposites - figure and ground. Can it be that we are making it all up?

Mystics talk about unity and unification. Are they saying that we should not discriminate and distinguish, so we know differences? If that were so, we wouldn't know anything, for the reasons given above. And what is this unification? Is it some merging of two things which were different but are now the same?

No. If we quarrelled and then we made it up and became friends, we could say we had attained some oneness, but we wouldn't be the same. Lovers may attain a state of oneness, but they would not be the same - if they were the same what would be the point of having the other, and having the other is very important here!

Ashvaghosha, the Eastern mystic, said:

'Suchness is neither that which is existence,
Nor that which is non-existence,
Nor that which is at once existence and non-existence,
Nor that which is not at once existence and non-existence.'

(You can take 'suchness' to mean 'things', 'this and that', 'the Buddha nature', 'next-door's cat', or even existence itself.)

The above statement, by Ashvaghosha, is the most enlightening thing I have ever read and perhaps ever will read. At first I marvelled at the logic, because he seemed to have covered every eventually. After a while I understood it, in various degrees. If you understand this fully, and it is possible you do or will, then you have begun your enlightenment! Remember understanding means not only remembering and being able to say what its meaning is, but being able to apply it in mundane and 'higher' matters. It is at once practical and sublime. Yet it is also the various opposites!

Please remember the following:

1) We create conflict, but this does not mean we are at fault or that we should submit.

2) If your day seems bad, reflect on whether you are the great magician who is creating this. And also the great magician who created the good days!

3) Analysis and Discernment are useful skills. There is the downside to this type of thinking, but you will do better by being more analytical and discerning than by trying to merge everything into a false unity.

4) Do not be content with mouthing fine words like unity and unification. Know that by fully understanding you will begin or attain enlightenment, or not! (See Ashvaghosha!)

5) Above all, do not fall into the trap of thinking, for example, that true freedom is slavery, etc., on the belief that true knowledge is unity!

6) Don't use this as an excuse not to pay the rent.

Don't forget to send feedback.

Speak soon.

Ken Ward

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