Monday, October 24, 2011
Meditation 30 - Clear thinking, clean heart
Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness. (Lk. 11:34)
We think the world would be saved if only we could generate larger quantities of goodwill and tolerance. That's false.
What will save the world is not goodwill and tolerance but clear thinking. Of what use is it to be tolerant of others if you are convinced that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong? That isn't tolerance but condescension. That leads not to union of heats but to division, because you are one-up and the others one-down. A position that can only lead to a sense of superiority on your part and resentment on your neighbor's thereby breeding further intolerance.
True tolerance only arises from a keen awareness of the abysmal ignorance of everyone as far as truth is concerned. For truth is essentially mystery.
The mind can sense but cannot grasp it, much less formulate it. Our beliefs can point to it but cannot put it into words. In spite of this, people talk glowingly about the value of dialogue, which at worst is a camouflaged attempt to convince the other person of the rightness of your position, and at best will prevent you from becoming a frog in the well who thinks that his well is the only world there is.
What happens when frogs from different wells assemble to dialogue about their convictions and experiences? Their horizons widen to include the existence of wells other than their own. But they still have not suspicion of the existence of the ocean of truth that cannot be confined within the walls of conceptual wells. And our poor frogs continue to be divided and to speak in terms of yours and mine, your experience, your convictions, your ideology and mine. The sharing of formulas does not enrich the sharers, for formulas like the walls of wells divide; only the unrestricted ocean unites.
But to arrive at this ocean of truth that is unbounded by formulas, it is essential to have the gift of clear thinking.
What is clear thinking and how does one arrive at it?
I. The first thing you must know is that it does not call for any great learning. It is so simple as to be within the reach of a ten-year-old child. What is needed is not learning but unlearning, not talent but courage.
You will understand this if you think of a little child in the arms of an old, disfigured housemaid. The child is too young to have picked up the prejudices of its elders. So when it snuggles in the woman's arms, it is responding not to labels in its head; labels like white woman, black woman, ugly, pretty, old, young, mother, servant maid, it is responding not to labels such as these but to reality. That woman meets the child's need for love and that is the reality the child responds to, not to the woman's name and figure and religion and race and sect. Those are totally and absolutely irrelevant.
The child has as yet no beliefs and no prejudices. This is the environment within which clear thinking can occur. And to achieve it, one must drop everything one has learned and achieve the mind of the child that is innocent of past experiences and programming which so cloud our way of looking at reality.
II. Look into yourself and examine your reactions to persons and situations, and you will be appalled to discover the prejudiced thinking behind your reactions. It is almost never the concrete reality of this person or thing that you are responding to. You are responding to principles, ideologies, belief-systems, economic, political, religious, psychological belief-systems; to preconceived ideas and prejudices, whether positive or negative.
III. Take them one at a time, each person and thing and situation, and search for your bias, separating the reality here before you from your programmed perceptions and your projections. And this exercise will afford you a revelation as divine as any that the scriptures could provide you with.
Prejudices and beliefs are not the only enemies of clear thinking.
There is another pair of enemies called desire and fear. Thinking that is uncontaminated by emotion, namely by desire and fear, and self-interest, calls for an asceticism that is terrifying.
People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is done actually by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it. So here is another source of divine revelation. Examine some of the conclusions that you have arrived at and see how they are adulterated by self-interest. This is true of every conclusion, unless you hold it provisionally. Think how tightly you hold onto your conclusions regarding people, for instance. Are those judgements completely free of emotion? If you think they are, you have probably not looked hard enough.
This is the major cause of disagreements and division between nations and individuals. Your interests do not coincide with mine, so your thinking and your conclusions to not agree with mine.
How many people do you know whose thinking is at least some-times opposed to their self-interest? How many times can you recall having engaged in that kind of thinking yourself? How often have you succeeded in placing an impenetrable barrier between the thinking going on in your head and the fears and desires that agitate your heart? Each time you attempt that task, you will understand that what clear thinking calls for is not intelligence. That is easily come by - but the courage that has successfully coped with fear and desire, for the moment you desire something or fear something, your heart will consciously or unconsciously get in the way of your thinking.
This is a consideration for spiritual giants who have come to realize that in order to find truth they need, not doctrinal formulations, but;
A. A heart that divests itself of its programming and its self-interest each time that thinking is in progress;
B. A heart that has nothing to protect and nothing to ambition and therefore leaves the mind to roam unfettered, fearless and free, in search of truth;
C. A heart that is ever ready to accept new evidence and to change its views.
Such a heart then becomes a lamp that enlightens the darkness of the whole body of humanity. If all human beings were fitted with such hearts, people would no longer think of themselves as Communists or Capitalists, as Christians or Muslims or Buddhists. The very clarity of their thinking would show them that all thinking, all concepts, all beliefs are lamps full of darkness, signs of their ignorance. And in that realization the walls of their separate wells would collapse and they would be invaded by the ocean that unites all peoples in the truth.