This weekend marked the close of the 28 day cycle I was on concerning the question of whether compassion and love were compatible. The best way I can describe what happened is there has been a monumental shift within me and somewhere in the cosmos, a bodhisattva is laughing. So I decided to do another cycle, only this time with a different question - how does virtue live?
If you want to do this along with me you are welcome too. Simply write the question down and put it in an envelope that you clearly label with the date - April 21, 2014 - on the front and place it where you will see it everyday and often. Then, find 8 physical things and a meditation you want to do everyday. Here is something I have learned - don't set yourself up for failure by declaring that you are going to sit for such and such a time or do this and this number of repetitions of an exercise - make a list of what must be done and then let the reality of the day decide how much you can do. Next, do that every day and turn yourself outward to pay attention to the world as seen through that question, "how does virtue live?" You will be surprised at the education you will receive.
Don't read about virtue or meditate on it, you are the worst person to teach yourself and whatever you come up with in the privacy of your own head - or take in with the heavy filter of confirmation bias - is not going to do you much use. Instead, practice opening up and breathing, mindfully observing life around you and virtue will surprise you in how it speaks of how it has survived and what it needs to live on. It may even, given that for once your yammering about what it is has fallen silent, be able to tell you its story, who it is, what it looks like and more.
Whenever I use the word "you" in a post I mean it in a very global and personal sense. By "you" I mean "me" and I mean all of us. It is funny how much I have been reminded this past week of the adage - never assume you are the teacher. It is a powerful lesson that one needs to learn over and over especially if you are in a position of teaching or leading. We forget that we don't take in anything without delusion, my "right" is seen through my life. No matter how far you get in giving up self and becoming compassionate towards the world there is never a moment where you know what someone needs or what will help or what they should learn; all you know is that you have what you carry and your willingness to carry more and to give freely. In many ways, some of my most powerful lessons in working within a world of need have come from the game of GO. In GO, if you ever think you are a master and better than others you are on your way to bitter disappointment. Not only will you most likely cause great harm to new players by destroying their joy in the game with your endless lessons and expertise, but in the moment that someone is better than you - part of your identity will be destroyed.
Identity is a curious thing. It plays a great role in how we corrupt and emasculate virtue. We call virtue out by words and think that because we can say them in a logical order that virtue is a living thing. Virtue, this I know, is a state. A very messy and unpleasant state.
Just as an aside, at some point this week or next I will try to tackle the delicate conversation about surgical violence and Buddhism. It has come up, albeit with a tremendous patronizing and irresponsible swipe - grandstanding I think is the term I am looking for. But before I get there I will leave you with one thing to let sink in
- karma isn't about you