You-Me-Us-Them-True? False.

At the risk of being dualistic in a blog about a Dharma talk that is ostensibly about non-duality, as an ordained member of the clergy, I'm going to refrain from getting into any political endorsements. In the US, and from what I'm able to surmise in a number of countries worldwide, it seems there is a fair amount of divisive behavior. I've obviously only lived in this time period, so I can't really comment as to whether it's more now than previously. I suspect not. There may be a touch more than the usual amount of intransigence internally in some countries, and there is probably a standard amount of "us against them" between and among countries.

Conflict happens in the world. It's an undeniable fact. The Buddha didn't disavow the existence of, or even the need for armies. He said a number of things that would point to reasons not to use them, but he wasn't naive. ZM Seung Sahn (prior to being SM Seung Sahn) was involved in the Korean struggle against Japanese occupation. He was a proponent of correct action in a given scenario that was dependent upon causes and conditions. In one of his Compass of Zen talks, he spoke of the role of correct function for the police. If there is a mass-murderer mowing people down, correct function for a policeman is to protect the defenseless, with either speech, and maybe even killing the murdered.  Same act--killing--but in that situation, and given the relationship between the police officer and the public, and the mass killer in the public, use of deadly force by one is correct function (police), killing is not-correct function for the killer. Even the First Precept of refraining from killing is subject to causes and conditions.

Buddhist on Muslim violence in Myanmar, not-correct. Muslim on Muslim in Syria, maybe correct, maybe not. Police on unarmed motorist, not-correct. And so on. Perhaps you see that making the call on correct/not-correct is a subjective one. On a macro level, I'm making the assumption that even in wars, each side thinks they're "right." This may be totally delusional, but it is difficult for me to imagine that one government would willingly go to war without reason. Maybe I'm being naive about that.

On a more micro level, one person killing another would, I believe be more difficult to justify. Also my opinion, but I have to think there is some degree of difficulty for one person to directly take the life of another person. Of course, this difficulty in justification seems to disappear if the one doesn't actually see the other as a person. I've heard people speak of not aiming for the person, they aim for the uniform. Genocide is often justified by the lack of personhood of the victim.

All these actions are based upon dualistic behavior. If one is in a forest, the forest-ness is imperceptible due to the limitations of only being able to sense individual trees (hence the old cliche). Go in closer, one would see bark, then tree rings, then xylem and phloem, then cells, then constituent elements of the cells, then molecules, atoms, particles, and the space between the particles. The differences on the one hand are increasingly readily apparent, and on the other hand, increasingly meaningless.

Going back in the other direction, first the tree, then the forest, then a land mass, then continents, then planets, solar systems, galaxies, and if you like, on out to universe and multiverses. All these divisions are in one way obvious, but increasingly meaningless. Is one land mass arbitrarily "better" than another? One planet vs. another? Solar system, Galaxy, and so on? Seems to me that one would have to project a serious amount of "selfness" on to each, and in both directions to make these things separate. Just as the "self" is not created by the constituent elements of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and thought, the sense organs function (sight, smell, taste, etc.) and the objects of the sense organs, as well as the constructions we manufacture about them, none of these actually create a self or other, at least in a meaningful way. All of the above are made by thinking, subject to causes and conditions, and characterized by emptiness. Fundamentally, they don't exist in any real separate, meaningful, and permanent way.

In Huayan Buddhism, Fazang uses the example of the house and the rafter. Without a house, a rafter is a piece of wood. Its function as a piece of wood when there is no roof is different than when it is used to hold up a roof. Likewise, without the rafter to hold up a roof, the "house-ness" isn't fully realized until the walls are completed by having the roof in place, which turns it into s house. Each constituent element is interdependent upon the others in order for the potential of "house-ness" into active "house-ness." The rafter contains the house, the house contains the rafter. The universe is entirely dependent upon its constituent elements to be the universe. The constituent elements contain the universe, much as the rafter contains the house. The universe as it is, would not exist without not only the elements, but each and every cause and condition that has produced these elements. Each and every one is required, and as such, are equally important, I.e. totally interdependent, and all without inherent “good/not-good-ness.”

The same applies to that mass we call "sentient beings." Without the individuals that "exist" only in the Relative, the collective Absolute is totally dependent upon the unity of all. The Absolute only is manifested through the Relative. Just as form is form, and form is emptiness, and emptiness is form, and emptiness is empty, so do all things come to be such as they are, and all things are also no-things. There is no "you" without "me," no "us" without "them," but ultimately they have no inherent existence. As the Buddha states in the Diamond Sutra, all dharmas are no-dharmas, thus are they called dharmas. But just because out of convenience sake we call them dharmas (independent "things"), let's not fool ourselves into believing they aren’t likewise no-dharmas. Just as the atoms contain both particles and the space between them, this space is the same be it between "your" particles and "mine." Where do "I" begin, and "you" end? As ZM Seung Sahn might have said, "My Quark, and your Charm, same or different? You say same, I hit you 30 say different, I hit you 30 times."

"All" sentient beings? No-beings. Thus do we call them "beings." They're numberless, we save them all. They are no-beings, there is no saving to be done. Thus do we say we save all beings. Even the ones in the uniform of the "enemy," or the political party. We do it anyway, because that's what Bodhisattvas do.

Click on the title to listen to the Dharma talk.