Not Judging

web

Kierkegaard says “when you judge me you negate me.” This is equally true when we judge ourselves! Even though we may not realize it we judge ourselves all of the time, one way or another, and so in doing this (in evaluating ourselves as being this, that or the other) we unfailingly negate ourselves.

 

This isn’t to say that we only negate ourselves when we judge ourselves in a negative way – any sort of a judgement, whether it is favourable or unfavourable, glowing or condemning, commendatory or pejorative, is a negation. It doesn’t matter what sort of an evaluation we slap on ourselves, it’s a negation just the same.

 

The reason for this is that all judgements are (of course) definitions and it is the defining that negates us, not the value we ascribe to the definition. When we define ourselves we put ourselves in a box, we make it impossible that we could be anything other than what we have just defined ourselves as being. This is inherent in the very nature of defining – defining traps us and there is no such thing as a ‘good’ trap! When we define ourselves we take away our own freedom – we take away the freedom we had to be what we were before we defined ourselves as being ‘this, that or the other’. This is a freedom we didn’t even realize we had!

 

The thing about a definition is that it makes the object of the definition certain – when we define something we are therefore converting uncertainty into certainty. We are reducing the inherent uncertainty of what we are defining to zero. It tends to sound rather strange to say this since we don’t usually see why everything should be ‘inherently uncertain’. We don’t necessarily go around seeing the world as being inherently or intrinsically uncertain, even though it is. And yet it ought to be abundantly clear that the world is uncertain – uncertainty is (we could say) the essential element in life. This is what Heraclitus meant when he said that “All is flux”. In life, everything is changing, nothing is fixed, nothing is set in stone. Even stone isn’t set in stone, and if this isn’t uncertainty then what is?

 

We could also try to explain the inherent uncertainty in life by saying that everything is influenced by everything else. There are no sealed compartments in the universe – everything is part of the one whole. If there do seem to be compartment then this is purely because compartmentalization is how the thinking mind works. Our mind works on the basis of rigid boundaries – nature doesn’t! As Ken Wilbur puts it,

THE ULTIMATE METAPHYSICAL SECRET, if we dare state it so simply, is that there are no boundaries in the universe. Boundaries are illusions, products not of reality but of the way we map and edit reality. And while it is fine to map out the territory, it is fatal to confuse the two.

What the absence of any hard-and-fast boundaries in reality means is that – as we have said – nothing is sealed off from anything else. Nothing exists alone. No man is an island. This is the ‘ecological principle’ – no one thing can be considered or studied without taking everything else into account. Actually, if everything is connected to everything else then there are no distinct ‘things’ so to put a lot of effort into studying distinct things (as we very much tend to in Western culture) is a nonsense. It creates confusion and ‘counter-productivity’ by the lorry-load. We place huge emphasis on the exhaustive definition of the specific ‘isolated element’ (the ‘particular thing’) but since everything is connected to everything the isolated element or particular thing doesn’t actually exist!

 

From the ecological point of view we can say that everything is a part of the overall network, such that a change in one element in the network will inevitably have a bearing on everything else since nothing stays ‘contained’ in just the one portion or region of the network. It follows from this principle that we can’t be ‘certain’ about any one element in the network – we can’t know everything about one particular element because this would entail knowing everything about everything that influences that element, and this is a pretty big ask. We would then have to know ‘everything about everything’, and how are we going to manage this? All ‘things’ are inherently uncertain, therefore, because all things are inescapably interrelated to all other things. Each node in the network vibrates in tune with all other nodes, in tune with the web itself, and so how can we treat any one thing, any one element as if it had some sort of an existence outside of this web of mutual relations? This is a total impossibility, and yet at the same time this is the only we way we can get to be ‘certain’ about anything…

 

The ‘inherent uncertainty’ that we’re talking about isn’t some kind of peripheral property that might conceivably be eliminated (or at least reduced) – inherent uncertainty can only be eliminated at the price of making what we’re being certain about unreal! Intrinsic uncertainty isn’t an error in the system (which is how the rational mind sees it) – it is an irreducible property of the whole. Each little element in the network is uncertain because it partakes in the overall ‘uncertainty’ of everything. Or to put this another way – every ‘part’ of the whole is irreducibly uncertain because there are no parts, because it isn’t a part at all, because it’s really the whole in disguise!

 

We may of course ask why the whole has to be irreducibly uncertain – why in other words can’t we just get a ‘theory of everything’ and then that ‘theory of everything’ will make everything certain. This is the classic rational question. But the thing about this question that seems to elude us is that there can’t be anything outside of the whole, since if there was something outside it then it clearly wouldn’t be ‘the whole’. And if we can’t get outside the whole – which we need to if we are to slot everything into a framework, into a TOE – then we can’t make everything certain. If we say – in an attempt to escape this logical glitch – that there can be a framework outside the of the whole which we can use to make the whole certain then we have a situation where the framework is inside itself (i.e. it’s like saying that the set M is a member of itself) and this is a Russellian paradox. If the all-determining framework is inside the whole as well as outside and this all-determining framework is being used to provide definite information, definite statements about the whole to make it certain, then the framework is being use to provide information about itself and this a tautological regression. A thing cannot define itself because any invisible assumptions that are in that thing cannot be highlighted by that same thing! And ‘things’ always contain invisible assumptions – that’s what makes them things in the first place!

 

Stuff is only ‘certain’ because we have slotted it into a taken-for-granted framework of seeing things, and when we do slot it into the framework what happens is that we automatically take the element that we are focussing on out of the relationship that it has with the whole, out of the dynamic interplay of influences which is ‘everything’. We abstract the element from the interrelationships that make it what it actually and so what we end up with something that is no longer what it started off as. It’s now just a function of our way of looking at things! What we’re doing when we make something certain therefore is that we are denying that element for what it actually is by implicitly claiming that it is ‘only what we think it is’. We are negating the actual reality of what we are making certain of, in other words – by fitting the element under consideration into the over-arching framework that is the rational mind (and by doing this implicitly denying that there ever could be such a thing as ‘something that is not accounted for by our all-determining framework’) we are negating reality itself…

 

The thing that we are judging or labelling is infinitely more than we take it to be with our judging and labelling, and so really we are committing a type of violence here, loathe though we may be to admit! The ‘index of uncertainty’ that we have handily eliminated with our mental categorizations is the difference between what the reality we are labelling really is, and what we say it is, and this turns out to be the most important ‘difference’ there ever could be! This difference means everything – it means the difference between reality itself and some bloodless simulation of it, the difference between the menu and the actual meal itself. If we were to somehow imagine that this difference is not so very important as all that, all we would need to do to correct this viewpoint would be to try to live by eating nothing but menus for a month! There is no sustenance in categorizations, no nutritional value in formal descriptions or definitions…

 

We won’t physically starve to be sure but we will starve nonetheless in a less tangible way – by living in the Mind Created Virtual Reality in place of the original we will be starved of the actual feel of reality, the actual taste or flavour of reality. We will be starved of the healing grace that comes with unconditioned reality, and which comes from nowhere else. When we succeed in eliminating the inherent uncertainty of the world this might seem very neat and tidy from one point of view (from the ‘book-keeper type’ point of view of the rational conceptual mind, that is) but the unintended side-effect of achieving this neatness is that we have put ourselves in the wholly tautological (or ‘self-referential’) situation of being the ‘Mind-Created Self’ living in the ‘Mind-Created Virtual Reality’ and when it comes down to brass tacks this isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs! It’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be in the publicity brochures, so to speak…

 

Only the intrinsically uncertain (i.e. the unsimulated) is real – everything else is a mere surface-level impression, everything else is simply a ‘two-dimensional label’, an ‘empty formula’ that we take to be an exhaustive description of whatever it is we are labelling, whatever it is we are describing. Unquantifiable substance is converted into dry definitions, into ‘facts and figures’. So what we’re basically saying here in this discussion is that this is what the thinking mind does all the time! The everyday thinking mind can’t not do this – this is the only thing it can do. The mind judges, just as a sweeping brush sweeps, just as a toaster toasts stuff, just as a cement-mixer mixes cement. Categorizing (or ‘judging’) is all that the everyday mind does, and what’s more, when it runs away with itself in the way that it is so prone to doing it can’t turn itself off!

 

Within its proper remit, this function of the everyday thinking mind is not problematic. Far from being ‘problematic’, it is crucially useful to us. The thinking mind has a job to do and it performs this job superlatively well. The ‘problem’ starts when the instrument which is the thinking mind ‘takes over’ and starts applying itself willy-nilly to all aspects of our life, to every aspect of our life. Once it does this then there’s no turning back and the thinking mind will just keep on a running in the background as a kind of permanent feature. It’s like a radio or television that never gets turned off, and we just get used to it running away as it does in the background the whole time (we get uncomfortable when it doesn’t). What happens when the thinking mind runs all the time in the background is that all the ‘intrinsic uncertainty’ in life gets eliminated, it gets ‘done away with’. The inherent uncertainty of life gets eradicated (like an error or mistake that we don’t want messing up our nice, neat picture of things) and all we have left is a bunch of dogmatic descriptions, a bunch of literal definitions, a bunch of labels, a bunch of dry old empty formulae…

 

Life gets chewed up by the runaway machine of the thinking mind and we don’t know the difference because we have – in the process of being chewed up – forgotten any other way that things could be. It now seems normal to us for everything to be this way. And not only that, the uncertainty factor, the ‘error factor’ (which as we have said is actually nothing other than life itself) has become the enemy, has become ‘the thing to be gotten rid of’. Thought is great for mechanical stuff therefore but the thing is that when it takes over it treats everything as if it were mechanical, including ourselves. Thought ‘re-writes’ us in its own mechanical language (or ‘code’) and we never notice the difference, we never notice the transition. So we end up as a result of this unnoticed transition living in a world that is actually a tremendously ‘downgraded’ version of the original, a tremendously ‘over-simplified’ version of the original. And at the same time as living in a tremendously downgraded version of reality, we live as tremendously downgraded versions of ourselves, and so no one ever gets suspicious about the fact that something very dodgy has just taken place. As Jean Baudrillard says, the Perfect Crime (or the Perfect Murder) has been committed – it is perfect because there are no witnesses, because no one has reported anything to the police!

 

Just to recap the central point there: with regard to the world around us, what happens when the rational mind takes over is – as we have said – that we miss out on the essential uncertainty of everything and it is that uncertainty (the lack of exhaustive definition) that gives life its flavour, its beauty, its poetry. The logical-conceptual mind doesn’t like uncertainty – more than that, it can’t function with uncertainty, it can’t tolerate uncertainty, it can’t abide uncertainty. This mind likes to sweep everything up in neat, orderly piles. It can’t help being like this – it is the rational mind’s nature to order everything, just as it is a sweeping brush’s nature to sweep! But when it does this it takes the mystery out of everything, the magic out of everything, the unique flavour (or ‘suchness’) out of everything. The rational mind scoffs at mystery and magic – it sees stuff like this as sentimental, woolly-minded, ‘airy-fairy’, etc. It sees this kind of stuff as just plain silly. It wants to get rid of this kind of thing and make everything neat and tidy and orderly. The only problem with this however is that this sort of a ‘sanitized world’ just isn’t worth living in – there’s nothing of substance in it, nothing of interest in it. This isn’t life at all – it’s a bloodless simulation of life…

 

The rational mind has no wings. It will not believe in anything other than its own dull literalisms. As Sri Guru Granth Sahib says,

For that which we cannot see, feel, smell, touch, or understand, we do not believe. For this, we are merely fools walking on the grounds of great potential with no comprehension of what is.

 

The everyday categorical mind has its ‘dark’ side therefore. It has a tendency in it that will – when unchecked – produce a world for us that really isn’t fit to live in, a kind of grey, flavourless world; a dull, repetitive, routine sort of a world. It produces a world that is a tasteless copy of the real thing, an ersatz world, a counterfeit world. This is one half of the story. The other side of the story is that this labelling, judging, analyzing mind does the same thing to us. It transforms us (or degrades us) into colourless ersatz versions of ourselves, bland generic versions of ourselves. In Kierkegaard’s language, it negates us. It negates our true nature, and provides us with something else instead – something that isn’t our nature… The categorical mind negates us because it turns us into mere categories! It turns us into mere concepts, into nothing more than ‘mental constructs’. How can the thinking mind do anything other than this? How can it not do this? Just as the sweeping brush sweeps and the toaster toasts, the thinking mind judges and judges and judges. And when it’s done with this, it does some more judging, just for good measure…

 

So all we need to do – if we want to come back to ourselves, if we want to live in a world that hasn’t had all the mystery, magic and poetry swept out of it, is to stop judging! All we need to do is to leave stuff as it already is, no tidying, no organizing everything into neat orderly piles, no conceptualizing, no analyzing, no more non-stop thinking…

 

What could be simpler than this? We don’t have to do anything, we just have to ‘stop doing what we always do’ – stop the judging, the evaluating, the commentating, and all of that. In one way therefore this is astonishingly simple – as we have said, all we have to do is to be sensitive to what is actually already there, which essentially means not aggressing reality, not trying to control or rewrite reality, not automatically (and compulsively) trying to make stuff be what we think it ought to be…

 

On one hand this is the simplest anything could ever be, but on the other hand things aren’t quite so easy as all that. To be simple in this way actually constitutes a challenge that is far greater than we could imagine. We’d never know just how much of a challenge ‘not doing what we usually do’ is unless we tried it. What makes it so hard is the fact that we are almost completely identified with the thinking mind – which is another way of saying that we automatically believe just about everything it tells us!

 

Just as we are almost completely identified with the thinking mind, we are similarly almost totally identified with the Mind-Created Self – it is the same phenomenon looked at from a different angle. And the thing about the Mind-Created Self is that it has no choice other than to be aggressive. It has no other options open to it. All the Mind-Created Self (i.e. the Defined Self) can do is be aggressive – that is its inescapable nature.

 

So the first step in ‘not judging’ is simply notice this – to notice that the Defined Self can’t help judging. We notice this without blaming the Defined Self for being what it is, without judging it for being what it can’t help being…

 

 

 

 

Being Present is Not a Strategy

tree-of-life-fraida-gutovich_zps04e17232

The optimum thing any of us can do in order to emerge from the confusion and strife of everyday existence into the light of non-dual awareness is simply to be ‘with’ ourselves, come what may, through thick and through thin, through the good times and the bad. If it were true that there is such a thing as ‘a therapeutic approach that actually works’ then this would be it! If it were true that there really was such a thing as ‘an optimum strategy for living life’ then this would be it! The problem here however being that there isn’t such a thing – there’s no such thing as ‘a therapeutic approach that actually works’ any more than there’s such a thing as ‘an optimum strategy for living life’. The idea is quite ridiculous – we’d have to be looking at things in a very peculiar way in order to take this notion seriously. We’d have to be somewhat deranged, in fact! It ought to be obvious that life cannot be lived according to a strategy…

 

It ought to be as obvious as the nose on our face that we can’t live life according to  strategy but it isn’t. Equally, it ought to be very obvious that there couldn’t ever be such a thing as a specific therapeutic approach to life’s difficulties that actually works but it isn’t. How can there be a generic answer to life’s difficulties when life is not a generic thing? The basic premise behind the idea of a specific ‘therapeutic approach’ is that there could be a way to deliberately encourage or facilitate the healing process (i.e. the process by which we grow as people). This premise however is quite absurd! The healing process cannot be guided or regulated from the outside – we might as well make a rule that all seedlings should sprout in accordance with this government guideline or that government guideline and then appoint officers to make sure that this happens. We can notice how a seedling sprouts and grows, and we can forbear from interfering with the process, but we can’t officiate over it. We can’t ‘take over’ what is happening or in any way make the process serve our ends rather than its own. We can’t turn our observations into a theory or model and then use this theory or model to regulate or manage how the process happens. The very idea of ‘regulation’ or ‘management’ is completely antithetical to the spirit of a natural (or ‘spontaneous’) process…

 

A spontaneous process simply happens – it unfolds ‘according to its own law’ and there is nothing we can do to try to take charge of it. We might be able to take charge of the process by which aluminium is extracted from bauxite, and regulate how and when that happens, but we can’t do the same with the processes that unfold in the psyche. The rational mind doesn’t regulate the psyche, no matter how dearly it might love to do so! In fact the opposite is true – the more the thinking mind gets involved with the inner process the less this process is able to unfold ‘according to its own law’. All the rational mind can do is block and postpone the processes that occur in the psyche and this happens every single time we try to ‘take charge’. It unfailingly happens! This is the obstacle to healing we never see – the obstacle is ourselves!

 

Similarly, the idea that there could be such a thing as ‘an optimum strategy for living life’ is quite ludicrous because life isn’t something we do. Life isn’t a problem to be overcome or solved, and strategies are only good for solving problems. When we try to ‘do’ life (which is to say, when we turn it into a cut-and-dried exercise in management) we block the process of life, we obstruct it, we ‘turn it against itself’. The extent that we try to ‘do’ life is the extent to which we can’t actually live it, therefore, and this is the obstacle we keep on running into without realizing it. We ourselves are the obstacle we keep running into, without realizing it!

 

There is no strategy for living life because we’re not supposed to be ‘in charge’. There’s no point in trying to figure out how to live life, because there is no way – there’s no strategic way, no way to do it in accordance with a design or plan. But suppose we say (as we have done) that the optimum strategy is simply to be with ourselves ‘come what may’, through thick and through thin, through the good times and the bad? Suppose we make this into a therapeutic approach? Suppose we say that this is the ideal thing to do? What would be wrong with this? Wouldn’t we have a better handle on things this way? Our initial response is of course to try to turn this understanding around and make it into some kind of a framework that we can use, into some kind of a ‘recipe’ or ‘methodology’ to help us navigate life and life’s difficulties but this just isn’t going to work. It isn’t going to work because – when it comes down to it – we really don’t have any choice! This is a point that Alan Watts makes: when we talk about ‘accepting life’ that makes it sound as if it is some kind of rational decision that we can make, just like we might decide to make a cup of tea or give up chocolate cakes for Lent. We might think that we can use the idea of ‘accepting life’ as a method but we can’t – we can’t because we simply don’t have any choice in the matter. What else are we going to do?

 

We pretty much have to be with ourselves as we live our lives. What else are we going to do? Where else are we going to go? There’s no choice here at all! And yet, having said this, we must nevertheless point out that we do have a kind of a choice. We have a type of ‘apparent choice’ and this is the choice of temporarily absenting ourselves from our own lives. This is – needless to say – a choice that we utilize most of the time, on just about a full-time basis in fact. We are adept at utilizing this choice, we’re fully-fledged experts. We are out-and-out geniuses when it comes down to being absent – if someone was handing out Nobel prizes for ‘hiding out from our own lives’ then we’d all be there at the award ceremony shaking hands with the King of Sweden…

 

The reason we absent ourselves from our own lives is of course because it gets hard going. We don’t want to be there – we want to be somewhere else. The other way of looking at this is to say that the reason we absent ourselves is because we’re continuously straining to be somewhere better. We have the impression that the grass is greener in the adjoining field and so we’re hankering to get there. We’re scheming and planning how we’re going to get there and so in our fevered imaginations we’re already there! The trouble with looking forward to better times like this is of course that we’re no longer present with ourselves. We’re in a future that doesn’t exist – we’re absent, in other words. We’re more interested in ‘where we’d like to be’ than in ‘where we are’ and as a result we’re not actually anywhere!

 

And even when we are interested in ‘what is’ (rather than ‘what we think ought to be’) the chances are that we will still absent ourselves. Even when the going is good, when life is good, the chances are that I will be absenting myself. The thing is that there are two times when we tend to get manipulative, when we tend to get controlling – [1] is when something there is something painful happening that I want to avoid and [2] is when there is something enjoyable happening that we want to get more of! When life turns difficult then – naturally enough – we try to defend ourselves against this difficulty, and this ‘defending’ inevitably turns into us not being present. But when things are going well, and we seem to have stumbled into having a bit of good luck for a change (as we might see it) we still move into defensive mode, only this time we’re defending the fortunate situation – we’re defending against anything that might jeopardize it. In the first case therefore we’re defending against what we don’t want to happen and in the second case we defending what we do want to happen – we’re defending against the possibility of it not happening anymore! But defending is defending whatever way around we do it and so we end up absenting ourselves from our own lives in both cases…

 

The point we’re making here is that any sort of strategizing – when it comes to our mental state – is going to rebound adversely on us. There is simply no such thing as ‘helpful strategizing’ when it comes to being in a peaceful or happy state of mind as opposed to a disturbed or miserable one. This really does need to be stressed over and over again as we are so predisposed to believing that strategizing is the thing that is going to save us. As we have said, we strategize when things are going well (so as to ensure if we can that they carry on going well) and we strategize when things aren’t going well (so as to change this situation into one that is more favourable to us) and the understanding that ‘not-strategizing’ might be the thing that will save us (rather than yet more controlling, yet more manoeuvring) is one that just never occurs to us. The understanding that the optimum thing any of us could ever do (in either scenario) is simply to ‘be with ourselves’ couldn’t be further away from us. It’s not so much that it’s the last thing we’d ever think of, but rather that it’s the one thing that we never ever would think of…

 

‘Being present’ isn’t a strategy. A strategy is something we engage in order to obtain some sort of a pre-specified outcome and we don’t ‘be present with ourselves’ in order to obtain some kind of an outcome! If we were attempting to be present with ourselves in order to obtain some kind of an outcome then we simply wouldn’t be present because strategizing – as we have said – causes us to be absent rather than present. We have retreated into our thoughts, retreated into our plans and our calculations and so the one place where we most assuredly aren’t going to be is in the present moment! We’re being ‘clever’ about it and cleverness is really only avoidance.

 

It can be seen that saying (as we have done) that the optimum thing any of us can do is simply ‘to be with ourselves come what may’ is a bit of a trick statement, therefore. It’s a ‘trick statement’ because if one thing is the optimum then all other things must be ‘not optimum’ and the situation where ‘one thing is more advantageous than the other’ straightaway leads into strategizing. Where else can this way of seeing things lead? It would be more helpful to say that wherever we happen to be, that is the optimum place to be, because this then cuts off the very root of strategizing, the very root of the deeply engrained need to stay in control. Being present means simply ‘being where we are’, and this is not a strategy! This is not a form of ‘being clever’!

 

If we could see that the process of life unfolds according to its own law, and that this has nothing to do with our desires, our need to feel in control (i.e. our need not to feel painfully insecure) then this would revolutionize everything. Our whole approach to life would be turned on its head. Instead of basing everything on the need to enforce ‘the way we think things should be’ we would be orientating ourselves in terms of ‘sensitivity to what is’. As soon as we say this we can see that ‘sensitivity to what is’ cannot be a strategy. Strategies are always about enforcing what we think ought to be the case, never about being sensitive to what actually is the case. There can’t be such a thing as a strategy to help us be more sensitive! That would be like saying that there could be such a thing as a strategy to help us be better listeners, or a strategy that would enable us to be more caring, or more creative, or more ‘aware’ – there are no strategies for these sort of things. There is only ‘being present’ and being present is not a strategy.

 

What we are saying here sounds very simple – and in one way it is simple, astonishingly simple in fact – but in another way it is not so simple at all! It isn’t ‘simple’ because of the way in which we automatically turn ‘not having a strategy’ into a strategy. We do this without being aware of what we are doing. We do this without even noticing – in passing – the total irony of what we have just done. For example, we can say – quite rightly – that being present means ‘accepting what is’, and ‘not judging what is’. So far so good. But if I say (either to myself or someone else) “Accept!” then this is a method – accepting is now my method, whereas before my method was this or that form of ‘non-accepting’. And if I say “Don’t judge” (again, either to myself or to someone else) then not-judging now becomes my method, whereas before my method was judging, or evaluating…

 

Nothing has really changed, therefore. I’m just upgrading my strategy – I’m just playing a more sophisticated game. Actually, without realizing it, I’ve tied myself up in knots. If I make ‘accepting’ into my new method (i.e. if I make a rule that says “I must accept”) then I have rejected non-accepting. But if I am rejecting my non-accepting then I’m not being ‘non-accepting’ at all! I’m just going around in circles! And if I make ‘Not judging’ into my new method (if I make a rule that says “I must not judge”) then I have judged my judging! So in reality I’m judging more than ever – I’ve created a whole new level of judging!

 

The problem is that the ‘purposeful self’ – which is who or what we usually take ourselves to be – can never NOT strategize!! Strategizing is all that it can do; strategizing is all that it can understand. If we could only understand clearly the nature of the purposeful self and how it works, then we would see that all it can ever do is obey rules. That’s how it operates – that’s the only way it can operate. The purposeful (or ‘conditioned’) self cannot ever do anything unless it first comes up with a rule saying that that it should do it. It can’t do anything without ‘a purpose’. The purposeful self is an automaton, in other words, because all it can ever do is follow instructions. It can’t do anything without first having a defined goal. All it can ever do is obey its own rules, it own purposes. So if this self gets the idea that the insanity of its unremitting purposefulness (the fact that it is always obeying one rule or another) is causing problems, is causing suffering, then it will straightaway (without reflecting upon the irony of what it is doing) come up with a new rule which says “I must not obey any rules”. The new rule is to not have any rules. The new instruction is to not follow any instructions. The new purpose is to not have any purposes. The new goal is to live without goals…

 

This sounds like a hopeless mess but it isn’t – there is still freedom here even if we can’t see it. We just need to stop seeing things through the eyes of the conditioned self. The thing here is that just as soon as we do clearly understand the purposeful self and the way that it works then this means that we are no longer identifying with that self, and if we are no longer identifying with the conditioned self then we are free from its mechanical nature, we are free from inbuilt invisible paradoxicality.

 

We can only understand that there is this ‘thing’, this ‘automaton’ we call the purposeful (or conditioned) self when we no longer automatically believe that we are it. To see the conditioned self is to be free from it; as Krishnamurti says, “The seeing is the doing”. Or as it says in the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment, “To see illusion is to depart from it.” Normally we think that there must be something we need to ‘do’ but doing means strategizing and when we strategize we automatically identify with the purposeful self, which makes it impossible to see that self or know that it isn’t who we really are! When Krishnamurti says that ‘The seeing is the doing’ he means that the seeing itself is the thing, instead of the doing – and this is what is so hard for us to understand. For us – as we have said – purposeful doing is all that we know. Purposeful doing is also the thing that keeps us unconscious, the thing that keeps us firmly identified with the purposeful self. This is what Ken Wilbur is saying in the following passage taken from No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth:

Slowly, gently, as you pursue this dis-identification “therapy,” you may find that your entire individual self (persona, ego, centaur), which heretofore you have fought to defend and protect, begins to go transparent and drop away. Not that it literally falls off and you find yourself floating, disembodied, through space. Rather, you begin to feel that what happens to your personal self—your wishes, hopes, desires, hurts—is not a matter of life-or-death seriousness, because there is within you a deeper and more basic self which is not touched by these peripheral fluctuations, these surface waves of grand commotion but feeble substance.

 

Thus, your personal mind-and-body may be in pain, or humiliation, or fear, but as long as you abide as the witness of these affairs, as if from on high, they no longer threaten you, and thus you are no longer moved to manipulate them, wrestle with them, or subdue them. Because you are willing to witness them, to look at them impartially, you are able to transcend them. As St. Thomas put it, “Whatever knows certain things cannot have any of them in its own nature.” Thus, if the eye were colored red, it wouldn’t be able to perceive red objects. It can see red because it is clear, or “redless.” Likewise, if we can but watch or witness our distresses, we prove ourselves thereby to be “distress-less,” free of the witnessed turmoil. That within which feels pain is itself pain-less; that which feels fear is fear-less; that which perceives tension is tensionless. To witness these states is to transcend them. They no longer seize you from behind because you look at them up front.

As we usually are, we cannot see the purposeful self. We do not know what it means to be ‘identified with the purposeful or conditioned self’. We are it so we can’t see it. It’s invisible to us. We can however – if we pay attention – notice its strategizing! The purposeful self automatically tries to control – for it, ‘to exist is to control’. For it, ‘existing equals controlling’. So when we notice our strategizing (the rational calculations we are making with regard to our situation) then we are noticing the purposeful self. We notice ourselves trying to control things either the one way or the other (either in accordance with the attraction or aversion that we feel in relation to certain outcomes) and we also notice how we feel when we succeed in our controlling and when we don’t succeed. Normally we identify with the need that the purposeful self has to control, to strategize, and when we identify with it we can’t notice it. The same is true when we think when we identify with a thought we don’t see ourselves thinking. We just get ‘sucked up in the thought’ and that is that. So to see the ‘urge to control’ (rather than automatically identifying with it) is to see the purposeful self, just as to see the thought (rather than just getting automatically ‘sucked up in it) is to see the purposeful self. When we actually see the purposeful self we are aware that it is always something of an absurdity. How could it not be an absurdity when it always has to be trying to control everything, either the one way or the other?

 

This is really quite a remarkable thing to behold. What does it mean if we can never be at ease, but instead have to be ceaselessly controlling, ceaselessly strategizing, ceaselessly trying to get things to be the way we think they ought to be? What kind of a situation is this? The only time we get to rest is when we successfully get things to be the way we think they ought to be, and even this isn’t really ‘resting’ because if we were to genuinely rest then everything would start to slip again, everything would stop being the way we think it ought to be. I’m never at peace with the way things are therefore – I’m only ‘kind of at peace’ (on a strictly temporary and conditional basis) with the way things are when I have them under control. So when I am identified with the purposeful or conditioned self this is my predicament. And if I get tired with the state of affairs (as I am inevitably bound to) then what I am going to do is try to control myself to stop controlling all the time. I’m going to try to come up with a strategy to help me not to be trying to be in control the whole time. And yet no matter what I do I am only ever going to be compounding the mess that I’m in!

 

The more we try to accord with the Tao (the innate harmony of things) the more we deviate from it, Alan Watts states. And yet at the same time it is also true, he goes on to say, that we can never really deviate from the Tao, from the natural order of things. Ken Wilbur quotes the Zen saying, “That from which one can deviate is not the true Tao.” As soon as we stop seeing everything from the viewpoint of the purposeful self – which we do simply by ‘being present’, simply by taking a break from our ceaseless strategizing – then we come back into the innate harmony of things, which we will discover that we had never really left…