Monday, March 23, 2009

On Equal Ground

I take up the way of meeting others on equal ground. --Buddhist precept as discussed by Diane Rizzetto in her book, Waking Up to What You Do.

In her book, Waking Up to What You Do, Abbess Diane Rizzetto writes on the precept of meeting others on equal ground. She quotes the writer Dag Hammarskjold, Markings:

"To be humble is not to make comparisons. Secure in its reality, the self is neither better nor worse, bigger nor smaller, than any thing else in the universe. It is nothing;at the same time, one with the universe."

What are the obvious and not so obvious ways that we regard ourselves in light of others? Do we gain self-worth in measuring ourselves against others? Do we consider our own thoughts, our own way? Do we praise ourselves at the expense of others? Or while not praising ourselves, abuse others? What keeps us from meeting others, from meeting the stranger on equal ground? What about competition--are there winners and losers in the world? How does anger, insecurity, fear, shame and blame block the way of meeting others on equal ground? Why must we meet equally?

Despite our sometimes fearful and anxious experiences of meeting others with pounding heart and cold hand, with adrenaline flowing, making us feel like ice, meeting others on equal ground is important. Even so, there are many ways we either subtly or overtly avoid our feelings and perceptions of unease with ourselves; we measure, we criticize, blame and shame our way through life. Putting others down will pull us up, it seems.
By learning more about the reality of inter-being we come to find that this isn't so. Making you dirty, makes me dirty; disrespect to you is disrespect to myself. I am the doing, the making of it all, the dream of self.

Considering this perception, we find it isn't limited to speech. Behavior is also a means of competition and measuring ourselves to others. We may ignore, exclude or avoid others in our activities with the intention to demonstrate a perception of superiority. Sometimes we even think we are more sophisticated, more enlightened than the others.

In history we learn that the Buddha was enlightened in a simple way, under a tree, no posh hotel or vacation spot for him. The Christ was hung ultimately on a cross, no limousine or finely dressed mourners at his death.
Gandhi was shot to death, there were no bowing supplicants before him; rather it was the end of a gun. So too for Martin Luther King.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta had no exemplary education beyond courage and will. These figures are burned into our consciousness; they were both humble and great, simple and wise.
Do not admire them; be more like them.

Diane Rizzetto writes, "When we speak or act in this way, clarity, discovery and true dialog [understanding] are lost. Even if we don't consciously place ourselves above others...if we're in the game of competition by watching our reactions when we make a mistake... Do we blame... find excuses... jump in defense?"

Do we say what it is, that is, do we say, "I forgot, I lost it, I didn't understand?"
In being humble, speaking truthfully, we are neither better nor worse. However, when our focus is to maintain ourselves in a perception as better than others, above them, then we close ourselves, we cut ourselves off and separation from the world and others occurs. We then choose to live in division. There now is just the dream, that dream of self.

Working to see more clearly, vispayana, the ways we judge others, and the ways we place so much of our energy in covering up ourselves due to fear, anxiety, shame-- the same energy is always available to help us to see more clearly and compassionately our own true selves.

Neither better nor worse than others. "Whether we place ourselves above or below others, we are substituting an idea about who we are, or who others are, or should be for the simple truth that as human beings we are good at some things and not so good at other things. We fail and succeed; we know and we don't know; we accomplish some useful things in our day, and we mess up some other things. This is what it means to be human..." to be humble, to be neither better nor worse, to be oneself."

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out until they span the chasm between contradictions...for the god wants to know himself in you.--Maria Rilke

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