Is That Right?
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will Meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense."
I love this statement! It has spoken to me since I first heard it many years ago. I suppose there are two reasons why, one being a form of aspiration to spend time in that field. The other is that it suggests notions of wrongness and rightness are artificial which brings their value and merit into question. In so doing it illustrates that there is, shall we say, a certain flexibility in what is considered as wrong or right. The statement has stuck with me ever since and seeded a garden full of appreciation. It is a bold statement that stands in stark contrast to the way most of us live our lives. It speaks clearly to the idea that right and wrong are not absolutes and that we can get beyond such mundane notions. And it whispers the way there.
The field is the home of bliss, where all we think and believe collapses ... where the minds finger pointing becomes open arms ... and in surrender the drop melts into the ocean. If you allow it, his words will paint a picture your inner self knows well for it resides in just such a field, albeit one obscured by the long shadow created by our mind. It is there and here and though we can almost touch it, it can be like trying to catch a rainbow.
Our minds stand between us and it and though we may long to be free of it's shadows, we become lost in them. Even though we are far more than just "mind", something we are aware of at a core level, we spend virtually all of our waking time thinking and doing and very little just being. In the process we lose sight of what we are. We are so used to labeling, naming, discerning, analyzing and all too often judging with both our conscious and non-conscious minds we almost forget it is there ... almost. In this essay we will look at wrong and right and a number of aspects related to them for this can help the mind see the folly of clinging to such notions as if they are rigid and fixed "things".
It is easy to get caught up in notions of right and wrong and to treat them as if they are fundamental aspects of the Cosmos and so absolutes. Over the years I have had many conversations on this topic and quite often those I have spoken with about it were very passionate about their beliefs that wrong and right were not just abstract, man made notions. This is understandable as there are some acts that are so egregious that it seems no other conclusion is possible.
For the most part this notion comes from religious doctrines that contain "God given decrees" about right and wrong and were strongly associated with notions of good and evil. This notion is also tied to beliefs that we live only one life and ones choices in life will result in them spending eternity in either heaven or hell. This is mostly the case in western religions and not Hinduism or Buddhism for they see right and wrong as relative and not absolute. However, those who follow these religions are not immune to getting caught up in the belief that some acts are inherently right or wrong.
We can all spend time in that field, though for how long varies greatly. To spend any significant time there one must have, for the most part, reduced the dominance of mind (1) and moved beyond the mundane notions Rumi referred to. Time spend in such a field could be described as time spent in a state of grace. Such a place exists in "the now". By now I am not referring to the abstract construct of "now" that the mind uses to represent the "nothing" sandwiched in between two discrete moments. I am referring to the actual now that we tend to not notice because of our reliance on mind and it's mental constructs. To get past them it helps to have a better understanding of how our mind takes on such notions and applies them.
We take on concepts that restrict our conscious awareness at a very young age. Notions of space and time are a prime example. They are necessary to a certain extent and seem innocent enough; however, they have a downside. What are taught or learn, either directly or indirectly, is that in between any two points in space or moments in time is a smaller space or interval of time. For instance, between the numbers 9.9999 and 9.9999 is the number 9.99995. One can do this with any two points in space or time no matter how small they are. By default this idea excludes the notion that between any two moments in time is a "space" where time as we know it does not exist.
Why do we do this? It is because our minds exercise their discretionary power to apply this notion for the purpose of discrimination such as between points in space or time to everything. It uses this notion in a way that results in every moment and every point in space and time being distinctly identifiable and they can be tagged and labelled. It also applies discrimination to virtually everything. This is needed physically, however, in relation to a notion such as time the distinction is arbitrary and by taking it on the mind excludes that there is a "place" where time as the mind understands it does not exist.
This is what leads to the stagnation of conformity and is why such phrases as "I will believe it when I see it". The reverse of this, "I will see it when I believe it", while better is still inaccurate as one can believe in delusions and then "see them." Only the mind that is unencumbered by needs, wants, desires, mistaken notions, contradictions and conflicting ideas can truly "see what is."
The mind's reliance on discrimination is why the field Rumi refers to lies beyond the minds capacity to comprehend, which is also why we cannot get there so long as we live "in and through our minds." Obviously to function at the physical level a mind is required; however, we can allow both perspectives by accepting that minds view is incomplete and limited by it's reliance on discrimination.
Accepting that our mind has it's own domain and is limited by it goes a long way towards reducing the strength of the illusion it creates. Meditation and being mindful are both key to this as our minds often require some "evidence" to support such ideas and these are among the best ways for us to have experience that lie outside it's domain. The minds notions of right and wrong, just like those of space and time, are based on discrimination as are our judgments. To get to the magnificent field Rumi talks about one must discard judgments and thought based discrimination. He gives examples of these: wrongdoing, rightdoing, ideas, language and even the notion of separateness between us. These are all examples of the mind exercising it's need to discriminate.
His words challenge us to consider not only the value of our ideas about such things but also their validity and our reliance on them. It is something far easier said than done for our minds cling to these things like a drowning person to a lift jacket. This is especially true for notions such as wrong and right as they are not casual thoughts, they are ancient archetypes. They become ingrained in us at a very young age and become foundation elements of our mental house (1). The consequence of this is that they are applied to pretty much every thought we have. Hence judgments, such as "good and bad" and "right and wrong", affect most of our thoughts or perhaps more accurately they infest them. So, while one may accept that rights and wrongs change they hold onto the idea that they are "real".
Thoughts of right and wrong become so important that we bestow special status upon them. We hold them up as if they are singularly important in the grand scheme of things and in a way we even revere them. So powerful are our thoughts around them that just reading his words sparks the mind to contemplate them. This also triggers, if one stops to notice, emotional reactions. However, we must remember that our minds are not fixed or rigid "things". They are fluid, dynamic and can be changed regardless of how deeply ingrained or entrenched our beliefs may be, such as those that make up the foundation of our mental house. We get beyond them by examining our thoughts to find our erroneous or mistaken notions and resolving them. Wrongness and rightness are examples of such notions.
While how our minds are not physical "things", they are still comprised of matter albeit matter of a subtler plane than the physical. They are governed by fundamental laws of the Cosmos related to matter. These laws also govern the processes of mind, that is they establish how thoughts are manifested and how they become entangled or connected with each other and so on. What those laws do not do is determine the thoughts we have
We determine what thoughts we have (refer to the essays of Our Mental Series (2)). So, even though the nature of our minds are based on universal or Cosmic laws our minds can and do create and hold many notions including ones that are contrary to Cosmic laws or that are contradictory or conflict with one another in various ways. How our minds apply them leads to, among other things, our various judgments or rulings. It is our judgments that are the the source of determination of wrong and right, which makes it harder to get to that field.
Part of what makes it a challenge is, as I mentioned, that many see "right and wrong" as universal principles rather than simply ideas. They would cite such things as lying, cheating, physical or sexual assaults and murder as being acts that are "wrong" and compassion, caring, kindness, helping others and saving a life as examples of acts that are "right". As comforting as these notions may be they are still not universal laws of the Cosmos, they are contrived by us. The only power they have is the power we give them. It would probably be easier to get past ideas of wrong and right if we did not apply them so broadly.
Our personal laws, like cultural, religious or legal ones (one could call these collective laws) develop over time out of how our minds individually and collectively react to and integrate our experiences. This is where virtually all our thoughts come from. The majority of this occurs in the background at the non-conscious or as most refer to it the subconscious level. These types of laws are our fundamental personal ones. When I refer to fundamental thoughts I mean those thoughts that are not dependent on other thoughts. An example of a fundamental proclamation translated into language would be the word "wrongness".
Our minds come to hold many fundamental laws or notions on just about everything. Examples would be matter, texture, gravity, time, space, temperature, self, existence and so on. While we may not spend a great deal of time thinking about such things they factor into just about everything we do. They affect our perceptions and those related to our physicality help us make decisions on movement and how we interact with things. If they were not fundamental to us then our perception of physical reality would be fluid and dynamic as well. Others are factors in our choices, decisions and evaluations as well as our relationships with others and ourselves. An interesting and important point to note is that while the terms wrong and right can be used independently they also imply each other. By this I mean that if something is considered right, the fact that our minds consider something as right implies that other choices or things are wrong.
Judgments do not arise directly from our fundamental personal laws, they are the result of the application of rules that are based on or associated with the laws. You could liken rules to policies. The mind then applies these rules, where there is some commonality, to experiences. You can call these the rulings. So the mind creates laws that lead to the formation of rules which are then applied to or associated with a reaction or experience (which can be a thought) in the form of rulings. Our focus tends to be on the rulings, ones such as "What you did was wrong" rather than on our personal rules and laws that they are based on. Unfortunately we tend to spend far too much time applying our rules, which are of the form ""Doing <such and such> is wrong" and too little questioning them.
To overcome our tendency to judge and assign wrongdoing or rightdoing to choices and actions we need to work on all three of the aspects I have mentioned: our laws, rules and rulings. They do not exist in isolation, all three are directly connected. In order to arrive at the ruling, our minds will apply it's rules to what is being experienced. Our rules, in turn, flow out of the laws we have "taken on" and accepted as true. However, what is true for us isn't necessarily "true" in the broader sense. This is because not only do we have a subjective relationship with and understanding of truth, it is often a precarious one.
We think "this is better than that", "I did this right" or "that was wrong". As hard as it may be to believe nothing is right or wrong in an absolute sense. At some point in time we have learned and accepted rules about and definitions of wrong and right but that is all. Is it right to hurt someone? The majority would say it is not, but that is besides the point. It may not be helpful, it may result in hardship for another or ourselves, but whether it is right or wrong is based on a value judgement of the outcome of some choice we or others make. But karma takes care of that, for karma is what we manifest as a direct result of our volition or choices. Karma is not based on outcomes. We manifest karma as a result of the thoughts and choices that lead to outcomes, not for the outcomes themselves. If I drop a glass on a cement floor it will break. Action and reaction. We can then apply a label to an action, based on the outcome, as wrong or right, but it is purely the "doings of mind" and is arbitrary. In a manner of speaking you could say that the Cosmos does not care what we did, it cares why we did it.
In saying that we get karma for our choices and not outcomes does not imply that we are not responsible for the consequences of them. Consequences are also a part of our reality. We have to live with the outcomes of our choices, it is just that consequences do not generate karma, they merely generate other choices. In the grand scheme of things outcomes do not matter; however, when we are incarnate we are living a temporal existence and so are subject to its limitations and all that comes with it. Within this context such things as man made rules about wrongs and rights, peoples reactions or the physical consequences and so on do apply. It is an important distinction to make and one Rumi makes with his statement.
Let us look at an example. Say I feel I am being verbally abused by someone, get angry and punch them. The result of my punch is they fall awkwardly break their leg. Due to the injury they miss a plane flight, a flight that ends up crashing and everyone on board died. Setting aside the fact that we do not know for sure whether the plane would have crashed or not had they made the flight, did I do the right thing because I saved their life by hurting them? Of course not. The two are completely separate. The person may be thankful that they weren't on the flight; however, this in no way absolves me from the karma for my choice nor the temporal consequences of it. Assault is a criminal act and I will have to face the judgement of the judicial system for it. I still get karma for my choice, though it is important to recognize and remember that we get karma for every choice we make regardless of the nature of the outcome.
Going by the previous example, any determination of whether my actions were wrong or right is merely human judgment,and their source is not the Cosmos or its laws, it's our minds. The only Cosmic consequence is the karma I get for making a choice based on personal will, again this occurs regardless of the outcome. I certainly would benefit by trying to figure out why I got angry and made the choice I did but this does not change what happened. The "why's" may be mitigating factors in how our legal system deals with me, or the judgment of my choice and actions by the person I have "wronged" or even those I make of myself (including personal justifications for my actions), but that's about it.
We do not do "wrongs" because we are malicious by nature, despite what people might think, we do so because we are ignorant. Same goes for judging others or even ourselves. If a rock falls off a mountain and destroys a home we do not judge the rocks actions as being wrong, well, at least we should not do this, but if our actions lead to this outcome we do apply such a judgement. We say the person decided to do what they did and the rock didn't. But this is a misnomer. The vast majority of what we do is based on our past, very few of us make decisions fully conscious of all aspects of the choice we make. We can choose to call their doings wrong, but it is not that simple.
We tend to think things such as "they should have known better" or "they knew what they were doing was wrong", but again this is the wrong approach. This keeps us locked into the idea that there are wrongs and rights and in so doing we fail to recognize the bigger picture. In part this bigger picture is what I've been referring to, in that such things are human judgments. C.W. Leadbeater, in his book titled “The Inner Life” (3), provides an excellent passage for us grasp this notion:
“It may be objected that in daily life we constantly see people doing what they must know to be wrong, but this is a misstatement of the case. They are doing what they have been told is wrong, which is quite a different matter. If a man really knows that an action is wrong, and that it will inevitably be followed by evil consequences, he is careful to avoid it. A man really knows that fire will burn him; therefore he does not put his hand into it. He has been told that the fire of hell will burn him as the result of a certain action — say playing cards on a Sunday — but he does not really know this, and therefore when he fells the inclination to play cards he does so in spite of the threatened consequences. It will be found that every one who does wrong justifies the wrong action to himself at the time of its commission, whatever he may think about it afterwards in cold blood. So I say that sin as ordinarily understood is a figment of the theological imagination; what really exists is an unfortunate condition of ignorance which often leads to infraction of the divine Law.”
We look at our errors, or wrongs, as mistakes, ones that show we are imperfect. However, as Mr. Leadbeater explains, our mistakes are the result of ignorance. We are born without knowing our true nature and go through life reacting to our experiences. We are ignorant of it and add to our ignorance as we react to and integrate our experiences. This is precisely what is meant by “should have, could have, would have”. Nothing or virtually nothing happens by accident. We bring forces into manifestation through our actions. These forces then react resulting in other forces and more reactions. This is the basis of the Law of Action and Reaction. Our thoughts and emotional reactions are forces and there is no escaping them. Hence, what we know is not based on what we have been told, it is the result of what we learn through our reactions to experiences.
Our ability to be aware of and change our minds including such things as our laws and rules varies in relation to our level of consciousness and mental development in a given lifetime. When we are born our minds are like a computer with only a bare bones operating system. The software, our thoughts which collectively form our mind, primarily develop as a result of our reactions to experiences. As a result, we can change them, unlike our bodies, which are "pre-formed" and fully functional (with variations between people). When people do acts that are considered wrongs we assume they should have known better, but this is a false assumption.
To help illustrate this we will go back to the point I brought up earlier where I mentioned personal laws, rules and rulings. When we make choices that are considered wrongs by others or even ourselves we do so based on our laws and rules. We may share some rules with others but we each have our own unique set. For instance, let us say that I have taken on the following thoughts and/or rules:
- Punching someone is wrong
- I have a right to protect myself from harm
- People who are abusing me are threatening me
- Threatening people is wrong
- Threats directed at me can cause me harm
- It is right to defend myself if I am threatened
- Punching is a valid form of self defense
You may think that the above list is a little long, but the reality is our minds hold many more rules and the combination of them is far more complex. Further, it is unlikely we are aware of even a portion of our laws and rules or the hows and whys of our coming to hold them. This is what is going on when we like or dislike something but can't explain why. If you stop to consider the list of rules you might say they are all reasonable. However, when you combine them you find that if I feel someone is abusing me and I apply my rules then punching them is justified or the "right thing to do". Others rules may not be deemed as reasonable as the ones listed, nonetheless they they have come to hold theirs as I have mine. The more undeveloped a person is the more likely they are to have even more contradictory and what one might call unreasonable rules. However, unless one is more evolved they will go with them and are not likely to change them.
As we becomes more aware, more enlightened if you will, we hold less and less laws and rules of the type I listed above. This also leads to fewer rules that contradict one another. Using this same list, by my minds interpretations of these rules when I punch someone I am violating the very first rule that "Punching someone is wrong" but upholding the last one. You might wonder how this is possible. It is possible because our minds do not evaluate each rule against all existing rules or even personal laws. To our minds contradictions are perfectly acceptable. How the mind picks one or the other is not easily determined as there are a number of factors in play. Laws and rules are not all equal and we all have our own hierarchy.
The rules I listed are contradictory and hence not logical; however, we need to realize that our minds are not logical by nature, they have to be trained to be that way. Further, we don't learn logical thinking until years after we have already created and "firmed up" some of our laws, developed some rules and even applied some rulings. Our minds will not go back and re-evaluate existing laws in light of new revelations on their own unless we do it consciously. It will allow the contradictions to coexist. Also, if our reactions were strong or circumstances reinforced them some of our laws and rules can become quite rigid and we will defend them.
The only way we change our laws and rules is by having good reasoning skills, being mindful and paying attention moment by moment to our reactions to experiences and so on. Doing this is extremely challenging as we all struggle with being objective when it comes to ourselves, we become accustomed to our lives as they are, life can get very busy, we do not see or realize the importance and value of doing so and do not understand how our minds work. As a result we often simply do not do so. We may do something about them if we happen to notice it is affecting our lives and choose to do something about it, but that's a "hit and miss kind of thing."
Our minds can be challenging to deal with. They are part of our existence and are necessary even though they are also "the I that separates us from ourselves." They become stern masters, but they did not usurp authority, we freely gave it away bit by bit until they become our whole existence. The notion that "I think therefore I am", which I still like and agree with in a certain context, arises from this notion; yet this statement is not actually true for all that is necessary are the last two words, "I am." Being able to think only confirms that we have a mind.
Our minds keep us distracted like a crowd fixated on watching a performance unaware they are part of it. We can loosen the grip our mind has over us by simply letting go of what it clings to, these being our needs, wants, desires, our attachments and even the ideas and beliefs such as there is a separate "I" to hold on to. That is not only quite the mouthful to say it is a mountain of notions to let go of. Our fundamental personal laws and rules are part of this massive complex of thoughts we call our mind.
There are a number of ways to approach letting go of the restrictive notions though doing so is not easy or simple to do because of the complexity of our minds and the baggage we carry. We are not reluctant to let them go because we do not want to, it is because we or rather our minds do not see the need. It is very much like trying to wake up from a dream when we do not realize we are dreaming. It becomes easier if we have have developed to the point where they are not only ready and willing to do so, but also able to.
The gifts of mind are both a blessing and a curse for though they have given us the marvels of the modern world they require a certain degree of training to work well, have a tendency to become narcissistic and self absorbed and are subject to mental and emotional baggage. We give the mind too much power over us and because of such issues we generally cannot see beyond its alluring embrace. It is our minds that create notions Rumi refers to, those of wrongness and rightness and a host of others, ones that become such a large part of the compelling illusion it weaves. We become reliant on our minds and in doing so upon what he mentions, namely such things as ideas, language and separateness (the notion that we are separate and completely distinct from one another).
We become mired in the illusion and play along in it. This is especially challenging for those seeking more spiritual awareness. In our quest to be free of it or reduce it we often try to go under, over or around it; however, all those roads rely on the mind so they simply take us back to where we started. It is like a maze without an exit, I call it our puzzle box (4). This is what makes getting outside of the virtual world it creates such a challenge. It is only aware of our physical, emotional and mental aspects, the rest lie outside it's domain.
Of course we need our mind to function at the physical level, the down side is we end up spending virtually all of our time building and strengthening it. It is this that leads to the virtual exclusion of our other aspects. We are not our minds, in a very real way they are merely the crystal through which our true self shines. This results in our mind becoming nearly our sole form of expressing ourselves. It is like a crystal that becomes occluded, in part by the notions I have already mentioned. Having said that our mind is not the enemy, though it may appear so to those trying to become more spiritually aware. The way to get past the illusion it creates is by bettering our mind rather than trying to best it.
One of the things that makes working on our minds problematic is that it does not act alone. It has a consort, that being our emotional self. Every thought we have either manifests emotions or activates ones we have already taken on. This is part of how our minds process or integrate our experiences. We have a thought about an experience, it manifests and activates emotions and thoughts, which we then react to in turn continuing the process. It is not our higher emotions that are the concern, these being those such as affection, compassion, devotion and the like. It's needs and wants it takes on fueled by the lower emotions that lead to, for example, our minds liking some things and not others.
Our mental and emotional bodies become entwined or perhaps more accurately entangled with each other even though they are separate. By separate I mean they are comprised of matter of different sub-planes. I will not go over how this happens as I have written about this in a number of essays including the Our Mental House (2) and Awakening Our Gifts (5) series. The combination or entanglement of our mental and emotional bodies lead to the challenges we all face. No one is free from having to deal with or learning about them and eventually "mastering" both. This is part of our reason for being incarnate in the first place.
I put the word mastering above in quotes because the other part of our learning is akin to taming our mind so that it surrenders control (also discussed in the Awakening Our Gifts series). The entire notion of strict control of ones thoughts reminds me of the television series that first aired nearly 50 years ago, one that captured the attention of so many. I am referring to the Star Trek series. One of the many topics explored in that series was the relationship between our minds and emotions. The vehicle for it was the contrast between how Vulcan's and humans dealt with them.
Vulcan's based everything on pure logic and all decisions were analyzed, supposedly without emotional attachments to the options. It is a cornerstone of their culture and they taught their children to do this at a very young age. By doing so their mental capabilities appeared to far outweigh those of their human counterparts. In addition, they did not judge others, they kept emotions out of it and did what was necessary based on the situation. However, they didn't master their minds, they merely controlled them. This does not remove the occlusions referred to earlier, it strengthens them. They were only able to do this by suppressing their emotional self. Doing so meant that there were times when depending solely on logic could not yield good results.
Relying on the mind meant a reliance on evidence and by doing so they ignored intuitive thoughts. Also, there were times when their repressed emotions would burst forth overwhelming them. By contrast humans, though not as mentally focused, dealt with their emotions far better. Even still, they had challenges when strong emotional reaction to situations and the various potential outcomes clouded their ability to make sound decisions. On the flip side, they were more intuitive and connected to each other far more than Vulcan's were.
One might be inclined to think that one approach is better than the other, for various reasons, this is not the case. This is because for both humans and Vulcan's notions of what one is remain tied to our mental, emotional and also our physical bodies, which once again is part of the illusion our mind creates. This illusion is not directly related to, for example, whether the chair one is sitting on really exists or not. However, the fact that it does exist, as do virtually all other "things", tends to lead our minds to hold the notion that something must be physical and objectively verifiable in order to be real. This skews our thinking about such things as the nature of our existence, who and what we are and so on. This strengthens the illusion that we are just physical beings and that our consciousness is simply a byproduct of our having bodies.
Yet another part of the illusion are the common notions that we have collectively taken on. I am referring to those that evolve in the collective mindset of a city, country, culture or religion or any other belief structure. It is virtually impossible to be raised without many of these notions. They are a rather large and onerous collective of ideas, none of which exist in isolation. They entwine to varying degrees like the smoke from a bed of incense burners or vines on a trellis. They are drawn into our collective consciousness and persist until the impulses that gave rise to them have been "worked through" and are either replaced or changed by new ones and left behind. At some point the new ones will also become part of the legacy we leave behind. How long any one of them remains depends on factors such as their nature, the degree of emotional energy associated with them, how well they resonate with people, how connected they become to other ideas and how broadly they are held. Their durability also depends on how they match up with the vibrations and nature of the Cosmos.
Thoughts and notions of the mundane type, those related so such things as what is proper, fads, fashions or preferences in art, music and literature and so on change fairly quickly . What was cool one year or even one week may not be in the next one. Others go deeper and last longer, such as notions of ideas related to morality, cultures, science, national identities and religion and so on. What doesn't change is that people get caught up in such notions regardless of what that may mean at any given point in time.
One such concepts that has remained with us, which brings us back to the opening quote, is that there are actions that are wrong and those that are right. Among some, primarily those with strong religious beliefs, notions of what is right and wrong are viewed as absolutes despite the fact that what qualifies as a right or wrong action can and do change over time. This in itself should be proof enough that they are man made and not absolutes. However, our reluctance to let them go is understandable for we tend to cling to such ideas even when they arise from mistaken notions about what we are and the nature of the Cosmos we are part of. They are hard to cast aside for they have been with us for so long that they have become ingrained and we apply them liberally in our lives. This is not to say that they are immovable or that we are forever cursed to judge things by their light for this is merely a choice we make.
The conundrum we face is that there is no way to know the absolute truth about what we are. No matter how deeply one delves into them there are only more questions. Those who have allowed themselves to become reliant on answers often become frustrated as they follow blind alleys that lead further into the illusion. This is in no small part why we need many lifetimes to "figure things out". When we consider right and wrong we are inclined to think that there are certainly some things that are obviously right, such as helping people and doing a good deed and that harming people and doing un-nice things are wrong. As hard as it may be for some to believe these notions are an illusion.
Right is defined as "moral good, justified or acceptable". However, all of these things are man-made. I have been accused of being at least in part an anarchist and by some religious people as being evil for holding such views. It is not the idea that one should or should not do certain things that I reject, it is only the notion that they are absolute laws similar to those of physics or chemistry. They are not.
When I was younger I often wondered about why there are and even how there could be so many different views of what actions are considered good or bad and right or wrong. I was also puzzled by the inconsistencies I saw in the rules about them. At that time I had little understanding of the mind or it's complexity. There are those that exist on the micro level, such as within a community, family or peer group and those at the macro level such as cultural, national or religious ones. Each have their own set of laws, rules or decrees that establish rules and even laws. They may be accepted simply as the way things are or they may be dictated and spelled out either by divine decrees, as given to or discerned by various people considered prophets, wise men or masters. Their intent varies as do the supposed consequences or punishment associated with ones actions or choices. I was certainly not alone in being confused by them.
Of course governments establish laws and rules, these are needed to maintain order. Wrongs and rights are based on history, various cultural, religious and moral beliefs and so on. Many of our beliefs about right and wrong have religious origins. For instance, in eastern religions, where the idea of reincarnation is prevalent, consequences for transgressions are based on the karma one gets for their choices or actions. In western religions where one only has one life the consequences of ones transgressions are typically referred to as sins and depending on which one you commit you will either end up in heaven and spend an eternity with God or be banished to hell forever. In some cases you are considered doomed to an eternity of hell simply for not believing in or being a follower of a particular faith.
Never having been a follower of any religion or particular spiritual perspective I have been freed from the burden of having to accept any of them as given. Saying this does not mean I have ignored the notions. What I have done instead is explore them. This led me to consider the idea of consequences for actions, something I have given a fair amount of attention to over the years. I sought an understanding of the dynamics of action and reactions, or as some would mistakenly state it "cause and effect" and not just consequences in mundane terms such as in legal or moral ones or even the physical risks involved. The reason being that rather than simply accept the tenets of one belief structure or another I have examined them to decide for myself. I do not choose to believe something merely because someone tells me to or because it is written in a book. For one thing, there is the matter of which, if any beliefs, are "true" and for another all truths our minds hold are subjective.
The reality is that there is a singular truth for all that underlies any personal truths we may hold regardless of what we may choose to believe. Christian's do not live in a different reality or Cosmos than Hindu's, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccan's or any other belief system including Satanists, agnostics, atheists or scientists. And for another, when one considers the complexity and vastness of the Cosmos, there is very little that we actually know anything about. I have found it incredibly presumptuous of humankind or even an individual to believe that they know, with a capital "K" as my father used to say, enough to make definitive declarations about the true nature of the Cosmos let alone any rules we must follow. I have always thought it wise to accept that no matter what one believes, they could be wrong.
In the essay A Consideration of Opposites (6) I stated the following:
The Cosmos works a certain way, there are rules for consciousness as there are rules for physics and chemistry. The rules are in every major religion in the world, though they take different forms and are not always complete or accurate representations. What I did know was that the ability to both choose and then determine right or wrong are products of our thinking mind. I wanted my idea of right and wrong to be less depending on this mind. So, assuming our inner self "knows better", then reducing the use our rational mind will reduce the issue of right or wrong. The more we act in the moment the more likely our actions will be in tune or right.
We are all evolving, everything in the Cosmos is. Evolution occurs when forces are out of balance. Look at it this way ... if everything was the same there there would be no differentiation, no change and no evolution. It is our consciousness, our soul, spirit, monad or whatever term one uses that is evolving. It is through our physical lives and the various vehicles we have such as emotional and mental bodies that we evolve. We will continue to evolve this way until we balance out all the forces we have manifested in our various lives. The out of balance forces that we bring into play are the result of the illusion of separateness, that there is such a thing as personal will separate from Universal Will (or that of the Cosmos, or in a way God).
In our ignorance we continue to manifest forces that are out of balance, which results in karma. Holding and applying notions of wrong and rights are examples of personal will or volition and generate karma. And it is our karma that binds us to the wheel of incarnation. Our consciousness is very evolved, even with it's ignorance and so it is also very complex. We incarnate many times because the forces we manifest are multifaceted and in order to learn enough, to balance them out we need to experience the reactions to our choices from many angles. This is not something we can do in one lifetime. So, who are we to judge another's actions as right or wrong when we have and will continue to go through this same process ourselves?
This is what is implied by the following statement from the Bible:
"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
This passage, like many in the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. In the above passage "trespasses" are synonymous with wrongs and of course "our heavenly Father" is a reference to God. The use of the word "you" is typically interpreted as referring to us in our current state, but it is more accurately interpreted as our totality, which includes our core consciousness or as some would call it, our soul. We are driven to incarnate due to our karma, and we manifest karma because our consciousness is out of balance due to "personal desire", desires that manifest choices. We will remain in this stage of our evolution so long as we cling to desire, to personal will. Judgments are personal choices, hence as long as we continue to judge we will continue to manifest forces out of balance. So, as the passage states, we will not be forgiven as long as we judge, by this it means we will not be free of the cycle of incarnation and do not reside in the field Rumi refers to.
In Biblical terms, essentially, sinners go to hell and those who have not sinned or who are forgiven go to Heaven. But this is just a metaphor, heaven isn't a place, it is us in a state of balance and harmony with the Cosmos and so "with God". It is where we reside between lives and we stay there only if we have no personal desires remaining. So we will reside in "heaven" only when we have purged all personal desires. It is due to these desires that we continue to "dive down into life". When our desires have been resolved we no longer feel that urge and instead "look up and be at one with the All". And hell is not some fiery pit we are condemned to for all eternity. Hell is found in our physical existence where we are born and go through the trials and tribulations of life separated from ourselves and figuratively speaking from God so long as we cling to personal desires.
Yes there are joys in life but there is also pain and suffering. As Buddha stated "suffering is at the heart of man". As a result we continue on here until we cease judging, cease to see ourselves as separate and cease to act on our mistaken notions of personal will. Once we learn enough and "get the lessons" we no longer need to incarnate for we are in a state of balance, of grace and of harmony with the All.
Clearing our mind of judgments, of notions such as wrongdoing and rightdoing that are a product of personal will is the key to unlocking the "now", which is how we get to the field Rumi describes. If we can do this all the time we have become enlightened and our lessons are done. Our consciousness will have reached the stage where it is tune with the Cosmos and arrive at what many refer to as Heaven. Once this happens we no longer need to incarnate here because the desire to do so is gone. At this stage we no longer act out of personal will, we are in tune with Universal Will, in a manner of speaking "we become One with and within God."
Our lives are not some series of random events that happen to us. We manifest them in order to learn whatever lessons we are here to learn and of course we pick up a few unplanned ones along the way. When I was a young man I used to blame my father for how he treated me until I finally realized that I chose my father, or more accurately my karma "chose" the circumstances of my birth. Also, our consciousness knows full well what it is getting itself into and so even if Allan did not know why my higher self did. I could whine, complain, get angry and play the blame game as much as I wanted, which I did for too long, but it changed and solved nothing. Further, doing so only added to my karmic burden.
I did realize this in my early twenties though I still struggled with my thoughts and feelings for a few more years as they were quite strong. While I did not and still do not know for sure what the lessons were I did start to let go of my judgments. While it is still a work in progress by doing so my thoughts have become clearer and I have fewer lower emotions to deal with. Our lessons lie in events and our growth depends on how we deal them. Back then I made a decision and put as much of my will behind it as possible, to to figure things out rather than toss more fuel onto the fire.
We all have such events in their lives, ones guided by our karma as it lies hidden behind the events that shape our lives. I realize it is difficult for us to accept the negative events in our lives. This is especially true when they are traumatic or bring great hardship upon and appear to be thrust upon us "through no fault of our own". A rape victim, for example, does not "ask for it" yet has to deal with the consequences of the event. While we may not like some of what happens in our lives and don't see how we "deserved them", it is a moot point. Our lessons do not lie in what happens to us, the events are just the trigger. The lessons were are learning are in how we react to and deal with what occurs. This is why judging is not only pointless but also counterproductive. In judging we are merely creating more baggage, which means we are adding to our burden.
In my case, going back to my relationship with my father, I ceased blaming him. I recognized that "I" had set up the situation that led to it, in conjunction with others who were involved, I just wasn't conscious of it and neither were he nor they. What he did to me wasn't wrong or right, it simply was what happened. In saying this I am not giving him, or myself any excuses nor justifying our actions. We both had personal reasons for how we acted and though they mattered to us they were irrelevant. In the end what remained was that there were consequences for our choices. If what I did in reaction to events in my life led me to break the law and I got caught I would have to deal with this as well and of course there is a lesson in this too.
Yes, this is all becomes quite a convoluted tangle. I realize that it seems impossible to get through life without judging but bottom line is that we can get along just fine without judging and labelling this or that as wrong or right. In fact we prosper when we let them go of such things. The goal of our evolution is to completely grasp the notion of personal versus universal will. While we are here we have to deal with the consequences of choices, be they ours or those of others. If we didn't have the will to live, which in this form is personal will, and didn't deal with the sometimes harsh realities of life our species would have died off. Personal will is advantageous for survival, yet at the same time, by continuing to act out of personal will we are also ensuring we will continue to incarnate. This is one of the great paradoxes of life.
Even if you struggle to just touch let alone spend some time in the field Rumi refers to do not despair. There are many ways we can do this including applying the ideas I have touched on in our every day lives. However, it won't likely happen unless we put put in some effort. The answer lies in getting to "know ourselves" and accept our ignorance without judging it. This is the best way to discover the ideas and notions that keep us from the field as they reveal themselves to us all the time. They are behind why we avoid certain things that make us feel uncomfortable, why we "like this or don't like that", they are why we get angry, feel hurt, jealous, blame others or feel guilty and so on.
There are ways to get at our "why's", which I examined in the essay Paying Attention to Our Attention (7):
What is it that we notice first about others and what does this tell us about ourselves? The reality is that we train our RM (rational mind) to notice certain things about people for any number of reasons. We base our reaction to current experiences on our previous reactions. We look for certain features, or signs of some kind from people that they meet a certain criteria. Where our attention goes tells us a great deal about ourselves, including how we have programmed our RM. Would it not be nice to know the criteria our RM uses? Not the ones you are conscious of, rather the ones our RM considers when it is determining of what we will eventually be aware.
The idea that we are not typically conscious of our "true" reactions to experiences may seem odd, most figure that what they think about is their raw thoughts about the experience they are having. This is not the case. Our RM actually goes through a process to determine what thoughts we will have consciously. Where our attention goes is part of this process and affects how we react and the thoughts we have about the experience. We can use an awareness of where our attention goes to help us change our reactions and thereby ourselves.
In the above essay I cover how our rational mind goes about processing what we perceive, most of which happens before we are consciously aware of it. Our mind makes rulings of various kinds, including wrongs and rights, by applying our personal rules. We are not generally aware that this occurs for by the time we are conscious of it what we are aware of are the rulings and not what our rules are nor how our mind applied them. We can change this but to do so we must want to and then set about observing our own reactions objectively. This is important for we want to examine our rules and how we apply rather than judging our rulings. If we do so we continue to focus on them and this makes it harder for us to get at our rules.
We can observe people and ourselves without getting into wrongs and rights when we accept that what people are doing and experiencing is part of their lesson set. One could call a particular choice wrong for various reasons yet they are all part of how our consciousness evolves. Choice leads to consequences and there is no escaping this. We either learn the lesson in this lifetime or another. If the lessons were simple we would get them after one or two experiences, but they are not. We must understand them in their totality, which means experiencing them from every possible angle. This is why it takes many lifetimes to "get it".
Yes, it is hard to get past our judgments when our view is solely on the one life we are living at the moment, one we become very possessive of, and we are not seeing it as one of many we have. However, it is essential we do so if we want to be free of the illusions our minds create and join Rumi in that field. It is a matter of coming to terms with our ignorance. Consider that notions of wrong and right are similar to notions that certain acts are unnatural. While something may seem unnatural because it is not common, rare or we have never observed the idea that something or some act is somehow unnatural is absurd. That would be similar to suggesting that you could add, subtract, multiple or divide a number and get something other than a number. Another similar notion is that people are somehow imperfect. If God is perfect then nothing "of God" could possibly be imperfect. We are what we are and even with what we perceive as flaws we remain perfect.
For many the idea of not viewing some things as wrong or right and only dealing with the outcomes of experiences as making a distinction without a difference; however, this is not the case. The difference is in that when we judge something as wrong we are simply crying over split milk. Also, we are clinging to our thoughts about the experience and adding to our mental and emotional baggage.
For example, a number of years ago our house was broken into and we knew who did it but could not prove it. We had insurance so the items were replaced but some of the items were irreplaceable because they were items of my fathers who had passed away. They had great personal value to me and I was saddened by their being stolen. I didn't judge the actions of the person as wrong, I saw them as very problematic for me and while I was not pleased I realized that the person was unable to help themselves. Sure it took me a few minutes to relax and let go of my initial judgment; however, I was able to. I could do this because I fully recognized he was not of sound mind, and accepted this. I was also saddened they were in such a state of mind that they would take from someone who had helped them out on more than one occasion and that he had added to his own burdens due to the karma he manifested by his choice. It was reported to the police and if they had been able to catch him with the goods and prove he stole them he would have had to face the consequences. I moved on and while at times I would still like to have those items I do not cling to them.
I firmly believe that instead of viewing something someone does as wrong we should realize that if they had known better they would have done better. We do this to ourselves by considering we failed at a certain task or what we did was wrong or right. Some feel this gives them a push to try harder, however, that does not negate the fact that doing so creates baggage and adds karma. We do not need to beat up on ourselves to try harder, to put more effort into whatever it is we are trying to do, we only choose to do that again adding karma. It is the same as when we feel guilt about something we have done. We may even try to use the guilt as a motivator to act in a "better" manner in the future, but we should act better because we realize why we did what we did in the first place. Guilt does not help us do this, caring, compassion and even love for all can lead us down the same path without the extra karma guilt manifests.
The next time you are inclined to view some act be it in deed or thought as wrong or right do not focus on judging the action. Instead try to look for and recognize the ignorance (lack of knowledge) within yourself or that of others that led to the actions. Learn from them rather than berate yourself for what you didn't understand at the time. Focus your attention there instead and you will find that you can move forward more quickly and become more able to let go of all negative and limiting emotions like frustration, hurt, jealousy and anger and so on far more easily. It may be hard to do, but you will find it well worth the effort.
It is easy to get caught up in judgments of wrong and right when we are viewing things from the limited perspective of one lifetime and take the personal view rather than the Universal one. If you still struggle with this then consider that we have all made what we refer to as mistakes. At the time we did them we justified them for one reason or another. We will continue to do so until "we get it" and cease to do it. It took our mistakes or what we refer to as wrongs for us to get it right. So, ask yourself this question, or perhaps meditate on it .... if it takes doing a wrong to get it right how can it be a wrong?
This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor...Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honourably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them all at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
© 2015 Allan Beveridge
- The Dominance of Mind: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/general-writings/58-the-mind/167-the-dominance-of-mind
- Our Mental House Series: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/our-mental-house-part-1-the-dynamics-of-thought
- C.W. Leadbeater, The Inner Life: Online version at http://www.global.org/Pub/CWL_Inner_Life.asp.html
- Our Puzzle Box series: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/our-puzzle-box-part-1-of-2
- Awakening Our Gifts Series: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/awakening-our-gifts-part-1-the-face-of-our-challenge
- A Consideration Of Opposites: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/a-consideration-of-opposites
- Paying Attention to Our Attention: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/paying-attention-to-our-attention