29 January 2012


There is the everyday "we" of "you and I," as in "We went to the grocery store."  There is the royal "we," which, when used by nobility, translates to "I."  I recently came across another "we," one I wasn't aware of before:
When I* study the Dharma (*thanks, Jacqueline, for pointing out in a recent comment the priestly arrogance of the word “we” – the temptation lingers, but I am working against the stream…) – when I study or even just bring “Dharma” to mind[…]
I didn't know there was a priestly "we," arrogant or not!

I'm not sure what to make of Jacqueline's critique, but I will say this much.  I have noticed that very, very frequently when reading Dharma materials, a teacher or bhikkhu or the like will oftentimes use "we."  Here's an example from Ajahn Chah:
We can use explosives to level a mountain and then to move the earth.  But the tight grasping of our self-conceit – oh man!  The wise can teach us to our dying day, but they can't get rid of it.  It remains hard and fast.  Our wrong ideas and bad tendencies remain so solid and unbudging, and we're not even aware of it.  So the wise have said that removing this self-conceit and turning wrong understanding into right understanding is about the  hardest thing to do.
There are a lot of we's and our's and us's in there, but nothing about their use strikes me as arrogant.  Far from it, actually.

Fact is, we – as in "every last one of us" – are all partners in a common state of affairs: dukkha.  My lot is no better than yours.  And because my lot is no better than yours, any "we" I use springs from an identification of myself with you, a willingness to lower the mast of my ego, an acknowledgment that whatever release I am to have from dukkha is going to presuppose your release as well.

This, then, is the bodhisattvic "we," and there's no need to be ashamed to use it, as long as it is for the purpose of drawing attention to dukkha, its cause, its end and the path to its end.

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