11 June 2013

be • lieve verb \bə-ˈlēv\

I started on this one a few months ago.  That I kept nursing it along is perhaps the best indication of how truly baffled I am by the issue.

The longer I'm around, the harder the time I'm having making sense of the verb, believe.  It's troubling to me, since I find it's a word that carries a significant load in current parlance and contemporary politics, and I just don't see how it could possibly bear that load up.  It is also troubling to me, since people often ask me about my Buddhist "beliefs" or what a Buddhist "believes," etc., and I find I just don't know what to do with such questions.

I'll leave the first worry to the side, since it's tied up with so many other issues I wouldn't know where to start.  The second worry is trouble enough but it's probably a bit less tangled of a knot.  Off we go:

I take refuge in the reality of enlightened Mind, in what it shows forth, and in the company of those who, like me, seek to attain it.  I have confidence that these mark out a reliable path for my practice. I resolve to do my best to follow the way that leads to the end of suffering by rooting out its causes in my own body, speech and mind.

That's plenty already, I should think.  Anything else that comes up in conjunction with any of the above – like seeing into the fact that all phenomena (all of them, my embodied "self" included) are marked by non-self, impermanence and unsatisfactoriness – aren't matters so much of belief as much as accurate assessments of states of affairs that make a sane life possible.  I guess you could say that I "believe" in conditioned co-arising the way I "believe" in gravity.

As in the case of gravity, I don't see a need to discuss these things much; I just use them accordingly.  If I'm tossing someone a garden glove, I reckon my throw with gravity as a given.  If I am navigating my way with another person, I reckon my assessment and course of action with respect to the marks of conditioned existence.  I can screw up my throw, and I can screw up my interpersonal relations, but these are not because gravity or, say, impermanence are wrong; it's because I didn't rely on them accurately or enough.  It's called "user failure" in that case, not a matter of a "false belief."

The unseen is woven into the seen, and the absolute is inherent in the relative.  There is no need to create a parallel universe populated with beings and ideas that do not belong in this one.  No need at all!

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