Syllabus 2

Marvin Garbeh Davis posted 7 months ago, 1 Responses
By not holding to fixed views, the pure hearted one, having clarity of vision, being freed from all sense desire, is not born again into this world. Mettā Sutta (SN 1.8)

This is the beginning of understanding oneself. If you are not freed from all sense and desire, then you cannot help others to solve their own problems. The phrase ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ is the archetypal expression of our tendency to attach to views and opinions: ‘If I think it, it must be true, and if you think differently, sorry, but you’re wrong. You might be a good person, but you’re just wrong.
‘Not holding to fixed views’ means letting go, not clinging. In a number of his teachings the Buddha talked about four different kinds of clinging, four different zones of attachment. The first kind is clinging to sense-desire, sense-pleasure (kām-upādāna). The second kind is clinging to precepts and practices: rules, observances, conventions (sīlabbat-upādāna); the blind belief in conventional structures. This can include rules of religious behaviour, but also be things like the value of money. The next kind of clinging is clinging to the feeling of self, attavād-upādāna, the ‘I, me and my’ feeling. But the kind of clinging examined here is clinging to views and opinions, as in the line from the Mettā Sutta: ‘not holding to fixed views’, diṭṭhiñca anupagamma in Pali. This final type of clinging is called diṭṭh-upādāna.
In our culture we tend to hold opinions in very high regard. The tendency to take our opinion or view as an ultimate reality is a strong habit for all of us; if I see something in a particular way, what I think is right, and so I’m right! But if we attach to that way of thinking, if we take it to be absolutely valid, we will find ourselves in conflict with those who think differently: ‘If you think differently from me, you must be wrong.’ This can lead to friction, contention and all kinds of quarrels at the family, social or political level, even to the point of leading to warfare over a view, or a simple difference in understanding. This is an important issue in our lives and if we don’t understand its core, how it works in our own minds, there’s no real hope of solving it on a broader scale. So we need to explore that quality of contention, that divisiveness, that polarity. Where does it come from and what can we do about it?’ One problem that may arise is that if I’m right and you’re wrong, I might feel it’s my duty to set you straight: ‘I’m pure, you’re impure, and it’s my sacred duty to fix you so that we have purity.’ On a social level this led to the terrible depredations of Nazi Germany or the Rwandan genocide, ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Balkans, or those ‘religiously’ inspired militias who feel it’s their duty to defend the word of their lord by wiping out those who think or act differently. Similar evils have been frequently committed in the name of democracy. This kind of attachment and clinging, of getting lost in our own viewpoint, creates very real difficulties, tensions, suffering and harmful experiences in the lives of many people.
This brings me to self-awareness. Self-awareness goes beyond accumulating knowledge about ourselves: it is also about paying attention to our inner state with a beginner’s mind and an open heart.
Our mind is extremely skillful at storing information about how we react to a certain event to form a blueprint of our emotional life (source).
Such information often ends up conditioning our mind to react in a certain way as we encounter a similar event in the future.

Self-awareness allows us to be conscious of this conditioning and preconceptions of the mind, which can form the foundation of freeing the mind from it.  when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.”
The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Mindfulness is the key to self-awareness. It helps us pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Most of the time we are not present. We are simply “not here” to observe what’s going on inside or around us and as a consequence, we are unconscious of what we are doing and how we are feeling. We tend to operate on ‘automatic pilot’, with our minds and wandering into the future or the past.  Self-awareness is a crucial piece to conflict management. In those moments when stakes are high, opinions differ and emotions are at full play, being aware of and knowing yourself can make the difference between resolution and escalation. People who are keenly self-aware know how to recognize hot buttons in themselves and others and how to craft their messages in a conflict to find that sweet spot between passive and aggressive and act assertively.
Low self-awareness often results in being driven by self-defeating personal biases, prejudices, beliefs, assumptions and “narratives” – most of which are unspoken and often unconscious. If you consider the iceberg analogy, others see what is above the surface: tension, silence, withdrawal, stress, exhaustion, anger, and disappointment. What they don’t see is what is under the surface: fears, sadness, vulnerability, powerlessness, self-doubt, and other beliefs that drive us to protect ourselves. 

Here is how Buddha puts it: 
 ‘When the mind doesn’t grab hold of things, when you don’t find any “thing”, any opinion, any fixed position to delight in, then that is what brings about the end of quarrels, the end of disputes, malicious speech, the taking up of weapons and of argument – that’s where contention comes to an end, where the mind doesn’t relish taking hold of “this is my position!”.’

Dear Marvin,

once again, you are far beyond from what I am used to read here, even though – WMO is really a platform where like-minded and skillful thinkers meet.

Many things that you mentioned are of high value, not only the background information on the buddhist teachings, but also the point that you name Nazi Germany together with other hard-to-believe happenings in human history. History repeated many times and Nazi Germany was not the first of its kind, and unfortunately was not the last one. And yes, this is due to low responsibility and a blind focus on anger, profit, and power.

Please proceed with your amazing work.

BR, Daniel