Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Can everything be good?
Readers may be interested to know this is the 1,000th post on the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff blog.
Following on the last post about negativity and the necessity of negative conditions, I asked myself, can everything actually be good?
This question is active in me today consequent to reading the latest issue of Shambhala Sun magazine, which contains a compelling and rather wonderful interview with Thich Naht Hanh, "The Country of the Present Moment."
Not only do I wholeheartedly endorse his entirely positivist view, I wish it were true.
I say, I wish it were true, because I'm sure it isn't.
The Buddhist view, emphatically stated, is that we can escape suffering. Gurdjieff's view, just as emphatically different, is that we must not only undertake it intentionally— a practice which he reported that Buddha himself originally introduced — but that suffering is an inherent and integral part of the nature of the universe, a part, furthermore, that creates a great burden for God, one which we are obliged to help alleviate.
We are wallowing in some deep metaphysical mire here, because, indubitably, in its transcendent essence, everything is perfect. That which appears to be imperfect is, in the end, a mistaken impression of that given aspect of perfection, which, being perfect, that is, without flaw, effortlessly embraces and resolves its own opposites. Al 'Arabi manages to explain this quite deftly, although our ordinary minds generally refuse to wrap themselves around such things.
One could argue, metaphysically, that the sorrow of our Common Father Creator arises from the absolute need for bad and good as polar manifestations of material reality. Since they are, in fact, real from this point of view, their metaphysically illusory nature is a moot point. We experience good and bad, joy and sorrow, as real; pretending that it's otherwise is a conceit. Even Marpa, confronted with the death of his son, wailed in grief.
Indifference — or, more properly put, I think, equanimity — is advocated by Meister Eckhart, and many other masters. But can we truly cultivate indifference to the death of our own child? The premise is absurd. Such a practice would be heartless; and in fact, the most enlightened practice must be, above all, heart full. It is compassionate; it is loving.
Compassion and Love cannot be known to radiate their light unless the light itself penetrates a corresponding darkness.
It is this dispersal or erasure of the darkness that becomes the question. Is it even possible? We need our negativity — and we need the negativity of the world. Al 'Arabi made it quite clear that the task of beings on this level is not to pursue a universe of bliss. It doesn't mean we can't do that; it means that to do so is to avoid the issue.
If we can avoid suffering, but need it, should we avoid it just because it feels better, and there are ways of doing so?
These become practical questions in day-to-day life; but they are metaphysical questions in terms of the inner practice, and they contrast the lofty pursuits of emptiness, stillness, and bliss against the realities of receiving energy, movement, and sorrow.
Both kinds of work are necessary for the growth of the inner Self.
May your soul be filled with light.