I’m approaching this subject from a point of view influenced by Dzogchen – so I need to explain that vehicles other than Dzogchen contain methods which approximate the nondual mien. These methods are extremely helpful for encouraging openness – but ultimately ideas of good and bad or right and wrong are relative. Morality is built within dualism as a means of dissolving dualism , where moral concepts dissolve into the pure appropriateness of the nondual condition. Morality, therefore, is a means not an end.
Seeking the ideal and infinitely applicable moral philosophy is a fruitless quest. Morality is an expedient device which we employ skilfully – until we realise nondual awareness.
We will all agree—for example—that it is good to be truthful and that it is good to be kind.
I do not imagine many people here would wish to argue with that.
It is however, not difficult to conjure circumstances where truth and kindness come into direct conflict.
Say, for example, that my dear and significantly aged aunt asks me a question.
Say we’re at a wedding of a mutual relative.
What if she asks me,
Do you like my hat? What do I say if I wish to be both truthful and kind?
It may be impossible.
If I opt for truth I might say,
Not really, unless you’re trying to look like Carmen Miranda on a bad day.
If I opt for kindness I’d say,
It’s lovely and you look splendid in it.
The truth here is also something of a problem – because the truth of the matter is only the truth as far as
I’m concerned. Were I even to attempt objectivity I might have to say,
I’m sorry to say this
Aunt Mabel… but I think it makes you an object of ridicule – surely you’ve noticed people
sniggering about it behind your back? This may be truly what I feel, and I may be expressing myself
accurately according to my own subjective perception, but kindness would appear to be lacking.
If truth and kindness are fixed aspects of my ethics then I’d be faced with a moral dilemma. Without awareness we are continually faced with moral dilemmas. It is impossible to construct the perfect moral philosophy applicable in all circumstances. The only perfect morality is awareness. The only perfect morality or ethical position is awareness, because all actions which spring from awareness are choiceless pure appropriateness.
With that in mind, let us look more closely at the problematic ageing aunty situation. She is maybe a little nervous about her appearance—with good reason I might think—but she is in need of reassurance in order that she can enjoy the afternoon. She is at a wedding. She is in no position to change her appearance – even if she desired so to do. Maybe it’s a brand new hat and it matches her brand new bag. Maybe she’s taken something of a risk with it. Maybe it’s the kind of risk she’s wanted to take for years. How am I to know?
Then—of course— it would be unrealistic to think she’s asking for my honest opinion. Those may be the words she’s used – but it should be obvious to anyone that she is not looking for a condemnatory response. Only my closest friends will ask me for my honest opinion – and then … only rarely. What is this ‘truth’ anyway? Only the ‘truth’ as we perceive it. Only ‘truth’ in terms of accurately expressing my limited value judgements. Nothing is ultimately beautiful or ugly. Maybe I should try to bear this in mind before offering my opinions and subjective value judgements.
Kindness is as close as we can ever come to a moral approximation of awareness. Having a good heart goes further than anything in terms of empathising with the nondual state. Intellectual elaborations are not important.
Kindness is something you feel – a warmth and expansiveness which flows from our growing openness. Kindness is our contact, our strongest link with the nondual state. So much for law and order. The essence of Buddhism is similar to anarchism. Not anarchy in the distorted popular sense in which the word is understood—in the sense of dog-eat-dog chaos—but anarchism in terms of ‘no external government’. Anarchism is the naturally manifesting inner government of awareness – unconditioned, present, direct, and utterly responsible.
Awareness means relinquishing the police state of karmic-vision and assuming personal responsibility. Karma is the sum total of our perception in all its excruciating intricacy. The ‘Law of Karma’ is different from externally enforced societal law, because ‘karmic law’ is directly consequential and self-implementing. We perceive the world in a certain way, and react to it in accordance with that style of perception. That is what is meant by karma. There’s no injustice in this kind of ‘law’ apart from the injustice to the nondual state perpetrated by karmic patterning.
No-one else is responsible for how we perceive the world. We accept and reject society’s influences and the influences of our parents and friends on our own terms. We fabricate our own perception, and unless we discontinue the process and de-structure our perception, we’ll merely continue to be repressed by our personal totalitarian regime. The responses we make to our environment will remain the same and we’ll attract the kind of circumstances which match our perception.
If we feel impoverished, we experience the objects of our perception as confirming our impoverishment. We tend toward aspects of life that show us what we want to see. We continuously recondition ourselves.
We attempt to hoard pleasant experiences – but this is merely another way of accentuating impoverishment through contrast. Through such contrasting, we crush the life from pleasant experiences. We either positively or negatively reinforce conditioning.
No matter how much we hoard, we never realise our wealth. We never realise the abundance of our wealth because it is hoarded. It’s dormant – and therefore we can never spend it or be generous with it. We are too concerned with ensuring that its only function is to fend off poverty.
Our capacity to endlessly enrich our lives—and the lives of all beings—is frozen by fear of poverty. We actively feel the environment – seeking out anything which will justify our perception as being accurate. This is karma – and this is the law we’re trying to break through meditation. It’s here in the present – and it constitutes our perception. It’s instant- karma—as John Lennon put it—and there’s no external agency with which to reckon.
Karma is entirely how we perceive the world – moment by moment. So the ‘law of karma’ is not just law – it’s the entire legal system. It ranges from the inception of the legislature, to the nature of law enforcement and punishment. Our perception is the legislation and our responses enforce it. We’re our own judge, jury, and prosecution. We sentence ourselves, gaol ourselves, and execute ourselves.
This is the only entirely accurate legal system – but its accuracy only exists within its own frame of reference. Meditation is our only weapon against this repressive regime and it constitutes civil disobedience in the form of passive resistance.
By allowing the development of experiential space through the practice of shi-nè17—according to the four naljors—we discover our own intrinsic awareness. The four naljors of Dzogchen sem-dé are the ultimate crimes against the ‘law of karma’ and are punishable by realisation – the final revolution and overthrow of the legal system.
If anything in what I’ve said is of any help in making the teachings clear and applicable to you, it is entirely due to the endless kindness and wisdom of my Tsawa’i Lamas. If there are any errors in what I’ve said, it is entirely due to my own lack of clarity and shamefully limited intelligence.
17. zhi gNas, Skt: shamatha – the practice of letting go and letting be; first of the four naljors of Dzogchen sem-dé.