Vesak Day is a good day to reflect on wether we want to be enslaved or to be enlightened.
Rituals can enslave or they can enlighten. So is the same of habits, outlook and biases. All these color our view of “what is” so that we see and hear what we want to rather than “what is”.
To overcome this at times it is good to take a contrary view. For example, if someone tells you that having a lineage is good, take the opposite view. In this way, you train your mind to be truly open by having your own honest dialog unencumbered by having to fit in and meet the expectation of others.
This is not something many will understand and why the true seeker walks a lonely path. This is also why many seek those of similar views and disposition because many are afraid of being on the outside, the odd one out, preferring to blend in and craving the company of many, even if this stands in the way of their progress and eventual enlightenment.
Many famous people walk the lonely path when they were seeking the way. Some who come to mind include Miyamoto Musashi. Muso Gonnosuke, Mas Oyama, Wu Yuxiang, Wang Yongquan, Huineng, Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Einstein, Isaac Newton………
Sometimes the views of those who are outside the establishment are far ahead of what is the norm. So much so that it threatens the establishment; the movers and shakers who are shaken are then stirred into action to preserve the status quo. Their means include disproving, putting down the new views / findings and even character assassination because it threatens their livelihood, perks and society standing.
Knowledge particularly enshrined knowledge can degrade and be misinterpreted over time. The skyrocketing of a field from obscurity to mass popularity can also cause it to lose its way. Case in point – Tai Chi and Wing Chun – two very popular and effective combat arts but now has been distorted and misrepresented such that any seeker of the true way has his work cut out for him.
First, he has to separate the wheat from the chaff. That the true knowledge is obscure makes this difficult. This is why we sometimes say that one is fated to get it or not; I suspect its more of a case of luck, of being in the right place at the right time.
Secondly, once you get the knowledge you have to make sense of it. This depends on your intelligence, your dogged persistence, and most importantly, your willingness to let go of your own biases, outlook and previous knowledge to see what is as is and to find out what it is that you don’t know that you don’t know.
Thirdly, you have to keep working on it, revising again and again what you have, what you thought you know, not be afraid of questioning, reviewing, testing, checking and correcting as many times as you need to, over as many years as is required.
Never set your knowledge in stone. This is why sometimes it makes bad sense to learn from a school that claims to have knowledge that is already fixed, unchanged, received from the past, with ranks to climb.
True knowledge is rarely like this, even messy which is why it is a challenge to learn. Of course, as you build up you should also tear down, decumulating even as you are accumulating.
True complexity resides in simplicity, not in burdensome complexity that overwhelms rather than allows us to see through the mess of tradition. Differences are only meaningful if they are truly meaningful, otherwise they are but marketing tools to stand out from the crowd, an excuse to move up the price chain.
On Vesak Day I remember what my teacher said about the objective of learning Tai Chi simply to be to put in the daily practice rather than try to master it.
Keeping your eye highly trained on the objective can make you miss out on other things. Instead, just enjoy the daily ride and pay the fare of time to take the journey that at the end will allow you to arrive at your destination.