There was a question on Daily Buddhism that is one that baffles all who have entered a path of enlightenment, no matter the faith of origin or place in the world at large. When one makes choices that go contrary to the social “norm”, one is sometimes accosted by physically or verbally violent reactions from others. The question was how to deal with this. But my question for many years has simply been, why?
I come from a Christian background, but about 25 years ago gave up on the sect I was with, feeling that they could not or would not follow Y’shua’s teachings to love. The general actions of the congregants seemed, in fact, to be something quite the opposite, at least of the person was not of “Our Church”. The insistence was that we were not to love those who were outside the faith, as they were apostate and “not really human”, well, that was never said, but that was the feeling one got.
My problem was that Y’shua had dealt with just that phenomenon. His comment was that “Publicans love their own, what benefit to us if we behaved no better?” That’s a paraphrase, but then everything read from the manuscripts is paraphrased in order for us to understand the wording and syntax of the sentences. But, there it is, what do we benefit if we behave in a manner that is like those who follow no spiritual path of any kind?
In my explorations after that, I found that the Buddhists as a rule were more obedient to those teachings than those who followed the Christ. It was in looking at why they were obedient to Christ, when Christ’s own seemed unable, that I began to realize that there is this “position” that the human spirit adapts all too easily. That is, “I am right, you are wrong, you must suffer.” This way of looking at the position of others as ”wrongness” that somehow affects one’s own well-being, indeed, seems rampant in the Western world.
Such an attitudes still puzzles me. There seem to be two extremes here in the West. Either there is an intense caring of what others think to the intent to control those thoughts, or be controlled by them, or there is an extreme diffidence that borders on a sort of personality disorder of detachment from all connection with others; neither is healthy. If we maintain an attitude of what I have learned to think of as compassionate detachment, we can cope with the daily struggle without letting it overload us.
So, what is that? It’s the willingness to look at the behavior of others as “their issue”, knowing that there is little we can do to “make” them see the world differently without some manipulation of their world or ours, while deeply caring that they are happy in so far as it lies within our purvue. Happiness comes from within. We cannot “make” someone else truly happy. We can do our best to please them, or at least not to offend them, but we cannot make them feel contentment within. That is something they must discover for themselves.
I still don’t know why we are so bound in this part of the world to insist that others live their lives by our rules. The only thing that makes any sense to me is that it is quite possible the unhappy one has chosen a life other than the one they truly wanted in order to meet someone else’s expectations, and the “different one’s” choice to live an idiosyncratic life hits a soreness within. That is sad. But it makes a sort of strange sense, doesn’t it?
It is for this reason that I respect a Native American teaching imparted to me by my Lakota and Shawnee teachers. “Follow your own truth”. You are expected to do this prayerfully and respectfully of others, but you are expected to find the path you are to walk from within yourself, not from what others want of you. It seems to me to be a right way to live. I hope someday our culture will evolve enough to teach that to our children.